Virginia Education Science Training (VEST) Predoctoral Fellowships

What is VEST?

The Virginia Education Sciences Training (VEST) Program prepares students to apply theory and methods from the social sciences to research on schools and classrooms. Program faculty and students strive to improve equity and evidence in education through their work. Since 2004, the VEST Program has received grants from the U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences (IES), to prepare a future generation of education researchers on use of theory and methods that support causal inferences in studies of school, classroom and programs. The VEST program is led by faculty and staff at the School of Education and Human Development at UVA including Sara Rimm-Kaufman, Jim Wyckoff, Mary Alex, Natalia Palacios, Daphna Bassok and others.

Consider just a few of these tough questions and problems. How do we prepare teachers to be effective? What are the effects of teacher evaluation on teachers’ performance? How do children’s self-regulatory abilities develop as a function of their home and school experiences? What classroom conditions are needed to best support the need of multilingual students (English Learners)? How do we develop high quality assessments for kindergarten readiness and then implement those statewide? These are just a few examples of the kinds of education science questions and problems that VEST fellows and faculty address.

VEST fellows experience an exciting set of courses, workshops and speakers. Through these experiences, fellows learn a set of rigorous experimental and quasi-experimental methods that help them develop proficiency in designs that allow for causal inference. Further, students increase their exposure and depth in at least one of four areas including teacher quality, early childhood, social and behavioral context for academic learning, and post-secondary and adult education.

The Research-Practice Partnership Experience (RPE) is a hallmark characteristic of the VEST fellowship. Too often, we see a gap between the knowledge produced by researchers and the information that policy-makers and educators need to make decisions. As part of the VEST fellowship, students work in partnership with an outside agency (e.g., state department of education, school district, education non-profit) and learn the intricacies of full partnership. Not only do fellows leave the program prepared to conduct rigorous research, the problems they choose and the approaches they take are much more relevant as a result of their training. 

Fellowship Details & Benefits

VEST fellows participate in an intensive 20 hr/wk research apprenticeship under multiple mentors and advisors. Please see examples of research opportunities in Education Policy and Educational Psychology-Applied Developmental Science. Fellows must complete an education-based dissertation.

Fellows receive a $34,000 stipend and are also eligible to receive up to $12,000 towards in-state tuition and health insurance, as well as a $2,000 annual allowance for research, travel, and conference expenses. 

Fellows also are required to complete additional coursework at U.Va. that focus on topics in education and methods. They also participate in summer statistical workshops.

All VEST fellows participate in the Education Research Lectureship series (including a proseminar course) and have an opportunity to interact individually with the top researchers in the field of education.

Fellows will also complete a year long Research-Practice Partnership Experience (RPE), approved by faculty mentor and the RPE coordinator.

Our Fellows & Alumni

Learn more about our current 4-Year and 2-Year fellows and affiliate fellows participating in VEST and their student community at U.Va. With over 100 alumni across education, economics, sociology, and psychology departments at U.Va, VEST has produced highly trained professionals who hold positions from postdoctoral scientists to education statisticians to assistant professors. Learn more about our VEST Alumni and what they are saying about the fellowship program through our Question & Answer article series.

Current and past fellows like us on Facebook.

How to Apply

Applicants to the School of Education and Human Development's Ph.D programs, Education Policy and Educational Psychology-Applied Developmental Science, are automatically considered for Four-Year VEST Fellowships. Visit the School's admissions website for more details on deadlines and requirements.

In addition, UVA doctoral students from other social science graduate programs may apply for Two-Year VEST Fellowships, to begin during the 3rd year or later of their PhD program. Applications for the VEST 2-yr program are run separately from the School of Education and Human Development's admissions and typically announced in November of each year with an application deadline around February 1st. Email Sara Rimm-Kaufman for more details.

VEST Faculty

VEST faculty serve as mentors and co-mentors to our fellows. Four-Year Fellows in our Ph.D programs have a primary mentor from the School of Education and Human Development and in their 3rd year, a co-mentor from another discipline. Two-Year fellows from other disciplines continue to work with their primary advisor from their home department and work with a School of Education and Human Development co-mentor as well.

Our faculty engage in training experiences that offer extensive expertise including econometric models of teacher quality, the RCT design and analysis, and the design and evaluation of professional development supports for teachers and their effects on student learning.

The Directors & Steering Committee:

VEST Faculty at the School of Education and Human Development:

VEST Faculty at the School of Arts and Sciences and Batten School of Public Policy:

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Undergraduate Research

The Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) is an intensive 8-week internship program at the School of Education and Human Development that is affiliated with the VEST program. Our faculty and fellows mentor undergraduate interns during the summer as we help train the next generation of educational researchers.

Open Doors Summer Research Program

Program Funding

The School of Education and Human Development received funding from the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) of the U.S. Department of Education in 2004 to implement a Fellowship Program in the Education Sciences. Additional grants were awarded in 20092014, and 2020 that has allowed the School to build upon the existing Fellowship program and provide interdisciplinary training to students. Other fellows in the program are supported by other research grants and funding from the School.


VEST prepares a new generation of education researchers.

We asked four VEST alumni to reflect on their experiences with core aspects of the VEST program.



Diversity and Equity:


Lectureship Series:


Research Practice Partnership: