The University's Board of Trustees confirmed Professor Margaret Beale Spencer as the Charles F. Grey Distinguished Service Professor in their recent December meeting. Professor Spencer is a leading scholar of diversity, resilience and human development. Throughout her career, she has developed critical insights regarding vulnerability, risk, and resilience as normatively experienced by diverse individuals, including those considered privileged. She developed the Phenomenological Variant of Ecological Systems Theory (P-VEST), a theoretical framework that incorporates identity, cultural, and ecological perspectives that has been accepted as a unifying theory from the American Psychological Association Task Force. In her most recent research, Spencer launched the Urban Resiliency Initiative, with research emphasizing educational contexts, interrogating neighborhood policing encounters, and seeking to diminish vulnerability and increased global resiliency. She has also begun an innovative collaborative project with data science colleagues on the development of AI methods for analyzing police broadcast communications.
Spencer‘s many scholarly awards include an honorary degree from Northwestern University and lifetime achievement awards from the American Psychological Association and the Society for Research in Child Development. She is an elected member of the National Academy of Education, and an elected Fellow of the American Psychological Association (in four separate divisions) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2019.
She earned her doctorate in Human Development at the University of Chicago and then began her faculty career at Emory University and the University of Pennsylvania, returning to the University of Chicago as the Marshall Field IV Professor of Urban Education in 2009. She is an important leader at UChicago, serving as chair of the Department of Comparative Human Development from 2015-2018 and as a leading senior colleague in the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture. Recognizing her many contributions to fostering and supporting diversity at the University, she received the University’s Diversity Leadership Faculty Award in 2017.