Five Early-Career Researchers Selected for the William T. Grant Scholars Class of 2026

We are pleased to announce the newest class of William T. Grant Scholars. Launched in 1982, the Scholars Program supports the professional development of promising researchers in the social, behavioral, and health sciences who have received their terminal degrees within the past seven years. To date, the program has sponsored more than 197 talented researchers.

Scholars receive $350,000 to execute rigorous five-year research plans that stretch their skills and knowledge into new disciplines, content areas, or methods. As they commence their projects, they build mentoring relationships with experts in areas pertinent to their development, and further their research and professional development through annual retreats and workshops with fellow Scholars, Foundation staff, and other senior researchers.

…the William T. Grant Scholars Program seeks to contribute to a bright new generation of scholars who will bring rigorous research to youth policies, programs, and practices in the U.S.

Senior Vice President Vivian Tseng remarked, “We welcome these dynamic early career researchers to the William T. Grant Scholars Program. They span different disciplines, methods, and policy areas and will push their expertise in new directions to tackle the persistent harms of racism, xenophobia, and poverty. Their projects seek to disrupt the effects of racism on Black youth’s mental health, improve college enrollment and completion for racially and ethnically minoritized students, enhance ethnic studies teaching for high school students, examine the impact of xenophobic policies on immigrant youth’s reproductive health, and examine whether income support and housing policies can prevent child neglect. By supporting their research agendas and professional development, the William T. Grant Scholars Program seeks to contribute to a bright new generation of scholars who will bring rigorous research to youth policies, programs, and practices in the U.S.”

William T. Grant Scholars Class of 2026

Riana Elyse Anderson is an Assistant Professor of Health Behavior and Health Education at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. With the Scholars award, Anderson will test a therapeutic intervention to decrease the impact of racial discrimination on Black youth’s mental health. In this two-part study, Anderson will evaluate the efficacy of EMBRace (Engaging, Managing, and Bonding through Race), a clinical intervention that integrates racial socialization to reduce the effects of discrimination for Black youth, as well as assess the methods by which the program improves racial coping and subsequent psychosocial outcomes for participants. A clinical and community psychologist with mixed-methods, intervention-oriented training, Anderson will develop expertise in advanced clinical trial development and virtual reality narrative conceptualization, development, and deployment with the support of her mentors Velma McBride Murry, University Professor of Health Policy and Human and Organizational Development at Vanderbilt University, and Courtney Cogburn, Associate Professor at the Columbia University School of Social Work.

Denisa Gándara is an Assistant Professor of Education Policy and Leadership at the Simmons School of Education and Human Development at Southern Methodist University. Gándara’s Scholars research will examine how the administrative burdens of free-college programs, such as eligibility criteria and application processes, impact college enrollment and degree completion for racially or ethnically minoritized students. Gándara aims to provide a more complete understanding of how administrative burdens affect students from different racial or ethnic groups, and, ultimately, to inform program design in ways that help reduce gaps in program take-up and degree attainment. Gándara will develop new expertise in survey design and measurement and expanded expertise in causal inference with the mentorship of Ken Frank, Professor of Sociometrics at Michigan State University and Judith Scott-Clayton, Associate Professor of Economics and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. Gándara will also meet regularly with Cecilia Rios-Aguilar, Professor of Education and Associate Dean for Equity and Inclusion in the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, to deepen her conceptual and content expertise on the educational trajectories of students of color.

Emily K. Penner is an Assistant Professor in the School of Education at the University of California, Irvine. With the Scholars award, Penner will explore effective pedagogy for teaching ethnic studies and how this pedagogy contributes to reducing inequality in academic outcomes for racially and ethnically minoritized students. As part of a mixed-methods study, Penner will observe ethnic studies classrooms and conduct interviews and focus groups with teachers to better understand core aspects of effective practices. Linking these data to student records, Penner will also examine how the observed teaching practices predict student outcomes. Finally, using data from interviews with district leaders and teachers, as well as observations of ethnic studies professional development activities, Penner will investigate how school districts can recruit and train new ethnic studies teachers to use effective practices. With an interdisciplinary background and expertise in K-12 education policy evaluation, Penner will develop new expertise in ethnic studies pedagogy and formal classroom observation in collaboration with mentors Christine Sleeter, Professor Emerita at the College of Education at California State University Monterey Bay, and Heather Hill, Jerome T. Murphy Professor at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education.

Goleen Samari is an Assistant Professor in the Heilbrunn Department of Population and Family Health at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. Amid recent implementation of xenophobic federal and state immigration policies in the United States, Samari’s Scholars research will investigate how these policies influence immigrant adolescent and young adult reproductive behaviors, access to reproductive healthcare, and, ultimately, birth outcomes. Drawing from large administrative datasets and surveys, Samari will study the mechanisms through which xenophobic policies mitigate or exacerbate health services utilization and outcomes for U.S.- and foreign-born young women of immigrant origins. Samari will also conduct interviews with community-based organizations and stakeholders that work on reproductive health among immigrant adolescents and young adults. With training as a public health demographer, Samari will develop further expertise in policy analysis, research about youth, and qualitative methods with the mentorship of Julien Teitler, Professor of Social Work at Columbia University, and Jennifer Hirsch, Professor of Sociomedical Sciences at the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health.

William Schneider is an Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign School of Social Work. With the Scholars award, Schneider will study how housing and income support policies reduce or prevent child maltreatment, particularly child neglect, among families facing economic hardship. Schneider will link individuals from Illinois administrative child welfare data to data from the Chicago sites of three rigorous pre-existing employment and housing experiments. For each of the three interventions, Schneider will leverage the experimental nature of the data to estimate causal effects on child neglect, and child maltreatment overall, as well as effects by marital status and child age. With training in social work and developmental psychology, Schneider will extend his methodological expertise and develop new policy communication skills by working closely with mentors Pamela Morris, Professor of Applied Psychology at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development at New York University, and Lisa Gennetian, Pritzker Associate Professor of Early Learning Policy Studies in the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University.

Learn more about the William T. Grant Scholars Program >

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