PhD candidate, Educational Policy Studies
Faculty advisor: Diana Rodríguez-Gómez
Kelsey is a PhD candidate in Educational Policy Studies whose research examines the use of social and emotional learning (SEL) with refugee and crisis-affected learners.
SEL refers to the way individuals learn and apply cognitive, social, emotional, and soft skills that help them succeed in school and life. Kelsey’s dissertation focuses on the influence of SEL with Burundian refugees in Tanzania. “Few scholars have critically reflected on the use of social and emotional learning with refugee and crisis-affected communities, despite the fact that millions of dollars have been invested in this area”, Kelsey said.
Specifically, Kelsey explores how the use of SEL intersects with issues around social justice, culture, neoliberalism, and post-colonial power dynamics. Her work is informed by her previous academic training in anthropology as a UW–Madison undergraduate and her master’s work in education and human development at the George Washington University.
“My research aims to encourage other scholars and practitioners to consider the complicated roots of Western SEL, how and why Western SEL concepts and practices have been globalized, and the unintended consequences of implementing Western SEL programming in refugee and crisis contexts,” Kelsey said.
Kelsey recently completed 10 months of qualitative data collection with the Burundian refugee community in the Nduta refugee camp in Western Tanzania. She interviewed 165 individuals, conducted over 140 hours of observation, and collected over 140 documents and materials. She is currently analyzing her data and preparing to draft her dissertation.
Kelsey received a Chancellor’s Fellowship to support her graduate education. She said the fellowship helped her to be able to focus on her studies during the early stages of her PhD program. She also noted the importance of the second year of funding, which she will use this academic year while she writes her dissertation.
“Having the flexibility of choosing when to use my second year of fellowship funding helped to relieve financial pressure and will allow me to focus on writing my dissertation this year to complete my degree,” Kelsey said. She also extends her sincerest gratitude for this funding and encourages fellowship donors through WARF to continue financially supporting graduate studies, particularly for students from marginalized communities and low socio-economic status backgrounds.
In addition to the Chancellor’s Fellowship, Kelsey’s graduate work has been supported by federal funding including a Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad award, a Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship, and a Critical Language Scholarship.