The Research Committee is responsible for selecting the Dissertation of the Year Award. Find information about the Dissertation of the Year Award process here.
2016 Dissertation of the Year Award Recipient
The Research & Assessment Committee is pleased to announce Dr. Steve D. Mobley, Jr. as the recipient of SACSA’s 2016 Dissertation of the Year Award. Dr. Mobley completed his dissertation in the Educational Policy and Leadership: Higher Education program at the University of Maryland – College Park. His dissertation is titled, Difference amongst Your Own: The Lived Experiences of Low-Income African-American Students and Their Encounters with Class within Elite Historically Black College (HBCU) Environments. Dr. Smith is currently an Assistant Professor of Higher Education at the University of Alabama.
Dr. Claire Kathleen
Robbins, 2013: Racial
consciousness, identity, and dissonance among White women in student affairs
The purpose of
this study was to investigate racial identity among White women enrolled in
student affairs and higher education (hereafter, SA/HE) master's degree
programs. Guided by a social justice epistemology encompassing constructivism,
feminist inquiry, and Critical Whiteness, this grounded theory study included
the following research questions: (1) how does racial identity develop over
time among White women; (2) how do White women construct racial identities; (3)
in what ways do educational and professional experiences, including those that
occur in SA/HE master's degree programs, influence White women's racial
identities; and (4) in what ways do multiple layers of social context,
including power and privilege, influence White women's racial identities? Data
sources included two interviews with a sample of 11 White women in SA/HE
master's degree programs, and data analysis procedures were consistent with
grounded theory for social justice.
Dr. Helen Diamond
Steele, 2013: Racial identity
development of mixed race college students
The purpose of this study was to identify the factors that influence
mixed race college students' choice of racial identity. This study also
explored whether or not there are any differences among each of the racial
identity groups' perceptions of institutional support for mixed race college
students. The theoretical framework of this study was formed by Chickering's
Theory of Psychosocial Identity Development, Wijeyesinghe's Factor Model of
Multiracial Identity, and Renn's Patterns of Multiracial Identity. The eight
research questions that guided this study addressed hypothesized factors that
may have a relationship with a mixed race student's racial identity and
students' perceptions of institutional support for mixed race students. The
sample included traditional age college students (18-24 at the time of the
survey) who are mixed race (which is defined as having biological parents
belonging to different racial groups) and enrolled as full-time students
(registered for twelve or more credits) at an institution that was a member of
the University System of Georgia. This study employed a survey instrument that
included 63 multiple-choice and Likert scale questions and was divided into six
sections: (a) racial ancestry, (b) racial identity, (c) physical appearance,
(d) cultural attachment, (e) other social identities, and (f) institutional
characteristics. The following quantitative methods were employed to analyze
the collected data: (a) descriptive statistics, (b) Cochran-Mantel-Haenszel
test, (c) analysis of variance, (d) multinomial logistic regression, and (e)
factor analysis. Implications for future research, policy, and practice are
Dr. Rebecca Jane Caldwell, 2012: Chief Student Affairs Officers' interpretation and implementation of the minimum legal drinking age and the Amethyst Initiative: A discursive policy analysis
High-risk drinking is an endemic health and safety issue for college campuses in the United States (U.S.). While public health officials have recommended various models for campus alcohol prevention efforts, in 2008 a group of college presidents recommended a controversial strategy: reconsidering the U.S. minimum legal drinking age (MLDA). The primary purpose of this study was to explore how Chief Student Affairs Officers (CSAOs) describe the impact of the Minimum Legal Drinking Age (MLDA) on high-risk drinking and alcohol-related issues on college and university campuses. The secondary purpose was to describe the impact of the Amethyst Initiative (AI), the aforementioned effort to re-examine the MLDA, on CSAOs who work on campuses that did and did not sign the AI.
