Dean Spencer at a podium

Meet the Dean

Joi Spencer

Joi A. Spencer, Ph.D. (she/her/hers) is the dean of the School of Education at the University of California, Riverside. 

Her work is centered on educational equity in higher and K-12 education, and her research investigates the mathematics learning opportunities of African American and other minoritized youth.  She is CO-PI on the National Science Foundation (NSF) grant, "Bridging the World of Work and Informal STEM Education," and she recently submitted a $3.1 mil NSF grant on racial equity in STEM. Both studies seek to understand and build affirming and liberatory STEM learning experiences for Black, Latinx, and other minoritized youth.

Spencer has chaired the editorial board for the Journal for Research in Mathematics Education (JRME) and is the past president of the California Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators (CAMTE). Her most recent publication, "Access, Power and Participation in Mathematics Classrooms," captures the role of observation in advancing equity in the teaching and learning of mathematics. Her recent book, "Anti-Black Racism at School: Creating Affirming Educational Spaces for African American Students," was published by Teachers College Press (Fall 2022).

Prior to her appointment at UCR, Spencer spent 16 years at University of San Diego (USD) where she served in a variety of roles including professor of mathematics education, associate dean, and interim dean of the School of Leadership and Education Sciences (SOLES). Spencer launched a doctoral program in Education for Social Justice, implemented a school-wide professional development on anti-racism, and established SOLES’ first Diversity Post-Doctoral Fellows Program. Her earlier work included five years as a middle school teacher in East Palo Alto.

The daughter of working-class parents, Spencer grew up in South Central Los Angeles and was bused to the Downtown Business Magnet High School in Los Angeles, where she earned her high school diploma. During her senior year, her family moved to Moreno Valley, the fast-growing city just east of Riverside, where they still reside.

“Having the opportunity to serve California, my home, and specifically the Inland Empire, gives me great joy,” Spencer said. “The students and communities that UC Riverside serves represent the face of California's future. Many of them have had to struggle a bit harder to obtain a college degree, have had to navigate systems that were not always in their favor, and did so with grace, resilience, and determination. This is the kind of place where I want to be.”  

Spencer holds B.A. and M.A. degrees from Stanford University and a Ph.D. from UCLA. 

Notably, Spencer is the first woman and person of Color to serve as permanent dean of UCR School of Education.

Executive Assistant:  Tracy Avery,

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