Research News

Baldridge receives National Academy of Education/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

April 29, 2016

Bianca Baldridge’s commitment to highlighting the important work of educators and young people within out-of-school educational spaces is receiving a significant boost.

Baldridge, an assistant professor with UW-Madison’s Department of Educational Policy Studies, is the recipient of a prestigious National Academy of Education/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship. The award, which was announced Friday, April 29, will allow Baldridge to undertake a research project during the 2016-17 academic year titled, “Exploring Race and Educational Opportunity within Community-based Educational Spaces.”

Bianca Baldridge
“I’m honored to receive this amazing fellowship,” says Baldridge. “It’s important that research about community-based educational spaces be included in broader education policy discourse -– especially in this current moment of education privatization.”

Baldridge notes that given the #BlackLivesMatter movement, racial discourse has been elevated across the nation. While schools are routinely included in discourse about race and educational opportunity, racial disparities often permeate school settings. Meanwhile, community-based educational spaces  -- such as afterschool programs and community-based youth organizations -– are overlooked in the ways they both resist and reproduce racial discourse and inequity.

Baldridge’s research project will more closely examine the processes community-based educational spaces cultivate to assist black youth in making meaning of racial disparities and educational opportunity. This study will take place in Madison, which is often lauded as a top city to live and raise a family – but which is home to profound racial disparity and inequitable outcomes for black youth.

“Understanding a context like Madison is important because discourse about racial inequities often focuses on intrapersonal interracial interactions and not systemic racial and economic structures that limit opportunities,” says Baldridge.

Baldridge explains that her qualitative study, which will employ a critical ethnographic approach and consist of multiple data sources, will explore the following questions:

• What historical and contemporary racial discourses surround black youth and educational opportunity?

• How do youth workers and community-based educators make sense of racial disparity discourse and educational opportunity in contexts where overt liberal progressiveness is expressed and deep pockets of racial inequities flourish? How do black youth make sense of racial narratives in such contexts?

• And in light of racial and economic disparities disproportionately affecting black residents of Dane County, what has been the response by community-based educational spaces engaging black youth? How do black youth make meaning of these responses?

The fellowship Baldrige received is administered by the National Academy of Education, an honorary educational society, and is funded by a grant to the academy from the Spencer Foundation. Now in its 30th year, the fellowship program has nearly 800 alumni who include many of the strongest education researchers in the field today.

“The NAE/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowships are intensely competitive and recognize the very best up-and-coming education scholars in the nation — the ‘rising stars’ in our field,” says Professor Adam Nelson, chair of the Department of Educational Policy Studies. “Bianca’s exciting work on the dynamics of race in after-school programs and community-based youth organizations certainly places her in this distinguished group. Her research will shed light on the many ways in which out-of-school spaces devoted to youth development can help to address the deepening racial disparities in Dane County and beyond.”