April 25, 1996
Vol. 15, No. 16

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    Mentoring awards help students learn ropes of doing research

    Graduate students in various stages of their doctoral training are getting some extra help in learning the ropes of doing research, thanks to the Spencer Mentor Network Awards.

    Projects supported by the two-year, $50,000 awards from the Spencer Foundation include the Chicago Anthropology & Education Group, which brings together 13 students in Anthropology who have an interest in education, and the research of two graduate students who are studying the adjustment of African-American undergraduate students to the University.

    "It was something of a pleasant surprise to receive the award. We had no idea it was coming," said John Comaroff, the Harold H. Swift Distinguished Service Professor in Anthropology, who, with Jean Comaroff, the Bernard E. and Ellen C. Sunny Distinguished Service Professor in Anthropology, has established the group for Anthropology students.

    "These funds have helped create a cohort of students interested in the same topic," John Comaroff said. "Some of the money will be used for field research, but much of it will support student research in the earlier stages and for that reason will be particularly important in giving them a solid start toward their Ph.D.s."

    The Comaroffs have organized an informal seminar that brings the students together on a regular basis to discuss their work. The funds will also enable them to invite scholars specializing in the anthropology of education to visit campus and discuss their work with the students.

    Specialists on Africa, the Comaroffs are exploring the effect of education on development in the region. Their research will be incorporated into Reading, Rioting and Arithmetic, the third volume of Revelation and Revolution, a study of the impact of colonialism in southern Africa.

    A Spencer Mentor Network Award is also supporting research by students working with Edgar Epps, the Marshall Field Professor in Education.

    Epps' award is supporting a survey research project conducted by two graduate students studying how African-American undergraduates adjust to the University and is providing funding for two students to work on their dissertations full time in the summer. The award is also funding small research grants to defray the expenses of data collection, transcription and travel for three other students.

    The award has also supported a noncredit graduate seminar conducted by Epps that focuses on minority access to higher education. He is also planning a symposium at the August 1996 annual meeting of the Association of Black Sociologists in which six current or former graduate students will report on their research.

    The Spencer Mentor Network Awards are part of a program the foundation has established to strengthen the preparation of doctoral students who are interested in doing research related to education. Funds from the awards are intended to be used entirely for student work and are made to distinguished faculty members across the nation without application.