URI doctoral student Meg Jones awarded prestigious Fulbright grant

Jones will travel to Finland to research LQBTQ+ inclusive practices in teacher preparation programs

KINGSTON, R.I. – April 26, 2021 – Meg Jones, a University of Rhode Island doctoral student, has been awarded a prestigious Fulbright grant to conduct research abroad. Jones, who resides in Newport, arrived at URI in fall of 2019 to pursue her Ph.D. in education. She will be traveling to Finland this August to work alongside faculty at the University of Helsinki and its AGORA for the Study of Social Justice and Equality in Education Group.

Awarded the Fulbright Finland Foundation Fully Funded Grant, Jones will research and collect data in service of her doctoral dissertation, which will examine global approaches to LGBTQ+ inclusion in teacher preparation programs. Specifically, her research will focus on LBGTQ+ inclusive practices within the broader context of the Finnish educational system.

“Finland is very much idealized as having one of the best education systems in the world,” said Jones. “Yet when surveyed, queer youth in Finland are very much facing similar percentages of discrimination, mental health issues, suicide ideation as queer youth in the United States.

“However, the University of Helsinki has a master’s level teacher education program that is focused on social justice and changing education. So, I am going to be looking at what is happening in this program to help push the boundaries of what we think of as inclusion,” said Jones. “It’s such a unique teacher education program, a unique educational system and political system. There’s a lot to be learned there.”

In addition to collecting research and writing her dissertation, Jones hopes the experience will provide the opportunity for collaboration with her colleagues in Helsinki in order to publish internationally. Ultimately, her hope would be to return to URI and replicate the study.

“I think it would benefit our community and our URI culture,” said Jones. “We are known for our Gender and Sexuality Center and for inclusiveness. And yet there is always more work to do and more to learn.”

Jones, who grew up around central Florida, was encouraged to apply for the Fulbright by her major professor, Danielle Dennis, director of URI’s School of Education. A non-traditional, first-generation college student, Jones initially dropped out of high school before obtaining her GED certificate. After a couple of false starts, she went on to obtain her bachelor’s degree from the College of Central Florida in Ocala and her master’s degree at the University of South Florida in Tampa.

“I first met Meg as a student in the University of South Florida’s Master of Arts in Reading Education program. Her ideas, and the way she conveyed them through her writing, stood out to me as some of the most advanced I’d seen so I encouraged her to consider a Ph.D. program. The path she took into higher education provides her with unique perspective on education, and I believe the Fulbright will serve to propel her work as an advocate for LGBTQ+ youth,” said Dennis, commenting on the path that led Jones to the Fulbright.

“I dropped out of high school, I dropped out of community college – not because of lack of academic ability. It was just life. It has been a bumpy road, but now I’m sitting here somehow as a doctoral student, I’ve received a Fulbright award,” said Jones. “I’m certainly not a traditional applicant by Fulbright standards. So, I would just encourage any student who is interested to apply, regardless of whether you think you are too old, or too inexperienced or don’t have the right educational background.”

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and those of other countries by providing high-achieving students with the opportunity to research, study or teach abroad. The Fulbright Study/Research Awards program enables applicants to design their own research projects to work with institutions abroad.

Named for U.S. Senator J. William Fulbright, the longest serving chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the program sponsors U.S. and foreign participants in all areas of study, including the sciences, business, academia, public service, government and the arts.

URI students and recent graduates who are interested in applying to the Fulbright program should contact the URI Office of National Fellowships and Academic Opportunities for guidance and institutional endorsement.