LEXINGTON, Ky. — A new report has University of Kentucky College of Education Dean Dr. Julian Vasquez Heilig in the top .1% of the nation’s public influencers in education for the ninth-straight year. 

What You Need To Know

  • Dr. Julian Vasquez Heilig among top .1%

  • 2022 marks ninth-straight year on list

  • Professor is dean of the college of education at the University of Kentucky

  • Blog has 1 million readers

The Rick Hess Straight Up Edu-Scholar Public Influence Rankings, published annually by the American Enterprise Institute, recognize scholars who use their work to move ideas from journals to policy and practice. About 20,000 U.S. scholars tackling education questions in the U.S. could be considered, but 200 only are chosen.

“It’s really exciting to be on this list and represent the Commonwealth,” he said. “It really takes a village to do this work. You don’t do it by yourself. When you do this research, you have colleagues you’re working with. When you’re working with policymakers and others, it’s really about relationships.”

To make the final 200, a group of around 30 scholars puts together a list of eligible educators based on their influence in the field. The group uses a formula and they consider books and publications, Twitter following, and other factors reflecting a variety of aspects of one’s career. Vasquez Heilig is a public policy scholar, but educators on the list come from a variety of disciplines.

“One of the biggest things is actually books, but I’ve actually made a conscious decision not to write books, but instead to blog because, with blogging, you can make research available across all borders, and it’s free,” he said. “If I wrote books, I might appear higher on the rating, but I think it’s important that research be available to communities, too, and you don’t have to purchase that research in a book.”

Vasquez Heilig’s efforts to shape public discussion are cataloged in his Cloaking Inequity blog, read by more than 1 million people. In December 2021, his essay, “Scrutinizing the School Choice Equity Ethos for Black Parents,” was published in “Public Education: Defending an American Cornerstone,” edited by David Berliner and Carl Hermanns. In it, Vasquez Heilig analyzes whether the privatization of schooling leads to gains in student achievement and an increase in opportunity.

“So the work I focus on is how different education policies affect communities of color,” he said. “Whether it be charter schools or high-stakes testing or teacher quality; that’s the thread that binds all the work that I do, which is how do different policies come from policymakers, or state boards of education, etc.? How do they actually affect students in terms of their success and opportunities?”

His work, focused on equity and inclusion in education, has been cited by The New York Times, The Washington Post, Associated Press, USA Today, Education Week, Huffington Post and other print and electronic media outlets. He has also appeared to discuss his research on local and national radio and TV, including PBS, NBC, NPR, Univision and MSNBC. Notably, Harvard’s Education Next magazine once named him as one of the top-10 education policy voices — the No. 2-ranked professor in the U.S.

“It really takes a village of folks to do this work, to do the work with policymakers, to do the work with other stakeholders,” he said. “I also serve as education co-chair for the Kentucky NAACP, so also having the civil rights movement involved with opportunities for children, and then, having that responsibility even within our own university to lead in education within UK. We’re one of the highest-ranked colleges on campus. We have a sacred responsibility because education is the compass of democracy, and without that compass, I think we’ll lose our way.”