The Connected Learning Lab is delighted to announce the recipients of the Equitable Futures Postdoctoral Fellowships. Janiece Mackey and Miguel Abad were selected from more than 50 scholars applying for the two-year fellowship positions. In their new roles, Janiece and Miguel will lead research and development for the Equitable Futures Innovation Network, a project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that is bringing together youth-serving programs to advance effective practice in creating more equitable career outcomes, particularly from Black, Latinx, and low-income households.
Intellectual leadership for the network rests in the hands of Janiece and Miguel, who will design and conduct research in collaboration with community-based organizations dedicated to helping young people find and pursue meaningful career pathways. The Connected Learning Lab will play a coordinating role for the network. Janiece and Miguel will work with staff and youth at partner organizations, applying the principles of participatory action research to the challenges of enhancing young people’s career trajectories. Both Janiece and Miguel have extensive experience building programs that engage young people in activities for exploring possibilities, making connections, and pursuing opportunities relevant to career outcomes.
Janiece notes that she was drawn to this fellowship because of the opportunity to conduct research into career equity in ways that connected to her own lived experiences and broadly those of Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color. Janiece sees the fellowship as a way to carry forward the transdisciplinary lens she has been using in her prior research, professional work, and methods for addressing concerns regarding “the racialized, classed, and gendered barriers that persist from inhibiting create more liberatory and accessible opportunities.”
In addition to the UC Irvine-based team, Janiece will work on these issues with Shelley Zion, a professor at Rowan University whose career, Janiece offers, “has centered youth voice in policy and educational contexts and is an expert at praxis, bridging theory into practice.” Janiece earned her PhD in higher education at the University of Denver while running a non-profit she co-founded, Young Aspiring Americans for Social and Political Activism (YAASPA), that deepens the exposure and understanding youth of color gain into how they can be civically engaged through their careers and communities.
Miguel, who earned his PhD in education at UC Irvine, says that his experiences as a youth worker has made him particularly concerned with the importance of “out of school time spaces and projects as critical sites of deep youth engagement.” The fellowship gives him the opportunity to study young people’s career and educational lives outside of the realm of conventional schooling. He is enthusiastic about collaborating with young people “around imagining what kinds of societies and social relations rooted in social justice might look like” noting that the sophisticated skills they build are needed “not only in the corporate technology world, but also within organizations and movement formations engaging in work around racial, economic, gender and environmental justice.”
Miguel will develop his research program working with Amy Ritterbusch at UCLA, whom he calls “one of the most provocative theorists writing on participatory methodologies today.” Miguel was given the University of California San Francisco “Excellence in Partnerships” award for his work in developing a medical career internship program for high school students.
The fellowship application called for scholars having deep commitments to social justice, research interests in career equity, and connections to marginalized communities. During the fellowship application process, candidates Janiece and Miguel each demonstrated a combination of scholarly insights, practical know-how, and personal strengths that impressed the five-person search committee. It became clear that they would excel at the challenges of shaping a new network of researchers and practitioners in its inaugural and startup years—a unique opportunity for postdoctoral positions—and embrace a spirit of innovation, experimentation, and collaboration in conducting research in service to educational practice and equity.