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Dr. Alicia Dowd

Dr. Alicia Dowd
Phone: 8148659739
Office Address:
406 Rackley Building
University Park, PA 16802
Campus: University Park


Professor of Education (Higher Education)
Director and Senior Scientist, Center for the Study of Higher Education


Education Policy Studies


Center for the Study of Higher Education (CSHE)


Higher Education


Alicia C. Dowd is a Professor of Education and Director of the Center for the Study of Higher Education at the Pennsylvania State University. She currently serves as the associate editor of the Review of Educational Research (RER), a top-ranked journal in the field of education. Prior to joining the Penn State College of Education faculty in January of 2016, Dowd was a professor at the University of Southern California. At USC, she co-directed the Center for Urban Education (CUE) from 2009-2015 and was instrumental in developing the Equity Scorecard, CUE’s signature action research process.

            Dowd’s scholarship revolves around the study of organizational learning and change towards racial equity in higher education. An action researcher, Dowd utilizes cultural historical activity theory, critical race theory, and a broad array of methodological approaches to investigate topics related to organizational change, accountability, and the factors affecting student experiences, persistence, and degree attainment in postsecondary settings.    

            Her research has been funded by the Spencer, Ford, Gates, Hewlett, Lumina, Nellie Mae, and Jack Kent Cooke Foundations as well as the National Science Foundation.  Her published works have appeared in the Review of Educational Research, Harvard Educational Review, Review of Higher Education, Research in Higher Education, and Teacher’s College Record, among other publications.

      Dowd is a frequent speaker and panelist to address the topics of diversity and equity. She has provided Congressional testimony on diversity in STEM to the House subcommittee on Research and Science Education and addressed the topic of “Developing supportive STEM community college to four-year college and university transfer ecosystems” at a convening of the National Academies of Sciences (NAS). She presented research findings on equity in mathematics education to the National Academies’ Board on Testing and Assessment, Assessing Intrapersonal and Interpersonal Competencies Committee, and the National Academy of Sciences Committee on “Developing indicators for undergraduate STEM.” She also served as a reviewer of NAS’s panel consensus report on Building America’s Skilled Technical Workforce, a major review of the diverse array of providers and standards of education in the complex career and technical education sector, and of proposals submitted to the Inclusive Excellence grant competition of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI).

Areas of Expertise

Education Levels


Educational Studies

Critical & Feminist Theory
Cultural Studies

Higher Education

Higher Education

Human Resources and Work

Organization Development
Workplace Training

Individual Difference

Conceptual Change
Learning Processes
Sexual Orientation

Leadership Preparation

Higher Education Leadership


Education Access
Equity and Diversity

Methodological Research

Discourse Analysis
Institutional Research
Interpretive Research
Multiple Methods
Policy Analysis
Qualitative Research

Organizational Management

Management & Leadership

Social Issues

Education and Law
Education Policy
Race and Ethnicity

Courses Taught

Equity & Diversity in Higher Education

Administration in Higher Education

Education History

Dr. Dowd holds the Ph.D., master’s of education, and bachelor of arts degrees, all awarded by Cornell University, where she studied the social foundations of education, labor economics, and curriculum and instruction.

Representative Publications

Dowd is the author (with Estela Mara Bensimon) of Engaging the “Race Question”: Accountability and Equity in U.S. Higher Education (Teachers College Press, 2015), which teases out the conflicting ideologies and theories of justice that underlie practitioners’ sense of right and wrong concerning matters of racial equity in college access and student outcomes. Reviewers have praised the book’s practical findings and action-oriented recommendations, which draw from lessons learned implementing the Equity Scorecard in dozens of colleges and universities across the country. 

Liera, R. & Dowd, A. C. (in press). Faculty learning at boundaries to broker racial equity. Journal of Higher Education.

Bensimon, E. M., Dowd, A. C., Stanton-Salazar, R. & Dávila. B. (in press) The role of institutional agents in providing institutional support to Latino students in STEM. Review of Higher Education.

Dowd, A. C. & Liera, R. (2018) Sustaining organizational change towards racial equity through cycles of inquiry. Education Policy Analysis Archives 26 (26), 1-46.  

Dowd, A. C., Bishop, R. M., & Bensimon, E. M. (2015). Critical action research on race and equity in higher education. In Martínez-Alemán, A. M., Pusser, B., & Bensimon, E. M. (Eds.) Critical approaches to the study of higher education: A practical introduction. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press: 174-192.

Dowd, A. C. & Shieh, L. T. (2014). The implications of state fiscal policies for community colleges. In Head, R. B, T., Bers, T. H., & Palmer, J. C. (Eds.) Budget and finance in the American community colleges (vol. 168, pp. 53-63). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.