Dr. Jodi Fisler, 2011: The elephant in the room: Deconstructing the place of conservatives in the student affairs profession
The student affairs profession places considerable emphasis on the values of diversity, inclusiveness, and social justice as part of its mission to foster the holistic development of college students. Many vocal conservative critics point to these values as evidence of the liberal worldview that they claim dominates the higher education landscape. This critical, phenomenological study was designed around the premise that higher education, and, specifically, student affairs, is characterized by a liberal ideology that privileges those in the profession who identify as liberal. The study explored the perceptions and experiences of 12 self-identified conservative student affairs professionals in order to better understand the nature and impact of the hegemony that operates within the field. The findings then served as the basis for a deconstruction of the lived ideology of the profession.
Dr. Matthew Clifford, 2010: Exploring mentoring experiences in college student affairs: A Q methodology study
Clifford, M.(2009). Exploring mentoring experiences in college student affairs: A Q methodology study. (Doctoral dissertation). Available from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database.(Publication No. AAT 3388786).
The purpose of this study was to explore the experiences of new professionals in college student affairs as protégés in mentoring relationships. This study was designed as an exploratory study into the types of mentoring relationships that exist among college student affairs professionals, using Q methodology. The profession of college student affairs can use mentoring relationships to help recruit, train, develop, and retain high-quality individuals. Although mentoring relationships are frequently used to develop college student affairs professional, little is known about these relationships.
Fifty-five new professionals in college student affairs from 29 different states sorted 39 statements describing mentoring relationships on a continuum from "least like my mentoring relationship" (-4) to "most like my mentoring relationship" (+4). These 55 sorts were factor analyzed and rotated. Following these procedures, four factors emerged that represented different perspectives on mentoring relationships in college student affairs. Interpretation of these factors yielded distinct themes within them. These factors were named: (a) Mentor as Ideal, (b) Mentor as Cheerleader, (c) Mentor as Friend, and (d) Mentor as Teacher.
The results of the study, which intended to elicit the subjectivity of new college student affairs professionals regarding their mentoring relationships, suggest that college student affairs professionals value, in different ways, the interaction with their mentor. The results from this study suggest the personal interaction between a protégé and a mentor is a valuable part of a protégé's career. Additionally, the results from this study seem to indicate that mentoring relationships in college student affairs are, on balance, positive. The results also suggest that mentoring relationships in college student affairs are highly developmental. The perspectives described and the interpretation provided in this study can greatly assist student affairs professionals in the development of new professionals.
Dr. Sarah Keeling, 2009: The influence of the CAS standards on academic advising programs that utilize the standards
Keeling, S. (2009). The influence of the CAS standards on academic advising programs that utilize the standards. (Doctoral dissertation). Available from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database. (Publications No. AAT 3354787).
The creation of the Council for the Advancement of Standards (CAS) in Higher Education was a response to the student affairs profession's need to establish guidelines for both practice and preparation (CAS, 2006). The standards are stressed by the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA) as a means to assess, maintain, and create quality programs. However, little research has been conducted to determine the extent to which, if any, the existence of the CAS standards influences the actual practice of academic advising offices. This study responds to this gap in the research by exploring how the CAS standards influence academic advising programs that utilize the standards. This study utilized Hagerty and Stark's (1989) model of Dimensions of Programs, Structures, and Processes Used for Comparative Analysis of Accreditation Studies. This model was selected for this study as it provided a frame through which to review the programs and practices of advising offices that utilize the CAS standards. It also served as an organizational device for data collection and data analysis. This qualitative comparative case study analyzed interviews and documents collected at five schools. Significantly, study results indicated that most advisors in offices using the CAS standards knew little, if anything, about the standards, but that the policies and practices of their academic advising offices were in some ways naturally aligned with the CAS standards simply through the services these offices provided. However, despite the inadvertent alignment, in offices in which the standards were intentionally implemented, they had a significant influence over that offices' programs and services, especially if an office had a "standards champion" who promulgated and promoted the standards and undertook the requisite work to implement the standards into office practices and procedures.
