Equitable Futures Postdoctoral Fellowship: Call for Applications

The Connected Learning Lab (CLL) at the University of California, Irvine, invites applications from emerging scholars for a two-year postdoctoral fellowship to engage in research-practice partnerships and youth participatory action research aimed at expanding career opportunity for marginalized youth in the U.S.

Deadline to apply: April 17, 2020.


Pathways to jobs in the U.S. that provide value and meaning for young people are stubbornly tied to race and socioeconomic background. Many efforts at expanding opportunity offer skill development, job placement, and industry incentives. Even when offered skills and jobs, however, many youth may be pushed out of career pathways when workplaces are not inclusive and socially supportive. This fellowship program is part of a broader set of initiatives centered on how identity, culture, and social relationships drive career gaps and opportunities for youth from economically and racially marginalized communities. We look in particular at how to best tap the assets, identities, culture, and communities of marginalized youth in expanding career opportunity.

Anchor funding for the fellowships is provided by The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) Equitable Futures project, which seeks to build stronger connections and alignment between K-12 formal and informal education, post-secondary institutions, and employers to improve labor market outcomes and promote paths to economic opportunity and upward mobility for Black, Latinx, and low-income young people, ages 14-24. The program is administered by the CLL, a research institute at the University of California, Irvine, dedicated to studying and mobilizing new learning approaches in equitable, innovative and learner-centered ways. The BMGF and CLL will be partnering with a broader network of funders, universities, and organizations in support of this fellowship. As part of the award process, each fellow will be matched with a research institution that fits the fellows’ research interests and goals. The CLL team will coordinate communication and research across this broader network.


About the Equitable Futures Postdoctoral Fellowship Program

We are seeking scholars with deep connections and background with marginalized communities, committed to social justice, with research interests in career equity. The two-year fellowship offers an award of $70,000 per year for salary and benefits, with additional support for research and travel expenses, and professional development offered by the CLL in youth participatory action research and socially engaged scholarship.

Fellows will be leading research projects as part of the Equitable Futures Research and Innovation Network—a new network of researchers, designers, practitioners, and organizations mobilizing relational and culturally relevant approaches to expanding occupational pathways for youth. In addition to financial support, the CLL team will facilitate connections to a network tailored to the interests and needs of the individual fellows that includes:

  • Youth-serving organizations interested in partnering with researchers to enhance and further develop their programming. Fellows will work with clusters of youth programs and will engage young people from these programs in conducting participatory action research designed to test approaches that support equity outcomes.
  • Faculty mentors at academic institutions that can host fellows and help partner work with youth-serving organizations to address shared challenges of fostering equitable career outcomes.
  • Researchers in a growing community of scholars addressing the role identity and social capital play in promoting career and economic equity.

Each postdoctoral fellow will focus on studying and improving an educational approach that expands occupational equity. Our initial search is for fellows interested in work focused on the following two approaches. Additional approaches may be added in the future.

  1. Exposure to Work Experiences: Many educational programs offer learning opportunities that enable youth to experience different occupational identities and professional practices. What evidence do we have of the effectiveness of these programs in addressing equity in career outcomes? How can these programs draw from the cultural assets of marginalized youth?
  2. Youth-Initiated Mentorship: Mentors can help youth gain awareness and connections to career identities and opportunities. Youth-initiated mentorship equips young people with the tools and support to recruit their own mentors with whom they feel a strong sense of connection. What are the unique benefits and risks of this approach, in contrast to more traditional forms of youth mentorship? Does the benefit of this approach vary between youth from different backgrounds?

This fellowship offers a unique opportunity to be part of shaping a new network of researchers and practitioners in its inaugural and startup years. We invite scholars who embrace a spirit of innovation, experimentation, and collaboration and are committed to research in the service of educational practice and equity.


Proposals and Selection Process

Successful applicants will need to articulate a deep connection to the needs and assets of marginalized youth and a commitment to equity. In addition, we are seeking scholars looking to develop their skills and network to include more interdisciplinary collaborations, partnerships with youth, and research in service to practice and social impact. Fellows should also state their interest in and background investigating one of the focus areas. The application form, with more details, can be found at the bottom of this page. Applications close April 17, 2020.

The application does not require a proposal for research. Fellows will define their research project with support from their mentors and the CLL team and the aim of addressing the needs of youth-serving educational organizations. The CLL team will provide support to facilitate relationships with programs, mentors, and host institutions, though applicants can note a mentor and a host organization that they would like to reside at for the period of the fellowship as well as organizations they would like to partner with. Fellows will need to be located near their host institution and/or partner organizations.

Applications will be reviewed by a committee of researchers and finalists will be invited for interviews. Because this fellowship involves matchmaking with mentors, host institutions, and organizations, selection will involve an additional step of collaboratively defining a research focus and the location of the residency before final selection.


Fellowship Activities and Structure

As part of their fellowship, the fellow will define a research project centered on one of the focal approaches of interest (namely, exposure to work experiences or youth-initiated mentorship). They will be expected to partner with 2-5 educational or community-based organizations that are utilizing this approach, engaging youth in these organizations in youth participatory action research to study the effectiveness of this approach and developing ways to enhance and further develop it. The CLL team, led by Vera Michalchik and Mimi Ito, will be the fellow’s primary point of coordination and support for ensuring successful progress in research and partnership. The fellow will also be expected to engage in regular meetings with their local mentors at their host institutions as well as with their youth and program partners. They will be expected to attend an annual network-wide meeting and share their ongoing insights, instruments, and work in progress at these meetings. In addition to pursuing research publications, fellows will be expected to periodically share their findings with their youth-serving partner organizations.

The fellowship funds can be awarded in two ways. They can be given to a host university to administer the funds for salary and benefits for the fellow. Alternatively, the fellow can take the funds directly as an individual, in which case they would be responsible for securing their own health insurance and access to necessary office and research facilities. The CLL team can assist in facilitating relationships to host universities. Or, applicants may include a letter of support from a mentor agreeing to host the fellow and confirming their ability to hire a postdoctoral researcher at their university. The CLL team can assist in facilitating relationships to host universities. Separate awards will be made to the mentor at the host institution and community-based partners, and the CLL will cover travel costs for meetings associated with the project.



Applicants must have received their PhD, EdD, or equivalent research degree with diploma between January 1, 2015, and the summer of 2020.

  • Applicant must have relevant commitments to marginalized communities and experience in educational research or youth development.
  • Applications must be made by the individual applying for the fellowship; group applications will not be accepted.
  • Applicants may select their own mentor and host institution. If you don’t have a mentor or host institution, your application will NOT be affected adversely. The CLL will assist to match you with a mentor and host institution.
  • US Citizens, permanent residents, and DACA recipients are welcome to apply.



  • Applicants will be responsible for clearing their own Institutional Review Board (IRB) at their host institutions or they can secure independent IRB services.
  • If the award is administered by an institution, there may be additional requirements for receiving the funds.
  • Fellows will work full-time for this fellowship program.
  • Fellows must have the right to work in the United States. We will not process visas or any other work authorization paperwork.


** Submission Deadline: April 17, 2020 **

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