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Professor Daniel Corral wins Connaught New Researcher Award for his work on inequalities in higher education

October 1, 2021

By Perry King

Professor Daniel Corral was awarded the Connaught New Researcher Award for his work on the effects of neighbourhood-level factors in post-secondary education participation (photo courtesy of Daniel Corral).

Assistant Professor Daniel Corral, from the department of Leadership, Higher and Adult Education, is one of three OISE faculty members awarded the 2021 Connaught New Researcher Award.

Corral, who joined OISE in 2020, examines to what extent socioeconomic contexts and public policies affect inequality in higher education. Corral joins Assistant Professors Kaja Jasinska and Elizabeth Buckner as winners based at the Institute. There are 53 U of T faculty recipients of the award for the 2021-2022 school year.

The Connaught New Researcher Award is designed to help early career faculty members establish a strong research program and increase their competitiveness for external funding. Roughly $1 million was awarded in 2019-20 competition. Support for about 50 awards of up to $20,000 are usually provided to the highest ranked proposals.

The award is supported by the Connaught Fund and is part of U of T’s commitment to fostering excellence in research and innovation.

“Professor Corral’s research on the effects of neighbourhood-level factors in post-secondary education participation moves beyond individual-level understandings to provide a critical, structural perspective on inequalities in higher education,” says Michele Peterson-Badali, OISE’s Associate Dean, Research, International & Innovation. “On behalf of the OISE community, I congratulate Professor Corral on this Connaught New Researcher Award and look forward to the results of this important research.”

To learn more about the research, OISE News spoke with Professor Corral. This is what we learned.

Why did you want to research this topic?

Broadly, my research explores issues of postsecondary access and success for students from historically underrepresented backgrounds. Research has shown that policy and context can either mitigate or exacerbate educational inequities. My upcoming study of the influence of neighbourhoods on the educational outcomes of postsecondary students will contribute to that body of scholarship. It will shed light on how a student’s geographic context may reinforce or reduce educational inequity.

What inspired you to take a neighbourhood-based focus? Was it something that resonated with you personally?

As I mentioned previously, there’s a large body of scholarship that focuses on neighbourhoods and it overwhelmingly suggests that where you live matters and has large developmental consequences implications for social mobility.  As a result, we need to take a step back and look at the large socioeconomic structures that influence our lives, like neighbourhoods. I was inspired to focus on neighbourhoods because that’s often the smallest unit of analysis when looking at how geography impacts opportunities. Neighbourhoods are where we spend a lot of time and socialize. 

My focus on neighbourhoods is something that resonates with me. I remember going to high school and having to commute for over an hour on train. And when I went off to university, I lived on campus and everything was a ten-minute walk. When I think about the college students in my study, they are likely commuting and spending quite a bit of time doing school work from home.

What is the aim of the research? What is it you want to argue/say?

This study aims to understand the relationship between neighbourhoods and the academic persistence of currently enrolled college students. There’s a vast literature in sociology and public policy that examines the extent to which neighbourhood characteristics and nearby resources shape social and economic opportunities for local residents. We know that these opportunities vary markedly across race, class, and other dimensions of stratification. While there is a growing literature in education beginning to consider the role of neighbourhoods, few studies have focused on students enrolled in college. Understanding the ways neighbourhoods influence postsecondary educational outcomes over and above individual-level characteristics has significant equity implications because it moves us beyond a deficit-perspective of individual level characteristics to consider structural inequalities facing students. This research can contribute to policy conversations and understandings of postsecondary educational outcomes. In sum, we know neighbourhoods matter, but we don’t know much about the extent to which they matter for college students. 

Could your research findings and translation have more implications for Canadian/North American cities or is there a potential broader appeal for your findings?

I am extremely hopeful my findings will have major implications for Canadian/North American cities and beyond. I think we all need to think about geography as a critically important factor shaping educational opportunities. I also imagine these findings will have important implications for practice by creating awareness around what resources and opportunities currently exist for students and how faculty, staff, and colleges can better them.

How excited are you to inquire into an area of research that has been studied relatively less than other areas?

I am very excited! I am especially excited to be working some novel datasets: the StudentMoveTo dataset and the Postsecondary Student Information System. These are relatively new datasets that are uniquely designed to answer my research questions.

How will the Connaught New Researcher Award help you accomplish your research goals?

The Connaught New Researcher Award will help me further my own line of research, which I described above. Furthermore, I’ll have the opportunity to mentor and work closely with a graduate research assistant. Finally, the Award will allow me to make the resulting publications from this study freely accessible, rather than staying behind a paywall. This will extend the impact of my research and increase access to scientific knowledge more broadly.

More OISE news

OISE's Kaja Jasinska wins Connaught New Researcher Award for work on reading development and interrupted schooling

OISE's Elizabeth Buckner receives Connaught New Researcher Award for her research on sustainable development in education

See complete list of 2021 winners