Seven from UW-Madison receive NAEd Spencer Fellowships

Seven from School receive highly competitive
2017 NAEd/Spencer Fellowships

No institution in the nation had more recipients than UW-Madison

The National Academy of Education (NAEd) this past spring announced the recipients of its prestigious NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral and Dissertation Fellowship programs.

And no institution is home to more 2017 recipients than the UW-Madison School of Education and its seven awardees.

“We are thrilled that so many of our faculty and graduate students have been awarded NAEd/Spencer Fellowships,” says School of Education Dean Diana Hess, the Karen A. Falk Distinguished Chair of Education. “The fellowships are highly competitive, with many hundreds of scholars applying each year. In addition to receiving funding to support their research projects, these fellows are mentored by members of the National Academy of Education — an important component of the program that will positively impact their development as scholars.”

The 30 2017 NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellows — selected from a pool of roughly 300 applicants — are examining critical areas of education research and will each receive $70,000 for a period of up to two years to complete their work and attend professional development retreats. These fellowships support non-residential postdoctoral proposals that make significant scholarly contributions to the field of education.

Faculty FellowshipsThe four faculty members with UW-Madison’s School of Education receiving these fellowships, and the projects they’ll be working on, are:

• Erika Bullock, assistant professor, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, “Tracing Equity Discourses in Mathematics Education.” For nearly 40 years, mathematics education has engaged in various efforts to address equity for students who, for various reasons related to identity and demography, are unsuccessful in and disconnected from mathematics. Despite this prolonged attention to equity in scholarship, curriculum, policy, and teacher education, the gap between less privileged students and their more privileged counterparts has been consistent. In her project, Bullock will more closely examine the successes and limitations of equity discourse and consider ways in which the field can move toward addressing and eliminating inequities.

• Nicole Louie, assistant professor, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, “Empowering Teachers, Empowering Students? Mathematics Teacher Collaboration and Race in Chicago Public Schools.”Fueled by her experiences as a teacher and learner, Louie is interested in how people define what it means to be “smart.” Her project examines a large-scale professional development effort in the Chicago Public Schools, focusing on how the effort’s dual emphasis on teacher agency and student agency shapes teachers’ understanding of their students’ mathematical abilities. She is particularly interested in the opportunities teachers create to challenge -- or reproduce -- racial hierarchies in mathematics education.

• Kathryn Moeller, assistant professor, Department of Educational Policy Studies, “Rich Dividends?: The Political Economy of Corporations in Education.” Moeller’s interdisciplinary, ethnographic scholarship examines the gendered, sexualized, and racialized nature of corporate power in education. Her ethnographic study seeks to understand the shifting terrain of urban education as corporations and their foundations become increasingly powerful actors in shaping education policy and practice through partnerships with public schools. It examines the political economy of corporations in education amidst both the failure of urban school districts to meet the educational needs of communities of color, and increasing state divestment in public education.

Erica Turner, assistant professor, Department of Educational Policy Studies, “Embracing Complexity: The Diverse Efforts to Address Racial Inequity in One School District.” What are the challenges and promise of diverse stakeholders working towards racial equity in education? Turner's study examines how school and civic actors in Madison make sense of racial inequity, envision new possibilities, and pursue interrelated efforts to advance policy change as they deliberate over three issues -- disparities in school discipline, access to advanced course-taking, and emergent bilinguals’ education -- which engage different racialized groups and constellations of discourses, strategies, processes, and resources. The study aims to surface alternative views of equity, policy and educational goals and further knowledge of how complex policy ecologies contribute to, complicate, or undermine equity in school district policymaking.

The Dissertation Fellowship Program seeks to encourage a new generation of scholars from a wide range of disciplines and professional fields to undertake research relevant to the improvement of education. The 35 dissertation fellows — selected from a pool of roughly 500 applicants — will each receive $27,500 for a period of up to two years to complete their research and also attend professional development retreats. These scholars are working on dissertations that show potential for bringing fresh and constructive perspectives to the history, theory, analysis or practice of formal or informal education anywhere in the world.

The three scholars with UW-Madison’s School of Education who received a 2017 NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship, and the projects they are working on, are:

Dissertation Fellowship winners• Kathryn Boonstra, Ph.D. candidate, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, “First Time Out: A Qualitative Study of Classroom Discipline in Early Childhood Education.” Beginning as early as preschool, African American students are two to four times more likely to be suspended from school than white students. Boonstra’s research explores how routine interactions and classroom practices contribute to systemic inequities in school discipline. She shows how early childhood educators construct meaning around student behavior, how these meanings activated in different relationships and classroom contexts, and how these processes shape educational opportunity for young children. Boonstra is being advised by Beth Graue, the School of Education’s Sorenson Professor of Curriculum and Instruction.

• Upenyu Majee, joint Ph.D. candidate, departments of Educational Policy Studies and Development Studies, “(Re)imagining and (Re)enacting Competing Policy Imperatives. The Case of Post-Apartheid South African Higher Education.” South African public universities face increasing pressures to simultaneously integrate within the competitive, globalized knowledge economy that places high value on elite, world-class and research-intensive universities; implement development cooperation and geopolitical redress regionally; and fulfill national demands for racial equity and redress through higher education transformation. Majee will examine how higher education stakeholders (re)imagine and (re)enact the conflicting policy imperatives of the country’s top-rated post-apartheid public universities – to whom they belong, who they serve, and what knowledge they value and generate. Majee is being advised by Nancy Kendall, a professor with the Department of Educational Policy Studies, and Gay Seidman, a professor with the Department of Sociology. 

• Rachel Silver, joint Ph.D. candidate, departments of Educational Policy Studies and Anthropology, “Sex, Schooling, and the Paradox of Readmission Policy in Malawi.” In Malawi, the pregnant schoolgirl embodies failure for diverse actors and institutions. She signals moral degeneration and a loss of control over girls’ sexuality for parents and teachers, chiefs and clerics. She also demonstrates the programmatic failure of schooling to delay reproduction and trigger a “ripple effect” of positive social, demographic, and economic outcomes. Silver is exploring this convergence and shows how schoolgirl pregnancy has come to be understood and constituted as a social problem by many and how discourses on, and policies related to, pregnant students shape the possibilities for young women’s wellbeing and schooling experiences. Silver is being co-advised by Kendall and Claire Wendland, a professor with the Department of Anthropology.

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