Two College of Education alumnae are recognized by the Carnegie Project on Education Doctorate as 2020 Dissertation in Practice Award winners. Sherisse Jackson’s dissertation, Focusing on Social Presence in an Electronics Course at a Two-Year College: An Action Research Study, uses a phenomenological approach to explore social presence, the feeling of community a learner experiences, and its impact on student achievement. Leslie Richard’s dissertation, More Luggage: The Heavy but Invisible Social Burden Carried by African American Advanced Placement Students, explores an issue that she was previously unfamiliar with, the black student experience in advanced placement courses.
Jackson’s path to her doctorate was propelled by a never-ending pursuit of knowledge. Her career began as an electrical engineer where her most memorable accomplishment was serving on the design team for emergency lighting at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. A return to her home state of South Carolina helped shift her focus toward higher education — coordinating mechatronics and industrial maintenance technology programs and later instructing entry-level electrical engineering courses.
After completing her Doctor of Education in Curriculum and Instruction in 2019, she is continuing her research on developing community in the classroom and improving student academic performance. Jackson’s program experience helps further her understanding and develop new practices that fully engage her learners.
Her advice to students in the midst of their own dissertations is, “You cannot edit anything if you do not have anything written,” and “do not take feedback personally, your committee wants you do produce your best work.”
Richard’s dissertation is born out of a desire to work toward a solution. Her research methodology, specifically practitioner inquiry, sharpens her understanding of effective approaches to intervention. As a white researcher studying issues of race, she developed a deeper understanding of the impacts of race in all aspects of education — particularly minority students in a predominantly white atmosphere.
Richard’s research also allowed her to examine her own whiteness and how it affects her students, instructional choices and ability to perceive her classroom atmosphere. Her experience in the Curriculum and Instruction program and writing her dissertation push Richard toward her goals of dismantling inequitable systems. “I feel empowered to utilize scholarly literature and sound methodology to contribute to a more equitable environment at my school,” she says.
Both award recipients were mentored under the guidance of their dissertation chair, Christopher Bogiages, Ph.D.