Six from UW–Madison receive prestigious 2020 NAEd/Spencer fellowships and awards

The National Academy of Education (NAEd) announced the recipients of its 2020 NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral and Dissertation Fellowships, and Research Development Awards in a news release posted on Wednesday, June 10.

And once again, scholars with UW–Madison’s School of Education were well represented in this annual announcement.

Qing Liu, Huimin Wang, and Choua P. Xiong — each of them PhD candidates with the Department of Educational Policy Studies — were named NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellows. Selected from a pool of 429 applicants, the 35 Dissertation Fellows each receive $27,500 for a period of up to two years to complete their dissertations and also attend professional development retreats.

In addition, School of Education faculty members Jordan A. Conwell (Department of Educational Policy Studies) and Diego Román (Department of Curriculum and Instruction) were named NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellows, while Kathryn Kirchgasler (Department of Curriculum and Instruction) received an NAEd/Spencer Research Development Award. The 30 Postdoctoral Fellowships were selected from a pool of 229 early-career scholars and provide winners $70,000 to focus on their research and attend professional development retreats.  The Research Development Awardees were chosen from the pool of 2020 NAEd/Spencer Dissertation and Postdoctoral semifinalists. The award will provide these scholars with a research stipend and will fund them to attend the 2020 NAEd/Spencer Fall Fellows Retreat and Annual Meeting, and the 2021 AERA Annual Meeting.

All of these programs provide funding and professional development to early-career researchers whose projects address critical issues in the history, theory, or practice of formal or informal education, at the national and international levels.

“The NAEd/Spencer Fellowship Programs cultivate the next generation of education scholars by funding their research projects and providing resources to strengthen their research and research training, including mentorship from NAEd members,” NAEd President Gloria Ladson-Billings, who is a professor emerita with UW-Madison’s School of Education, said in the news release.  “We consider these fellows to be among the best in their respective fields, and I look forward to working with them in the coming year.”

Following is information about each of the award winners from UW-Madison, with the information below provided via the NAEd/Spencer news release.

NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellows

Qing Liu

Qing Liu is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Education Policy Studies and the Department of History at UW-Madison, specializing in Asian American history, intellectual history and history of higher education. Originally from China, she was educated at Peking University, with a degree in the history of Sino-American relations. She has published a few articles in that field in peer-reviewed journals in China. She worked at Sun Yat-Sen University in China for a short time before coming to Madison. Combining her previous study experiences with her current training, Liu is now writing a dissertation focusing on Chinese migrant scholars in American universities during the 1950s and 1960s, and examining how their knowledge production shaped, and was shaped by, cold war geopolitics.

Liu’s work being funded is titled, “Stranded: Chinese Migrant Scholars in American Universities, 1940-1970.”

Liu writes: “My dissertation focuses on a group of more than 1,000 Chinese scholars who came to study in the United States during the 1940s as short-term students but who, owing to unanticipated diplomatic shifts, found themselves ‘stranded’ in American universities during the 1950s and 1960s. Particularly after the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950, the U.S. government, for the first time in the history of Sino-American cultural ties, refused to permit American-educated Chinese to return home. Their situation was two-sided. On the one hand, many Chinese scholars in American universities faced discrimination and suspicion about their political loyalties — even in cases where their research had been funded by the federal government itself. On the other hand, as cold war universities were drawn into the national-security state, Chinese scholars’ language skills, cultural knowledge, and scientific expertise prompted their recruitment into research and teaching positions. Long before the civil rights movement or the immigration reforms of the mid-1960s opened academic institutions to other racial and ethnic minorities, Chinese scholars became an integral part of the U.S. academy. My research examines how these scholars navigated the variably favorable and unfavorable views of their place in American higher education and negotiated the delicate interplay of nationalism and internationalism in the production of ‘expert’ knowledge. While their experiences took place during an earlier period of Sino-American rivalry, their story parallels similar dynamics of academic (geo)politicization today.”

Huimin Wang

Huimin Wang is a PhD candidate in the Department of Educational Policy Studies at UW-Madison. Her interests center on the histories of education reform, childhood, and psychology in 20th century United States. In her research and scholarship, Wang aims to unpack the underlying assumptions, complicated contours, and socio-political implications of past education policies, and to bring historical insights to current education debates through deep contextualization of categories, classifications, and norms. Her dissertation explores the history of emotional interventions in U.S. public schools from World War I to 1950. Specifically, she looks at how educators and social scientists used psychological knowledge to tackle the problems of school or social “misfits,” with the goal of creating “well-adjusted” citizens. Wang grew up in southeast China and moved to the United States to start her PhD in 2014. Prior to her doctoral study, she received a master’s in history of education and a BA in education and English literature, both from Beijing Normal University in China.

Wang’s work being funded it titled, “Creating the Well-Adjusted Citizen: The Human Sciences and Public Schools in the United States, World War I – 1950.”

