Spencer Education Fellowship | Columbia Journalism School

Spencer Education Fellowship

Supporting longform reporting that deepens and enhances public understanding of education in America and beyond

About the Fellowship

The Spencer Fellowship offers an extraordinary opportunity for journalists and educators in- and outside of the U.S. to spend an academic year at Columbia University researching and producing journalism about a significant topic in education. A non-residential option is also available.

All fellows audit courses and work closely with professors in the Journalism School as well as with mentors throughout the university. Projects by past fellows have ended up as books, radio documentaries and major pieces in national magazines, among other outlets.

Topics have spanned a broad range, from desegregating schools to special education, culture wars, technology and the history of teaching in America. New and provocative ideas are welcome.

Four fellows are selected each year by a distinguished board of scholars and journalists. The two residential fellows each receive an $85,000 stipend for living expenses and an additional $7,500 for research support. The two non-residential fellows receive $40,000 plus $7,500 for research support. Both fellowships come with the option of also teaming up with an academic researcher to tackle original research that enhances the project.  

Funding is provided by the Spencer Foundation.

How to Apply

The Spencer Fellowship is open to journalists who want to develop an ambitious longform journalism project geared for a large, general audience. 

All applicants must complete an online application form. The deadline is the end of January for the following academic year, which typically runs from the end of August to mid‐June.

The application requires:

  • A professional profile and resume Summarize your professional career, including your current and past positions. Include how this fellowship may fit into your professional plans. Applicants with reporting experience covering education or educators who can demonstrate proficiency in journalism are preferred.
  • Three examples of your work Include samples that demonstrate experience in education research and writing, including newspaper and magazine clips, broadcasts, films, books, monographs, academic reports or other writing. You must supply links to any work you submit. If your sample is not in English, please provide a translation.
  • Proposal for your project Education touches nearly every aspect of human life, so we encourage applicants to think expansively about the scope of their projects. Don’t feel as if your topic needs to fall within categories of past Spencer projects. Include in your proposal why your topic is significant for a large, general audience; how a greater understanding of research will enhance the work; and what your hopes are for a final published project. Be as specific as possible.
  • Proposal for research at Columbia Judges also consider whether the topic is one that will benefit from research opportunities at Columbia University. What kinds of larger questions do you anticipate researching while on campus? Which courses, experts and professors at Columbia are on your bucket list to assist your reporting and why? 
  • Essay on a current policy or trend in education This does not have to be related to your project idea. Judges are looking to gain insight into your facility with education issues. 
  • At least three letters of recommendation Ideally, one should be from the publication that has shown interest in the project and a second from a current or recent employer. Judges take note of applicants who are most likely to be able to publish their work for a national audience.

There are no academic prerequisites. Fellows receive a certificate of completion (not a credit‐bearing degree) at graduation.

Spencer Fellows 2022-2023

MATT BARNUM

Matt Barnum is a national reporter at Chalkbeat, where he's written about education policy and politics since 2017. During that time, he has covered the education policy ambitions of the Trump and Biden administrations, as well as private philanthropy; summarized large bodies of education research on topics including school vouchers and anti-poverty programs; and conducted investigative reporting on school ratings and the effects of divisive concepts bans. During the pandemic, he has written extensively about its effects on schools and children, as well as the unprecedented federal COVID relief funding.

Matt’s reporting at Chalkbeat has been recognized with awards from the Education Writers Association and the American Educational Research Association. Prior to joining Chalkbeat, Matt was a reporter at The 74, a policy director at Educators for Excellence, and a middle school language arts teacher. During his Spencer Fellowship, he will focus on the past, present, and future of school funding and the enduring debate about whether money matters in education.

ERIN EINHORN

Erin Einhorn is a Detroit-based national reporter for NBC News where her work has included narrative and investigative multimedia reporting about racial segregationjuvenile justice and the challenge facing students and educators during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Prior to joining NBC News, Erin was the founding editor of Chalkbeat Detroit where her work was recognized in 2017 with the Education Writers Association’s Ronald Moskowitz Prize for Outstanding Beat Reporting. She won a second national education beat reporting prize from EWA in 2018.

Erin was the Deputy Managing Editor for Politics at the New York Daily News where she also served as City Hall Bureau Chief and as an education reporter covering the nation’s largest public school system. She worked as a reporter for the Philadelphia Daily News and the Philadelphia Inquirer and is the author of the Pages In Between: A Holocaust Legacy of Two Families, One Home, published by Simon & Schuster, which chronicled the year she spent living in Poland getting to know the family that rescued her mother during World War II — a story she also told on This American Life.

As a Spencer Fellow, Erin will explore the harsh consequences and hopeful alternatives to exclusionary student discipline in schools.

JANET LORIN

Janet Lorin writes about the finances of colleges at Bloomberg News and appears on Bloomberg radio and television. She also contributes to Bloomberg Businessweek and Bloomberg Markets magazines. Lately, she’s written about the economic impact of the pandemic on universities and inequalities in higher education. Since joining Bloomberg in 2008, she has also written about college admissions, student debt, how colleges invest their endowments and the nonprofit testing industry. Janet and a Bloomberg colleague shared the George Polk award for national reporting for a 2012 series about student loans. Her work has prompted a Congressional inquiry and bill.

She previously ran the Newark, N.J., office for The Associated Press and wrote about urban sprawl for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. At the Akron Beacon Journal, she covered topics including local government and schools, and wrote feature stories about the Cleveland Indians in the playoffs.

Janet earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Columbia College of Columbia University and a master’s in journalism from Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism. A native of Chicago, she lives in New York with her husband and two children.

As a Spencer Fellow, Lorin will examine the unequal financial history and educational outcomes of a set of public Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the South in the context of the wealthiest U.S. colleges.

EMILY RICHMOND

Emily Richmond is the public editor of the Education Writers Association. She coordinates programming and training opportunities for members and provides individualized reporting and writing help to journalists. She also hosts the EWA Radio podcast.

A longtime education journalist, her recent work has appeared in The Hechinger Report, The Atlantic online, U.S. News & World Report, and the Columbia Journalism Review, among others. She wrote about how the COVID-19 pandemic strained some “Town and Gown” relationships, what happened when school districts can’t raise money for facilities, and how one rural school tackled a surge in online bullying.

Prior to joining EWA, Emily was the education reporter at the Las Vegas Sun. Recognition of her work includes a first-place award for feature writing from the Associated Press News Executives Council of Nevada-California. In 2007, she was named Outstanding Journalist of the Year by the Nevada State Press Association. Emily was a 2011 Knight-Wallace Fellow at the University of Michigan. She holds a master’s in journalism from Stanford University and a bachelor’s degree from Wellesley College.

As a Spencer Fellow, Emily will take a close look at the early history of integration and current-day landscape of the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA), which serves nearly 67,000 students from military connected families at its campuses both in the U.S. and abroad.

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