UW–Madison’s Paris Wicker received a prestigious Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship, which will allow her to further her work in studying the well-being of Black and Indigenous college students.
“This is a dream project for me,” says Wicker, who has been determined to explore “who gets well in higher education and under what conditions” after working as a national certified counselor and as the associate dean of students at Lawrence University.
Wicker is a fifth-year PhD candidate with the School of Education’s Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis. The dissertation Wicker is working on is titled, “Who Gets to be Well”? A Social Network Analysis of Well-Being for Black and Indigenous College Students.”
Wicker explains that this work is a mixed-methods study that first analyzes national survey data to determine how central faculty, advisors, and staff are to student well-being before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. The second part of the study interviews current students at UW–Madison to map out their personal well-being network on campus and the people and restorative spaces that help them to be well.
“I am so excited to explore the notion of well-being from a relational perspective that centers the experiences of Indigenous and Black students who are navigating complex historical legacies with the institutions that are now wanting to help them succeed,” Wicker adds. “At a time when higher education institutions are worried about how to address the growing mental health concerns on campus, my research shifts well-being from an individualistic problem to an institutional responsibility — and elevates well-being as a necessary component of student success, of equal importance as grades, GPAs and graduation rates.”
The award-winners were publicly named on July 26. Wicker is one of 140 outstanding scholars who were awarded fellowships in the 2022 Ford Foundation Fellowship Programs competition, which is administered at the Fellowships Office of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.
The programs seek to increase the diversity of the nation’s college and university faculties by increasing their ethnic and racial diversity, to maximize the educational benefits of diversity, and to increase the number of professors who can and will use diversity as a resource for enriching the education of all students. For more information about the most recent cohort of awardees, check out the Directory of Ford Foundation Fellows.
“I am incredibly passionate about this research and grateful to the Ford Foundation for seeing the potential in this project and potential in me as a future faculty member,” says Wicker. “I’m still in shock as only 2 percent of awards go to education research. I knew it was a longshot, but this recognition has given me the additional affirmation, confidence, and support to wholeheartedly pursue my academic goals. While there’s much uncertainty in the dissertation and academic job market process, this fellowship is a signal to me that I’m on the right track and to keep going.”
To learn more about Wicker and her work, visit pariswicker.com.