Wang writes: “Since the end of World War I, a new way of thinking about individuals’ fit (and misfit) in social and educational institutions spread in the United States. The key to evaluating fitness was various conceptions of psychological ‘adjustment’ and ‘maladjustment.’ This project explores the emergence and circulation of adjustment thinking in the human sciences and public schools from World War I to 1950, and the social implications of the scrutiny of emotional fitness among its citizenry in the U.S. The study utilizes a variety of archival sources and print materials: personality tests, personal papers of social scientists, records of philanthropic foundations and welfare agencies, and scholarly and popular publications. By revealing embedded perceptions of human differences and hierarchy in scientific constructions of the ‘well-adjusted citizen,’ this study sheds new light on the roots of what became commonsense understandings about children’s socio-emotional development and mental health.

Choua P Xiong

Choua P. Xiong is a PhD candidate in the Department of Educational Policy Studies at UW–Madison. Her approach to research is rooted in her refugee experience and the desire to understand the stories of displacement told by HMoob people. Xiong is interested in the ways displaced youth and communities utilize education to negotiate belonging and demand structural changes. Moreover, she considers how such processes intersect with ethnicity, race, gender, sexuality, and class. Her work is informed by her activism as a researcher and educator within the HMoob and Southeast Asian communities in community-based educational spaces, schools, and higher education. At UW–Madison, Xiong participated in various collaborative and community-based participatory action research (CBPAR) projects that center the perspectives of marginalized youth and interrogate the roles communities of color play in educating youth about schooling, political participation, belonging, historical trauma, and healing. As a continuation of her U.S.-based projects, Xiong’s dissertation, funded by the USED Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Abroad award, examines how HMoob youth make sense of belonging, citizenship and displacement within a nationalistic Thai school. Specifically, a study highlighting the perspectives of HMoob in Thailand can provide insights on the narratives of trauma, violence, and displacement within the HMoob diasporic community.

Xiong’s work being funded it titled, “The Home Called HMoob: Sociocultural Citizenship and Belonging in a Northern Thai School.”

Xiong writes: “When educational policies and practices offer limited conceptions of citizenship, how do HMoob people, who are historically classified as stateless, national threats, and uncivilized Others in Thailand, make sense of the messages they receive about their place in the Thai state, and how do they negotiate inclusive and relevant educational opportunities? This 12-months ethnographic study aims to examine how HMoob youth navigate exclusionary practices of citizenship and belonging within a school in Phetchabun Province, Thailand. Since the 19th century, the educational system in Thailand has been a project of the nation-state, reinforcing nationalistic ideas of a homogenous Thai identity (Johnson 2005; Winichakul 1994). Recent educational policies have attempted to build a more democratic and inclusive government and education system for Thailand’s diverse population, but highlanders like the HMoob are often excluded from these processes. This study employed extensive interviews and participant-observation of youth activities in a predominately-HMoob school and the community to explore the following research questions: What gendered, ethnicized, and classed messages do nationalistic formal schools attempt to inculcate in HMoob youth about citizenship? How do HMoob youth utilize everyday practices of sociocultural citizenship to negotiate a place to be Thai and HMoob? I draw on feminist theory to consider how gender and schooling shape the reproduction and transformation of cultural practices in this community, as students negotiate their place as HMoob people (Gailey, 2015). This project contributes to the understanding of how displaced youth forge educational and communal spaces of belonging despite marginalizing hegemonic discourses of citizenship.”

NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellows

Jordan Conwell

• Jordan A. Conwell is an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology and the Department of Educational Policy Studies at UW-Madison. His research focuses on trends and consequences of racial, social class, and gender inequality in education, with a particular interest in the multigenerational roles of families and finances in these educational processes, as inputs for children and as outputs for adults. Recent papers have appeared or are forthcoming in journals, including the Journal of Marriage and Family and Sociology of Education. His work has previously been funded by a National Academy of Education/ Spencer Foundation Dissertation Fellowship. He completed a PhD in sociology at Northwestern University in 2017.

Conwell’s work that’s being funded is titled, “All in the Family: New Perspectives on the Returns to College Quality.”

Conwell writes: “This study will bring a multigenerational, family perspective to research on the returns to college quality and potential racial and gender differences in those returns. Previous studies on this topic have primarily relied on an individual and single-generation measure of returns. Most have assessed returns to college quality for individual income. This approach does not reflect the facts that college-goers 1) often partner with spouses who have similar educational credentials, thereby pooling economic resources along with their educational ones, and 2) then seek to pass on both types of advantages to their children. This project will build on this literature along those two lines, using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth – 1979 Cohort (NLSY-79), the children born to women in this cohort (C-NLSY), and measures of college quality. First, I will assess whether the returns to college quality, and any racial and gender differences therein, vary across the outcomes of individual income, household income, and household wealth. Second, I will assess whether children receive returns to their mothers’ college quality for their own educational opportunities and outcomes, including their own college quality, and whether there are differences in these returns by children’s race and gender.”

