Jacob Kirksey ’15, who received a B.A. from Colorado College in economics and education, has been awarded a 2017 NSF graduate research fellowship. He currently is in the education policy doctorate program at the University of California—Santa Barbara’s Gevirtz School, the university’s graduate school of education. He is one of six recent Colorado College graduates to receive an NSF graduate research fellowship.

Kirksey’s research interests are in the economics of education. His research project examines which of the three information-processing skill sets – literacy, numeracy, and problem solving – are most important for attaining a STEM degree and achieving a STEM career for people with disabilities.

Preparation for STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) is especially relevant given the unique circumstances people with disabilities have when pursuing majors and careers, he says. The research could draw attention to a new paradigm for preparing people with disabilities to succeed in STEM: skill development.

Professionally, Kirksey has worked for two nonprofit organizations, taught K-12 theatre in schools, and designed his own after-school programs. Through these positions, he has designed several workshops for teachers, parents, and students, focusing on issues related to school engagement. He also teaches a drama class at a nonprofit organization in Santa Barbara, California.

Currently, Kirksey is working on research related to absenteeism, suspension rates, and special education policy. His interests also include teacher education and preparation in STEM fields and teacher agency in the policy landscape.

While a student at Colorado College, Kirksey participated at the national level in speech and debate all four years and was named an All-American in forensics his senior year by the Pi Kappa Delta National Honor Society.