CFE Doctoral Student Receives Prestigious NAEd Fellowship


Kelsey Dayle JohnKelsey Dayle John (Diné), a doctoral candidate in the department of Cultural Foundations of Education (CFE) in the School of Education, has been selected by the National Academy of Education to receive a 2018 Spencer Dissertation Fellowship. According to the NAEd website, the $27,500 Spencer fellowships support “individuals whose dissertations show potential for bringing fresh and constructive perspectives to the history, theory, analysis, or practice of formal or informal education anywhere in the world.”  Ms. John was one of 35 fellows chosen from a highly competitive pool of applicants.

“The NAE/Spencer fellowships are among the most prestigious awards supporting education-focused doctoral research in the U.S.,” says Kelly Chandler-Olcott, associate dean for research in the School of Education. “This is a singular recognition for Kelsey as a scholar, and it brings important visibility to the CFE department and the School.”

“My dissertation is about centering Diné (Navajo) people and knowledges by collecting Diné knowledge about horses to strengthen Navajo Tribal College and Universities systems,” says Ms. John. “I center the horse because it represents connection, healing, and decolonizing education for Diné.”

In 2014, Ms. John received a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. She completed a CAS in Women's and Gender Studies in May 2016, and a MS in Cultural Foundations of Education in May 2017. She earned a BS in Educational Studies from Colgate University.

Ms. John grew up in Oklahoma, and says that horses were her “first friends and first teachers,” and therefore influenced her research interests. She chose to pursue her studies in CFE at  Syracuse because of the program’s interdisciplinary scholarship and pedagogy.

Interdisciplinary study is, “really important for my work with my community because in the Navajo way everything is connected,” she says. “Just like the horse, it connects to all parts of life and has to be taken holistically.”