Ph.D. Students Awarded Prestigious David K. Sengstack Graduate Fellowship

The Department of Childhood Studies at Rutgers University–Camden has named Neeta Goel and Clovis Bergère as the recipients of the prestigious David K. Sengstack Graduate Fellowship for 2014-15.

Endowed by the David K. Sengstack Foundation, the fellowship supports the best and brightest graduate students as they study childhood while pursuing their doctoral degrees at Rutgers–Camden in the nation’s first Ph.D. program in childhood studies.

Bergère and Goel were selected as Sengstack fellows based on their outstanding academic work, leadership within the Department of Childhood Studies, service within Rutgers–Camden, and promising doctoral dissertations that engage with children in local and global contexts, according to Lynne Vallone, chair of the department.

Goel, of New Delhi, was “thrilled” to win the award, but acknowledges that it comes with responsibility. “Over the years, the Sengstack fellowship has come to represent academic excellence and, each year, a number of students compete for this award,” she says. “I feel both humbled and honored to receive it; I owe it to my colleagues, my department, and to Mrs. Sengstack, who endowed the award, to do the best research that I possibly can.”

According to Goel, her dissertation research focuses on the impact of an anti-poverty policy on the life outcomes of children in India. As she explains, the Indian government guarantees poor families living in rural areas 100 days of employment. It is widely assumed that the additional income generated from this employment will have a positive effect on children’s well-being. To an extent, she says, this assumption is borne out of existing research.

However, Goel explains, parents with severe financial constraints are often forced to make very difficult choices. “They may have to prioritize other needs over their children’s education or health, or may be forced to invest in one child over another, because they cannot afford to support them both,” she says.

Goel hopes to explore the extent to which income impacts children and, in a larger context, determine what can be learned and applied to the design of anti-poverty interventions.

She will initially focus her dissertation research on one particular Indian state, but hopes to extend her research to other states in the future. She plans to use the fellowship award to travel to India, where she will meet with beneficiaries of the government program, as well as with local non-profits that help coordinate between the beneficiaries and the local government. She also plans to offset other expenses, such as the purchase of datasets that will help her analyze data in a larger context.

Prior to pursuing her doctorate, Goel worked for non-profit organizations for 17 years, most recently as program director for a U.S.-based child-focused organization. In this capacity, her responsibilities included the design, monitoring, and evaluation of the organization’s programs in 10 countries.

A native of New Delhi, Goel attended the local Convent of Jesus and Mary. She later earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from New Delhi University and a master’s degree in social work from the University of Mumbai.

Bergère, of Collingswood, acknowledges that it was “incredibly rewarding” to be recognized by the Department of Childhood Studies. “This award really signals a desire by the department and the university to support international research,” he says.

Bergère focuses his doctoral studies on the complex relationship between youth and their urban environments, and the array of social issues that arise from this confluence. He plans to use the award to travel to Guinea and carry out his dissertation research exploring the social significance of the growing use of social media in Conakry and Labe, two major cities in the country.

While in Guinea, Bergère plans to conduct a series of in-person interviews with urban youth. Emphasizing visual elements, he will also use photography and photo-elicitation to explore the significance of particular photos that youth circulate on social media, as well as further understand the emerging digital youth cultures in Guinea and West Africa.

In addition to pursuing his doctorate, Bergère serves as a graduate assistant at Rutgers–Camden and will teach an undergraduate course this summer, titled Urban Education.

Prior to pursuing his doctorate, Bergère gained considerable experience working for non-government organizations (NGOs) and local government. He served as an English and computer teacher at a vocational school in Guinea, West Africa, and subsequently as a project leader for Plan International, a United Kingdom-based NGO, helping to introduce new computer networks and connect students in Africa and the U.K.

Bergère then worked for more than seven years in the public sector in London, most notably in the areas of children’s play and development. Most recently, he served as a project manager for the London Borough of Lambeth, overseeing the building of 29 playgrounds throughout the poorest areas of the borough.

A native of Paris, Bergère earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from London Guildhall University and a master’s degree in environment and development from King’s College London.

The Sengstack Fellowship was initiated in 2008 by Alice Sengstack in memory of her late husband, David K. Sengstack, a 1944 graduate of Rutgers University. It is awarded annually to full-time graduate students in childhood studies based upon academic merit and financial need.

The Department of Childhood Studies at Rutgers–Camden offers bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph.D. programs that put the issues, concepts, and debates surrounding the study of children at the center of its research and teaching missions. Through a multidisciplinary approach, the program aims to situate the study of children and childhood within contemporary cultural and global contexts.

Tom McLaughlin
Rutgers University–Camden
Editorial/Media Specialist
(856) 225-6545


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