Graduate Students Win Spencer Dissertation Fellowships

Graduate Students Win Spencer Dissertation Fellowships

Nikki McDaid and Sebastian KiguelNikki McDaid (left) and Sebastián Kiguel are pursuing their doctorates.

Northwestern University School of Education and Social Policy graduate students Nikki McDaid and Sebastián Kiguel have received highly competitive NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowships to support their research and career development.

McDaid (Shoshone-Bannock, Paiute) is a doctoral candidate in learning sciences who studies how building relationships between human communities and the rest of nature can help fight climate change.

Kiguel, who is pursuing a PhD in human development and social policy, researches how schools can reducing bullying and the impact these efforts could have on a student’s social and emotional development and their educational path.

McDaid and Kiguel were among the 35 young scholars who received the $27,500 award to research issues that can improve education. The fellowships support those whose dissertations show potential “for bringing fresh and constructive perspectives to the history, theory, analysis, or practice of formal or informal education anywhere in the world,” according to the National Academy of Education.

Read more about SESP winners:

McDaid’s research looks at whether basing pedagogies and curriculum on connections to land and water can help Indigenous youth and other children make informed decisions about social and environmental issues. She also explores how generations of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people from the Midwest identify with nature and define environmental problems.

A parent of two children and a former middle and high school teacher, McDaid is also the Graduate Student Representative for the AREA Indigenous Peoples of the Americas Special Interest Group for 2021-22. She earned her master’s in teaching from Pacific University and her bachelor’s in  Sociology from Northeastern University.

“Considering the climate crisis we’re facing, it’s critical we design learning environments that prepare our children and communities to build sustainable and equitable futures,” she says. “Just knowing about climate change isn’t enough to shift environmental behaviors.”

Kiguel, who is pursing a PhD in human development and social policy, researches how schools can reducing bullying and the impact this has on the social emotional development of a student and their educational path. A former teacher, he co-founded an inclusive high school for trans youth who had been excluded from traditional education in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Research has helped identify which students are most likely to be bullied and the associated psychological problems that come with feeling harassed, including depression, anxiety, thoughts of suicide and dropping out of school. But there’s little evidence on how to reduce it, he says.

His dissertation research examines which Chicago high schools have reduced bullying, how they did it and the effects it had on the kids. “Although every state has adopted an anti-bullying law, the prevalence of bullying remains mostly unchanged,” he says. 

Kiguel is also part of an interdisciplinary research team from Northwestern and the Chicago Consortium for School Research working on a large research project funded by the Gates Foundation on the effect of schools on adolescents’ socioemotional development. The project’s first paper, co-authored with SESP faculty member Kirabo Jackson, has been published in American Economic Review: Insights and another has been submitted for publication.

Kiguel holds a master’s in public administration from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs and a Licenciate from the Universidad Torcuato Di Tella in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

SESP NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship winners.

2021: Nikki McDaid, Sebastián Kiguel

2020: Cora Wigger (PhD21) and Julissa Muñiz 

2017: Mollie McQuillan (PhD19) and alumna Samantha (Adler) Viano

2014: Elizabeth Dyer (2016)

2011: Eleanor Anderson (PhD2017)

2010: Melissa Luna (PhD13) and Cassandra Hart (PhD2011)

2009: Jennifer Stephan (PhD2010)

By Julie Deardorff
Last Modified: 10/5/21