December 18, 2017, New York, NY–The William T. Grant Foundation is pleased to announce that Janis Kupersmidt, innovation Research & Training, Jean E. Rhodes, Dept. of Psychology, University of Massachusetts Boston, Sarah Schwartz, Dept. of Psychology, Suffolk University, and Renee Spencer, Dept. of Human Behavior, School of Social Work, Boston University, received a Research Award under the Foundation’s Reducing Inequality focus area. This grant funds high quality, empirical projects that examine programs, policies, and practices that can reduce inequality among young people in the U.S. Their three-year grant is in the amount of $582,150.

“I am excited about this study and am hopeful that leveraging a mentoring intervention will help to improve academic outcomes for racial/ethnic minorities and low-income college students” said Adam Gamoran, president of the Foundation.

About the Research

The research project, Connected Scholars: A Mixed-Methods Investigation of a Social Capital Intervention for First-Generation College Students, will test the efficacy of a mentoring program in supporting the development of social capital and positive academic and psychological outcomes among first-generation college students. It also seeks to explore how first-generation college students acquire social capital and how their relationships may facilitate positive outcomes.

The resources, information, and support available through one’s social ties—collectively known as social capital–play a key role in college and career success. A lack of such capital during the transition to college contributes to lower grades and lower rates of college completion for students, especially first-generation college students, who are disproportionately racial and ethnic minority and low-income.

This study focuses on Connected Scholars, an intervention that allows first-generation college students to participate in a one-credit course focusing on identifying current and potential academic and professional connections, where students develop relationships with potential college faculty mentors and discuss how their backgrounds may present challenges and strengths in college experiences. This focus of this intervention differs from most mentoring programs, which match youth with a volunteer mentor and address that single mentoring relationship. The team’s pilot studies show that Connected Scholars may be able to increase first-generation college students’ willingness to seek support, improve their relationships with instructors, and raise their grade point averages.

The study involves random assignment to the Connected Scholars intervention, with a mixed-methods design that allows for an evaluation of the efficacy of the program, the processes by which it works, and its implementation. The team will gather administrative data on course credit completion, college enrollment status, and grade point average, and will conduct student surveys before, during, and after participation, focusing on measures of social capital, relationships, use of university services, psychological functioning, and academic engagement. They will also interview a sub-sample of first-generation college students in the intervention and control groups about the facilitators and barriers to developing social capital, and analyze differences in how they respond.

Research Grants

Research Grants target early- to mid-career researchers for high-quality empirical projects that fit one of our two focus areas. The largest of our three programs for researchers, Research grants are awarded three times each year. The Foundation awarded five grants in June for projects that will address inequality in youth outcomes. The Foundation is interested in inequality by race, ethnicity, economic standing, and immigrant origin status as it plays out across a range of systems, including the education, child welfare, and justice systems.

About the Foundation

The William T. Grant Foundation is a private philanthropy that invests in high-quality research with the potential to advance theory, policy, and practice related to children and youth in the United States. Currently, we are interested in understanding how we may reduce inequality among young people and how we can improve the use of research evidence in policy and practice.