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Doctoral Student Receives National Science Foundation Fellowship

Calah Ford, a second-year doctoral student in the University of Kentucky College of Education, is one of three UK students to receive a 2018 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.

Ford is studying educational psychology in the Department of Educational, School, and Counseling Psychology. She was among 2,000 students selected for the fellowship from more than 12,000 applicants across the nation.

Calah Ford photo
Calah Ford

Ford holds a bachelor’s of science in elementary education from the University of Louisville and a master’s of business administration from UK. She has experience as both a classroom teacher and as a marketer, and is currently working as a UK teaching assistant for preservice elementary teachers completing their practicum.  She is an active leader in the UK College of Education’s P20 Motivation and Learning Lab, where she mentors undergraduate students interested in pursuing research related to the psychology of teaching and learning. The lab is directed by Dr. Ellen Usher, UK College of Education associate professor.

Ford’s research to date has focused on math and science self-efficacy development in Appalachian students, first-year college students’ sense of belonging, and the influence of living learning programs on first-generation college students’ matriculation and success.

“Through teaching in both rural and urban settings, as well as in low-income schools, I developed an interest in studying the academic motivation and outcomes of underserved student populations,” Ford said.

Her future research will focus on the role of social models in students’ decisions to pursue a degree and career in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). The project will focus on underrepresented groups (e.g., women, racial/ethnic minority students) and aims to ultimately develop an intervention to increase participation in STEM degrees and careers from students in these groups.

The National Science Foundation fellowship program recruits high-potential, early-career scientists and engineers and supports their graduate research training in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

The group of 2,000 awardees is diverse, including 1,156 women, 461 individuals from underrepresented minority groups, 75 persons with disabilities, 27 veterans and 780 who have not yet enrolled in graduate school. These awardees did their undergraduate studies at more than 443 institutions, ranging from small undergraduate, minority-serving, tribal and community colleges, to large state or private universities and Ivy League institutions.

The fellowship provides three years of financial support within a five-year fellowship period. This includes a $34,000 annual stipend and $12,000 cost-of-education allowance to the graduate institution. That support is for graduate study that leads to a research-based master’s or doctoral degree in a STEM field.

Fellows have opportunities for international research collaborations through the Graduate Research Opportunities Worldwide (GROW) initiative and professional career development with federal internships provided through the Graduate Research Internship Program (GRIP). GRFP also supports NSF’s Career-Life Balance (CLB) initiative.