John M. Belk Endowment Impact Fellows Gain Valuable Research, Career Experience Through Work at Belk Center for Community College Leadership and Research

Belk Center for Community College Leadership and Research wordmark

Kenzie Bell has always been interested in the intersection of education and policy, particularly as public education relates to nonprofits and government entities, so when she learned about an opportunity at the NC State College of Education’s Belk Center for Community College Leadership and Research just four days before the application deadline, she rushed to apply.

Bell was selected as one of three John M. Belk Endowment Impact Fellows from across the state who will work with faculty and staff at the Belk Center from August 2020 to May 2021. The fellowship is a paid program that provides hands-on experience for students currently enrolled in a higher education program in North Carolina with a goal of helping students gain exposure to the inner workings of organizations playing a variety of critical roles across North Carolina’s education landscape.

“When I saw the description of the fellowship and how it was trying to get young people from different backgrounds to think about education in this way, I thought it was perfect,” Bell said.

Since beginning her fellowship in August, Bell has been largely focused on logistical aspects and communications related to the Dallas Herring Lecture, which took place on Nov. 10, 2020, while fellows Grey Martineau and Julia Whitfield have been focused on helping to draft a series of policy briefs related to various issues surrounding community college education and equity in community colleges.

“I feel like I’m getting a lot of hard skills to put on my resume, especially in terms of what research looks like in a professional setting,” Martineau said. “All of the research that I’ve ever done has been for class papers, but it’s been really interesting working with a team for research and it’s been a good experience in learning what that delegation looks like.”

Whitfield, who is currently applying to Ph.D. programs, said that the opportunity to witness and contribute to the Belk Center’s research and to see how faculty are conducting research to disseminate practical information that can have a significant impact has been valuable.

The experience she’s gained so far as a John M. Belk Endowment Impact Fellow, she said, has helped her to see new possibilities for her future career.

“I want to do a Ph.D. program and I know with that comes publishing papers, but after that I’m not totally certain that I’ll stay at an institution. Some kind of policy or advocacy work at some kind of organization would be ideal, but that still requires the research aspect,” Whitfield said. “I would really like to work at a place like the Belk Center, because I feel like they have their hands in a lot of important places.”

All three fellows are supervised by Jemilia Davis, Ph.D., director of strategic initiatives and external relations at the Belk Center, but they have had the opportunity to work and speak with other faculty members including Audrey Jaeger, Ph.D., W. Dallas Herring Professor in the College of Education and executive director of the Belk Center, as well as Assistant Director of Research Andrea DeSantis and Postdoctoral Research Scholar Monique Colclough, Ph.D.

Bell, who is currently earning a master’s degree in elementary education from Wake Forest University, also had the opportunity to have a conversation with College of Education Dean Mary Ann Danowitz, D.Ed., about her future career as an educator.

“It was really great to talk to her and I really appreciated speaking with her about how education is a network and hearing her thoughts. To hear her talk about the theoretical underpinnings in education and the way the College of Education approaches education was really interesting,” Bell said. “She gave me advice to learn as much as I can and to get as much out of the fellowship as I can.”