Dania Francis to further develop course on racial wealth inequality and politics with Lilly Fellowship


Dania Francis, Assistant Professor of Economics and Afro-American Studies, has been selected as one of eight 2018-19 Lilly Fellows for Teaching Excellence.

The Lilly Fellowship is a competitive program that enables promising junior faculty to cultivate teaching excellence in a special yearlong collaboration and is awarded though the Institute for Teaching Excellence and Faculty Development (TEFD). During the fellowship, Francis and other fellows will attend bi-weekly seminars on pedagogy, develop a new course or substantially redesign an existing one, assess their teaching and their students’ learning through classroom visits, work with mentors to anticipate many of the challenges and rewards of faculty life at UMass Amherst, and design a teaching-focused workshop or program to share the benefits of the Lilly Fellowship with colleagues at the department, school-college, or campus-wide level.

“I’m very honored to receive this award. I’m looking forward to taking my teaching to the next level by learning from the other fellows selected this year, as well as from program mentors and the TEFD experts. My hope is to continue to grow as an instructor in ways that benefit students in my department and college and university-wide” said Francis.

Francis will use this opportunity to redesign Econ144, a general education course titled “Political Economy of Racism” which is currently designed to cover several of Francis’ research interests such as slavery, colonialism and Jim Crow as well as racial inequality in the U.S. In addition to these topics, Francis plans to redesign the course such that it incorporates the theoretical lens of stratification economics. Stratification economics examines group-based inequalities through the combined toolkits of the economist (individuals act in their best interests when making choices) and the sociologist (individuals belong to identity groups that fall within a social hierarchy). This theoretical combination helps explain why some individuals may appear to make decisions that are inconsistent with rational, self-interest, but are entirely consistent with an interest in preserving or improving their identity group’s standing in the social hierarchy.

The redesigned course will focus on applications of stratification economics to contemporary social questions such as racial wealth inequality, and identity politics. “This is a course that would be valuable in helping our students analyze and interpret the social phenomena that surround them in a time of increased identity-group-based tensions,” explains Francis.