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New Faculty Focus: Suzanne Eckes

September 7, 2021

Suzanne Eckes: professor, Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis

Hometown: Neenah, Wisconsin

Educational/professional background: For the past 18 years I have been on the faculty at Indiana University.  Prior to joining the faculty, I was an attorney in Chicago.  Before practicing law, I was a public high school French teacher in the Arkansas/Mississippi Delta region.  I earned my undergraduate degree in French, International Relations and Political Sci at UW–Madison.  I also earned my JD and PhD at UW.  My master’s in Education and Social Policy is from Harvard University.

What is your field of research, and how did you get into it? I study education law.  As a lawyer and public high school teacher, I witnessed how the law can influence school policy.  I specifically became interested in how civil rights laws can create more equitable environments in U.S. public schools.

What attracted you to UW–Madison? I grew up in Wisconsin and although I have lived in several other parts of the country, the opportunity to work in Madison has always been appealing. We loved living in Bloomington, Ind., but this position in Madison was too good to pass up. The University of Wisconsin School of Education and faculty are well-respected around the world. I was attracted to the school’s focus on bridging research and practice.

What was your first visit to campus like? My first trip to Madison was actually as a high school junior on a college visit.  I knew within the first five minutes of stepping on campus that this is where I needed to be.  Unfortunately, I did not have a campus visit when I applied for my current position as a faculty member due to COVID.

Favorite place on campus? It is hard to choose just one spot but any bike or jogging path near a lake is a desirable spot.

This is a unique point in time, as we’re returning after more than a year of pandemic. What do you most look forward to? Visiting with friends on the Terrace and being able to work with public schools again (in person).

Do you feel your work relates in any way to the Wisconsin Idea?  The Wisconsin Idea promotes partnerships beyond the university’s boundaries.  I am most satisfied when my research (which focuses on how civil rights laws can improve school policy) can influence students and educators throughout the state and beyond.

What’s something interesting about your area of expertise you can share that will make us sound smarter at parties, now that we can attend them again? When educators, students, and families become knowledgeable about the ever-evolving court decisions and state/federal laws, we can create more equitable environments in schools.  Of course, I don’t expect educators to become experts in the law, but it is possible for educators to become legally literate.  For example, every year public school teachers violate well-established law when they require students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in school and coaches violate well-established law when leading their teams in prayer.  These mistakes could be avoided by establishing a basic legal literacy.

Hobbies/other interests: Swimming, biking, jogging, and food.