Professor Ann Blankenship Knox is energized by opportunities to make a difference, and she’s equally eager to train the next generation of change agents. Indeed, it’s this passion that initially drew her to the University of Redlands School of Education. “I was attracted to Redlands’ mission to engage with and give back to the community—it’s what the institution is all about.”
Knox was a practicing civil litigator who also served as a municipal and community development volunteer in the United States Peace Corps before completing her doctorate in educational administration and policy in 2013. She arrived at the University of Redlands two years ago.
A specialist in education law and policy, particularly as they relate to issues of equity, she recently served as a co-editor of the Educational Law Association’s sixth edition of The Principal’s Legal Handbook; her task was to oversee preparation of the “Teachers and the Law” section.
In her research, Knox and a Michigan colleague have been exploring the topic of school closures for religious holiday observations. “Many public-school districts have been closing schools for Good Friday for decades, and we wondered why,” she explains. “The rationale has always been that closures were necessary because of high absenteeism around such holidays, but the data doesn’t bear that out. Isn’t that just intensifying the impression that the government supports a Christian-centric attitude?”
Knox also recently launched the first phase of a study aimed at determining whether collegiality among professors in higher education can be measured. “It’s a hot topic—if collegiality can be measured, it can be used in evaluations,” she says. “If not, it can’t be considered.”
Knox appreciates having the academic freedom to explore such topics: “I’m delighted to have my own voice, as both a teacher and a scholar. I’m not just a cog in the wheel here; I’m valued for the unique contributions that I bring to this community.”
She is also excited to be educating tomorrow’s change agents: “Our students are aspiring leaders who work in low-income schools with lots of needs. They are warriors who fight for their pupils.”
Knox believes the University’s job is to train these future educational leaders to keep asking “the why” question and interrogating their assumptions as they search for answers. “If we can build their skills in these areas,” she says, “they will continue to develop throughout their careers, whatever the context.”