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Bethel Professor Receives Prestigious Scholarship in Poland

After receiving a three-year scholarship, Adjunct Instructor Marta Shaw plans to explore what brain science tells us about ourselves as humans, and what this means for educational leadership in times of ecological crisis.

By Jason Schoonover ’09, content specialist

July 08, 2020 | 11 a.m.

Marta Shaw

Marta Shaw, an adjunct instructor in Bethel’s Ed.D. in K-12 administration and Ed.D. in higher education leadership Graduate School programs, recently received the prestigious Outstanding Young Scientist Scholarship in Poland.

Adjunct Instructor Marta Shaw, Ph.D., recently received the prestigious Outstanding Young Scientist Scholarship in Poland. The scholarship is awarded to young scientists in Poland whose work is considered strategic for the country, and it will double her salary for three years at The Jagiellonian University and allow her to focus on her research.

Along with her work in Bethel’s Ed.D. in K-12 administration and Ed.D. in higher education leadership Graduate School programs, Shaw is an associate professor at the Institute of Public Affairs at The Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland. Shaw compared The Jagiellonian University to a "Research I" institution in the U.S., so her work there centers more on scholarship and publishing than teaching. At Bethel, she uses her experience to help doctoral students harness their skills in research courses, and she helps coordinate the programs’ research and dissertation support.

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The award frees Shaw up to study and write about whatever she finds significant. She plans to focus on what brain science says about humans and what this means for educational leadership in times of ecological crisis. Her research touches on how society and educational institutions have evolved over time. At the founding of the first universities, the formation of character was central to education. Today, universities give people access to the best human information, she says, but this often fails to develop the character "muscles" needed to use this knowledge wisely.

Since the Enlightenment, society has shifted away from viewing God at the helm of creation, and we instead built an economic system based on the principle of “always more”—despite facing warnings from scientists that we are on a collision course with the realities of our planet. As our world is at a crossroads, Shaw sees a need for educational leadership recognizing humans as embodied beings. “We need educational leadership that seeks less, training our brains to feel pleasure when we do things beneficial for others and for our planet,” Shaw says.

For example, Shaw has found that people are wired to feel pleasure when altruistically caring for others, and imaging studies show that the reward systems of women in particular respond to care and generosity toward others the same way it does to primary reinforcements such as food. “Everyone will be better off if there are more women in leadership, not just at universities,” she says.

And Shaw sees Bethel aligned with this work. 

“One of the reasons I love Bethel is that perhaps more than at any other university I have worked at, I have seen Bethel strive—imperfectly but doggedly—to do the sorts of things we need to be doing for our civilization to survive."

— Adjunct Instructor Marta Shaw
Education Doctorate

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