After undergoing competitive selection, in May four UC Berkeley students were awarded national dissertation fellowships for their research in the field of education.

The recipients of the National Academy of Education/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship are Christopher Chambers-Ju, Nicole Louie, Kelsey Mayo, and Anisah Waite, making Berkeley the university with the largest number of students to win the award.

Each recipient received a $25,000 cash prize for the 2014-15 academic year and an opportunity to network with members of NAE and other senior scholars during a retreat. The awardees shared the honor with 27 finalists selected from a pool of more than 400 applicants.

The Dissertation Fellowship Program encourages a new generation of scholars from a wide range of disciplines and professional fields to undertake research relevant to the improvement of education. It supports individuals whose dissertations show potential for bringing fresh and constructive perspectives to the history, theory, or practice of formal or informal education anywhere in the world.

Anisah_WaiteAnisah Waite, a doctoral candidate with the Graduate School of Education, won the honor for her dissertation that looks at teachers in small autonomous high schools in the Los Angeles area and how they collaborate using social network analysis.

“It was great,” says Waite when asked about her reaction to winning the award in her office at Tolman Hall. “This award signals that the work I am doing is some of the best dissertation work in education this year.”

“The great thing about being a Spencer Fellow is that you are connected to this network of other scholars and fellows from both this year and previous years. Entering that professional network is very important as I go into job market,” says Anisah.

A Brooklyn native, Waite grew up with a deep understanding of the importance of education. “It matters a lot,” she says, “education is a key component of social mobility.”

After getting her undergraduate degree in Chemistry from Rutgers, Waite worked as high school science teacher for two years. Although enjoying her time with her students, a desire to have a greater impact than the classroom inspired her to enter into education policy research. She worked with Rand Corporation, a think tank, for two years before applying to graduate school at Berkeley.

Upon finishing her program, Waite says she is interested in pursuing a faculty position at a research university or a position at a think tank to conduct education policy-related research.

Christopher Chambers-Ju


Christopher Chambers-Ju is a Ph.D. candidate in Political Science. His research examines the electoral participation of teachers’ unions in developing democracies, with a focus on Argentina, Colombia, and Mexico.

Christopher earned his B.A. from Amherst College and an M.A. from the University of Chicago. His research has appeared in edited volumes and in PS: Political Science & Politics.

Kelsey Mayo

Kelsey Mayo is a Ph.D. candidate in the Jurisprudence & Social Policy Program within the Berkeley School of Law. Her research interests lie primarily in exploring education law from a sociological perspective, in particular the growing legal environments around school choice policies and legal mobilization for educational rights.

Before graduate school, she taught Latin and public speaking in several different settings — from a boarding school in Massachusetts to public high school in Jackson, Mississippi. She holds an M.A. in Curriculum & Instruction from the University of Mississippi (where she served as a member of the Mississippi Teacher Corps), an M.Phil. in Modern History from the University of Cambridge (UK), and an A.B. in Classics from Princeton.

Nicole LouieNicole Louie earned a master’s degree in Education and a teaching credential from the Stanford Teacher Education Program, then taught middle school math for four years at a charter school in Chicago. Her experiences as a teacher led her to pursue a Ph.D. in Education. She is currently a doctoral candidate in the Education in Mathematics, Science, and Technology program in the School of Education.

In addition to researching the construction of hierarchies in mathematics education, she has worked as a teacher educator and instructional coach in the San Francisco Unified School District, trying to bring the same collaborative, strengths-based approach that she has learned to use with students to professional development. She says she is fortunate to have the support of many communities of learners, including the Research in Cognition and Mathematics Education program, of which she is a fellow. She works with professors Alan Schoenfeld, Na’ilah Nasir, Judith Warren Little, and Raka Ray. She has two wonderful children, Isaiah (age 3) and Julian (7 months).