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Five Early-Career Researchers Selected for the William T. Grant Scholars Class of 2027

The William T. Grant Foundation is 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 200 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.

Senior Vice President Vivian Tseng remarked, “As always, I am impressed with the original thinking and the range of important issues reflected in this new cohort of Scholars. We are proud to have these individuals join our community of dynamic early career researchers. Scholars’ projects seek to understand how to improve the education success of refugee students, leverage community participation to develop school assignments, examine how state and federal immigration policies impact educational outcomes of Latino students, study the structural mechanisms that sustain poverty among Black, Latino, and White families, and explore the relationship between higher education, Native nation-building, and the educational outcomes of indigenous youth. Their mentoring relationships will significantly expand their expertise so that they have a broader set of research tools to tackle the problems of inequality facing young people across the country.”

2022 William T. Grant Scholars

Sophia Rodriguez is an Assistant Professor in the College of Education at the University of Maryland, College Park. With the Scholars award, Rodriguez will explore how school districts and school personnel can facilitate the educational success and social inclusion of recently arrived Central American immigrant students. In this three-part study, she will identify how newcomer immigrant youth define their educational needs and sense of belonging; investigate how the two largest school districts in Maryland manage and respond to the educational and belonging needs of newcomer immigrant youth; and identify the role of formal and informal community-based partnerships with these two districts in increasing or hindering newcomer youths’ educational access and sense of belonging. Trained as a sociologist of education and K-12 education policy, Rodriguez will expand her methodological expertise in longitudinal mixed-methods designs and scale development for survey research, supported by her mentors Patricia Gandara, Research Professor and Co-Director of the Civil Rights Project at UCLA and Gilberto Q. Conchas, Hoy Endowed Professor of Education at Penn State University.

Niloufar Salehi is an Assistant Professor in the School of Information at the University of California, Berkeley. Salehi will examine how one can leverage community participation to develop a software system to ensure that school assignment algorithms do a better job of combatting inequality. In the first of three phases, Salehi will use interviews, storyboarding, prototyping, and simulation exercises in which administrators and parents will engage in a participatory system design process to produce a school assignment software system. Phase 2 tests how parents respond to the decisions made by the software system. The software system will be deployed in the San Francisco Unified School District in Phase 3. Salehi has expertise in computer science and human-computer interaction. Professor Catherine Albiston, the Jackson H. Ralston Professor of Law at Berkeley, will provide mentorship on the application of procedural justice theory to software systems. Professr Itai Ashlagi, Associate Professor of Management Science and Engineering at Stanford University, will provide mentorship on implementing software mechanisms to achieve policy goals.

Theresa Stewart-Ambo is an Assistant Professor in the Education Studies program at the University of California San Diego. Stewart-Ambo will explore the relationship between the educational outcomes of American Indian youth and Native nation-building and how higher education can fortify Indigenous futures. American Indian tribes in the U.S. use the term Native nation-building to describe efforts to build internal capacities that realize cultural, educational, economic, environmental, and political objectives through tribal design and initiation. This study applies a comparative case study design across the three university settings. Phase 1 involves analyzing the content of the secondary datasets to develop an inventory of practices that address the educational needs of Indigenous youth. Phase 2 uses interviews and focus groups with Indigenous students to understand how systemic racism embedded within curricular, co-curricular, and campus activities affects their university experience. Phase 3 incorporates interviews with members of neighboring Native nations to understand their educational needs, as well as how tribes explain the ways higher education can advance nation-building. Stewart-Ambo will expand her expertise in settler colonialism theories and Tribal Critical Race Theory with the support of her two mentors, Eve Tuck, Associate Professor of Critical Race and Indigenous Studies at the University of Toronto and a former William T. Grant Scholar and Bryan Brayboy, President’s Professor of Indigenous Education and Justice in the School of Social Transformation at Arizona State University.

Abigail Weitzman is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin. Weitzman will study how state immigrant laws and federal immigration enforcement activities shape Latino adolescents’ educational experiences and outcomes. This 3-phase project will first comprehensively assess local immigrant and immigration policy contexts that are consequential to Latino youth; next she will identify how local immigrant legislation and localized federal immigration enforcement activities impact Latino adolescents’ school lives; and finally identify how the effects of immigrant legislation and immigration enforcement activities differ across adolescents, schools, and counties. Weitzman, a sociologist and demographer, will develop content expertise in U.S. immigrant and immigration policies, racism and intersectionality, and school contexts and processes, as well gaining methodological expertise in administrative data assembly. She will work closely with her two mentors: Cecilia Menjívar, Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles and Chandra Muller, Professor of Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin.

Deadric Williams is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Williams will investigate structural mechanisms, rather than individual characteristics, that sustain poverty among Black, Latino, and White families. Specifically, the study examines whether state-level structural racism, defined as racial inequalities in life chances, and tract-level racialized space, defined as the percentage of a census level tract that is different racial groups, are mechanisms that maintain inequality. In three phases, this study aims to assess the dynamics of poverty over time through a critical race lens, elucidate how individual and family characteristics, state-level structural racism, and tract-level racialized space maintain racial stratification in poverty and examine whether and how state-level structural racism may moderate the effects of individual and family characteristics on poverty. Williams is a family sociologist with expertise in family theory and dyadic analyses. David Brady, Professor in the School of Public Policy at the University of California, Riverside, will provide mentorship on multilevel modeling. Tyson Brown, Associate Professor of Sociology at Duke University, will provide mentoring on measuring racism.

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