In 2006, the Ed School introduced the Urban Scholars Fellowship program, a scholarship program with a specific focus on students committed to improving the nation's urban schools. "We want to provide a reward to people who have worked in urban public schools, which we view as an important public service to this nation," said Dean Kathleen McCartney at the time of the program's launch. "We believe that this fellowship will provide an incentive for people to return to urban public schools in leadership roles."
The selection of candidates for the fellowship program is rigorous. The scholars are chosen from among those who rank in the top 10 percent of the Ed School's applicant pool and have demonstrated a commitment to working in urban school systems. Each of the 13 master's programs admissions committees reviews their top candidates and nominates students based on experience, background, test scores, academics, and engagement with the challenges of urban education.
In addition to completing the standard master's curriculum, the students participate in an interdisciplinary program designed to create a network of professional colleagues who share the same passion for improving public schools in urban areas. Throughout the year, the urban scholars have regular meetings under the guidance of Jennifer Petrallia, assistant dean for master's students. These meetings provide the students with information from researchers and practitioners in the Boston area who focus on issues and challenges specific to urban education. The students also get behind-the-scenes opportunities at the university on a wide range of issues, such as how geographical information systems are being used in scientific research on urban education and where to find hidden secrets in the university libraries or museums. This year, the scholars met for special seminars on topics like counseling in urban schools, economic research, special education, and being an urban superintendent. Ultimately, the sessions create strong relationships for the students with practitioners from across the country and with each other.
The Urban Scholars Fellowship program is one example of the school's recent efforts at building fellowship and scholarship programs that address the financial burdens facing practitioners in the field. According to McCartney, the Ed School's leadership team believed it was important to create a prestigious fellowship to encourage the best students to come to the school -- and return to their urban school systems -- unburdened by heavy loan payments.