UNM faculty members Shiv Desai, Todd Ruecker and Vanessa Svihla have been named prestigious National Academy of Education (NAEd) / Spencer Postdoctoral Fellows due to their research and dedication to the field of education.

The National Academy of Education / Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship Program supports early career scholars who do research in critical areas of education and make significant scholarly contributions to the field of education. Currently, UNM has more Fellows than any other institution.

Desai is an assistant professor in the Department of Teacher Education, Educational Leadership & Policy (TEELP) in the College of Education. Ruecker is an assistant professor and special assistant to the dean for outcomes in the English Department, while Svihla is an assistant professor for Organization, Information, and Learning Sciences in the College of University Libraries & Learning Sciences.

Desai, whose fellowship began in 2015, works with Leaders Organizing 2 Unite and Decriminalize (LOUD), a program that allows youth to serve as advisors for the Bernalillo County’s Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative. He assists LOUD by teaching youth how to conduct Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR). Through YPAR, LOUD youth have created surveys that examine youth experiences within the Juvenile Justice System, and have conducted focus group interviews with system involved youth in the hopes of shaping a  more socially just system for the county and state.

Ruecker has been studying the ways English language learners are being supported in terms of literacy instruction in rural and small towns around New Mexico. The fellowship has helped him continue his three-year research, initially funded by a UNM RAC grant, after his fellowship began in 2015.

Svihla has been at a local school studying and documenting the ways in which teachers support marginalized students to come to see themselves as learners. Her fellowship began in 2014 and has since helped her research by allowing her to delve deeper into the subject.

The three returned from Washington D.C. recently after attending a retreat and the 50th anniversary celebration of the National Academy of Education.

Fellowship award recipients receive $70,000 for one academic year of research or $35,000 for each of two contiguous years (working half-time). Additionally, award recipients take the equivalent of one year’s teaching leave during the fellowship term and will be included in professional development retreats with other fellows and NAEd members.

To qualify for the award, applicants must have received either a Ph.D. or an Ed.D. between Jan. 1, 2010 and Dec. 31, 2014 and have a proposed education research project. The fellowship is given to only 20 to 30 early career faculty internationally each year.