If you heard Tom McFadden rap on the radio, you might never guess he’s Human Biology graduate from Stanford…unless you listen closely to his lyrics. In an ingenious ploy to get people of all ages more excited about science, Tom raps about all things scientific. It all started while he was a senior at Stanford, when he and fellow Stanford student DJ Derrick Davis decided to rap about the role of gene expression in the process over the beat of Jay-Z’s “Money Ain’t A Thang.” The video of the song “Regulatin’ Genes” became a YouTube sensation, and Tom knew he was on to something. In 2011 he won a Fulbright US Graduate Award to New Zealand to pursue graduate coursework in Science Communication. As part of the New Zealand International Science Festival, Tom visited elementary and middle schools in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin where he helped Kiwi classrooms turn science into rap. Tom has since returned the San Francisco Bay Area and we caught up with him to learn more about his Fulbright experience and fundraising campaign for Brahe’s Battles, his inspirational new project on Kickstarter.
1. What inspired you to apply to a Fulbright fellowship in New Zealand?
I knew I loved biology and I knew that I loved education. However, neither biological research nor classroom teaching seemed like the ideal fit for my interests and skills after I finished my job as a course associate at Stanford. The University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand is one of the few places in the world that offers a broad interdisciplinary course in “science communication.” The Fulbright made it possible for me to travel to New Zealand and spend one year in Otago’s graduate program.
I had sacrificed going abroad as an undergraduate to do neuroscience research. So after college I was eager for the opportunity to be thrown into a totally new environment and new culture and to have to see what I was made of. Getting a postgraduate degree in New Zealand was a way to challenge myself, meet new people, and put myself in a situation where I could grow in new ways.
2. How has the Fulbright experience influenced your long-term goals?
Although I enjoyed making science songs as a biology instructor, my Fulbright experience gave me the tools and freedom to take them to the next level. I was able to make a new set of songs that were better produced, with animations better suited to teaching the content. I was able to think critically about science communication, appreciating the value of incorporating compelling historical stories and human narratives that conveyed scientific process. I was able to work with different groups of kids, conducting qualitative and quantitative research that has informed my current approach. Without the time I spent incubating these ideas during my Fulbright experience, I would have probably moved away from the innovative science education work I’m doing toward a more traditional path. Instead, I am now more fired up than ever about the possibilities ahead.
3. Tell us about your Kickstarter campaign – what do you hope to achieve and how can others support you?
I am helping middle schoolers in urban schools create their own science music videos. Though instead of just rapping about the structure of DNA, James Watson and Rosalind Franklin will be arguing about who deserves credit for which aspects of the discovery. The project is aptly titled “Battle Rap Histories of Epic Science (Brahe’s Battles)” I’ll be doing weekly workshops at five Bay Area schools. We go through all the steps that go into conceiving and producing an educational music video.
If these videos get the production budgets they deserve, then they will spread far and wide and will be used by classrooms throughout the world. They will be watched, remixed, remade, reworked – depending on how much time various science classes have to devote to creative endeavors. It will provide an easy and entertaining way for teachers to open up critical discussions about scientific process, evidence-based argument, and the historical contexts of these discoveries.
But most importantly, it’s a really powerful experience for the kids who get to make the videos. There are so many different skills involved that different kids get to show off their different talents. The project is partially funded by an “Social Innovation grant” from Hewlett Packard and Silicon Valley Education Foundation. However, this only covers one video.
So the Kickstarter campaign is a chance for anybody who cares about science, education, or awesomeness to help support a powerful experience for these kids, which will lead to valuable new tools for science education throughout the world. The deadline to pledge your support (and get cool mixtapes and videos and performances in return) is April 16th!
We backed Tom – you can too! Click here to help him raise $11,865 for Brahe’s Battles by April 16, 2013.
Tom McFadden is a biology educator interested in science-history-music integration. He graduated from Stanford University with a B.A. in Human Biology with a focus in Neuroscience & Behavior. He was born and raised in Sacramento, California where he grew up listening to rappers like Wu-Tang Clan, Outkast, and The Roots. Over the past four years, Tom has traveled to East Palo Alto, Mexico, New Zealand and Japan to help kids create their own science music videos. You can read more at his blog The Rhymebesome.
© Victoria Johnson 2013, all rights reserved.
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Next in my series on How To Fully Fund Your PhD, I provide a list below of universities that offer full funding to all students admitted to their doctoral programs in education, international education and educational leadership.
