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W&M education professor named NAEd/Spencer Fellow

Eddie R. Cole, an assistant professor at the William & Mary School of Education, has been selected to receive a 2015-2016 National Academy of Education/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship, one of the most prestigious early-career research awards for education researchers.

The fellowships support early-career scholars who are working in critical areas of education research, according to the National Academy of Eddie R. ColeEducation (NAEd) website. Cole, one of 28 fellows selected from 365 applicants, will use the $70,000 fellowship to study the speeches of college presidents during the early 1960s and participate in professional development opportunities with other fellows and NAEd members.

“We are thrilled that Professor Cole has been selected for this prestigious research award,” said Spencer G. Niles, dean of the W&M School of Education. “Dr. Cole’s research addresses important questions regarding how college leaders publicly negotiate multiple social pressures regarding critical issues of social justice as they arise on their respective college campuses.  

“Moreover, Dr. Cole will continue to examine the rhetoric of college leaders during moments of campus crisis. This is clearly research that is essential in a time when strong and effective leadership is greatly needed in higher education. With this award, Eddie’s research will position him to make an even greater impact on the scholarly literature in leadership.”

The fellowships are administered by the National Academy of Education, an honorary educational society, and funded by a grant to the academy from the Spencer Foundation. Now in its 29th year, the fellowship program has more than 750 alumni. The fellowships are the oldest source of support for education research, nationally or internationally, for recent recipients of the doctorate.

“It’s an enormous honor. As an early-career scholar, there is nothing better than receiving confirmation that your research is relevant, especially to a national audience,” said Cole. “That alone has me eager to spend next year alongside other fellows and academy members, who can help me continue to critically investigate the role of academic leaders’ rhetoric during critical moments of crisis.”

Cole’s fellowship will sponsor his research on a project titled “‘Careful Consideration’: College Presidents’ Speeches and Student Protests for Racial Equality, 1960-1964.”

The project will focus on the speeches of college presidents at 20 institutions during the student-led protests of the early 1960s, said Cole. It was a period wherein legalized racial segregation was the norm in parts of the United States, and students who left campus to demonstrate often faced violence. Pro-segregation constituents on campuses called on the presidents to reprimand students for participating in protests while others called for the presidents to support the students’ efforts, Cole said.

“This is the first analysis of how college presidents' speeches positioned these leaders within the national dialogue about desegregation and civil rights in the 1960s,” said Cole. “Therefore, this study provides new insights into college leaders' negotiation of complex social pressures during critical moments of race, crisis and civil rights on campus.”

Originally from Boligee, Alabama, Cole completed his undergraduate studies at Tennessee State University and holds a master’s degree in student affairs administration and a doctorate in higher education from Indiana University. He previously served as a research project associate for the Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research before joining the faculty of the William & Mary School of Education in 2013.