Earlier this month, four Yalies won national postgraduate fellowships to work and study in the United States, the United Kingdom and Asia.
Two seniors won the Woodrow Wilson-Rockefeller Brothers Fund Fellowships for Aspiring Teachers of Color, and one of them also joined a Yale alum in winning the Gates Cambridge Scholarship, which supports graduate study and research at the University of Cambridge. Another member of the class of 2011 will go to Asia for language study and an internship supported by the Luce Scholarship.
Kevin Beckford ’11 and Kayla Vinson ’11 were among 25 Woodrow Wilson-Rockefeller fellows chosen to receive a $30,000 stipend to complete a master’s degree in education.
Beckford, who is in Davenport College and is double-majoring in African American studies and political science, also won the Gates Cambridge Scholarship and plans to pursue a master’s in philosophy in African studies at Cambridge before returning to the U.S. to earn a master’s in education. At Cambridge, Beckford said he hopes to continue the research that he began at Yale and turn it into a dissertation. He is examining parallels between hip hop in East Africa and the United States as a force for political and social justice.
As to his interest in teaching, Beckford said he sees teachers as advocates and activists.
“I’ve been inspired by teachers acting as activists, and it’s the reason I’m here,” Beckford said. “I feel a responsibility to do what others have done for me.”
Vinson, also a member of Davenport, is double-majoring in sociology and African American studies and is in the teacher preparation program. She will pursue a master’s in education either at the University of Pennsylvania or at Stanford University, focusing on social studies in secondary education.
Vinson said she always knew she was interested in working with young people, especially marginalized youth. She added that she originally wanted to work in the juvenile justice system, but realized that high-quality education could help prevent young people from ending up in the criminal system in the first place.
Beckford and Vinson are both Mellon-Mays undergraduate fellows at Yale.
The other Gates Cambridge winner this year was recent graduate Nicholas Handler ’09. Beckford and Handler received two of 30 Gates Cambridge fellowships awarded for 2011-’12 — the second year in a row that two Yalies have recieved the scholarship. Sixty more Gates Scholars will be selected from outside the United States after interviews in late March, according to the fellowship’s Web site.
Handler was in Ezra Stiles College, and spent the past year working for history professor Beverly Gage, doing research for her upcoming biography of J. Edgar Hoover. Handler said Cambridge has a strong history faculty in Cold War studies, his area of interest, adding that he will pursue a master’s in philosophy in historical studies at King’s College Cambridge.
Christopher Magoon ’11, who won the Luce Scholarship, will travel the furthest to accept his award. The Luce sends its 15 to 18 winners to Asia each year for language study and internships.
Though Magoon, a history major in Berkeley College, said he is in the process of figuring out the details of his year in Asia, he hopes to look at the education systems in a northeastern Asian nation such as China, Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong or Taiwan.
“[Students from these areas] are very successful on international tests, as a result of a test-taking, individualistic culture,” Magoon said. “I want to look at the opportunity costs of this kind of success and see what we can learn from it in education reform.”
When he returns to the United States, Magoon said he will probably work as a teacher, adding that he has been interested in education since he came to college. He served as co-director of the Ulysses S. Grant Foundation Summer School, which selects 85 New Haven Public Schools students for an academic enrichment program led by Yale undergraduates.
Last year, two Yalies became U.S. Gates Cambridge scholars, one the Woodrow Wilson-Rockefeller and one the Luce.