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You are here: Home / News / Rebecca Tarlau Selected As 2018 National Academy of Education (NAEd)/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellow

Rebecca Tarlau Selected As 2018 National Academy of Education (NAEd)/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellow

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Assistant Professor of Education and Labor & Employment Relations Rebecca Tarlau was recently recognized a recipient of the 2018 NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral and Dissertation Fellowships. This year, 30 fellows were selected from a competitive pool of 201 applications from scholars of education. The fellowships are administered by the National Academy of Education, an honorary educational society, and they are funded by a grant to the Academy from the Spencer Foundation. The fellowship program has nearly eight hundred alumni who include many of the strongest education researchers in the field today

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For Immediate Release from the National Academy of Education: 


The National Academy of Education (NAEd) is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2018 NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral and Dissertation Fellowships.  The fellowships provide funding and professional development to early-career researchers whose projects address critical issues in the history, theory, or practice of formal or informal education, at the national and international levels.

The NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship provides $70,000 to early-career scholars to focus on their research and attend professional development retreats. This year, the 30 postdoctoral fellows were selected from a pool of 200 applicants.

The 35 NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellows — selected from a pool of roughly 400 applicants — will receive $27,500 for a period of up to two years to complete their dissertations and also attend professional development retreats.

According to NAEd President Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings, “The NAEd/Spencer Fellowship Programs cultivate the next generation of education scholars by funding their research projects and providing resources to strengthen their research and research training, including mentorship from NAEd members.  We consider these fellows to be among the best in their respective fields, and I look forward to working with them in the coming year.”

Please click on the links below for information on the recipients and their research:
2018 NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellows Page 
2018 NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellows Page

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From Dr. Tarlau's Research:

Teacher Activism Across the Americas: Union Politics and Educational Change in Brazil, Mexico and the United States 

Under what conditions do unions start acting beyond their economic interest and become broader actors for social change? In this study, I answer this question by analyzing instances of “oppositional unionism” within teachers’ unions in Brazil, Mexico, and the United States. Oppositional unionism occurs when union members come together to contest the leadership of their union and transform the union’s daily practices, priorities, and demands. By examining the diversity of internal groups and theories of social change within unions, I contest the assumption that teachers’ unions are unitary actors simply “blocking” education reform efforts. Instead, drawing on the labor studies and social movement literature, I argue that unions are complex organizations that reflect their political-institutional contexts, which shape their forms of political engagement. This research is comparative and ethnographic, focusing on the internal politics of teachers’ unions in three countries. Through participant observation, interviews, and archival research, I examine the relationship between teachers’ unions, the state, and political parties; internal union divisions; the moments when teachers organize for broader demands; and how union disputes influence education. This project will shift our understanding of teachers’ unions as simply “self-interested” or “selfless,” to a more nuanced assessment of the role teachers play in politics, the diversity of political groups within unions, and the ways that teachers’ unions in diverse contexts go beyond self-interest and become social movement actors.