You can find several competitive, external fellowships in the ProFellow database for graduate and doctoral study, but it is useful to seek out PhD programs that offer full funding to all admitted students. When a doctoral program indicates that they provide full funding to their PhD students, in most cases this means they provide each admitted student full tuition and a stipend for living expenses for the four to six year duration of the student’s doctoral studies. Not all universities provide full funding to their doctoral students, which is why I recommend researching the financial aid offerings of all the potential PhD programs in your academic field, including small and lesser-known schools both in the U.S. and abroad.
Boston College, Lynch School of Education (Boston, MA): The Lynch School offers competitive full funding packages for full-time Ph.D. students during their first three years of study through a combination of research and teaching assistantships. Assistantships provide both critical training and funding packages that include a monthly stipend, tuition remission, and individual health insurance coverage.
Drexel University, School of Education, PhD in Educational Leadership Development and Learning Technologies (Philadelphia, PA): This program will be limited to a cohort of full-time students for whom full funding is available and who will be fully embraced as members of the School of Education.
Harvard University, Graduate School of Education, Doctor of Education Leadership (Ed.L.D.): All students in the Ed.L.D. Program receive a full tuition funding package, which also includes stipend support in years one and two, as well as a paid residency in year three.
New York University, Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development (New York, NY): The Steinhardt School offers all full-time Ph.D. students a complete funding and mentoring program. All students offered admission to our Ph.D. programs are awarded a full funding package and are assigned to a faculty mentor.
Stanford University, Graduate School of Education (Stanford, CA): Students in the Ph.D. programs are automatically funded through a combination of fellowships and assistantships for the first four years of their graduate studies. Funding is contingent upon satisfactory progress toward the degree requirements.
University of Colorado, School of Education, PhD in Education (Boulder, CO): Doctoral students admitted and attending the School will be provided with three years of funding.
University of Michigan, School of Education (Ann Arbor, MI): Nearly all School of Education doctoral students receive full funding to cover tuition, fees, books, living expenses, and health insurance.
University of Pennsylvania, Graduate School of Education, PhD in Education, Culture & Society (Philadelphia, PA): All PhD students receive four years of tuition, a living stipend, and health insurance.
Vanderbilt Peabody College, College of Education and Human Development (Nashville, TN): Students admitted to the program typically receive full tuition support, health insurance, and graduate assistantships that cover living expenses. A significant proportion of students also receive scholarships that increase their level of financial support.
To view over 450 professional and academic fellowships, including fellowships for graduate and doctoral study and pre- and post-doctoral research, sign up to view ProFellow’s fellowships database.
© Victoria Johnson 2013, all rights reserved.
Education Pioneers is a national nonprofit that aims to accelerate excellence in education by attracting and developing top leaders, managers, and entrepreneurs to help improve the public education system. One way they do this is through their competitive education fellowship programs. Education Pioneers offers an Analyst Fellowship: a full-time, paid, 10-month program that places talented early career professionals into mission-critical roles in school districts, charter management organizations, nonprofits, and other leading education organizations. In 2012, Education Pioneers will place 60 Analyst Fellows in organizations in Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York City, and the state of Texas.
Also big news – Analyst Fellows and Alumni are now eligible for a $20,000 MBA scholarship at the Boston University School of Management!
That’s not all. Education Pioneers also offers a summer Graduate School Fellowship with a $7,000 stipend, as well as a new Yearlong Fellowship, for a 12 month work experience. All Fellows gain work experience and participate in professional development workshops to prepare them for leadership positions in education, and Yearlong Fellows receive an annual salary ranging between $65,000 and $75,000, plus benefits.
As an Education Pioneer Fellow, what could you accomplish in 10 weeks or 12 months? Fellows complete projects such as developing a student achievement data system for a school district, preparing growth and quality expansion plans for charter schools, and performing advocacy work to support school turnaround strategies. In addition, past Fellows have:
- Managed a $600,000 charter school facility renovation
- Presented policy recommendations to the Secretary of Education
- Forecasted the effects of a school district’s human capital initiatives
- Designed professional development curriculum for a school, and
- Conducted legal research for education-related litigation.
Fellowship application deadlines are approaching in February. Read here for more information.
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Join the crowd
Our step-by-step guide for a competitive fellowship application
1. Create a plan
2. Project proposal ideas
3. Talk to current / former fellows
4. Prepare an effective resumé
5. Find a host institution
6. Write a compelling personal statement
7. Prepare a strong project proposal
8. Get great recommendation letters (P1)
9. Get great recommendation letters (P2)
10. Nail the individual and group interviews