Emory Report

January 19, 1999

 Volume 51, No. 16

Educational Studies gets Spencer grant to bolster PhDs

In October 1998 the Division of Educational Studies was awarded a $450,000, three-year research training grant from the Spencer Foundation. Graduate students in the division are to be the main beneficiaries of the grant, which is specifically designed to support PhD students in education.

Now in its second cycle, the research training grant is one of Spencer's newer initiatives. Emory will join the foundation's 10 original participating institutions, including Harvard, Columbia, Northwestern and Stanford universities as well as the universities of Pennsylvania, Michigan and California at Los Angeles.

Educational Studies is the smallest of the programs Spencer has funded and the first and only at a Southern university this grant cycle. The division has 11 faculty, a small group compared to Michigan, for example, where School of Education faculty number about 65.

While the size of the Emory division limits programming somewhat, Educational Studies has a strong national reputation for high-caliber faculty and excellent graduate degree programs, where faculty have established a collective mentoring program and a climate of high expectations for their students. The division plays a prominent role in ongoing educational reform initiatives in the Southeast.

The Spencer grant acknowledges the strength and potential of the Emory program, said Jeffrey Mirel, director of Educational Studies. "It focuses on areas that the Spencer Foundation believes are crucial to educational research, policy and practice. We specialize in multicultural education, urban education and comparative/international education. Our program is strongly research based, and we have excellent links to the research community across the country."

Moreover, Educational Studies is a national leader in recruiting and promoting minority faculty (four of 11 faculty in the division are African American) and in attracting minority graduate students (36 percent of its graduate students). "The foundation is very impressed with our success in these areas," Mirel added.

The grant will allow Emory to enrich and broaden the educational experiences and leadership potential of its doctoral students through a series of interrelated efforts, but funding terms stipulate that 90 percent of the monies must be designated for direct student support. As such, the division will increase stipends for its graduate students, a move expected to draw a wider applicant pool and increase enrollment in the program.

Currently, many of the division's 32 graduate students are local--19 full time, 13 part time. The research training grant will be used to enhance the geographic diversity of Educational Studies' graduate student population by stepping up recruitment efforts at the national level. The division intends to use the recruitment process to promote its strength and establish its identity as one of the country's leading programs, Mirel said.

In the past few years, a Spencer Foundation mentoring grant has enabled Candler Professor of Urban Education Jackie Irvine to increase the number of PhD students attending national conferences. The research training grant will provide additional funds for graduate students to participate in national conferences and pre-conference workshops, where they will be encouraged to present and publish their research. The new funds will support this research by covering expenses such as coding data and transcribing interviews. Research training grant monies also will provide opportunities for summer internships and research stipends.

In conjunction with these and other initiatives, Educational Studies will co-sponsor a distinguished lecturer series with the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Nationally known scholars will visit the campus to speak to students on educational issues, holding informal sessions to discuss questions, ideas and methods that relate to the students' specialized areas of study. "The Spencer Foundation grant recognizes our strengths and success while providing the opportunity for us to make even greater strides to become a premier program for training educational researchers in the Southeast and the nation," Mirel noted.

--Cathy Byrd

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