Training and Education

Undergraduate Students | Graduate Students | Promising Scholars | Faculty

Preparing the next generation of poverty scholars is central to IRP's mission as a National Poverty Research Center. This is done through a range of activities targeting students, junior scholars, and faculty at institutions that lack the capacity to conduct a poverty research center program. The activities are multidisciplinary and integrated with IRP's research program, thematic seminar series, and related conferences and workshops. Brief descriptions of IRP efforts follow below.

Undergraduate Students

Careers in Poverty Research, Policy, and Practice Panel

To promote awareness of the career opportunities open to students interested in poverty and inequality in the United States, IRP has planned two public panels. Targeted at undergraduates, the panels take place in February 2013 and 2014. Students, advisors, and other interested parties are encouraged to attend in person, or to watch and participate through a live Webinar link.

There are many different paths that can be followed in pursuing a career related to poverty research, policy, and program management. This event features a panel of leading policymakers, advisors, and activists, each of whom will discuss their career and school choices and answer questions from the audience.

The event is organized as part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation-funded National Poverty Research Center activities designed to encourage interest in poverty research and policy, and to help build a new generation of scholars and practitioners.

Poverty-Related Courses

Many of IRP's on-campus affiliates teach large classes of undergraduates during the academic year that focus on poverty- and inequality-related issues. For example, Lawrence (Lonnie) Berger and Kristin Shook Slack teach “Introduction to Social Policy,” a large, undergraduate class in the School of Social Work that familiarizes students with a range of social insurance and welfare policies, highlighting their social and political histories as well as evidence on their effectiveness.

IRP affiliates also teach specialized undergraduate courses on poverty-related issues in economics, educational policy, political science, sociology, and other undergraduate programs. Poverty-related research and scholarship constitutes an integral part of the undergraduate classroom instructional experience at UW–Madison.

Collaboration with Morgridge Public Service Center

IRP has launched a new partnership, with the Morgridge Center for Public Service at UW–Madison, to expand efforts to engage undergraduate students enrolled at the University, and also those at other institutions, to interest them in careers related to poverty and policy. This is carried out through two activities. First, as part of its Badger Volunteer Program, which links undergraduate students to meaningful volunteer activities in the community, the UW–Madison Morgridge Center for Public Service expects students to participate in issues forums that IRP has joined with Morgridge to present on poverty-related issues each academic year.

In addition to presenting forums, IRP is collaborating with the UW Morgridge Center for Public Service to raise awareness in the campus community, especially among undergraduate students, of important social issues through sharing research findings in a series of poverty fact sheets. The sheets are developed by Morgridge student interns under the mentorship of IRP editor Deborah Johnson and are distributed to Morgridge Badger Volunteers.


Graduate Students

Graduate Research Fellows Program

At the core of IRP training and mentoring efforts is its Graduate Research Fellows (GRF) Program. The GRF Program includes Ph.D. students working with IRP faculty affiliates in the departments/schools of economics, public affairs, social work, sociology, political science, and other poverty-related disciplines. IRP Associate Director Katherine Magnuson is the director of the program.

Each year, some 40 graduate students participate in the GRF Program. GRFs may apply for small grants to attend academic conferences or obtain data for their research, and those whose dissertation is close to completion may compete for a 12-month GRF Dissertation Fellowship.

Dissertation Fellowship Program

As the National Poverty Research Center sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, the Institute for Research on Poverty (IRP) conducts a competitive Dissertation Fellowship Program that offers up to 12 months of dissertation support to advanced graduate students conducting rigorous poverty-related dissertation research at IRP and the four founding U.S. Collaborative of Poverty Centers (CPC) institutions: the Center on Poverty and Social Policy, Columbia University; Center on Race and Wealth, Howard University; University of Kentucky Center for Poverty Research; and West Coast Poverty Center, University of Washington.

Meet the Dissertation Fellows: 2017–2018

Poverty-Related Courses

IRP also provides graduate student training through the many multidisciplinary courses with poverty and policy perspectives taught by IRP affiliates. A recent example is Population Health 795, "Principles of Population Health Sciences," taught by Whitney Witt. The course introduces students to the multiple determinants of health including medical care, socioeconomic status, the physical environment and individual behavior, and their interactions.

