Dr. Whitney Polk is a research practitioner focusing on racial stress, school discipline, and mental health.

Dr. Polk is a Lecturer in the Counseling and Mental Health Services and Professional Counseling programs at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education. Her courses include counseling theories and interventions and internships seminar. Dr. Polk earned her Ph.D. in Education with a concentration in Human Development, Learning and Teaching from Harvard University, and a MSEd in Counseling and Mental Health Services and MPhilEd in Professional Counseling from the University of Pennsylvania.. Before completing her doctorate, Dr. Polk worked as a mental health professional with K-12 students and their families in Philadelphia, providing therapy and advocating for improved mental health, educational, and social supports. In addition to her role as a full-time lecturer, Dr. Polk provides mental health and wellness consultation, professional development, and training workshops to educators, students, and mental health professionals locally and nationally.

As the Principal Investigator and Project Director of the Transforming Discipline Lab (TDLab), Dr. Polk’s research examines racial stress and trauma, racially disproportionate school discipline, and racial literacy interventions for youth and educators. The TDLab partners with school leaders, educators, and students to develop and implement culturally sustaining interventions that transform school discipline.

Dr. Polk is deeply committed to supporting individuals who have been historically underserved by systems and institutions. At the core of her professional and educational experiences is a steadfast commitment to helping students thrive in educational settings. As a researcher, practitioner, and advocate, Dr. Polk strives to work alongside students, their families, and educators to enhance the educational experiences of students neglected by the institutions meant to serve them.

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