Robert Kelchen Recognized as Top-200 Public Influencer

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Robert Kelchen smiles at the camera. He has short hair and is wearing a pale blue polo with a white t-shirt underneath. He is standing in front of green foliage.
Education Week highlights scholars contributing to public discussion of higher education policy and issues

If you’re someone who is interested in higher education policy, odds are that you’ve come across an article or a quote from Robert Kelchen in the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences (CEHHS). From national publications like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal to local and regional news outlets, Kelchen was quoted in nearly 200 articles in 2021.

As a faculty member who understands the value of moving ideas from academia to public conversation, Kelchen has been recognized in the “2022 Edu-Scholar Public Influence Rankings.” The rankings, developed by Education Week blogger, Fredrick M. Hess, spotlight the top-200 educational scholars who contribute to public discussions of education and education policy. To give you an idea of just how selective the rankings are, there are over 20,000 university-based faculty in the United States tacking questions in education. Making the top-200 is quite the accomplishment.

“One small way to encourage academics to step into the fray and revisit academic norms is, I think, by doing more to recognize and value those scholars who engage in public discourse,” explained Hess. “As I see it, the extraordinary policy scholar excels in five areas: disciplinary scholarship, policy analysis and popular writing, convening and shepherding collaborations, providing incisive media commentary, and speaking in the public square,” he said.

Kelchen serves as head of CEHHS’ Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, a role he recently took on in August of 2021. While he is in high-demand with reporters across the country, he’s also the author of Higher Education Accountability, publishes in top education journals, and serves as the data editor for Washington Monthly magazine’s annual college guide and rankings.

“I’m thrilled to once again be included in the Edu-Scholar Public Influence Rankings in 2022,” said Kelchen. “It is crucial for education scholars to communicate their work to policymakers and the public, and that public mission of higher education is why I joined the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, last fall.”

As we head into 2022, it appears that a number of educational policy and affordability issues will remain in the forefront of American conversations. Having a “go-to” resource such as Kelchen, who can take complex issues and make them easily understandable for a general audience, is highly valuable to reporters as well as policy makers and stakeholders.

“My research on topics such as financial aid reform and how to fund colleges has influenced state and federal policies, and it’s wonderful to be able to break down education policy issues for broad audiences through talking with reporters or writing pieces of my own,” said Kelchen.

You can learn more about the “2022 Edu-Scholar Public Influence Rankings” selection process here.

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