Summer Fellowship Webinar

Applications for the 2021 summer fellowship are now closed.

SREE, in collaboration with Grantmakers for Education’s LEAD Impact Group, is pleased to offer the SREE Summer Fellows Program again this year. The purpose of this program is to connect educational researchers with philanthropic organizations seeking research information without having the time or expertise to access it and, in doing so, advance the use of high-quality education research. SREE student members will have the opportunity to spend the summer working on a 'real world' research project answering a question that the philanthropic community is asking to help inform their work.

2021 Program Timeline

May 3 - May 20: Fellowship applications accepted
May 22 - May 26: Application review and semi-finalist selection
June 1 - June 3: Interviews
June 4: Final selection and notification
June 15 - September 3: Fellows research period

Program Overview

SREE Summer Fellows will be tasked with conducting a literature review on a selected topic and creating a 1-2 page brief in plain language on that topic that can be used by foundations, practitioners, and other users in the community, as well as a more technical review for other researchers. As part of the application, the prospective Fellow should propose an aspect of the topic on which to focus his/her summer literature review. The Fellow will work virtually and under the supervision of his/her graduate student advisor.  

Fellows will commit to:

  • Spending 8-10 weeks (320-400 hours) on the project conducting research and writing up the findings.
  • Participating in four check-in calls with the funder and/or SREE (initial, midpoint, and 2 results presentations)
  • Providing the client with a research plan at the beginning of the project.
  • Providing the client with a literature review (approximately 20 pages in length).
  • Writing an executive brief (1-2 pages) summarizing the main takeaways for a philanthropic audience.  
  • Presenting, potentially in conjunction with the GFE client, at GFE and SREE’s annual conference on the final research findings.

SREE will select an advisor for the student that will:

  • Providing general supervision
  • Giving feedback and guidance on both the brief and technical report

In return, Fellows will receive:

  • $8000 in compensation, paid in two installments
  • Feedback from the funder
  • Potential opportunity to present findings at both the GFE 2021 meeting and the SREE 2021 Conference 
  • Brief featured on the SREE website

How to Apply

The fellowship is open to current SREE student members.* Applications were due Friday, May 20.
Applicants should have completed at minimum one year (preferably two years) of graduate studies. Individuals who complete(d) their graduate studies in 2021 were eligible to apply. Application materials: 1) your CV; 2) writing sample; 3) one page statement indicating the topic (from the options below) on which you would like to work, how you would approach working on your selected topic, how you would refine the research questions and scope, your relevant experience, and why you would like to be a Fellow; and 4) a brief statement, signed by your faculty advisor, indicating their willingness to serve as an informal advisor on this project during the summer. Please note that this is not a letter of recommendation, but rather a letter of intent to serve as a resource for you on the project. 

Summer Fellowship Webinar

A webinar was held on May 29, 2020 highlighting two of the 2019 fellows and projects as well as providing information on the 2020 fellowship. View the webinar slides and watch the presentation.

Expected Outcomes

SREE and GFE intend for the Fellows program to have several meaningful outcomes. It will make research findings more accessible to users, will help find gaps and needs in educational research that funders need, will provide a valuable opportunity for SREE student members to use their training, and will allow those just starting in the field to make important connections that will help them in their career. The briefs will be jointly housed on SREE’s website as well as on the GFE website to reach divergent audiences.

2021 Research Questions

1. Research Use and Uptake to Ensure Learners can Achieve Academic and Career Goals

Ascendium is committed to investing in the creation of evidence, the expansion of effective practices and, ultimately, sustainable systems improvements that ensure more learners from low-income backgrounds can achieve their academic and career goals. In an 
effort to lift up promising practices and support systems change, Ascendium, like many philanthropic organizations, has invested in 
the development of playbooks, toolkits, landscape reviews, and other similar deliverables intended to help organizations and 
communities learn from and implement what has worked in other places. However, we have little evidence about how these tools are 
implemented and what impact they might have on policy and practice.

Ascendium has several questions about the development, application, and impact of tools, including:

• What do we know from research and other sources of knowledge about ensuring the use of these tools by key audiences?
• What factors are associated with use?
• What are some upfront practices that can be employed to ensure backend use?
• And, what does research say about evaluating the use of these tools and, more importantly, their impact on policy and practice?

We would like a SREE fellow to explore some of these questions by reviewing and summarizing research on “research use and
uptake” funded by the WT Grant Foundation, as well as other relevant research literature. Ascendium is happy to provide some of the
research articles to be included in the review and synthesis. Ultimately, this research will inform how Ascendium approaches the
development of tools and resources that are intended to help key audiences make policy, practice, and systems-level changes needed
to advance equitable outcomes for learners.


2. Work Based Learning Programs in Rural Communities for Adult Learners

Ascendium’s Rural Postsecondary Education and Workforce Training focus area strategically focuses on catalyzing investments that support rural learners from low-income backgrounds through partnerships and collaboration. Building on the Department of Education’s definition of Work Based Learning programs - the alignment of classroom and workplace learning; application of academic, technical, and employability skills in a work setting; and support from classroom or workplace mentors - Ascendium is interested in exploring Work Based Learning programs in rural communities for adult learners (learners age 22+).

Work Based Learning programs have strong potential to meet two key goals of rural leaders – regional economic recovery and upskilling the rural workforce to meet needs of employers. There have been several reports and toolkits published to establish effective rural work-based training programs at the secondary level, much less has been published focused on the postsecondary level. Ascendium is interested in understanding the following questions:

  • What are the components of effective work-based training programs that support rural, adult learners from low-income backgrounds?
  • How are postsecondary providers using work-based training initiatives to close emerging workforce pipeline gaps?
  • Are there specific, promising initiatives being pursed to support rural learners across a state or region?
  • Where do postsecondary providers need additional investment to drive collaboration across large, rural, geographic areas?

