• First-ever EAF Research Exchange
  • First-ever EAF Research Exchange
  • First-ever EAF Research Exchange
  • First-ever EAF Research Exchange
  • First-ever EAF Research Exchange
  • First-ever EAF Research Exchange
  • First-ever EAF Research Exchange
  • First-ever EAF Research Exchange
  • First-ever EAF Research Exchange

In his words to doctoral candidates, new College of Education Dean Dr. Francis Godwyll shared the similarities between high-quality diamonds and dissertations.

“The more pressure applied to a diamond, the greater the purity of the gemstone,” he said.

Likewise, the stress that accompanies revisions offers its own unique payoff.

“The incremental improvement of each revision purifies the research and leads to the creation of a $10,000 diamond equivalence of a dissertation,” Godwyll said. “It becomes something capable of making a positive impact on the work and lives of others, instead of staying on the shelf.”

His comments kicked off the Department of Educational Administration and Foundations’ (EAF) inaugural research exchange. Ten of EAF’s all-but-dissertation (ABD) students hosted individual poster sessions, sharing snapshots and engaging in dialogue about their research. The event supported students in the early stages of the dissertation process.

Over the six-hour event, they benefitted from an active audience composed of EAF faculty, newly minted doctoral graduates, current students, and College of Education administrators.

“The overall feedback from faculty, newly doctoral graduates, and candidates helped me to examine different perspectives from different lenses. It also helped me to confirm that the direction I’m going in is how I want to continue and what I want to continue researching,” said Judi Khalilallah, an ABD student in the higher education administration Ph.D. program. She serves in Illinois State’s Multicultural Center.

Community building

The Research Exchange was inspired by the EAF Department’s Chair and Associate Chair Drs. Len Sutton and Dianne Renn. After course work ends, adult learners are faced with balancing their work and home lives with the most complex piece of research of their academic careers.

“It can feel daunting, but we also wanted to remind them that in addition to their cohorts and committees, the entire EAF community is here to support them,” Sutton said. 

That message was received loud and clear for participants.

“A really positive moment was being reminded that I’m not alone on this journey and feeling confident that my chair and the faculty are supportive,” Khalilallah said.

Adds Christina Laino, a leadership, equity, and inquiry Ph.D. candidate, “I told Dr. Godwyll that I wanted to hug him after helping me re-think my study in a meaningful way. I have an entirely new title, purpose, research questions, interview questions, and we came up with these together quite quickly. It was invaluable feedback.”

Godwyll was not the only new member of the College of Education in attendance. EAF’s most recent faculty hires, Drs. Rudo Tsemunhu and Terrell Strayhorn addressed the group and met with each of the dissertators.

“Dr. Strayhorn’s positive energy was very appreciated and encouraging. He really appeared to ‘get’ my research without having to receive interpretation or clarification from me,” Khalilallah said.

Ready to go

Many of the reviewers commented that Khalilallah, Laino, and the ABD candidates arrived with well-organized visuals and a flexible mindset.

“I was impressed with how well the students could explain the gap in the literature that led them to their study, but also how several of the studies will address a problem in practice,” said Dr. Tara Augspurger, who completed her Ph.D. in EAF’s higher education administration program last month. She currently serves as a foreign language teacher at University High School in Normal.

“I am excited to learn how the results of the research will contribute to equity in P-12 and higher education.”  

Several of the attendees were students who will be finishing up their course work during the 2022-2023 academic year.

“The poster session helped me to visualize what I needed to do soon,” said higher education administration Ph.D. student Joseph Thomas, a member of cohort eight.

“It also put more urgency to nail down a topic. It was good to be able to relate to the other students’ study that I have gone through and used in the work setting.”

Based on the overwhelmingly positive reactions from attendees, the department is hopeful to make the Research Exchange an annual event to support EAF dissertators.

“We are always looking for ways to add value to our students’ experiences, and we’re grateful for everyone who helped to make this a profitable session,” Sutton said.