University of Washington doctoral student Michael Bowman is one of only 30 recipients of a highly competitive Spencer Foundation Dissertation Fellowship supporting his research on the role of schools in neighborhood development and planning.

Bowman, a doctoral candidate in social and cultural foundations of education at the UW College of Education, was selected from a nationwide pool of more than 400 doctoral candidates for the $25,000 fellowship. National Academy of Education/Spencer fellowships, among the most prestigious in the field of education, encourage a new generation of scholars to pursue research that aims to improve education. A review panel made up of education scholars from around the world selects the recipients.

Bowman, who holds a master's in educational leadership and policy studies from the College of Education, is working on his dissertation "Planning School Neighborhoods in an American Cosmopolis: A Spatial Policy History of School District, Housing, and City Planning Collaborations in Seattle, 1930-1980."

While a number of scholars have examined school planning and housing in northern and southern cities with large black populations, Bowman noted that no similar study exists in the multi-ethnic, multi-racial, metropolitan U.S. West.

"In addition, earlier studies have been slow to see how both education and housing policy were part of broader social and physical planning movements that arose during the New Deal and continued for decades," Bowman said.

His dissertation addresses these gaps through a focused analysis of five decades of collaboration between school district, housing and urban planning professionals in Seattle from 1930 to 1980 who were guided by a philosophy of 'neighborhood unit planning.'

Drawing primarily on evidence from school district, municipal and state archives, Bowman's dissertation will examine claims by professionals that neighborhoods were the most rational and just units in which to organize and distribute education, as well as counter-claims by advocates of a more participatory planning process who understood 'neighborhood unit planning' as a tool for ethnoracial and class segregation.

"This history is especially needed now as districts across the country return to neighborhood school models of educational provision," Bowman said.

Bowman is one of the developers of the “Community-Family-Politics” strand in UW's Teacher Education Program, a curricular thread that forges collaborations between urban educators and community organizers with the goal of creating more just, humane and responsive schools and neighborhoods.


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