Annual Junior Scholars Intensive Training Sees Success

2021 JSIT Scholars Cohort

For a week in June 2021, the Center for Financial Security (CFS)—in collaboration with Howard University’s Center on Race and Wealth—held the annual summer workshop of Junior Scholar Intensive Training (JSIT) program. JSTI is an intensive training program for emerging researchers, and made possible with funding from the Retirement and Disability Research Consortium of the Social Security Administration (SSA).

This year’s JSIT workshop was virtual, allowing participation from Minnesota to Mississippi, and California to Cambridge (England!). Scholars are first-generation and/or are economically disadvantaged and/or are from historically underrepresented populations.

“I’ve participated in a lot of junior scholar workshops, but none were as beneficial as JSIT. JSIT provided the opportunity to develop and get feedback through “hands on,” iterative activities. I’m still amazed at how much I developed in just one week!”

Mila Turner, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Florida A&M University was part of this year’s JSIT cohort.

JSIT is a mentored training program aimed at diversifying social insurance research and researchers, as well as the intersections with retirement and disability programs. JSIT provides scholars with training to develop their own research ideas into proposals that are then eligible for small research awards and potentially other funding with SSA.

“JSIT provided important parts of the hidden curriculum as I progress as a young academic. JSIT exposed me to critical issues related to retirement and social security, and how interconnected the issues of wealth and retirement were. The faculty involved in the JSIT want the best for all of the junior scholars at all times and create a sense of community despite the various stages each scholar is uniquely in.”

Felipe Juan, a doctoral student at Howard University and part of the 2021 JSIT cohort

This year’s JSIT cohort includes 15 scholars from variety of disciplines – economics, public policy, sociology, and social work – who completed the weeklong intensive training. JSIT introduces emerging researchers to the field of retirement and disability research specifically, and social insurance research more broadly. Faculty and guest speakers covered a lot of ground: identifying meaningful, policy-relevant research questions and appropriate data sources; working with data sets, including administrative data; best practices in communicating and translating research findings; and building a productive, lasting mentor relationship.

“My favorite aspect of JSIT was the mentoring which was set up so that participants could meet with various faculty members each day for one-on-one advising and thus benefit from multiple perspectives and knowledge bases. I hadn’t experienced that level of engagement with or investment in my work since graduate school.”

Dr. Mila Turner, Florida A&M University

Mentors to the JSIT scholars this year include Fenaba Addo (UNC-Chapel Hill), Marcy Carlson (UW-Madison), Manasi Deshpande (University of Chicago), Itzik Fadlon (UC San Diego), Bradley Hardy (Georgetown University), Timothy Moore (Purdue University), Gargi Chaudhuri (UW-La Crosse) and Carly Urban (Montana State University). Additional mentorship is provided by the JSIT core faculty: J. Michael Collins (UW-Madison), Justin Sydnor (UW-Madison) and Mary Hamman (UW-La Crosse).

Throughout the summer, the cohort also worked asynchronously on their data skills in DataCamp. Mary Hamman, Professor of Economics at UW-La Crosse, lead the data science training in DataCamp, and provided invaluable one-on-one time with each scholar.

In September the scholars submitted their refined research proposals to the small JSIT Research Competition. CFS awarded the following five projects:

· Shogher Ohannessian, The Effect of the Student Earned Income Exclusion on Labor Market and Educational Choices of SSI Recipients

· Marissa Eckrote-Nordland, Income Volatility and Social Security: Understanding Farm Losses and their Implications

· Megan Henly, SSI Policy and Homeownership: Patterns Across Categories of Disability & Race

· Bahar Eftekhari, The Impact of Medicaid Enrollment Expansion on the Health Well-being of SSI and SSDI Beneficiaries

· Kendall Moody, Medicaid Receipt and Health Outcomes in Youth with Sickle Cell Disease Living in Poverty

These five projects will culminate in a full research report, and posted to the CFS website. Abstracts for the JSIT projects can be accessed here:

CFS is excited to see the JSIT scholars’ futures unfold into successful researcher careers!