Dr. C. Ryan Akers, 2008: Evolution of emergency operations strategies: Structure and process of crisis response in college student affairs
Akers, C.R. (2007). Evolution of emergency operations strategies: Structure and process of crisis response in college student affairs. (Doctoral dissertation). Available from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database. (Publication No. AAT 3292920).
Crisis response is a function of university administration that is often overlooked within student affairs divisions across the country. However, due to recent events on campuses and the post-9/11 world in which we live, university officials are constantly reviewing and placing a strong emphasis on developing and implementing their crisis response procedures. In today's college environment, university administrators must understand the importance of all elements of a crisis response plan, including the structure and the process. A single occurrence of trauma on a campus can have a lasting impact on students, faculty, and university staff members. However, crisis is often overlooked as the complex range of issues that our institutions face increases.
Campus crises affect many constituents in a variety of ways, many of which can be debilitating to academic progress and the well-being of individuals. Divisions of student affairs as well as the overall institutions attempt to counteract the negative effects of crisis by developing and implementing efficient crisis response plans. Student affairs staff are the likely first responders to many crises on campus due their daily proximity and inclusion in the lives of students. In fact, student affairs staff have been indoctrinated into student safety issues since the beginning of the field through student discipline issues linked to deans of men and women. The purpose of this mixed methods study was to analyze the crisis response policies, strategies, and programs of different types of institutions as well as to explore which elements of critical incident management structure and process are and are not being implemented across these different types of institutions.
Fifty-one participating institutions completed a quantitative crisis response survey and qualitative phone interview. Findings indicated that institutions and student affairs divisions held different perspectives on crises and prepared for crises in various ways. Crisis response team membership was consistent across the sample. However, training methods and protocol evaluation incorporated a number of different styles. Student affairs involvement in constituents' needs and response partnerships varied across the sample. Institutional type, student enrollment size, and geographic location both positively and negatively influenced crisis response plans on campus.
Dr. Ivan Harrell, 2006 (co-winner): Using student characteristics to predict the persistence of community college students in online courses
Harrell, I. (2006). Using student characteristics to predict the persistence of community college students in online courses. (Doctoral dissertation). Available from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database. (Publication No. AAT 3216495).
This study examined how student characteristics could be used to predict whether or not a community college student would persist in an online course. The research question guiding the study was, "Which student characteristics can be used to best predict the persistence of community college students in online courses?" The student characteristics examined were learning style, locus of control, computer experience and access, previous online experience and demographics.
A survey instrument consisting of two previously developed instruments and a Computer Experience scale that was created by the researcher specifically for this study, was administered to online students at one Florida community college for the pilot study and five additional Florida community colleges for the full study. Confirmatory and exploratory factor analysis were conducted on the computer experience scale to determine if there was an underlying hidden structure. Stepwise logistic regression was completed to determine the student characteristics that were significant predictors of online persistence, as well as an equation that could be used to predict whether or not a community college student would persist in an online course.
Confirmatory and exploratory factor analysis revealed that the Computer Experience scale consisted of three underlying subscales. The researcher named the three subscales based on the similarities of the variables that were associated with each factor: Factor one (basic computer skills); Factor two (Internet/email skills); Factor three (interactive computing skills).
Three of the initial 25 predictor variables were found to be significant predictors of community college online persistence: GPA, auditory learning style, basic computer skills. An increase in both auditory learning style and basic computer skills was associated with a decrease in the odds of course persistence. On the other hand, an increase in GPA was associated with an increase in the odds of course persistence. Additionally, an equation to predict whether or not an online community college student would persist in an online course was developed. Implications for community college administrators as well as recommendations for future studies are also provided in the study.
Dr. Jason Cassidy, 2006 (co-winner): Perceived barriers and benefits to addressing ecological factors on a campus with a dry campus alcohol policy
Cassidy, J. (2005). Perceived barriers and benefits to addressing ecological factors on a campus with a dry campus alcohol policy. (Doctoral dissertation). Available from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database. (Publication No. AAT 3217997).
