Recognizing the importance of connecting the research world with practitioners and policymakers, Professor Perna has presented invited testimony to legislative committees of the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives on topics including the role of states in higher education, and how college access and success programs can improve access and completion for low-income and first-generation students (downloaded more than 9,000 times from Penn Libraries ScholarlyCommons).
She also helps bridge the divide between the academy and the public sphere by writing op-ed pieces, guest blogging, and participating in media interviews. Her work and commentary have been featured by more than 50 outlets, including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, NPR, the Chronicle of Higher Education, the Associated Press, and Inside Higher Ed. Through these outlets she has shared her research-based expertise on topics such as the gap in college attainment, student debt, the free-college movement, problems besetting working students, salary disparities between male and female professors, online education and MOOCs, and more.
As editor of the 2018 book Taking It to the Streets: The Role of Scholarship in Advocacy and Advocacy in Scholarship, Professor Perna assembled a collection of essays on how academic researchers should advocate for social change by communicating their findings and expertise to educators and policymakers. As one reviewer described the book, “The 17 chapters of this edited volume present narratives written by nationally and internationally recognized leaders that explore the professional pathways and methodological approaches used by faculty to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in higher education.”
Professor Perna also works to connect research to policy through her service on the Board of Directors of the Postsecondary National Policy Institute (PNPI), an organization dedicated to providing professional development for current and prospective policymakers who work on higher education issues.