Apply to join the scholars

The Spencer Early Career Scholars Program:  a research training program in Civic Engagement and Civic Education – a unique opportunity for HGSE students

 2014 applications from current Ed.D. doctoral students are open now:  due April 25

In 2012, we were delighted to announce that the Spencer Foundation has granted HGSE four years’ support to develop a Program to train early career researchers in civic engagement and civic education. Selected doctoral students are part of a vibrant research community, through workshops and internships, and two courses.  There is financial support for scholarships, travel and research expenses. The Dean’s office has also generously contributed funds. The Program builds on our existing highly successful Civic and Moral Education Initiative colloquia and seminars, which will continue to provide a public face and forum for the wider community.  Currently there are ten Scholars who joined the Program in 2012 and seven who joined in 2013.

What is ‘New Civics’?

The Spencer Foundation’s support is part of their New Civics Initiative, designed to widen the definition of civic education and the scope of research in civic engagement.  ‘New Civics’ recognizes that real-life civic participation is much wider than voting and knowledge of political institutions. It includes social movements, action on single issues, community organization and making one’s voice heard through new technology, in situations as diverse as recycling, stopping classroom bullying, organizing a protest against injustice or access to citizenship itself. Civically empowered people are able to take responsibility for a public purpose to effect positive change.  New Civics education’s goals are to equip young people to take such responsibility.

A broader definition of civic action requires research on a broader range of civic and moral learning.  What helps young people become good citizens?  How do people come to feel that they can be effective civic agents?  What gets them engaged in civic participation? How do social and institutional environments foster empowerment and engagement? Why do some cultural contexts promote active citizenship while others lead to alienation or disempowerment?  The Program positions HGSE as a flagship site for developing cutting edge research and training high quality future researchers in the field.

The Program supports research in a wide range of disciplines, and with a wide definition of civic engagement and civic education and diverse global contexts.  We see the Program as particularly helpful for students at an early stage of their learning; those completing their course requirements or developing their QPP and QP.

Who is eligible?

Students who are currently D1 and beyond, but who have not yet submitted their DP.

How do I apply?

Complete the details in the “Application Procedure” section below and submit them electronically to Helen Haste:


What are the criteria for selection?

We are seeking outstanding students with a strong interest in researching civic education, civic action or civic empowerment, broadly defined.  We want students who are comfortable in a research community that crosses disciplines.  We welcome students planning to work on any topic that will contribute to understanding civic engagement, civic education, policy and practice.

We expect selected students to remain committed to the Program for several years, at least through QP stage and possibly in their Dissertation work, enabling intellectual, professional and personal growth.

What will I do as a New Civics Early Career Scholar?

The Program’s goal is to provide a rich experience of research practice and critical thinking.  Helen Haste leads an advanced course in civic education to enrich understanding of the field (A111B). A second, year-long course will help participants develop research skills through interning with a research team and participating in developing, analyzing and reporting research (S063). Scholars will also participate in a further internship the following year over at least a semester. This gives Scholars the chance to work as a full member of a research team, locally or globally, in which they can also develop their own study, which may become their QP.  Both internships will be mentored by members of the HGSE Program team in partnership with the host researchers.

A central feature of the Program is the monthly Workshop, at which Scholars regularly present their work in progress and engage in critical theory-building discussion. This is the core of the Program’s  ‘research community’.  It includes extended interaction with eminent contributors to the field, from Harvard and globally, and also provides intensive learning opportunities for specific skills.  Because the Workshops include participants at several stages of their career training, over time, they provide the ‘neophyte to expert’ research community experience.  Scholars located away from campus will participate in Workshops virtually.

How will I benefit as a Scholar?

The New Civics Early Career Scholars Program provides intensive mentoring and structured hands-on research experience with access to the global community of researchers.  Scholars are supported in developing research ideas, generating projects and progressing these to publication.  They are encouraged to attend conferences and become part of international networks.  The HGSE Program team, in collaboration with leaders in the field, works to stimulate critical and innovative thinking in the development of ‘New Civics’ and Early Career Scholars are an integral part of this.

Financial support includes a number of competitive Scholarships of $5000, and the opportunity to apply for support for travel and research costs.


The HGSE Program Team

Core team members are Helen Haste (PI), Meira Levinson, Robert Selman and Howard Gardner. A number of other HGSE faculty are mentors and active participants in the research community.

Further information

For further information about the Program contact

Also, please email Helen Haste to make an appointment, or sign up on her door (Larsen 613).


Application Procedure

Please submit a Statement of Purpose of no more than 1000 words  which describes your interest in the field and how your current and past activities in research, policy or practice relate to the Spencer Foundation definition of New Civics [].

Describe where you are in the doctoral research process and how your research plans fit with the New Civics agenda. Please explain what you hope to gain from being an Early Career Scholar. 

Please also attach a transcript of your HGSE courses and your cv.

Please indicate one or two HGSE faculty members who might serve as references for your application.  We will not ask for letters but may approach the faculty members.

Please submit these to  hastehe@gse.harvard,edu by April 25. Please ensure that all materials sent bear your name in the file name.