Poverty-Related Doctorates

Since the Institute was established in 1966, more than 700 students have completed poverty-related dissertations at the University of Wisconsin and gone on to make important contributions to the understanding of poverty and social inequality in the United States. They are listed here with their IRP affiliate thesis advisor in parentheses.

Summer Dissertation Proposal Workshop

The Summer Dissertation Proposal Workshop is an innovative weeklong dissertation proposal workshop introduced by the Institute for Research on Poverty (IRP) and the Center on Race and Wealth (CRW), Howard University. The intensive training—which IRP anticipates offering each summer with a call for applications released in mid-winter—is designed to address the achievement gap in advanced degrees in the social sciences by providing competitively selected students from underrepresented populations with the skills, knowledge, and resources needed to prepare a dissertation proposal.

Promising Scholars

IRP pursues several strategies for training and mentoring postdoctoral scholars. Several of these initiatives focus on bringing scholars to UW–Madison to present their own work and meet with key scholars in the field of poverty research. The chance to present and discuss their work as well as receive constructive feedback during their visits is an important experience for junior scholars.

Visiting Scholars Programs

Mentoring of promising scholars also is accomplished through IRP's three thriving Visiting Scholars Programs. The first is for underrepresented junior scholars, initiated in 1998 and supported by the UW–Madison; the second is for food assistance researchers; and the third is for self-supporting scholars who are seeking a longer-term connection to IRP.

Summer Research Workshop

IRP also trains emerging scholars more broadly. Our most prominent means of reaching scholars who are out of graduate school and early in their careers is through the IRP Summer Research Workshop (SRW). SRW is designed to build a community of research interest around topics related to the poor and their labor market connections.

Emerging Scholars Small Grants Program

Another major way IRP reaches out to promising scholars is through its new Extramural Emerging Scholars Small Grants Program, which seeds new research in this area while targeting emerging social science scholars. In early 2012, IRP invited extramural research proposals from recent Ph.D. recipients (within the past eight years).

National Poverty Fellows

The National Poverty Fellows Program is a federal government-university partnership that seeks to build the capacity of researchers to conduct high-quality policy-relevant research on poverty and inequality in the United States and to contribute to the effective use of research and scientific knowledge in the formation of public policy. The Institute for Research on Poverty (IRP) at the University of Wisconsin–Madison administers the program with support provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) and the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (OPRE) within the Administration for Children and Families (ACF). Please see the National Poverty Fellows page for more information.



As a Poverty Research Center, IRP will support faculty at institutions across the country in developing course content and instructional tools related to poverty research and policy and in examining the use of administrative data in research, from the research and policy perspectives.

Teaching Poverty 101 Workshop

A major effort to support faculty is the 2013 Summer Workshop designed to help college instructors create college-level courses on the causes, consequences, and cures of poverty. This workshop and program will be held at the University of Wisconsin–Madison from June 2 through June 6, 2013. It is open to all college faculty and instructors in any postsecondary institution–university, college, or community college.

The program will cover the full range of topics in this area, including the concept of poverty and its measurement and study, the causes of poverty, including the labor market, family structure, education system, race/gender and culture, and the role of public policy in reducing poverty. The perspective will be multidisciplinary, and include presentations by distinguished scholars from the disciplines of sociology, economics, health, education, and social welfare. Applicants need not have prior experience in poverty studies, but must be committed to including material from the workshop in future courses. For more information about the workshop, please visit the Teaching Poverty 101 web page.

Workshop on Use of Administrative Data

IRP plans to mount a two-day workshop in 2013 at which researchers from other states would come to Wisconsin to discuss ways in which administrative records have been used to inform policy decisions and discuss particular advantages and disadvantages of these data. State administrators who have initiated or who oversee these collaborations would also be invited to share their view of the value of administrative data sharing.

IRP has a long history of using administrative records to examine family change, economic well-being, and program participation, with studies of income among single-parent families using earnings records, program data, and income tax data covering the last 30 years.