Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) Dean Kathleen McCartney recently named nine recipients of the School’s new Urban Scholar Fellowship program. By providing tuition and health insurance fees, the fellowship makes attending graduate school a reality for a select group of educators from urban school systems.
“We want to provide a reward to people who have worked in urban public schools, which we view as an important public service to this nation,” McCartney says. “We believe that this fellowship will provide an incentive for people to return to urban public schools in leadership roles.”
McCartney first began thinking about creating a prestigious fellowship for educators in urban school systems during her year as acting dean. The program builds off of the success of Harvard’s Zuckerman and Reynolds fellowships, which offer tuition and a stipend for selected students attending HGSE, the School of Public Health, and the Kennedy School of Government.
According to Jim Stiles, associate dean for degree programs, HGSE’s leadership team believed it was important to create a prestigious fellowship to encourage the best students to come to the School – and return to their urban school systems – without a financial burden hanging over their heads.
The Urban Scholars program is part of a larger effort at HGSE to provide additional financial aid to master’s and doctoral students. This year, 10 percent of master’s degree students will be receiving support from targeted fellowships such as the Urban Scholars program. “This is something that has been improving over time and hitting the 10 percent mark is a milestone for us,” says Mohan Boodram, associate dean for enrollment and student services. Funding for the Urban Scholar Fellowship comes from a new unrestricted endowment designated by McCartney for this purpose.
The selection process was rigorous. Each of the 13 master’s admission committees reviewed their top candidates and nominated students based on their experience, background, test scores, academics, and engagement with problems facing urban education. Finally, an Urban Scholar selection committee comprised of faculty, admission and financial-aid staff, and two of HGSE’s associate deans selected the final nine students.
Throughout the year, the urban fellows will have monthly meetings under the guidance of Stiles and John Collins, HGSE head librarian. These meetings will provide the students with information from researchers and practitioners in the Boston area who focus on issues facing urban educators.
Many of these Urban Scholars are teachers who set out to work in urban settings, which they say are stereotyped with negative images portrayed throughout the media.
As for the future of urban education, these scholars hope to take the lessons they learn at HGSE back to their schools. Ultimately, they view their opportunity at HGSE as an opportunity for all the students, parents, and teachers in their respective schools.