This project would result in a literature review of relevant research, efforts in the field, and provide recommendations for next steps. Ascendium will work in partnership with the fellow to share relevant contextual information and facilitate connections with existing partners as needed.

3.  Understanding Short Term Credentials

Ascendium’s Streamline Key Learner Transitions focus area identifies identifying, validating and scaling high-quality nontraditional postsecondary education and training models such as apprenticeships, career pathways, short term credentials, and competency-based education. As Ascendium continues to think about potential investments in this area, they'd welcome having a better understanding of the landscape by addressing the following questions:  

  • What’s the demographic profile of students who pursue short-term credentials? (Specifically, learners who do not already have a postsecondary degree). 
  • What does existing research say about the outcomes (credential completion, employment, earnings, continued education, upward mobility) for students who pursue these credentials?
  • What factors may affect these outcomes? (Including state and institutional policy, programmatic factors) 

Ascendium will work with the fellow in further refining the scope and definition of short-term credentials based on availability of existing research. This project would culminate in a literature review of existing research and summary of recommendations for further research. This research would build upon existing research such as from the Non-Degree Credentials Research Network at the George Washington University. This review will deepen Ascendium’s understanding of types of non-degree credentials that support success for students from low-income backgrounds. It will also help us in identifying gaps in existing research where we can provide additional support through grantmaking efforts. Ascendium has not done formal research in this area but has collected various research articles that can be shared with the Fellow.

4.  Measuring Philanthropy’s Role in Policy Change

Grantmakers are increasingly interested in advocacy work and policy change at the state and federal levels. Similar to other initiatives to affect complex systems, policy change can be difficult to measure in terms of individual organization’s contributions. The Grantmakers for Education Learning, Evaluation and Data (LEAD) Impact Group would like to undertake a synthesis of how foundations and individual organizations approach measuring their role in policy change. How do they tease out their specific role versus simply acknowledging the end results? Given that it may take years to pass a piece of legislation, how can they measure success along the way? Do funders conceptualize advocacy impact separately from actual policy change (i.e., awareness of an issue, language change, etc.)? How are foundations thinking about their contribution to impact in terms of grant dollars as well as reputational leverage (e.g.: funder advocacy collaboratives)?  One approach may be contribution analysis, as written about by the Center for Evaluation Innovation.

 5. Aligning Skills, Competency Frameworks, and Learning Outcomes

As the education sector recovers from decreasing enrollment and other challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is increasing demand for education and training programs to think differently about how they serve new and returning learners. In particular, the significant job losses of the last year have created an opportunity to engage adult students (whether first-time or returning) in upskilling/reskilling efforts while also balancing demands from first-time students who have deferred their enrollment to avoid a virtual education experience. As institutions of higher education, and community colleges in particular, consider their next steps, there is an opportunity for administrators and program developers to think differently about codifying student learning outcomes through skills and competency mapping, including job skills, prior learning assessments, credits earned previously, including dual enrollment and transfer.

In this project, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation seeks a fellow who can produce a literature review of previous attempts to align skills and competency frameworks (across time and across education delivery (e.g., education/workforce training programs vs. 2- and 4-year institutions), policy changes at both the institution- and agency-level  as well as an accounting of current efforts that seek to align the various frameworks,. This review should also include emerging promising initiatives for aligning student learning outcomes as well. The work will inform the foundation’s strategy for ensuring that all student learning is captured consistently and applied to a student’s progress towards a credential of value.

6. Evaluating an Instructional Leadership Community of Practice

The Chamberlin Education Foundation, which supports initiatives to promote equity and academic excellence for students in Richmond, California, seeks a Summer Research Fellow to support in the evaluation of their Instructional Leadership Community of Practice. The Instructional Leadership Community of Practice is a robust professional development and grantmaking program that supports a cohort of principals in the West Contra Costa Unified School District to lead transformational change within their schools.

The Foundation seeks a Summer Research Fellow who has interest and background in school leadership, instructional leadership, and/or curriculum implementation. The Fellow will undertake initial evaluations of the program and help craft a longer-term evaluation plan for this program, identifying the best data and research methods to most effectively evaluate the impact of the Instructional Leadership Community of Practice. While the research questions will be crafted in partnership with the Fellow, some research questions could include:

  • How does high quality instructional leadership training for principals affect student outcomes?
  • How does high quality instructional leadership training for principals affect teacher retention? Principal retention?
  • How does high quality instructional leadership training for principals affect adult culture within a school?
  • What are some common successes and pitfalls in the implementation of high quality instructional materials/curriculum?
  • What involvement and training is necessary for principals in an effective curriculum implementation process?
  • What is the impact of trainings that explicitly connect equity/racial justice goals to instructional improvement?
  • Does training and coaching around equity issues lead to more equitable student outcomes?

Foundation staff will design the project in partnership with the Fellow to ensure that the scope is appropriate for the time period. Please note that for this project, the Foundation would like to meet with the Fellow weekly rather than only 3 times.  In addition, the final product will most likely differ from a literature review and will be determined by the Client and Fellow.


The LEAD Impact Group:

The Grantmakers for Education Learning, Evaluation, and Data Impact Group’s mission is to support GFE members to use data, research and evaluation to improve philanthropic practice, policies and strategies. GFE envisions that the impact groups “will continue to support communities of members with a common interest who agree to work together toward a common goal.” One of the LEAD’s common goals is the Summer Fellowship Program. Current Steering Committee members include The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The Helios Education Foundation, KnowledgeWorks, The Kresge Foundation, and Trellis Foundation. To learn more or to join the LEAD Impact Group, please find more information here.

* If the membership fee poses a financial hardship, please contact Ellen Weiss at [email protected]