College educators must acknowledge the ecological factors that impact the alcohol and other drug (AOD) use on their individual campuses. This study explored the relationship between a dry campus alcohol policy and the ecological factors that reduce underage and high-risk drinking at a small, suburban, private liberal arts institution located in the southeastern United States, utilizing both qualitative and quantitative research approaches. The subjects were 21 employees (administrators, faculty, and staff) at the research site who participated in a semi-structured interview, as well as 287 employees who completed the Core Faculty and Staff Environmental AOD survey. Through a series of in-depth interviews, surveys, and document analyses, this study sought to establish a grounded theory for an ecological approach to AOD prevention that could be supported by a dry campus alcohol policy.
The data affirmed that a dry campus alcohol policy and the ecological factors that reduce underage and high-risk drinking are interrelated with varying degrees of influence. The data also revealed seven perceived barriers and eight perceived benefits of a dry campus alcohol policy. The study asserted: (1) there were perceived barriers or limitations to a dry campus alcohol policy; (2) a dry campus alcohol policy created a campus environment that was perceived to reduce both underage drinking and high-risk drinking; (3) a dry campus alcohol policy reduced the frequency of the secondary effects of alcohol on a college campus; (4) institutions with a dry campus alcohol policy risk sending mixed messages to students; (5) administrators, faculty, and staff on a campus with a dry campus alcohol policy exhibited different attitudes, perceptions, and beliefs about alcohol and other drugs; (6) consistent enforcement of the dry campus alcohol policy was critical to the effectiveness of the institution's AOD prevention efforts; and (7) AOD prevention on a campus with a dry alcohol policy was perceived to need a campus-wide initiative. Lastly, this study offered a modified environmental management approach to AOD prevention specifically for a college or university with a dry campus alcohol policy.
Dr. Susan Martin, 2005: A pragmatic exploration of the multicultural competence of community college student affairs practitioners
Martin, S. (2005). A pragmatic exploration of the multicultural competence of community college student affairs practitioners. (Doctoral dissertation). Available from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database. (Publication No. AAT 3156013).
Multicultural competence in student affairs is defined as the awareness, knowledge, and skills to effectively and ethically work with diverse students (Pope & Reynolds, 1997; Pope, Reynolds, & Mueller, 2004). The emerging research about this concept has not examined community college practitioners or included studies that used qualitative methods. The purpose of this mixed method study was to explore the multicultural competence in student affairs of community college professionals.
This study was conducted in the context of nine community colleges in a Middle Atlantic state. Survey data were collected using the Multicultural Competence in Student Affairs-Preliminary 2 Scale (MCSA-P2) (Pope & Mueller, 2000) and a demographic questionnaire. Information about the practitioners' backgrounds (N = 136) was collected and semistructured interviews conducted with 17 practitioners reporting the highest MCSA-P2 scores. Descriptive statistics were used to create a snapshot of the backgrounds and preparation for diversity of the respondents. Multiple regression analysis was used to identify the extent to which seven predictor variables were uniquely related to multicultural competence. An inductive process was used to analyze interview transcripts.
A number of important findings emerged. The respondents were predominately White females, from varied academic backgrounds, who reported limited formal academic preparation for diversity. The percentages of variance in the MCSA-P2 scores uniquely associated with ethnicity, functional area of student affairs, experience with diverse students, and academic major were 16%, 13%, 5%, and 4% respectively. Multicultural coursework, professional development, and gender were associated with only approximately 1% of the variance. Seven types of experiences emerged from the interviews as contributing to the development multicultural competence: (a) experience as a racial/ethnic minority or other socially marginalized group member; (b) positive family messages about diversity; (c) living in various regions and travel; (d) professional experience with diverse students; (e) working at an institution that values multiculturalism; (f) interaction with diverse colleagues; (g) recent participation in an multicultural counseling course.
This study expanded the knowledge about multicultural competence in student affairs of community college practitioners. The findings have implications for the profession as well as further research about multicultural competence in student affairs.