Headshot of Erica Frankenberg with long brown hair and multi-colored blouse.
Published on: Apr 23, 2021

Erica Frankenberg, professor of education and demography in the College of Education and PRI affiliate, is the recipient of Penn State's 2021 Howard B. Palmer Faculty Mentoring Award.

The award honors and recognizes outstanding achievement by a faculty member with at least five years of service who effectively guides junior faculty. Howard Palmer was the senior associate dean of The Graduate School from 1984 to 1991.

Colleagues said Frankenberg exemplifies strong mentorship and counts elevating those around her among her most valued academic successes. They said she’s someone who quickly rose through the ranks to a tenured professor and is dedicated to helping junior faculty members do the same.

“In the four years I have been at Penn State, I have witnessed Frankenberg’s devotion to students, colleagues and the community; her work to ensure all are treated fairly and equitably; and the way she provides access to information and skills so that others can be successful,” a nominator said. “She takes her responsibilities to others as a prime directive, never wavering when someone, whether in crisis or in contemplation, needs an alternative perspective, a kind word or a supportive gesture.”

Frankenberg serves as a formal and informal mentor to many assistant professors. She helps with navigating University policies, handling classroom issues and serving as chair of the department’s promotion and tenure committee. Frankenberg is credited with being a calming influence in high-stakes decisions involving faculty searches and promotions. She’s also a force in helping colleagues seek funding opportunities.

One area where Frankenberg also had an impact was working with educators at the Penn State Childcare Centers to implement research-based practices that help children learn about race and diversity. Supporting and extending the work of Penn State early childhood educators, is an important component of recruiting and retaining faculty who enhance Penn State’s diversity, another focus of Frankenberg’s. Additionally, she co-founded and now directs the Center on Education and Civil Rights, which tackles issues related to racial segregation and inequality in education, including providing support to educators around the country and in Centre County.

“Frankenberg is an invaluable colleague, scholar and friend whose grace, determination and kindness are perhaps as powerful as her incredible research,” a nominator said. “In scholarship and teaching students and faculty alike, she has forever improved the lives of many at Penn State, mine especially.”