Two Ford School faculty awarded the prestigious Carnegie Fellowship

May 12, 2020

Two faculty members at the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy have been chosen from hundreds of nominees as part of the prestigious Carnegie Fellows program. Professors Susan Dynarski and H. Luke Shaefer are among only 27 awardees who will receive $200,000 in philanthropic support for high-caliber scholarly research in the humanities and social sciences that addresses important and enduring issues confronting our society.

“I am so incredibly proud of Sue and Luke, who are both top-notch scholars dedicated to the public good,” said Michael S. Barr, dean of the Ford School.  “Sue’s work is transforming access to higher education. Luke’s work is helping change the conversation about poverty in America. Not only are they producing timely research, but they are also directly engaging with policymakers to improve economic opportunity and mobility.  Their work is emblematic of the Ford School’s deep and long-standing strength in research and public policy engagement related to poverty, inequality, racial and ethnic disparities, and vulnerable populations.”

Dynarski’s own story as a first-generation college student who went to Harvard fuels her passion for the research she conducts and the policy ideas she promotes. Her research converges on the central theme of reducing socioeconomic and racial inequality in educational attainment and broadening access to higher education. She led the development of a low-cost solution, the HAIL Scholarship, which has successfully tripled the number of applications and doubled enrollment for low-income youth at the University of Michigan. With the Carnegie Fellowship, Dynarski will evaluate the effects of the HAIL Scholarship on persistence, course-taking (majors, credit accumulation), and completion rates by comparing scholarship recipients against a control group. It will also look at effects related to gender, income, and racial inequality.

“I’m gobsmacked and grateful,” said Dynarski. “The Carnegie Fellowship will allow me to expand the scope and broaden the impact of my research on reducing inequality in education.”

Shaefer’s award builds on years of action-based research on poverty and social welfare policy. The Carnegie Fellowship will further his project, Understanding Communities of Deep Disadvantage, which uses an iterative, mixed methods approach to explore communities of deep disadvantage in the United States. Shaefer’s team developed an Index of Deep Disadvantage, a holistic measure that draws on health indicators, poverty metrics, and social mobility data. Over the course of three years, study members will embed in six of the most vulnerable communities in the U.S. according to this index. By painting a vivid portrait of the conditions in the nation’s most disadvantaged communities, Shaefer and his collaborators seek to uncover what factors drive disparities while also helping to pinpoint where policymakers and residents can take action to improve well-being and opportunity for all. 

“I am deeply honored to be named one of the Carnegie Fellows,” said Shaefer. “The fellowship will help us immensely in our work to more deeply understand disadvantage in this country and help direct resources and action to where they’re needed most.”

According to the Carnegie Fellowship press release, the Andrew Carnegie Fellows Program was established in 2015 and provides one of the most generous research stipends of its kind. The program represents an overall investment of $38 million in some 200 recipients whose scholarly research spans such subjects as U.S. democracy, the environment, technological and cultural evolution, and international relations. The criteria prioritize the originality and potential impact of a proposal, as well as a scholar’s capacity to communicate the findings with a broad audience.

The latest class of fellows was selected by a distinguished panel of 17 jurors composed of scholars and academic and intellectual leaders from some of the nation’s most prominent educational institutions, foundations, and scholarly societies. Seven of the jurors are either current or former university presidents.

The award is for a period of up to two years and its anticipated result is a book or major study. Read more about the Class of 2020, the Andrew Carnegie Fellows Program, the work of past honorees, the criteria for proposals, and a historical timeline of scholarly research supported by the Corporation. Celebrate the Class of 2020 with our social media and press kit and join the conversation online at #CarnegieFellows and via Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

“The pursuit of knowledge and the generation of ideas were critically important to the Corporation’s founder, Andrew Carnegie, whose mission is especially relevant today as our society confronts problems that have been greatly exacerbated by COVID-19,” said Vartan Gregorian, president of Carnegie Corporation of New York and president emeritus of Brown University. “Fellows from earlier classes are actively addressing the coronavirus through their research on topics such as its impact on rural America, government authority during a pandemic, and ways in which different countries address infectious diseases. The work of this exemplary Class of 2020 will also be of service across a range of other crucial issues.”

The addition of Dynarski and Shaefer brings the total of U-M fellows to seven since the program began. The others are John Ciorciari (2015), also of the Ford school; J. Alex Halderman (2019) of the College of Engineering; and Elizabeth Armstrong (2019), Yuen Yuen Ang (2018) and Arthur Lupia (2015) of the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts.


Susan Dynarski is a professor of public policy, education, and economics at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, School of Education, and Department of Economics. She is co-founder and co-director of the Ford School’s Education Policy Initiative, which engages in applied, policy-relevant research designed to improve educational achievement and outcomes.  In 2019, Dynarski was named one of nine inaugural recipients of the University of Michigan Distinguished Diversity & Social Transformation Professorship. Dynarski has been a visiting fellow at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and Princeton University as well as an associate professor at Harvard University. She is a former editor of The Journal of Labor Economics and Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis. She has been elected to the board of the Association for Public Policy and Management. She serves on the board of the Association for Education Finance and Policy and is a past president. The Association for Public Policy and Management awarded her the Spencer Foundation Award for excellence in research in 2017. The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators awarded her the Robert P. Huff Golden Quill Award for excellence in research on student aid. The Chronicle of Higher Education named her a "Top Ten Influencer" in 2015. She writes frequently for the New York Times. 

H. Luke Shaefer is the inaugural Hermann and Amalie Kohn Professor of Social Justice and Social Policy at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. He also serves as the director of Poverty Solutions, an interdisciplinary, presidential initiative at U-M that seeks to foster partnerships between community stakeholders and scholars to find new ways to prevent and alleviate poverty. Shaefer's research on poverty and social welfare policy in the United States has been published in top peer–reviewed academic journals in the fields of public policy, social work, public health, and history, and his work has been supported by the National Science Foundation and U.S. Census Bureau among other sources. He has presented his research at the White House, has testified before the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, and has advised a number of the nation's largest human services providers. His work has been cited in such media outlets as the New York Times, The Economist and The Atlantic and he has been featured on such programs as Marketplace and CNBC's Nightly Business Report. His book with Kathryn Edin, $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America, was named one of the 100 Notable Books of 2015 by the New York Times Book Review. Shaefer also acts as a special counselor to the Director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

Carnegie Corporation of New York was established in 1911 by Andrew Carnegie to promote the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding. In keeping with this mandate, the Corporation's work focuses on the issues that Andrew Carnegie considered of paramount importance: education, international peace and security, and the strengthening of our democracy.