Who I am

a lover of children, books; a voice for the "least of these" & resolute about JUSTICE. 

Roni Dean-Burren, a native Houstonian, grew up in a family of faith and activism. The colloquial expression put “legs on your faith” is particularly resonant with the athlete, activist, mother and scholar.

In the summer of 1995, Roni matriculated as a member of the inaugural class of the Summer Bridge program at Southern Methodist University. Majoring in Broadcast Journalism and minoring in Sociology Roni - under the tutelage of the esteemed Dr. Richard Hawkins –– found her outlet for activism at the intersection of social justice and writing. She quickly became active within the university by writing for the Daily Campus, serving in leadership roles within the Association of Black Students, and ministering as a part of the Voices of Inspiration Gospel Choir.

In Spring of 1997, Roni joined a sisterhood of like-minded activist women when she became a member of the Kappa Mu Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. Her affiliation with the organization helped sharpen the focus of her activism on issues facing Black people – particularly Black youth and women.

Dr. Burren took on other leadership roles with The National Pan-Hellenic Council, student senate, and the SMU Board of Trustees Athletic Committee. Her activities earned her numerous honors and accolades including the John A. Freehafer Leadership Award and the A. Kenneth Pye Greek Leadership Award, however, none was more treasured to her than the coveted SMU “M” award she received in 1999.

After graduation Roni earned her teacher certification and brought her commitment to social justice to her work as a teacher and coach. During this time Roni earned her Master’s in Education which led her to a role in curriculum leadership.  Drawing on the early teachings of her undergraduate studies and her graduate research, Roni began to see a greater need to infuse social justice education into the curricula she developed. Roni’s ties to SMU remained strong and in 2013, the SMU Black Alumni Association named Roni Dean-Burren as a Distinguished Alumni.

In 2017 Roni received her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction with a focus on Urban Education from The University of Houston. Her research focused on Black Boys and Literacy, the complex issues surrounding the research gap relating to the areas of Black boys and literacy, and the intersections and correlation of these issues with the school-to-prison-pipeline.

Currently, Dr. Dean-Burren serves as the Vice-President of Membership and Affiliates for the Texas Council of Teacher of English Language Arts (TCTELA), an affiliate of the National Council of Teacher of English. Her recent journalistic work includes serving as an Editor for the, peer-reviewed journal for TCELA, English in Texas.

In 2015, Roni’s activism received national attention when her criticisms of McGraw Hill’s mis-characterization of the Atlantic Slave trade forced the publisher to change thousands of textbooks. Since opening that national dialogue, Roni has made numerous television and radio appearances.

Roni is married to fellow SMU Alum Lilo Burren.  They and their two children Mars and Dani reside in the Greater Houston Area.