Diego Román

• Diego Román is an assistant professor in bilingual/bicultural education at the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at UW–Madison. Prior to this appointment, he was an assistant professor in bilingual education at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. Román holds a BS degree in agronomy from Zamorano University in Honduras and a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. He also earned a master’s in biology, an MA in linguistics, and a PhD in educational linguistics, all from Stanford University. At the K-12 level, Román taught middle school science to emergent bilinguals for seven years, first in rural Wisconsin and then in San Francisco, California. Román’s research interests are located at the intersection of applied linguistics, bilingual education, and science education. Specifically, he investigates the implicit and explicit ideologies reflected in the design and implementation of bilingual and science education programs particularly on how environmental topics are taught to multilingual students. He conducts his research from a Systemic Functional Linguistics perspective by analyzing the linguistic and multimodal characteristics of the discourse that take place in bilingual and science classrooms. Román has researched the language used to teach climate change at the middle school level and is currently examining science, environmental, and bilingual programs (Spanish/English and Kichwa/Spanish) in rural Wisconsin and in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador.

Román’s work being funded it titled, “The Role of Language in Teaching Local Environmental Issues to Emergent Bilingual Latinx Students in Wisconsin.”

Writes Román: “Human actions are causing the decline of biodiversity, contributing to water pollution, and reducing the capacity of natural systems to sustain themselves. Yet, little is known about how to meaningfully teach environmental concepts to linguistically minoritized children who tend to live in low-income areas that disproportionately suffer the effects of environmental degradation. Drawing on Systemic Functional Linguistics, raciolinguistics, and culturally and linguistically relevant science education, this study examines the language used in district-adopted materials and by middle school science and ESL teachers in the teaching of local environmental issues to low-income emergent bilingual (EBs) Latinx students in west-central Wisconsin — a region that has experienced some of the largest growths of Latinx EBs in the state. This mixed-methods study will include functional linguistic discourse analyses of district-adopted materials, an online survey, in-depth teacher interviews, and classroom observations. Specific topics that will be examined are (a) linguistic and science/environmental complexity of sample texts extracted from state-adopted science textbooks; (b) teachers’ practices in adapting materials to teach local environmental issues to the Latinx EBs; and (c) teachers’ perceptions of the language and cultural practices of the Latinx students. This work has implications for the education of linguistically minoritized students, science education, and environmental studies.”

NAEd/Spencer Research Development Awardees

Kathryn Kirchgasler

• Kathryn Kirchgasler is an assistant professor of science education with the Department of Curriculum and Instruction and UW–Madison. Her work investigates relations of power, inequity, and exclusion in STEM, health, and environmental education, with a focus on these fields’ underexamined histories of racialization and coloniality. Her central concern is understanding how research and pedagogy inherit taken-for-granted assumptions that undermine current commitments to equality and justice. In prior projects, she has explored racial disparities in high school coursework, unintended effects of data-driven reforms, and the marginalization of sociopolitical dimensions of science and sustainability in curricular standards. Her research appears in journals including Curriculum Inquiry and Science Education, and she gave an invited keynote at the International Organization for Science and Technology Education meeting in 2018. Kirchgasler holds a PhD in curriculum and instruction from the University of Wisconsin–Madison and a BA in psychology from Williams College. Prior to her current appointment, she served as a lecturer of curriculum and teaching at the University of Kansas. At the K-12 level, she taught elementary and middle school science, first as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Alcalá de Henares, Spain, and then in East Boston, Massachusetts.

Kirchgasler’s work that’s being funded is titled, “Tracking by Triage: How Science Education Began Dividing Populations by Perceived Health Needs.”

Writes Kirchgasler: “This research explores how pedagogies embodying cultural norms of hygienic living contributed to the emergence of tracking, and to the production and regulation of distinct populations in early 20th-century U.S. schooling. As a history of the present, it investigates how educational research racialized pupils classified as Spanish-speaking or Mexican as not-yet-ready to learn science, but instead as needing instruction applied to their alleged health habits and home conditions. The project will entail archival research and analysis of pedagogies circulating across de jure and de facto segregated schools, sociological studies, and settlement house reforms targeting schoolchildren and their families from 1916 to 1946. Leveraging insights from recent scholarship in cultural studies, Chican@/Latin@ studies, and science and technology studies, the project will uncover the indebtedness of U.S. science education to broader biopolitical projects of school segregation, Americanization programs, and hygiene movements. It will elucidate how pedagogical techniques began to triage populations along a racializing hierarchy of perceived needs — where an ‘immediate need’ for health supervision took precedence over a ‘future need’ to study abstract science. At stake is how similar pedagogies are recommended today as strategies to connect science to the ‘real-life needs’ ascribed to Latinx, Native, and Black students in the name of educational and health equity. As health equity gains momentum as a site of interdisciplinary collaboration, this study promises a more robust understanding of the political stakes, ethical implications, and paradoxical effects of trying to solve public health crises within science classrooms and curricula historically rendered separate and unequal.”

To learn more about all of this year’s recipients of 2020 NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral and Dissertation Fellowships and Research Development Awards, check out this news release.

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