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University of Iowa News Release

May 2, 2006

Harvard Economist, Scholar On Race Issues Fryer To Give Public Lecture

At just 28 years old, Roland Fryer Jr. is a Harvard University professor. He is also African-American and is quickly gaining a national reputation for his efforts to use economics to answer thorny questions about the relationship between race and achievement in America.

Fryer has been profiled in The New York Times and numerous other publications, including the New York Times bestseller "Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything" by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. On May 22, he will deliver a free, public lecture at the University of Iowa as part of the Eighth Biennial Henry B. & Jocelyn Wallace National Research Symposium on Talent Development, which runs May 21-23.

Fryer's presentation, "Toward a Unified Theory of Black America: The Racial Achievement Gap and What to Do about It," takes place from 7:30 to 9 p.m. in the Iowa Memorial Union's Richey Ballroom, followed by a dessert reception. Both the lecture and the reception are free and open to the public.

The Wallace Symposium brings together researchers and theorists from around the world to present their current work on talent development, creativity and gifted education. The symposium is sponsored by the Connie Belin & Jacqueline N. Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development in the UI College of Education. The UI African-American Council is cosponsoring Fryer's visit.

Paid registration is required to attend all other Wallace Symposium events. For a complete schedule and registration information, visit

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all UI events. Anyone in need of special accommodations may contact the Belin-Blank Center in advance at 800-336-6463 or 319-335-6148.

In his May 22 lecture, Fryer will posit that the racial achievement gap in education is a vexing reality and that "we can and must do better."

"Black children enter kindergarten lagging behind whites academically, and these differences grow throughout the school years," Fryer writes in a summary of his research. "On every subject at every grade level there are large achievement differences between blacks and whites. Gaining a better understanding of the underlying causes of the achievement gap is a question of great social importance, and goes to the heart of efforts to build a country that is truly dedicated to equality and freedom."

In his work, Fryer -- an assistant professor of economics at Harvard -- applies scientific and economic tools to issues of race and inequality. He has co-authored work on such subjects as the black-white achievement gap, the causes and consequences of distinctively black names, and colorblind affirmative action.

Fellow Harvard professor Henry Lewis Gates Jr. once said of Fryer that he will one day "raise the analysis of the African-American experience to new levels of rigor." The title of Fryer's scheduled lecture at the UI was also the headline of a high-profile article in a March 2005 issue of the New York Times Magazine, which noted that Fryer was "writing one paper about mixed-race children, another about historically black colleges and another tentatively titled 'Bling-Bling,' about the consumption patterns of blacks vs. whites."

The issues Fryer explores in academe also resonate with him personally. Despite being abandoned by his parents as a child and exposed to crime and drugs in his youth, Fryer earned a B.A. in economics from the University of Texas at Arlington (graduating magna cum laude) and his Ph.D. in economics from the Pennsylvania State University in 2002 after completing a thesis on "Mathematical Models of Discrimination and Inequality."

Fryer has stated that the present is an ideal time to explore issues about race and equality in America.

"We are now at a time where the technologies of the day, combined with a newfound willingness for open dialogue and cross-disciplinary action, are making it possible to not only learn from and analyze black history like never before, but also to push forward and make unprecedented progress," he said.

Other keynote presentations scheduled during the Wallace Symposium include:

-- "From Deceived to Informed: Are We a Nation Ready to Act?" by Belin-Blank Center Director Nicholas Colangelo, Ph.D., from 4:30 to 5:45 p.m. Sunday, May 21. Colangelo's talk will be followed by a panel discussion featuring reporter John Cloud of Time magazine; Joe Renzulli of the University of Connecticut, and Joyce VanTassel-Baska of the College of William and Mary.

-- "Why Are We Afraid to Unleash the Academic Talent in Most Kids?" by Washington Post reporter Jay Mathews, from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Sunday, May 21. Mathews' talk will be followed by a panel discussion on "Media and Gifted Education" moderated by Colangelo and featuring Jan Davidson of the Davidson Institute for Talent Development; Cloud of Time magazine; Linda Lantor Fandel, deputy editorial page editor at the Des Moines Register; and Liz Mathis of KCRG-TV. A reception follows.

-- "Studying the Development of Math/Science Talent for 35 Years through SMPY: Implications for the Flat World" by Camilla Benbow of Vanderbilt University, 1:30 to 2:45 p.m. Monday, May 22. The talk is the Third Julian Stanley Distinguished Lecture.

-- "Providing Access to Excellence for All Students" by Peter Negroni of the College Board, 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday, May 23.

The Belin-Blank Center specializes in programming and research to meet the educational needs of exceptionally talented children and their teachers. It conducts an extensive roster of talent searches, precollege programs, teacher training workshops and counseling programs. It also has partnerships with programs in other countries, making it both a national and international force.

Additionally, the Belin-Blank Center has programs targeting teachers and students in nearly every grade level and from a variety of backgrounds. Its summer programs have drawn almost 10,000 students from elementary school through high school, and from both rural and urban areas, to take part in hands-on programs in the arts, humanities, mathematics and science. Its Invent Iowa program encourages students in elementary, middle and high school to create inventions and other innovations. And it runs the National Academy of Arts, Sciences and Engineering (NAASE), a program -- the first of its kind at a major research institution -- that allows students with high academic ability a chance to move into the stimulation of university research and course work following their junior year in high school.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Stephen J. Pradarelli, 319-384-0007,