Student Experience Research Network Blog

Student Experience Research Network (SERN) is pleased to announce that it is seeking applications for a 15-month fellowship for midcareer faculty who identify as a member of one or more minoritized groups in the academy funded through grants from the Bezos Family Foundation and Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.

The call for applications is available here; applications are due Friday, April 9, 2021 at 5:00pm ET / 2:00pm PT.

SERN’s Midcareer Fellows Program will support a community of scholars to collectively bridge equity-centered research on the structures (i.e., practices, policies, and norms) that shape students’ experience of feeling respected as valued people and thinkers in school with current topics in federal and state policy. The fellowship, which will run from summer 2021 through summer 2022, advances SERN’s goal of investing in the leadership of researchers doing practically relevant, interdisciplinary, and equity-centered scholarship who are seeking to deepen their social impact.

Fellows will advance their knowledge about policymaking and how research is taken up in policy, provide input that influences the construction of the fellowship, network with colleagues who bridge research and policy, and develop deliverables that target both academic and policy audiences. Fellows will receive up to $65,000 in support in the form of a grant to their institution.

The overall goal of the program is for fellows to apply their leadership, vision, and research lens in service of constructing new narratives about current federal and state policy topics that strategically target one or more specific policy intermediary audiences – a powerful mechanism for shifting how issues are understood and responded to within policy because of these audiences’ role in informing policy conversations and media coverage of policy issues, bringing solutions to policymakers, and activating constituents and coalitions to advance policy change.

The fellowship is designed for midcareer faculty at colleges and universities who are within seven years of receiving tenure, who identify as a member of one or more minoritized groups in the academy, and who conduct equity-centered (e.g., liberatory or participatory, asset-based, and/or anti-racist) empirical research about the role of structures in shaping students’ experience of feeling respected as valued people and thinkers in school.

The idea for the fellows program emerged from what we heard from researchers and policy stakeholders over the past year about a need to make progress on how research evidence informs policy, as well as a need to create opportunities for post-tenure scholars to expand their networks and build important skills that position them to take on new leadership roles that extend their academic and social impact.

The program seeks to elevate the leadership of scholars who identify as members of one or more minoritized groups in the academy and advance the use of equity-centered research on student experience in informing policy because these scholars and bodies of research are marginalized in policy. Examining cases in which research has been used to advance policy reveals that research perpetuating deficit and incomplete narratives, relying on primarily quantitative (especially experimental and quasi-experimental) methods used in economics and education policy fields, and largely excluding minoritized scholars’ perspectives has had disproportionate influence in shaping policy. This research has lacked attention to the sociocultural context of the United States and how racialized and gendered practices, policies, and norms in education are experienced by students in ways that shape their learning and thriving.

To make progress on these issues, fellows will collaboratively write new narratives about current federal and state policy topics building from a broad understanding of multi-disciplinary, multi-method, and equity-centered research on how structures shape student experience. Fellows will select one or more policy issues to address and strategically aim to reach one or more policy intermediary audiences (e.g., policy consultants, advocacy organizations, think tanks, and associations) with these new narratives.

Fellows will also take part in a professional development curriculum that supports them to (1) choose both the policy topic(s) and policy intermediary audience(s) to target, (2) craft new and compelling equity-centered narratives about current federal and/or state policy topic(s), (3) gain deeper understanding of policymaking and the policy ecosystem, and (4) begin the long process of building meaningful relationships with actors in the policymaking ecosystem (and in particular, policy intermediaries, funders, and journalists).

The program will include periodic virtual networking opportunities and an in-person event at the conclusion of the program in summer 2022 to expose policy intermediaries and funders to the new narratives being advanced by fellows.

Fellows will also complete a scholarly (i.e., academy-facing) deliverable that is relevant to the work of the fellowship and serves their unique professional goals within the academy (e.g., an academic conference panel proposal, a funding proposal, or new course materials). Following the conclusion of the program, SERN and our partners will continue to amplify the fellows’ narratives and profiles, as well as more broadly solicit, elevate, and activate insights from fellows about how to advance equity in both scholarship and education policy.

The advisors of SERN’s Midcareer Fellows Program include SERN scholars Sapna Cheryan, Thomas Dee, Michal Kurlaender, and Mary Murphy, as well as Bethany Little (principal at EducationCounsel), Na’ilah Suad Nasir (president of the Spencer Foundation and president-elect of the American Educational Research Association), Karen Pittman (co-founder and senior fellow at the Forum for Youth Investment), and Vivian Tseng (senior vice president, program at the William T. Grant Foundation).

Please help us spread the word about the fellowship through your networks. Here is some sample language if you would like to share this announcement on Twitter:

@StudentExpNet Midcareer Fellows Program is accepting applications through April 9, 2021! Scholars interested in bridging equity-centered research on student experience with current topics in federal and state policy can learn more about the program here:

If you have any questions about the Midcareer Fellows Program, we encourage you to reach out to us at

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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