SESP Students, Alumni Win Spencer Fellowships

SESP Students, Alumni Win Spencer Fellowships

jessica-marshall.jpgNorthwestern University’s Jessica Marshall, a doctoral student in the learning sciences program, and two School of Education and Social Policy alumni were among the 35 scholars who received 2022 National Academy of Education/Spencer Dissertation Fellowships.

It’s the second consecutive year the School of Education and Social Policy has had three winners in a single year. Marshall, meanwhile, is on a roll; last year she received a two-year ​pre-doctoral research fellowship with the Collaborative for Academic Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL).

In addition to Marshall, alumni Caitlin Ahearn (BS13) of the University of California Los Angeles, and Judith Landeros (BS11) of the University of Texas won fellowships, which provide a $27,500 stipend to support young scholars whose dissertations can bring fresh and constructive perspectives to the education.

Two other members of the SESP community also received research support from the National Academy of Education and the Spencer Foundation. Jennifer Higgs (MS08) of the University of California, Davis received a National Academy of Education/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship, a $70,000 award for early career scholars. Higgs won the Spencer Dissertation Fellowship in 2016 and is currently collaborating with Professor Cynthia Coburn on papers stemming from that work. Coburn also worked with Higgs when Higgs was a student at the University of California at Berkeley.

Alumna Dionne Champion (PhD18) of the University of Florida was awarded a 2022 NAEd/Spencer Research Development Award, which funds six people chosen from the pool of postdoctoral semi-finalists. Scholars receive a research stipend and funds to attend a professional development retreat where they are mentored by NAEd members and other senior scholars in their fields.

Read more about our winners:

Jessica Marshall

Marshall, a doctoral student in learning sciences, develops civic and political learning experiences that recognize the identities, experiences, and dreams of young people, particularly those from marginalized communities.

As a pre-doctoral fellow with the Collaborative for Academic Social and Emotional Learning, Marshall designed and implemented a collaborative research practice partnership aimed at enhancing the Reparations Won! curriculum that centered on Chicago police detective Jon Burge and the history of police torture in the city. As part of the project, she worked with survivors of torture, community partners, scholars, and educators in collaboration with Chicago Public Schools.

Prior to her doctoral studies, Marshall taught special education and social studies in both Chicago and New York City public school systems. She was the founding director of the Chicago Public Schools Department of Social Science and Civic Engagement where she led strategic initiatives to implement districtwide civic and financial education, expanded student voice structures, developed multiple curricula in partnership with educators and community, and worked with scholars to develop infrastructure for research in civics and social studies education.  

Marshall earned her bachelor’s in sociology modified with Latin American and Caribbean Studies from Dartmouth College and a master's in special education from City College – City University of New York. She lives on the south side of Chicago with her wife, three children, and their dog Pepper.

Dissertation: Teaching Reparations: Teacher Perspectives on Implementation of Mandated Curriculum on Racism and Police Violence

Caitlin Ahearn

ahearn_400.jpgAhearn, a doctoral candidate in sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles, studies inequalities in education. She is also a graduate student researcher at the Los Angeles Education Research Institute in the Luskin School of Public Affairs. Her dissertation looks at the impact of schools that operate at the margin between community colleges and more selective schools, or “broad-access four-year” institutions.

These schools that accept students regardless of their socioeconomic or academic background offer an important pathway to social mobility for students historically locked out of higher education, Ahern says. But little is known about whether these students end up on a similar path as those who enroll in more selective colleges, or how their life course trajectories differ from community college enrollees.

Ahern recently published research in the Sociology of Education on the interaction between educational and occupational expectations. After getting her bachelor’s at SESP in 2013, she earned her master’s in sociology at UCLA. Dissertation: "Examining the Early Adult Economic and Social Returns to Broad-Access Four-Year College Enrollment"

Judith Landeros

landeros400.jpgLanderos studies girlhood, traditional healing knowledges, and reproductive health education in the Cultural Studies in Education program at the University of Texas at Austin. Her dissertation, an intergenerational collaborative project, focuses on the coming-of-age experiences of Indigenous and Indigenous Latinx girls in diaspora and (re)membering women’s erased epistemologies about reproductive health, menstruation, and sexuality.

A former bilingual early childhood teacher in Chicago Public Schools, Landeros earned her master’s in education from Dominican University and her bachelor’s in social policy and Latinx Studies from Northwestern University where she received the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship.

Dissertation: "Towards a Cuerpo-Territorio Sex Education: Indigenous Latinx Girlhood in Diaspora and Intergenerational Coming of Age Stories."

Jennifer Higgs

higgs400.jpgHiggs, a former high school English teacher and 2016 Spencer Dissertation Fellow, is assistant professor of learning and mind sciences, language, literacy and culture at the University of California, Davis.

She investigates how young people and teachers use digital tools and systems that encourage new forms of reading, writing, and participation and how to spread and scale educational innovations.

Her work has appeared in various academic journals, including Research in the Teaching of EnglishEducational ResearcherEquity and Excellence in Education, and Human Development. Higgs earned her doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley, master's degrees from Northwestern University, and a bachelor's from Cornell University.

Dionne N. Champion

dionne_champion400.jpgChampion (PhD18), an engineer, dancer, arts educator, and learning scientist is a research assistant professor in the Center for Arts in Medicine at the University of Florida. She studies learning environments that blend STEM and creative learning activities, particularly for African American youth and others who may have felt marginalized in STEM education settings.

Champion is interested in how people use their bodies as resources for learning and identity development. She earned her doctorate in learning sciences from the School of Education and Social Policy and a master’s in dance from Temple University after getting her bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Florida A&M University.

Her diverse background as an engineer, arts educator, and education researcher gives her unique insights into the intersections of arts and sciences, informal and school settings, theory, and practice. She is also director of DancExcel: Champion Center for Creative Arts Education in her hometown of Gary, Ind. The program strengthens reading, math, and language skills through the arts.

By Julie Deardorff
Last Modified: 7/27/22