Dr. Vajra Watson is the UC Davis Director of Research and Policy for Equity. As a scholar-activist, moments of personal, communal, and inter/national trauma shape and inform the research questions that Dr. Watson asks, her research epistemology, and the methodological principles she relies upon to communicate findings that are accessible to broad and diverse audiences as an explicit act of intervention and organizing.

In 2008, Watson founded Sacramento Area Youth Speaks (SAYS), a social justice movement that breaks the barriers of underachievement by elevating the voices of students as the authors of their own lives and agents of change. She designed an award-winning training program that pairs community-based poet-mentor educators and teachers together to develop grassroots pedagogies that reclaim and reimagine schooling (says.ucdavis.edu). In addition, Watson serves on a number of Board of Directors, including United Playaz in San Francisco (Board President), the National Urban Education and Teacher Unionism Policy Project, the National Assembly for Expanded Perspectives on Learning, and Fathers and Families of San Joaquin in Stockton, CA.

Dr. Watson is the author of Learning to Liberate: Community-Based Solutions to the Crisis in Urban Education (Routledge, 2012), Censoring Freedom (2013), Literacy is a Civil Write (2015), Life as Primary Text (2017), Transformative Schooling: Towards Racial Equity in Education (Routledge, 2018), among others. She is the recipient of the UCD Early Career Award, the Chancellor’s Individual Achievement Award for Diversity, and AERA’s Social Impact and Social Justice Leadership Awards.

Watson received her B.A. from UC Berkeley and her Doctorate from the Graduate School of Education at Harvard University.