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 who are U.S. citizens or legal residents 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 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 $43,000 plus $7,500 for research support. 

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 resume and a professional narrative biography.  The narrative biography is more personal than a traditional resume and should illustrate the origins of your commitment to the general field of education.
  • No more than four examples of work that demonstrate interest in education research and writing. This can include newspaper and magazine clips, broadcasts, films, books, monographs, academic reports, or other writing samples. Applicants must provide links to any work they submit. We cannot distribute the work to the judges without links.
  • An essay about the proposed project. Judges look for ambitious, high impact, original topics that have the potential to enrich the general public’s understanding of education issues.  Applicants may emphasize their topic’s potential to benefit from access to the rich resources available during the fellowship year. Include any related projects currently in progress, tentative reporting and research plans, and the potential for getting the final work published. Applicants may include a documented  promise of future publication, such as a letter of commitment from a publisher or news organization or a book contract, although this is not required. Applicants may also indicate a commitment to the field of education journalism after the fellowship year.
  • An essay on the proposed areas of research during the fellowship year. Judges look for candidates who demonstrate an interest in taking advantage of the expertise, courses and research resources available at Columbia University and elsewhere in ways that may materially enhance their projects. Applicants may include potential research questions, professors whose work intrigues them and academic experts they would like to work with one-on-one during the year.
  • Non-residential candidates are required to write a separate essay indicating why this option would work best. For some, leaving a job and relocating to New York City for a year is not feasible. Non-residential fellows live off campus and may continue to work part-time, as long as their work schedule allows enough time to devote to the project and fellowship. Non-residential fellows enjoy the same expert mentoring and access to research resources as residential fellows, but do not have access to courses or health insurance. Indicate your plans to use remotely the research support provided by the fellowship and for ultimately publishing the finished work. Applicants who intend to publish their project with their current news organization should indicate how that would work with their employer. In such cases, applicants may want to ask their immediate editor to write one of the recommendation letters supporting them and their project. Anyone eligible may apply. Journalists working in local media markets with limited resources are encouraged to take advantage of this opportunity to pursue an in-depth project that their news organization might otherwise find difficult to support.
  • Three letters of recommendation. Letters may be from past employers, relevant professors, or other professionals who know the candidate’s work history and professional commitment to the topic well. If it applies, one letter could be from the publication or editor who has shown interest in the project.

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

Spencer Fellows 2022-2023


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 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 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 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.