Four Penn GSE students receive prestigious National Academy of Education/Spencer Dissertation Fellowships

June 20, 2019

Penn GSE Spencer Dissertation Fellows. Top row: Aldo Anzures Tapia and Samiha Rahman. Bottom row: Adam Kirk Edgerton and Wintre Foxworth Johnson.

Penn GSE leads the way in the 2019 prestigious National Academy of Education/Spencer Dissertation Fellowships.

Four Penn GSE doctoral students, and a Ph.D. candidate in Penn’s history department, each received a fellowship, which supports individuals 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.

These scholars are researching an array of topics including how Indigenous language policies can affect early-childhood education, connections between teacher contracts and student performance, the emergent literacy practices of young children of color, and a study of African American Muslim youth pursuing Islamic education in Senegal. 

Sharon Wolf, Penn GSE
Dr. Sharon Wolf

 Additionally, Penn GSE Assistant Professor Sharon Wolf received an NAED/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship to further her research of early childhood education in sub-Saharan Africa.

“I’m so proud to see our scholars recognized for their hard work on such important questions,” said Penn GSE Dean Pam Grossman. “These fellowships are another indication of the impact these doctoral students are making in the field.”

Penn’s National Academy of Education/Spencer Dissertation Fellows are:

Aldo Anzures Tapia, a doctoral candidate in the Education Linguistics program, specializes in the role of ethnographic research in the implementation of language policies within Indigenous contexts. His dissertation is a continuation of his collaboration with the stakeholders in a community with a large Indigenous population, where he exemplifies how long-term partnerships are crucial components in understanding policy making at the early childhood education (ECE) levels.

As Anzures Tapia put it in his application, his study “deepens our understanding of the ways in which language policies are implemented in ECE settings, but even more crucially, contributes to the design of programs that consider the complexities of ECE in Indigenous contexts.”

Adam Kirk Edgerton, a doctoral candidate in Education Policy, is investigating possible connections between the teacher labor market, local political alignment, and school performance. His dissertation research constructs a unique database of teacher contracts across Pennsylvania.

Using quasi-experimental methods, he examines the relationships among key contract parameters and student achievement and graduation rates. He employs both quantitative and qualitative methods and aims to bridge disciplinary divides across his work. These results suggest that subject-area and grade-level differentiation in contracts might help recruit teachers for hard-to-staff positions, particularly in math and science.

Wintre Foxworth Johnson, a doctoral candidate in the Reading/Writing/Literacy program, is documenting the lived experiences and complex, emergent literate practices of young children of color. Her dissertation is a qualitative inquiry examining what children, ages six and seven, understand about contemporary and historical racialized circumstances, the socialization sources and messages upon which they draw, and their meaning-making regarding race and structural inequalities through multiple literacy practices.

Grounded in sociocultural and early literacy studies and developmental science on young children’s emerging knowledge and identities, this study demonstrates how young African American children use literacy to make meaning about social stratification across time, thereby illuminating the critical, nuanced, and racialized knowing that young children are often assumed not to possess and the stories, experiences, and perspectives they offer when provided a space for expression.

Samiha Rahman is a doctoral candidate in the Education, Culture, and Society program, with a joint candidacy in Africana Studies. Throughout her research, Rahman examines how youth of color in the U.S. and on the African continent understand their identities, grapple with inequalities in their lives, and imagine engaging in activism to transform their societies.

Rahman’s dissertation focuses on a community of African American Muslims whose daughters and sons migrated from urban centers in the U.S. to pursue Islamic education in Medina Baye, Senegal. Drawing upon fieldwork in Senegal and the U.S., the study investigates how young people experience their migration and education, and how these processes of geographic transition, life education, and religious knowledge shape their emerging identities, future aspirations, and engagement in the world. By following youth throughout their time in Medina Baye, she is studying their representations of the impact of migration and education on their everyday religious and racial subject formation, as well as their imagined future trajectories.

Marlén Rosas, a doctoral candidate in Penn’s history department, studies modern Latin America with a focus on Ecuador and the Andes. Her dissertation brings critical archive studies, oral history, and intellectual history approaches to the study of Indigenous mobilizations in twentieth century Ecuador. It argues that Indigenous activists remade literacy for themselves, expanding it to include radical forms of community-based archiving and the writing of history.