CU Denver’s School of Education & Human Development (SEHD) welcomed its new Dean, Dr. Marvin Lynn—a career-long champion for educational equity and inclusion—on July 1. He is the school’s fifth dean appointed on a continuing/permanent basis. Dr. Lynn is excited to bring his vision and vast experience to CU Denver and Colorado communities.
“I’m delighted to have this opportunity to lead our school into the future,” said Lynn. “Our foundation is successful and strong, thanks to the bold vision of previous school leaders, including Dr. Rebecca Kantor, and our dedicated faculty and staff. I’m truly grateful to Scott Bauer and Barbara Seidl for solidly co-leading as interim deans over the past year. CU Denver is an equity-serving institution that cares deeply about its increasingly diverse surrounding community. As a new leader, I’m trying to get to know people and get acclimated to the culture. I believe it is important to respect the humanity and the culture of all my colleagues and students while understanding that everybody has an important contribution to make as we move the SEHD forward. The SEHD is a highly regarded and successful school. I plan to grow SEHD’s success by keeping my fingers on the pulse of the academic and mental health needs of our community, the state, and the region. We already have a powerful reputation for developing and creating innovative programs, projects, and learning opportunities for current and future students. I hope we can continue that tradition.”
Lynn’s parents inspired his collaborative work in educational equity and his deep thinking about the importance of equity and social justice. His father was a minister and life-long learner who was always trying to put his new knowledge into practice, either through his church or through community service. His mother was a constant presence in his school and modeled parental engagement. In addition, she provided key perspectives on the isolation she experienced during racial segregation in schools prior to the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka in 1954.
Lynn aspired to be an educator starting at age 8. His early jobs as an elementary teacher in schools in Chicago and New York City’s Harlem neighborhood provided complex insights into the roots of current education disparities. They also provided ideal jumping-off points for doctoral studies at the University of California, Los Angeles and his higher education career as a professor, researcher, associate dean, and dean at various institutions.
“During my initial teaching positions, I took notice of inequalities built into the structure of schools. I was very concerned. Inequalities included the underfunding of public schools in communities of color,” he said. “In addition, I saw and experienced educators who had deficit mindsets when it came to working with and teaching students of color. These experiences ignited in me a desire to study the working lives of African American male teachers, a severely understudied population.”
During the past 21 years working in higher education, Lynn has developed a deep understanding of community-engaged research and leadership as it relates to equity, diversity, and inclusion in education. He has become a highly cited figure within the education community. Among his most lauded publications is The Handbook of Critical Race Theory in Education, published with Routledge Press, which features chapters by the most prolific scholars in the fields of education and law. Since inequity is constructed and baked into societal systems, Lynn is particularly interested in expanding opportunities for individuals who haven’t had opportunities to pursue higher education to date. Against this backdrop, he looks forward to engaging with a multitude of individuals to ensure that SEHD continues to create an inclusive culture and climate that ensures student success.
“Teachers and counselors bring hope to youth who may not otherwise see possibilities. I was one of those kids. Teachers stood in the gap for me and made a difference. They had deep respect for me as an individual. They saw something greater in me than I saw in myself,” said Lynn. “In my research and work, I try to highlight instances where I see hope in classrooms. Now, that doesn’t mean that schools don’t need greater funding. They do. And teachers could do a whole lot more than they are able to do in challenging financial circumstances. But I think that there’s something to be said for great teaching and acknowledging the power of it even in difficult circumstances. Education makes us think more deeply about who we are in the world and what our role is, and how we can make the world a better place.”
Lynn strives for harmony in the classroom and on the stage. He is an accomplished singer and performs in a variety of genres including classical and gospel. University gatherings will surely get more interesting with this kind of talent in-house!
Lynn hopes to open a new chapter focused on influencing educational transformations. He believes current conditions present interesting possibilities to build new relationships with the greater public.
“It is wonderful to be part of this innovative university that supports new ideas and scholarship toward the goals of equity and inclusion,” Lynn said. “I think Chancellor Marks’ vision is bold, innovative, and exciting. I see alignment in terms of where the university is going, where SEHD is going, and where I see myself going as a professional. I’m excited about just all the synergy across multiple levels. Together with community members, students, staff, faculty, university administrators, alumni, legislators, donors, education deans throughout the nation, and public organizations like the Colorado Department of Education and the Colorado Department of Higher Education, SEHD will continue to have an incredibly strong impact on this community.”