The beginning of the semester doesn’t always evoke triumphant smiles and jaunty little jigs from students. But I have found one phrase to be consistently accompanied by such illumination: “I managed to get into Professor Jardina’s class!”

Since 2014, my friend, colleague and fellow political scientist Ashley Jardina has worked to provide Duke’s students with powerful tools for understanding and thinking critically about group identities, racial attitudes and political behavior. Her courses, which include Race and Politics and Politics, Groups, and Identities, are widely regarded as both fascinating and eye-opening.  

A rising star in political science, Jardina’s ground-breaking research is similarly admired by the academic community. Her new book, White Identity Politics, is already shaking up both the scholarly and popular discourse on race in the United States, helping to bring our understanding of the significance of white identity in American politics into greater focus. 

In a recent interview with The New Yorker, Jardina said, "One reason that we haven’t talked a lot about whiteness in the past is because whites don’t have to confront their racial identity the way that people of color in the United States traditionally have. So we think about whiteness and white identity as being an invisible group identity because whites don’t experience systematic subordination or discrimination.” 

In a social and political context that is not always amenable to forthright discussions about race—particularly, whiteness—Ashley Jardina’s work offers a powerful example of how Duke’s most inspiring faculty are leading the way toward richer discussion and greater understanding.

Deondra Rose is an assistant professor of public policy.

Editor's note: This profile is part of our annual initiative called The Chron15. We are highlighting 15 people and groups who are defining what it means to be at Duke this year. Read about the project and more of our selections.