NAU professor emeritus receives national recognition for educational equity and access for GEAR UP

Daniel Kain

The National Council for Community and Education Partnerships (NCCEP) gave professor emeritus Daniel Kain its Community Partner of the Year award. NCCEP works with the U.S. Department of Education to oversee GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) across the country with the goal to level the playing field in educational equity and access. Kain has served as principal investigator or co-PI for Arizona GEAR UP for nearly two decades.

Arizona GEAR UP, a project of Northern Arizona University, helps increase educational opportunity and access for youth living in low-income communities in Arizona. Kain’s research and expertise in problem-based learning, educational equity and access, have helped Arizona GEAR UP reach thousands of students to provide the necessary tools to succeed in college and beyond.

“GEAR UP is a vital component in the field of educational equity and access, and NAU is honored to lead the state initiative,” said NAU President José Luis Cruz Rivera. “Dr. Kain has spent his entire career working on these important issues and has been instrumental in the success of Arizona GEAR UP and the transformation of countless lives. We congratulate him on receiving this national recognition.”

Every year NCCEP announces the annual GEAR UP Leadership awards, which recognizes the outstanding achievements of individuals and partners in three categories: Student, Community Partner and Professional of the Year.

“As principal investigator, Dr. Kain has been a key figure behind Arizona GEAR UP, and he deserves the highest recognition for his visionary leadership to enhance education in Arizona to increase high school graduation rates and college awareness and readiness,” said Ramona Mellott, dean of the College of Education and co-PI.

Kain began his education career as a middle school and high school teacher in Montana. After earning his Ph.D. at the University of British Columbia, he joined the faculty at NAU, where he served from 1993 to 2021. In addition to his faculty role, he also served as associate dean, dean, vice provost and provost. Kain’s main areas of research include teacher collaboration, middle school curriculum and problem-based learning. He has authored several books related to these issues (Camel-Makers: Building Effective Teacher Teams Together; Problem-Based Learning for Teachers, Grades K-8; Problem-Based Learning for Teachers, Grades 6-12), as well as numerous journal publications and professional presentations.

The U.S. Department of Education oversees GEAR UP. Now in 45 states, GEAR UP programs help increase high school graduation rates, create a college-going culture and help prepare students to enter and succeed in postsecondary education. The department awards six- or seven-year grants to states, which must commit to a dollar-for-dollar match. Arizona GEAR UP received its first grant in 2000. It is now in its fourth grant cycle.