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Home » Discover Rackham » Announcing the 2019 Ma Scholars

The third cohort of Ma Scholars has been selected, and includes students in both education and social work. Karl C.K. Ma made a $2.5 million gift to the Rackham Graduate School in 2017 to support students from Asia who wish to pursue careers in public service, particularly those in the Schools of Social Work, Education, and Nursing. Previous recipients of Ma’s generosity have done work around a variety of critical topics, including public health disparities, international marriage practices, and global policy discourse. This year’s cohort includes research on college choice behavior, psychiatric drug withdrawal, and international education paradigms.

Learn more about these deserving scholars below:

Yiran Chen

Ph.D. Student, Higher Education

Yiran Chen’s current research focuses on college choice. Specifically, he is developing a model to use behavioral economics to understand a phenomenon called “academic undermatching,” referring to high-achieving students attending relatively less selective colleges. Attending a less selective college is often associated with a lower probability of graduating and a lower income level after graduation, which can negatively affect one’s career prospects. Further, students from low-income families are more likely to undermatch, making it more difficult for them to break the poverty trap. By providing a deeper understanding of how students make college decisions, Chen hopes to help policymakers and higher education institutions implement more effective efforts to address the undermatching problem.

“The Ma Scholarship frees me from the obligation to be a Graduate Student Instructor or Graduate Student Research Assistant, effectively providing me with an additional 20 hours per week for my own research,” Chen says. “I have several working papers on my research agenda, but have not been able to find enough time to fully develop them. These additional hours will vastly accelerate my research progress.”

Naivedya Parakkal

Ph.D. Student, Educational Studies: Educational Foundations and Policy

Naivedya Parakkal is interested in issues of international development, empire and education, and exploring decolonial alternatives to dominant educational paradigms. In her research, Parakkal examines how youth from historically marginalized communities in the global south (focusing on South Asia), navigate the process of (un)learning local/indigenous epistemologies in order to accommodate, resist, and transform hegemonic discourses around globalization, development, and modernity. Parakkal plans to write and defend her dissertation proposal next term.

“With the Karl C.K. Ma Endowed Graduate Scholarship, I will be able to concentrate exclusively on writing my proposal, thereby allowing me to leave for my year-long research in Kerala, India much sooner than I anticipated,” Parakkal says.

Kevser Pinar Üstel

Ph.D. Candidate, Social Work and Sociology

Kevser Pinar Üstel’s dissertation focuses on the construction of lay expertise around psychiatric drug withdrawal. She is interested in exploring the ways in which people make decisions about reducing or coming off their medication and establish themselves as credible sources on good withdrawal practices in digital spaces. She also documents different responses to this form of lay knowledge-making from within the medical community. Üstel plans to graduate in spring 2021 and hopes to find a postdoc position and turn her dissertation into a book.

“The Karl C.K. Ma Endowed Graduate Scholarship will allow me to focus on my independent research instead of looking for employment,” Üstel says. “Using the spring/summer and fall semesters to collect and analyze data will help me make progress for the timely completion of my degree.”

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