Columbia Journalism School Announces 2023-2024 Spencer Education Fellows
Four distinguished journalists were selected as the 16th group of Spencer Education Journalism Fellows for the 2023-2024 academic year at Columbia Journalism School to study and produce significant works of education journalism.
This class of 2024 brings a variety of backgrounds and diverse professional experience to the fellowship, which was launched in 2008 with support from the Spencer Foundation in Chicago to enhance education journalism with deep research.
The current cohort includes two non-residential fellows: Susan D’Agostino is a writer and mathematician who is currently the technology reporter at Inside Higher Ed, where she covers the intersection of computers with the lives of students, professors and administrators. As a Spencer Fellow living in New Hampshire, Susan will examine the acceleration of artificial intelligence applications in U.S. university life, including the potential risks and benefits posed to students and society. Journalist and former special education teacher, Jackie Mader is a senior reporter for The Hechinger Report where she specializes in early childhood education in the U.S. As a Spencer Fellow living in Texas, Jackie will explore access to high-quality child care nationwide and the consequences of America’s failure to invest in children’s early years.
Our two residential fellows include Joe Hong, an education reporter in California who currently covers K-12 policy and politics for CalMatters. As a Spencer Fellow, Joe will examine the social and economic forces that have shaped math education in the U.S., with a focus on the role of Asian-American parents in the so-called “math wars.” Seyma Bayram, a Kurdish immigrant originally from Turkey, is currently covering climate for NPR as a Reflect America Fellow. A former reporter on race and local government for the Akron Beacon Journal in Ohio and earlier for the Jackson Free Press in Mississippi, Seyma plans to spend her Spencer year reporting on school segregation and school district boundaries through the story of one Ohio family.
The distinguished Spencer Board of scholars and journalists selected the winners in March 2023, after a competitive application process. The Spencer Foundation awards each fellow with project expenses plus a stipend ($85,000 residential, $43,000 non-residential). In addition, the fellows receive research and journalistic support from Columbia professors at the Journalism School as well as experts throughout this and other universities.
“We are pleased to welcome this diverse and talented group of journalists to our Spencer Fellowship network,” said LynNell Hancock, director of the Spencer Fellowship and professor emerita at Columbia Journalism School. “They will join 52 alums who have produced game-changing books, documentaries, podcasts and newspaper and magazine work over the last 16 years.”
More on the Spencer Fellows 2024:
Susan D’Agostino is a mathematician and technology reporter at Inside Higher Ed, where she has written about computing pioneers’ views of computer sciences’ challenges, the ethics of college in the metaverse, assignment design in a ChatGPT era, and how AI is changing college writing. Her writing has been published in a variety of publications including The Atlantic, The Washington Post, Scientific American, Wired, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Chronicle of Higher Education, NPR, among others. She earned her PhD in mathematics at Dartmouth College, and is the author of "How To Free Your Inner Mathematician" (Oxford University Press, 2020).
Susan's writing has been recognized with fellowships from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University, the National Association of Science Writers, the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing, and the Heidelberg Laureate Forum Foundation.
As a Spencer Fellow, Susan will examine the acceleration of artificial intelligence applications in U.S. university life, including the potential risks and benefits posed to students and society.
Jackie Mader is a senior reporter for The Hechinger Report where she has reported on early childhood education since 2016 and writes a bi-weekly newsletter covering the early years. Her work includes an in-depth look at how Covid-19 impacted the mental health of young children, extensive coverage of the child care industry and reporting on how parent and family support programs and policies, including two-generation approaches and guaranteed income initiatives, impact young children.
Mader's work has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, The New Republic and USA Today, and recognized with awards from The New York Press Club, The Newswomen’s Club of New York and the Education Writers Association, among others. Prior to covering early childhood, she reported on K-12 education for The Hechinger Report, led The Report’s coverage of education in Mississippi and wrote Education Week’s rural education blog. In 2021, Jackie was an early childhood reporting fellow with The Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma.
Jackie previously taught middle school special education in North Carolina and trained new teachers in the Mississippi Delta. As a Spencer Fellow, Jackie will take a close look at access to high-quality child care in America and the consequences of the failure to invest in the early years.
Joe Hong is currently the K-12 education reporter at CalMatters, where he’s written about California education policy and politics since 2021. He covered the return to in-person learning following the first years of the pandemic and the resulting crises of learning loss and staffing shortages. He also reported on the various iterations of political polarization in public education from masking and vaccine mandates to math instruction. His collaborations include an in-depth investigation into how California’s school districts are spending COVID-19 relief funding.
Prior to joining CalMatters, Joe was the education reporter at KPBS, the public media station in San Diego, where he covered the first year of the pandemic and the immediate impact on students with disabilities and rural schools. Before that he covered education for The Desert Sun, a daily newspaper based in the Coachella Valley. His work focused on educational disparities and juvenile justice issues in the Southern California desert.
As a Spencer Fellow, Joe will examine the social and economic forces that have shaped math education in the United States with a focus on the role of Asian-American parents in the so-called “math wars.”
Seyma Bayram is the 2022-2023 Reflect America Fellow at NPR, where she is currently reporting for the Climate Desk. Previously, she was a Report for America corps member at the Akron Beacon Journal in Akron, where she developed a new beat covering Akron’s Black and marginalized communities. She has reported on violence against LGBTQ+ communities, abortion access, gun legislation and the 2020 general election, among other topics. With the support of a 2021 grant from Columbia University’s Ira A. Lipman Center for Journalism and Civil and Human Rights, she reported on the legacies of redlining and racism in urban planning projects, culminating in a two-part series on the Akron Innerbelt Freeway.
Bayram began her journalism career as a staff reporter for the alt-weekly Jackson Free Press in Jackson, Miss., where she covered local government and criminal justice. Before entering journalism, she was a high school writing teacher in Brooklyn, N.Y. While based in Istanbul, she worked as editor of the publishing program at BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, a European experimental art institution.
Bayram is from the Kurdish region of Turkey and was raised in The Netherlands and upstate New York. She plans to use the Spencer Fellowship to report on school segregation and school district boundaries through the story of one Ohio family.