Sac State receives nearly $900,000 to promote diversity in education research

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Sacramento State has been awarded a grant of nearly $900,000 to research barriers facing underrepresented students as they go from high school into community college and/or a four-year university. Only four universities in the nation received funding from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences to create training programs that will develop a more diverse field of education researchers.

The principal investigators for the Sacramento State grant are Su Jin Jez, Associate Professor in Public Policy and Administration and a member of the core faculty of the Doctorate in Educational Leadership program. Her co-PIs are Jana Noel, Director of Educational and Community Research Partnerships and Professor of Graduate and Professional Studies in Education, and Tim Fong, Professor of Ethnic Studies.

The five-year, $895,326 grant will support a project for student researchers called Pathways: Successful Transitions To and Through Higher Education. The Pathways program was launched in 2015 to increase the number of students who are prepared to pursue doctoral study in the education sciences, including those who are racial and ethnic minorities, first-generation college students, economically disadvantaged, veterans, and students with disabilities.

The fellows will work closely with a group of faculty mentors for two semesters and apprentice at a policy-and-research center over the summer. The experience will prepare them to apply for doctoral programs in education research.

Research mentors for the students will include faculty from the Doctorate in Educational Leadership program: Rose Borunda, Julian Vasquez Heilig, Frank Lilly, Porfirio Loeza, Maiyoua Vang, and Rob Wassmer. Additionally, other faculty members from the College of Education and Social Sciences and Interdisciplinary Studies programs will mentor the students.

The University’s role as a minority-serving institution – 28 percent of Sac State students are Hispanic/Latino; 21 percent are Asian American/Pacific Islander – was instrumental in being selected for the grant, Dr. Noel says.

The upper-level undergraduate and master’s degree students chosen for Pathways, which will get underway in January, will spend a year researching the barriers faced by underrepresented students as they go from high school into community college and/or a four-year university.

The grant will allow for as many as 60 fellows, primarily drawn from organizations and programs that support minority populations at Sac State.

Students may pursue their own research interests or work alongside their mentors on current faculty projects.

“The most pressing issue in education today is the ‘achievement gap’ or the disparity in academic performance between different groups of students,” says Fong. “The Department of Education is focusing greater attention on gender and racial gaps in college enrollment, and on success rates.”

Sacramento State Public Affairs writer Dixie Reid contributed largely to this article. See the university news story here.

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