Penn GSE/Netter Center Alumni Fellowship in Democratic Civic Engagement

The Penn GSE/Netter Center Alumni Fellowship in Democratic Civic Engagement is a one-year fellowship opportunity for outstanding doctoral alumni from Penn’s Graduate School of Education to develop and disseminate practitioners' research on democratic civic engagement. The Alumni Fellowship in Democratic Civic Engagement creates and supports a growing community of democratically- and civically-engaged practitioner researchers and is connected to broader efforts to enhance higher education’s democratic and civic roles. The fellowship is open to alumni of Penn GSE’s Executive Doctorate in Higher Education Management, Mid-Career Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership, or Chief Learning Officer Doctoral Program.  

This Alumni Fellowship will involve the following in AY2023-2024:
  • Fellows will receive a $5,000 stipend for their fellowship year: $2,500 upon entry to the program and $2,500 upon delivery of the fellowship essay.
  • Fellows will participate in four seminar sessions facilitated by Penn faculty and staff.
    • Two in-person sessions will be held on Penn’s campus (tentatively scheduled for October and April), running from the evening of the first day through the afternoon of the next day. The on-campus seminars will be an opportunity to connect directly with Penn resources, faculty, and students involved in related work. Food and lodging will be provided and travel costs will be reimbursed.
    • Two sessions will be held virtually for 2–3 hours. Virtual seminars will be an opportunity to connect with national and international resources and experts involved in related work.
  • Fellows will submit a ~10,000-word essay for public dissemination. Essays will be featured on a joint GSE/Netter Center page dedicated to this project. Publication in academic journals will be encouraged, but not required, as the fellowship remains open to a variety of targeted publication venues. Essays of joint authorship will also be encouraged.
  • Fellows will submit a ~800-word piece that could be used as an op-ed or educator’s playbook piece, describing learnings from the fellowship, what it means to be a civic professional, and the fellow’s relevant leadership activities in this work.
  • In the fall following the Fellowship year, Fellows will participate in a public webinar (recorded) that will eventually be posted to the joint GSE/Netter Center page dedicated to this program.

This fellowship is a collaboration between the Graduate School of Education and the Netter Center for Community Partnerships; the Netter Center will serve as the administrative home of the Alumni Fellowship.

  • Must be an alum of Penn GSE’s Executive Doctorate in Higher Education Management, Mid-Career Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership, or Chief Learning Officer Doctoral Program. Each program will select one of their own alumni for the fellowship for AY23-24.

    Each applicant must have a Penn faculty who has agreed to serve as their fellowship faculty mentor. During the fellowship year, faculty mentors will be encouraged to connect the alumni fellows to other students and faculty colleagues through existing structures (e.g., the GSE Research Apprenticeship Course).

Application Instructions:

  • Please submit the following to this application:

    • A personal statement (~750 words) addressing your interest in the Fellowship, and your intended area of focus with rationale; readers of your application will be interested in your current or previous responsibilities/activities/research related to civic engagement

    • The faculty member who has agreed to serve as your faculty mentor throughout the fellowship year, with a letter of support from them

    • A current CV

Applicants are encouraged to be in touch with their respective doctoral program with any questions.
Final submission is due September 8th, 2023. 
Finalists who will be notified in mid/late September.
The Fellowship will begin in the fall 2023 semester

 2022-2023 Inaugural Fellows

(left to right) Vana Zervanos, Peter Horn, Phillip Ellis

Vana Zervanos

Vana Zervanos is the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies and External Affairs at the Haub School of Business at Saint Joseph’s University. She earned a B.A. degree in psychology from Dickinson College; a Master’s degree in counseling psychology from the University of Connecticut; an MBA in international marketing from Saint Joseph’s University and earned an Ed.D. in Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania.

Peter Horn

Peter Horn, Ed.D. became an independent education researcher, writer, and consultant after leading an award-winning alternative education program within the New Jersey public high school where he worked for 18 years. Peter is passionate about the relationship between student voice, school-based opportunities to engage citizenship, and a more democratic society. His education podcast Point of Learning explores these themes, as well as other dimensions of what and how and why we learn. Peter earned his doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania, an M.A. in English Literature from the Middlebury Bread Loaf School of English, and a B.A. in Classics from Princeton University. Defining civil discourse as respectful discussion about areas of shared concern about which reasonable people tend to disagree, Peter's project as a GSE/Netter Center Fellow is to research student participation in forums for civil discourse in secondary schools and colleges in and around Buffalo, New York (where he lives), including the challenges these forums face.

Phillip Ellis

I am eager to explore how my research on epistemology—how people know and view knowledge—and metacognition in organizations can improve initiatives like Netter’s Academically Based Community Service program. To optimize solutions produced by these types of collaborations, I believe we must focus on their foundational building  blocks: the very nature of knowledge and knowing. This emphasis entails helping collaborators recognize and appreciate how each discipline (or culture) creates, justifies, and values the knowledge needed to understand the issue at hand and identify solutions. It also means exploring the limits and benefits of applying these different ways of knowing and knowledge to define a problem and its solutions.And maybe the most exciting topic is how to help collaborators integrate, combine, or stack these various ways of knowing and knowledge to create the ideas needed to solve these wicked problems.