Preparing Policy-Minded Scholars

Preparing Policy-Minded Scholars

Mollie McQuillanGender, health, and education researcher Mollie McQuillan was one of more than 30 Northwestern doctoral students from across the University who worked with faculty researchers at the Institute for Policy Research (IPR) as a graduate research assistant last year.

McQuillan gained valuable insights about different research methods, but perhaps more importantly, “I also learned how to talk across disciplines and connect research that’s aimed at similar kinds of applied problems,” she said.

McQuillan received her doctorate in human development and social policy last July. In September, she starts a new job as as assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Education in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis.

Her research looks at school policies related to gender-expansive youth—young people who do not conform to ideals of masculinity or femininity. She also studied transgender youth’s social relationships and whether gender-related stress was linked to higher levels of inflammation. While at Northwestern, McQuillan was a National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation Dissertation Fellow and was awarded a Northwestern Presidential Fellowship.

During her time at IPR, she worked as a faculty research assistant in different domains, including with developmental psychobiologist and  Emma Adam, education researcher James Rosenbaumand professor of medical social sciences  Brian Mustanski. IPR Director Diane Schanzenbach chaired her dissertation committee and IPR anthropologist Thomas McDade and education professor and IPR associate James Spillane served as committee members. 

In addition to her work as a research assistant, McQuillan cited IPR’s signature Fay Lomax Cook Monday Colloquia and its Distinguished Public Policy Lectures as especially important to her growth as an interdisciplinary researcher committed to policy-related work—and even to her success in finding a job.

“Seeing professors and assistant professors grapple with questions they don’t hear in their own discipline was useful to me on the job market,” McQuillan said. “People ask questions that you are not necessarily trained to answer, and I’ve seen how that leads some people to new, interesting research questions.”

Read the story: Preparing the Next Generation of Policy-Minded Scholars

Last Modified: 5/7/21