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2012 William T. Grant Scholars Selected

April 17th, 2012

Six Promising Researchers Selected for Career Development Award

We are pleased to announce the 2012 William T. Grant Scholars award winners. Since 1982, the Scholars Program has supported the professional development of 149 highly promising early-career researchers in the social, behavioral, and health sciences.

The six new Scholars will complete five-year research plans that require them to expand their skills and knowledge in a new discipline, content area, or method. Each Scholar will receive $350,000 and mentoring from experts in areas pertinent to their research. They will also participate in annual meetings with fellow Scholars, Foundation staff, and consultants.

The six William T. Grant Scholars and their research projects are:

Jason Fletcher, a health economist and associate professor of health policy at Yale University, is interested in the influences of social settings and genetics on youth health and development outcomes. His grant, “Interconnected Contexts: The Interplay Between Genetics and Social Settings in Youth Development,” will require him to develop new expertise in genetics and the sociology of peer and family interactions with help from his mentors— Joel Gelernter, professor of genetics, neurobiology, and psychiatry at Yale University; and Dalton Conley, professor of sociology at New York University. Fletcher will look at how policies (e.g. tobacco taxation, marijuana decriminalization) interact with individual genetic factors to shape youth's health behavior and outcomes. He also plans to study how schools, peer networks, and family dynamics interact with genetic factors to shape these outcomes.

Micere Keels is an assistant professor in the Department of Comparative Human Development at the University of Chicago. Her proposal, “Consequences of the Within-Race/Ethnicity Gender Imbalance in the College Campus Setting,” focuses on the effects of college gender imbalances, which disproportionately affect black students. She plans to examine (1) the association between gender imbalance and students’ heterosexual relationship behaviors; (2) the pathways through which those behaviors appear to affect students' psychological and physical well-being; and (3) whether and how the campus gender imbalance affects students' beliefs and goals regarding relationships, marriage, and work. Keels will receive mentoring support from Vivian Gadsden, William T. Carter Professor of Child Development and Education at the University of Pennsylvania, and Stephanie Lanza, research associate professor of health and human development and scientific director of the Methodology Center at Pennsylvania State University.

Tamara G.J. Leech, an assistant professor of sociology at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, proposed “Pockets of Peace: Investigating Urban Neighborhoods Resilient to Adolescent Violence.” Leech wants to better understand why some low-income urban neighborhoods have low rates of youth violence. She will extend prior research on resilient individuals—who do well despite significant challenges—to understand what characterizes resilient neighborhoods and how youth perceive them. She also plans to compare the social dynamics in resilient neighborhoods to those in other disadvantaged neighborhoods. She will work with two new mentors—Tama Leventhal, associate professor in the Department of Child Development at Tufts University, and Christopher Browning, professor of sociology at Ohio State University—to develop expertise integrating information about adolescents' everyday experiences into studies of neighborhood effects on adolescent well-being.

Jelena Obradović is an assistant professor in the Developmental and Psychological Sciences Program at Stanford University. Her proposal, “Executive Functions and Biological Sensitivity in Classroom Settings,” explores how school teachers can promote students' ability to regulate their own attention and behavior (i.e., executive function skills). Such skills have been linked to academic and social competence, and Obradović wants to explore (1) how different aspects of classrooms relate to children’s executive functions (EFs), (2) whether children’s physiological reactivity moderates the effects of classrooms on children’s EFs, and (3) whether EFs mediate or moderate classroom effects on academic achievement. She will be mentored by Robert Pianta, the Novartis Professor of Education at the University of Virginia, and Deborah Stipek, the I. James Quillen Professor of Education at Stanford University. The mentors will help Obradović learn how to conceptualize and measure various dimensions of classrooms and to measure physiological reactivity in classroom settings.

Monica Tsethlikai, assistant professor of developmental psychology at the University of Utah, will examine the influence of environmental strain (i.e., neighborhood poverty and violence, poor housing quality) on American Indian children’s developing abilities to monitor, control, and disengage their attention and to process multiple sources of information skillfully. She also plans to explore how cultural engagement influences the development of these basic cognitive skills directly and whether it serves a protective function against the negative influences of environmental strain on such development. For her proposal, “An Examination of Cultural and Cognitive Processes Facilitating Positive Youth Development in American Indian Communities,” Tsethlikai will develop new skills in studying biological reactivity to stress and in qualitative methods with help from Mark Laudenslager, professor of psychiatry at the University of Colorado, Denver’s School of Medicine, and Lisa Diamond, professor of psychology at the University of Utah.

Tuppett Yates is an assistant professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside. She plans to examine the state-wide implementation of a policy (AB12) to extend services for youth transitioning out of foster care in California. Yates will examine (1) how youth’s experiences in various settings before and after emancipation from foster care contribute to their developmental trajectories, (2) how child welfare workers’ relationships and communication styles with youth influence youth’s decisions to stay in foster care and their adjustment, and (3) how and why the developmental trajectories of youth who aged out post-AB12 differ from youth who aged out pre-AB12. Her proposal, “Settings for Success Among Emancipating Foster Youth: Youth and Workers in Communication and Collaboration,” involves gaining new expertise in child welfare policy and the analysis of communication dynamics. She will be mentored by M. Robin DiMatteo, distinguished professor of psychology and director of the Health Communications Laboratory at the University of California, Riverside; and Mark Courtney, professor in the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago and an affiliate (and former director) of Chapin Hall.

Each year, the Foundation selects four to six new William T. Grant Scholars from a highly competitive pool of applicants, who are nominated by their supporting institutions. The applications are reviewed by a Selection Committee comprised of prominent senior academics and a small group of finalists are invited to New York for interviews. Applications for 2013 awards are due on July 3, 2012. An Application Guide outlining the funding criteria, eligibility, required documents, and application is available on our website.

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