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.

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. Each fellow receives a $75,000 stipend for living expenses and an additional $7,500 for research support. Tuition and fees are free.

Funding is provided by the Spencer Foundation.

Spencer Fellows 2019-2020

Beenish Ahmed is the founder of THE ALIGNIST and has covered education and transportation for WNYC in New York City. 

Samantha Hernandez has covered education and courts for the Green Bay Press-Gazette in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Benjamin Herold is a technology reporter at Education Week.

Casey Parks is a staff reporter for The Hechinger Report, an independent, nonprofit education newsroom. 

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.