Training to Lead: New program supports graduate students to be leaders in combatting inequality

By Meghan Chua


A new training program at UW–Madison is bringing graduate students from three departments together in a cohort to become leaders, teachers, and researchers on race, ethnicity, and inequality in education.

The program, which launches in fall supported by a Collaborative Training Grant from the UW–Madison Graduate School, focuses on intensive mentoring and cohort-based training. The Graduate School grant supports four PhD students in the cohort for three years. Additional support for the program comes from the Wisconsin Center for Education Research (WCER), the Morgridge Center for Public Service, and the departments of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis, Sociology, and Educational Policy Studies.

Linn Posey-Maddox, assistant professor of educational policy studies
Linn Posey-Maddox, associate professor of educational policy studies, teaches an advanced-level graduate seminar class in spring 2016. (Photo by Jeff Miller/UW-Madison)

“The goal is really to train, mentor, and support a multidisciplinary cohort of scholars who will engage in groundbreaking and community-engaged research aimed at eradicating racial inequalities, not just in local schools but also in universities and community-based educational spaces,” said Linn Posey-Maddox, an associate professor of educational policy studies at UW–Madison and one of the faculty collaborators on the project.

Other faculty collaborators on the project are Pamela Oliver, professor of sociology; Jordan Conwell, assistant professor of sociology and educational policy studies; Eric Grodsky, professor of sociology and educational policy studies; and Rachelle Winkle-Wagner, associate professor of educational leadership and policy analysis.

Posey-Maddox said graduate students need access to intensive, comprehensive training in thinking across disciplines, especially when tackling complex issues that aren’t confined to one discipline, such as racial inequality in education.

The program will include a biweekly seminar for students in the cohort, in-depth mentoring, and opportunities for students to publish original scholarly work. Students will have a semester-long translational research or community-engaged research internship with local community partners, with possibilities such as the Madison Metropolitan School District or United Way.

Wisconsin, and Madison in particular, is a salient location for a training program with direct community ties given the alarming racial disparities in its schools and communities, Posey-Maddox said.

“This training grant provides an opportunity for us to really think about how to use university resources to do things like translational research and community-engaged research, where students work with community partners to think about how to conduct research that is not just read by academics, but can be used and leveraged by local practitioners who are also working on addressing some of these extreme racial disparities,” she said.

Posey-Maddox said the program will encourage students to look at the UW–Madison campus with the same mindset.

“We’re hoping that we can also have students engage with thinking about the broader campus-wide efforts related to diversity and inclusion so that it’s really looking at racial inequality in not just K-12 schools, but up through the university setting and beyond,” Posey-Maddox said.

The program will partner with WCER and the to support student training and research.

Graduate School Collaborative Training Grants aim to encourage innovative models of graduate education and training.

“The purpose of this training grant is to develop interdisciplinary, collaborative and cohort-based graduate education experiences,” said Graduate School Associate Dean Lisa Martin. “Goals include exposing PhD students to research early in their graduate career, providing team-based mentoring experiences, publishing and disseminating students’ work, and enhancing their competitiveness for a variety of careers.”

Posey-Maddox said that she hopes the intensive mentorship and collaborative workgroups that are components of the Collaborative Training Grant program become more and more common in graduate education moving forward, but that such a model requires resources and support.

“We’re really thankful and grateful for the university, the Graduate School, and WCER’s commitment to this program, and our departments’ commitment,” she said.

The Race, Ethnicity, Inequality, & Education Collaborative Training Program is the third to receive funding since the inception of the grant two years ago.

“The faculty review committee was impressed with the winning team’s commitment to training PhD students in the study of education in racially and ethnically diverse settings through innovative, hands-on mentoring and training,” said Associate Dean Martin.

The Graduate School last awarded two collaborative training grants in September 2016. One award focused on interdisciplinary training for scholars of pre-modern China. The other award supported a program for students interested in studying how young people shape and are shaped by social media.