Dr. Gadsden is William T. Carter Professor of Child Development and Education at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education (GSE). She teaches in the Literacy, Culture, and International Education division and is director of the National Center on Fathers and Families, an interdisciplinary policy research center focused on child and family well-being. She also is faculty co-director of the Penn Futures Project and a faculty associate of the Penn Child Research Center. She was associate director of the National Center on Adult Literacy for 6 years.
Gadsden began her career teaching developmental English, reading, and educational psychology at Oakland University and Wayne State University in Michigan. From 1983 to 1985, she was a research analyst at Policy Studies Associates in Washington, DC. In 1988, Gadsden joined Penn GSEs Literacy Research Center, where she became associate director in 1989. She also served as Education Graduate Group Chair from 1996 to 2004. In 2006, she was named the William T. Carter Professor in Child Development and Education.
With a career focused on working with families experiencing circumstances such as poverty, homelessness, and incarceration, especially regarding their effects on social and academic well-being, Gadsdens research interests have centered on cultural and social factors affecting learning and literacy for those at greatest risk. Her scholarship covers the intergenerational and cross-cultural nature of learning, particularly on the relationships between literacy learning, educational access, and educational persistence in families.
Gadsden is widely published, and has written or edited many journal articles, book chapters, and books, including Urban Context: Geography, African American Families, and the Possibilities for Family Engagement (book chapter, in press); African American Fathers and Their Young Children: Images From the Field (book chapter, 2020); Advancing and Building Capacity for Early Childhood Research (2020); and Parenting Matters: Supporting Parents of Children Ages 08 (2016).
Among Gadsdens leadership roles, she was President of the American Educational Research Association (AERA) in 20162017, as well as an AERA Fellow and Senior Fellow for the Penn Center for Public Health Initiatives. She served as co-executive officer of the Black Caucus and program co-chair of the Society for Research in Child Development. In addition, Gadsden has been involved in congressionally mandated review/advisory panels, including the Reading Excellence Program, Comprehensive School Reform, and the National Academy of Sciences. She has served on the editorial boards of several journals as well.
Her influence is also evident in the community, as she has served on advisory boards of the Philadelphia United Way School Readiness Initiative and the Goodling Center for Family Literacy.