Newly funded program to prepare minoritized students for doctoral study

June 17, 2021

Royel M. Johnson, assistant professor of education (higher education) in Penn State’s College of Education, is part of a team that has been awarded a Pathways to Training grant from the Institute for Education Sciences (IES). The $1.5 million award will fund a partnership between Penn State and North Carolina Central University (NCCU), a historically Black university, that is designed to improve the schooling experiences and academic attainment of pre-kindergarten through university-level African American and Latino/a students.

Royel M. Johnson

Royel M. Johnson

IMAGE: Provided

The five-year project, “Research Institute for Scholars of Equity (RISE): Conducting Mixed Methods Research to Improve Academic Outcomes among Pre-K-20 African American and Latino/a Children, Youth and Young Adults,” will provide 58 undergraduates from underrepresented backgrounds with experiences in conducting critical, mixed-methods education research, year-round mentorship and support in preparing for doctoral study.

Students selected for the program will participate in an eight-week summer research institute that will be located at NCCU in Durham, North Carolina.

The principal investigator (PI) for the RISE project is Wynetta Lee, professor of education in NCCU’s School of Education. The co-PIs are Nina Smith, associate professor of human sciences at NCCU, and Johnson.

“This program is designed to prepare the next generation of critical education researchers to tackle some of the country’s most pressing challenges related to access and equity for Black and Latinx students,” said Johnson. “Scholars in our program will benefit from rigorous research training, faculty mentoring and support for graduate study.”

IES's Pathways to the Education Sciences Research Training Program (Pathways Program) was launched in 2015 as part of a federal-wide effort to broaden participation of underrepresented groups in the scientific community. Through the Pathways Training Program, IES seeks to develop a pipeline of talented education researchers who bring fresh ideas, approaches and perspectives to addressing the issues and challenges faced by the nation's diverse students and schools.

Specifically, the Pathways Training Program seeks to both (a) increase the number of fellows from groups underrepresented in doctoral study, including racial and ethnic minorities, first-generation college students, economically disadvantaged students, veterans and students with disabilities and (b) to provide greater diversity in the types of institutions that provide IES-funded research training.

Pathways Training Program grants are awarded to minority-serving institutions and their partners that create education research training programs (eight weeks to one year in length) to prepare fellows for doctoral study.

Scholars will be recruited for the RISE program from Penn State, NCCU and other collaborating institutions such as Temple University and the University of New Mexico. Program participants will have the opportunity to take online classes in Penn State’s College of Education related to research methods to supplement their summer training. RISE scholars also will have an opportunity to present their research as part of the Office of Graduate Educational Equity Programs research showcase with students in Penn State’s Summer Research Opportunities Program (SROP) and McNair Scholars Program. They also will be invited to participate in the Penn State Graduate School’s forthcoming Social Science and Humanities Open House — a visitation program designed to recruit African American, Latinx and Native American scholars to Penn State’s graduate degree program. 

Johnson will work directly with the students as an instructor in the summer research institute, teaching a course on critical theoretical frameworks.

“Nationally, there is a need for researchers who are trained and prepared to address the most pressing education issues,” he said. “Through this program, we are able to develop a pipeline of scholars from underrepresented backgrounds to do just that. Seated on campus of North Carolina Central University, a historically Black university, students will also benefit from its rich, intellectual and cultural resources.”

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated June 17, 2021