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Major Awards Recognize Innovative Research of Two IPR Fellows

Carnegie honors economist Kirabo Jackson; W.T. Grant honors psychologist Mesmin Destin

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IPR's Mesmin Destin (l.) and Kirabo Jackson were recognized for their innovative approaches to education research.

Two fellows at Northwestern University’s Institute for Policy Research (IPR) received competitive awards this April from two of the country’s leading foundations in recognition of their achievements and promise as researchers: IPR labor economist Kirabo Jackson was named as an Andrew Carnegie Fellow and IPR social psychologist Mesmin Destin as a William T. Grant Foundation Scholar.

Destin, an IPR fellow since 2014 and assistant professor of psychology and human development and social policy, will receive $350,000 to support a five-year project to examine “Healthy Pathways Toward Academic Achievement and Social Mobility for Low-Socioeconomic (SES) Status Youth.” He seeks to evaluate if an in-school  intervention for students from low-SES backgrounds can increase their academic motivation and achievement, as well as have a positive impact on their health.

An IPR fellow since 2010 and associate professor of human development and social policy, Jackson will receive up to $200,000 for his research on “Identifying Excellent Teachers.” His two-year project aims to provide evidence on how to better identify high-quality teachers that improve students’ “soft” skills, which are the broad set of skills needed to succeed as adults. He will also examine if the teacher effects extend to improving students’ educational achievement, employment, and earnings, and deterring criminal activity.

“Bo and Mesmin are two of the most innovative researchers in the field of education today,” said IPR Director David Figlio, Orrington Lunt Professor of Education and Social Policy. “If anyone is going to develop a breakthrough to help solve some of the country’s most intractable education policy problems, they will be the ones to do it. We are delighted for both of them and proud that they are integral parts of IPR’s and Northwestern’s vibrant research community.”


IPR Fellow and Assistant Professor of Psychology and Human Development and Social Policy
PhD, Psychology, University of Michigan, 2010

IPR social psychologist Mesmin Destin was one of five researchers named to the 2016 class of William T. Grant Scholars, the foundation announced. The program, established in 1982, supports the professional development of early career researchers in the social, behavioral, and health sciences.

Destin, assistant professor of psychology and human development and social policy, and his colleagues will each receive $350,000 of funding for five-year research plans that may inform policy and practice in a variety of systems, including higher education, K–12 education, child welfare, and justice.

Destin, an IPR fellow since 2014 conducts research on social and psychological factors that contribute to disparities in educational outcomes from middle school through early adulthood. 

His W.T. Grant project will focus on healthy pathways toward academic achievement and social mobility for low-socioeconomic status youth. It seeks to determine whether a school-based intervention focused on increasing school motivation and academic outcomes can have positive effects on students’ health. It will also quantify how students’ social interactions and social support may serve as pathways to physical health and academic achievement.

As a W.T. Grant Scholar, he will also build mentoring relationships with experts in their fields and attend retreats with fellow scholars, W. T. Grant Foundation staff, and other senior researchers. 

“Our foundation is dedicated to funding research to advance theory, build evidence, and improve policy and practice. Key to this goal is supporting a pipeline of diverse researchers who will tackle the weighty issues facing kids and families across the country,” said Vivian Tseng, vice president of the W.T. Grant Foundation. “This new cohort of scholars has demonstrated a willingness to expand their expertise and to take some measured risks in order to take on these challenges.”

Each year, the foundation selects four to six new scholars from a competitive pool of applicants nominated by their supporting institutions. Only researchers who have received their doctoral degrees or completed their first medical residences in the past seven years are eligible. A selection committee of prominent senior academics reviews the applications, and a small group of finalists are invited for interviews.

The W.T. Grant Foundation currently supports research that increases the understanding of the programs, policies, and practices that reduce inequality in youth outcomes, as well as how policymakers and practitioners acquire, interpret, and use research evidence.

Read more about Mesmin Destin and the William T. Grant Scholars Program and the work of its 2016 class.


IPR Fellow and Associate Professor of Human Development and Social Policy
PhD, Economics, Harvard University, 2007

IPR economist Kirabo Jackson was one of 33 winners selected for the 2016 Andrew Carnegie Fellows Program, the Carnegie Corporation of New York announced today. The program provides the most prestigious and most generous fellowships to advance research in the social sciences and humanities.

Jackson, an IPR fellow and associate professor of human development and social policy in Northwestern’s School of Education and Social Policy, and his colleagues will each receive up to $200,000 to fund one to two years of scholarly research and writing aimed at addressing some of the world’s most urgent challenges to U.S. democracy and international order.

Jackson, an IPR fellow since 2010, conducts research on important aspects of education policy such as the importance of public school funding on student outcomes and the effects of single-sex education on students’ academic performance, with the bulk of his work focused on better understanding teacher labor markets. His project will address “Identifying Excellent Teachers.”

Jackson’s project aims to provide evidence on how to better identify high-quality teachers that improve students’ “soft” skills, which are the broad set of skills needed to succeed as adults. Jackson will compile a uniquely comprehensive longitudinal data set in collaboration with the Chicago Consortium of Public School Research and document how measures of these skills in childhood predict adult success. He will also determine the extent to which teachers who improve soft skills in childhood have a causal effect on adult outcomes, including educational attainment, criminal activity, employment, and earnings.

More than 600 national leaders were asked for recommendations, nominating some 200 candidates from across the United States, with the final selections made by a 16-juror panel led by Susan Hockfield, president emerita of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Fellows were selected based on the originality, promise, and potential impact of their proposals.

The program supports both established and emerging scholars, journalists, and authors whose work distills knowledge, enriches our culture, and equips leaders in the realms of science, law, technology, business, and public policy.

“Our founder, Andrew Carnegie, charged Carnegie Corporation with the task of creating, advancing, and diffusing knowledge in order to enlighten American society and strengthen our democracy. This outstanding new cohort of 33 Carnegie Fellows is a result of that mandate,” said Vartan Gregorian, president of Carnegie Corporation of New York. Steel industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie established the corporation in 1911 to promote the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding.

“We reviewed proposals from the nation’s preeminent scholars and thinkers, as well as from the next generation of promising thinkers and writers. This year’s fellows represent a remarkable range of institutions and organizations, and all share a determination to bring new insights to their fields of study,” Hockfield said.

The anticipated result of each fellowship is the publication of a book or major study.

Read more about Kirabo Jackson and the Andrew Carnegie Fellows Program and the work of its 2016 class.

Published: April 29, 2016.