By Carl Nathe
LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 23, 2018) – University of Kentucky faculty member Rajeev Darolia accepted a position as an associate professor in the Martin School of Public Policy and Administration last year in part because he wanted to be closer to family. Yet the Cincinnati native said the main reason he left the University of Missouri for UK was, “I wanted to be part of the great future here at the Martin School.” Now he is helping to write that future.
Earlier this month, Darolia received word that he is one of only 30 young scholars from across the country selected for the National Academy of Education’s (NAEd)/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship award. Through the support of the Spencer Foundation, this program encourages outstanding young researchers to pursue critical education research projects.
“This is a very big deal for Rajeev, for the Martin School, and for UK,” said Ron Zimmer, professor and director of the Martin School. “This is a highly competitive process, and the award typically goes to faculty from Ivy League institutions and other ‘prestige’ universities. This demonstrates the high quality of young scholars and teachers we are attracting to our already strong and veteran faculty.”
Darolia did not take the ‘traditional’ route to becoming a college professor. After earning undergraduate degrees in finance and Spanish from Washington University in St. Louis, he completed a master’s degree in economics from the University of San Francisco, then his Ph.D. in public policy from George Washington University in Washington, D.C., where he was recognized with the Outstanding Dissertation Award from the Association for Education Finance and Policy. Darolia did all of his graduate studies part time while working full time in the economics and finance industries.
The Spencer fellowship is a $70,000 grant to provide Darolia with release time from teaching and administrative duties, and for other costs associated with his research. But even more importantly, it provides professional development through direct relationships with members of the exclusive National Academy of Education. The title of the project he will be working on is "Confined Learning: Who Participates in Education While Incarcerated and What Are The Benefits?"
Darolia explained, “Prison educational programs are popular because they are expected to increase ex-prisoners’ employability and stem recidivism. However, we know surprisingly little about who participates in prison education or the benefits of it.”
In his research project, Darolia will apply descriptive and causal quasi-experimental analysis to new administrative data on every prisoner released in one state over a 20-year period.
“Our hope is that we will enhance our understanding of the complex relationships between prison education, demographics, and outcomes in prison and post-release, and ultimately contribute to improved educational and economic opportunities,” Darolia said.
Darolia is a firm believer in the mission of major public universities such as UK.
“I am excited to contribute to efforts to provide evidence about important educational and economic issues locally and beyond and to train students to tackle educational and social problems of consequence.”
While this is just his first year as a member of the Martin School faculty, Darolia’s overall career includes publishing research across public policy, economics, and education journals, including in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, Journal of Public Economics and Journal of Higher Education. His work has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Labor, and the Association for Institutional Research. He also is a Visiting Scholar at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
Darolia said he is delighted to be at UK and appreciative of the support he has received from his colleagues and the leadership of the Martin School.
“It’s an incredible honor to be selected for the Spencer fellowship,” he said. “I am looking forward to diving into a new and exciting research area and bringing back new knowledge to share with our talented students and faculty.”
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