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Sharon Nelson-Barber

Sharon Nelson-Barber directs the Culture & Language in STEM Education division of WestEd’s Science, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics (STEM) program. Her research centers on understanding how the sociocultural contexts in which students live influence the ways in which they make sense of schooling in mathematics and science.

Additionally, Nelson-Barber studies how aspects of cultural knowledge can become visible within the formats of large-scale testing in order to ensure assessment is equitable for all students. Her work spans the lower 48 states, Alaska, the Northern Pacific islands of Micronesia, and many areas of Polynesia.

She is co-founder of POLARIS (Pacific/Polar Opportunities to Learn, Advance and Research Indigenous Systems), a research and development network that fosters healthy communities; encourages social and educational transformation; and brings an indigenous world view to new frontiers of knowledge.

A Project under development, Rising Waters/Melting Ice: Issues of Climate Change for Pacific and Polar Peoples, will convene indigenous elders and scientists to document technical solutions to climate change from both indigenous and western academic perspectives, and heighten international attention to the need to preserve cultures and societies amidst rising waters.

Nelson-Barber has published extensively and is editor and contributor to the book, Language, Culture, and Community in Teacher Education.

She serves on a number of national advisory boards in anthropology and education and teaches in Stanford University’s Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity.

She received a BA in Russian history from Mount Holyoke College and a doctorate in human development from Harvard University, and completed postdoctoral work at Stanford University as a Spencer Fellow.