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Last year, Jennifer King Rice, Ph.D was named the University of Maryland, College Park’s senior vice president for academic affairs and provost, serving as the higher education institution’s second-ranking officer.

King Rice has been a part of the UMD family for more than 25 years, working in faculty and leadership roles. Before her current position, the national expert in education finance and policy was the dean of UMD’s College of Education and a professor of education policy.

What’s the most important thing you do in your job?
I help reimagine the teaching, learning, inquiry and creativity happening across campus. Our students will go on to contribute in their chosen fields and also contribute to society as a whole, using the values they have learned here about inclusive excellence, justice and continuous improvement as they fearlessly forge a better world for all.

Who was your most significant mentor and what did you learn from that person?
Dr. David H. Monk, who was my adviser during my doctoral program at Cornell University and went on to become dean of the College of Education at Penn State University. He taught me how to design and conduct research that addresses persistent and pressing problems in K-12 education. I learned the importance of asking meaningful questions, a concept that became a guiding principle in my research. Monk modeled what it means to be an outstanding teacher and mentor.

If you weren’t in this industry, what would you be doing?
I would be working as an advocate for equity and social justice through our courts and the legal system. I considered a career in law, but I was drawn to education because of the power education has to create and provide opportunities. There is more work to do around equality and equity.

Much of my career has been focused on understanding how to create a more equitable K-12 education system. Educational equity is inextricably linked to policy and the law.