Dr. Marlena E. McKnight is an educator with a skillful passion for making visible the needs of underrepresented students at all levels of education. Her professional career and research have focused on literacy across the life span and the premise that in order for many low-income, minority and first-generation students to be successful, they need to master the art of navigating the “hidden curriculum” that exists in many classrooms from pre-school through college systems.
Dr. McKnight has extensive experience working across education systems with parents and their children, to identify and eliminate the unwritten values, assumptions, bias, expectations and “codes” that are invisible barriers to student success.
Before joining the MJR Partners team, McKnight was the assistant director of the Center for Diversity and Inclusion at American University (AU) in Washington, D.C. She was responsible for the research, data analysis and coordination of programs, services, and proactive initiatives to positively affect the retention, academic performance and graduation of students.Prior to her service at AU, McKnight served as associate director of the Black Cultural Center at the University of Pennsylvania, where she taught both undergraduate and graduate-level courses in the Africana Studies Department and in the Graduate School of Education.
McKnight works on the MJR Partner’s team as a researcher and strategic thinker. Her ability to listen to and engage the next generation of civic leadership ensures that their issues and concerns are understood and considered as part of the decision-making process. She has experience collaborating with diverse interest groups to formulate options and provide recommendations critical to project implementation and change management.
Her most recent consulting work with The Washington School for Girls and The University of Notre Dame’s ACE Academies, has focused on developing a “college-going culture” for students in underserved communities.
A Dallas native, McKnight holds a bachelor’s degree from Wake Forest University, a master’s in teaching from American University and a doctorate in education from The University of Pennsylvania.