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Graduate Students Present Research on Pressing Topics in Higher Education

Posted June 5, 2017 – Associate Professor Lyle McKinney shuffled from one presentation to the next, giving his doctoral students at the University of Houston College of Education a chance to share their research. They had delved into a range of relevant topics, including the success of African-American students, the support of transgender students and the experience of refugee students.

McKinney, teaching a course on higher education, policy, politics and governance, had asked each of his students to prepare a proposal to submit to the Association for the Study of Higher Education. As a final assignment, the students also had to create a related research poster and present it to executive administrators from UH and other area colleges in late April.

“They are an amazing group doing some interesting and engaging research projects,” McKinney said of his class.

Doctoral student Dina Ghazzawi, for example, examined global diversity on college campuses. She reviewed the experience of international students, particularly during their first year when they may be overwhelmed with homesickness and culture shock.

“My research,” she said, “aims to provide recommendations to higher education practitioners on how to create culturally engaging campus environments that are inclusive of international students.”

Ghazzawi said she appreciated the practice presenting and the feedback from administrators.

“It is amazing to have such genuine people advising you and pushing you forward to achieve your greatest potential,” she said.

Also presenting, doctoral student Koryn Dillard shared her systematic review and meta-analysis of research on African-American student success after the landmark Supreme Court case Grutter v. Bollinger. The 2003 case affirmed race as an acceptable factor in college admission decisions.

Dillard said her research aims to help close racial gaps in degree attainment.

“The faculty and administrators that attended the poster presentation asked questions that allowed me to think about the project from different angles to make it stronger,” she said.

Students in the master’s-level course also presented their research. Posters with titles such as “Campus Carry” and “Why Texas’ Top 10% Hispanic Students are Not Going to College” lined the walls of Farish Hall during the separate interactive session.

Heidi Kennedy, who teaches the course and works as UH’s assistant dean of undergraduate academic affairs, said she saw students gain confidence as they conducted in-depth research and practiced their presentation skills. “By the end of the term,” she said, “students felt like they had become a subject matter expert on the policy they studied.”

–By Kathy Patnaude

–Photos by Velvette Laurence