August 4, 2022
Brooke Staley, a doctoral candidate in epidemiology at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and former co-chair of the Minority Student Caucus, was selected as one of 38 awardees in the 2022 Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship competition. Selected from more than 600 applicants, she is the first Gillings student to receive this distinction, which is rarely awarded to public health trainees.
This award is sponsored by the Ford Foundation and administered by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. It recognizes doctoral candidates who demonstrate superior academic achievement, show promise of future achievement as scholars and teachers, and are well prepared to use diversity as a resource for enriching the education of all students.
The one-year fellowship will support Staley as she completes her dissertation project, which applies a novel social metabolomics framework for understanding disparities in Type 2 diabetes. Her dissertation project, a critical examination of how social experiences “get under the skin,” culminates from her training as a social and genetic epidemiologist. Prior to receiving the Ford Fellowship, she was supported by a T32 Fellowship from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, under the advisement of Dr. Christy Avery, who chairs her dissertation committee.
In addition to academic excellence and a commitment to diversity and equity in practice and research, persistence was a key ingredient in Staley’s induction to one of the nation’s most prestigious scholarship programs. She is quick to point out that success came on the second round of a lengthy application process – hoping that her experience inspires other scholars to be tenacious in pursuing their educational and research goals.
Prior to seeking a Doctor of Philosophy degree at the Gillings School, Staley received a Bachelor of Science in neuroscience and Russian language from Trinity College and a Master of Public Health degree from Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM). Commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion has been a throughline of her career, and multiple awards demonstrate her impact in this area, including MSM’s Master of Public Health Bill Jenkins Achievement Award and the Cornoni-Huntley Scholarship in Epidemiology.
“Adding the Ford Fellowship to this list of honors is humbling and validating,” she said. “I am very excited to maximize this opportunity to continue my development as a scholar-advocate who promotes true diversity, equity and inclusion through practice, research and teaching.”
The Ford Foundation Fellowship Program was established to increase diversity among the faculties of higher education institutions in the United States. Awards go to predoctoral, doctoral and postdoctoral students “who demonstrate superior scholarship, are committed to a career in teaching and research at the college or university level, show promise of future achievement as scholars and teachers, and are well prepared to use diversity as a resource for enriching the education of all students,” according to the Ford Foundation website.
The dissertation award provides support for doctoral students to complete their dissertations and is awarded annually. Fellows also have the opportunity to attend the Conference of Ford Fellows and interact with peers who are committed to increasing diversity in academia to enrich scholarship and research. The next application period for all awards will open on September 6, 2022, and Staley has expressed willingness to speak with others in the UNC Gillings community who are interested in pursuing them.