Press Release: Jobs for the Future Names Nine Students at the Center Distinguished Fellows

Published jun. 21, 2016

Distinguished Fellows to advance student-centered learning in New England

Jobs for the Future’s Students at the Center initiative today announced the inaugural cohort of Students at the Center Distinguished Fellows. The fellows are a diverse group of nine leaders in policy, practice, and research from around New England, each selected for their vision, contributions, and impact in the student-centered learning movement in the region. 

Along with four research teams to be announced this fall and a group of prominent national advisors, the Students at the Center Distinguished Fellows comprise core members of the newly formed Student-Centered Learning Research Collaborative. With thought leadership and anchor funding from the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, the Student-Centered Learning Research Collaborative is a bold new effort to investigate and evaluate what we know about student-centered learning within and beyond school walls, and then leverage that knowledge to affect meaningful change at scale.

The nine Distinguished Fellows were selected from a highly competitive field of close to 40 applicants from across New England. “As this is first time we’ve offered a fellowship, we were blown away by what we heard from so many of the candidates, any one of whom would have made a fabulous fellow,” said Rebecca E. Wolfe, senior director of Students at the Center. “I was so energized by the quality and passion of individuals working in every corner of New England to make student-centered learning a reality for all students. Leaders in this field are clearly hungry for this kind of professional development and connections to other innovators.”

The fellows were also chosen because of their passion and desire to learn, grow, and share knowledge. “These fellows are uniquely qualified to leverage research findings toward the creation of student-centered learning at scale,” said Eve Goldberg, Nellie Mae Education Foundation’s director of research. “They were chosen not only based on their impressive qualifications but their drive for moving this field forward across New England and beyond.”

As core members of the newly formed Student-Centered Learning Research Collaborative, the fellows’ overarching goals are:

  1. to investigate, use, and promote effective renditions of student-centered learning (i.e., personalized, competency-based, student-owned, and anytime-anywhere) in the New England region and beyond; and 
  2. to communicate research findings in ways that makes them actionable and accessible for policymakers and practitioners to maximize students’ academic achievement, particularly for those students who have been historically underserved.

In return, the fellows receive a $10,000 annual stipend, two years of personalized competency coaching, support for their own student-centered approach projects, and exposure to a national network of luminaries in academia, policy, and schooling focused on student-centered learning. The group of nine comprises professionals from across the research, practice, and policy worlds.

The research fellows are experts in multiple areas of inquiry related to student-centered learning, and they each possess an impressive track record of collaboration and application across university and K-12 settings. Publishing widely and leading consistently, the research fellows are:

  • Jennifer Fredricks, Professor, Department of Human Development at Connecticut College
  • Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, Director, CIRCLE, at Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service at Tufts University 
  • Dana L. Mitra, Associate Professor of Education, Department of Education Policy Studies, Education Theory and Policy Program at The Pennsylvania State University 

The practitioner fellows have proven expertise in achieving positive and equitable academic outcomes using student-centered learning approaches in multiple settings. Hailing from urban, rural, and suburban contexts, they know well what it takes to implement and innovate practices that keep all students, particularly our most underserved, at the center of our teaching and learning activities. The practitioner fellows are:

  • Arthur Baraf, Principal of Liberty School, THE MET (Metropolitan Regional Career & Technical Center)
  • Mary Bellavance, Instructional Coach at Biddeford Middle School, Biddeford School Department
  • Frank LaBanca, Principal of Westside Middle School Academy Magnet, Danbury Public Schools 

The policy fellows are highly regarded district and state officials who have instituted student-centered reforms that have produced clear indicators of success for all students, particularly the underserved. Well positioned to characterize and shape how educational systems should best access, interpret, and apply findings from research, the policy fellows are:

  • Kim Carter, Founder/Executive Director at Q.E.D. Foundation
  • Lori Batista McEwen, Outgoing Chief of Instruction, Leadership, and Equity at Providence Public School Department
  • Michelle L., Puhlick, Executive Director of Planning & Partnerships at Hartford Public Schools 

The Distinguished Fellows will gather in Boston in November along with other core members and a parallel funders collaborative to begin their important work as part of the Student-Centered Learning Research Collaborative. For more information and to sign-up to receive updates about the fellows’ accomplishments and the work of the Research Collaborative, please see

About Jobs for the Future

Jobs for the Future is a national nonprofit that works to ensure educational and economic opportunity for all. We develop innovative career pathways, educational resources, and public policies that increase college readiness and career success, and build a more highly skilled workforce. With over 30 years of experience, JFF is the national leader in bridging education and work to increase mobility and strengthen our economy.