Iowa State University scholars, largely from the School of Education in Lagomarcino Hall, are this week showcasing their research at the Association for the Study of Higher Education conference. Photo by Ryan Riley.

Iowa State shares research about higher education policy and practice

Iowa State University scholars are this week sharing their research about higher education policy and practice at a meeting of the nation’s premier association for such research.

Twenty-one researchers, largely from the School of Education, are showcasing their work at the Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE) annual conference, today through Saturday in Columbus, Ohio. The association is a scholarly society with 2,000 members dedicated to higher education as a field of study.

I’m very pleased to see the extent of our involvement with ASHE, especially by our graduate students,” said Linda Serra Hagedorn, an associate dean of the College of Human Sciences who served as president of ASHE from 2010 to 2011. “This gives us an opportunity to show the world the quality of scholarship at Iowa State University.”

Learning new ways of knowing

Iowa State’s Division of Higher Education specializes in work relating to equity and diversity, community colleges, student affairs, and international students. Scholars from that division will join their colleagues from around the world to network, learn, share ideas, and share perspectives.

“Everyone has a high regard for Iowa State,” said Lorenzo Baber, an associate professor and head of the Division of Higher Education in the School of Education. “This solidifies that.”

Iowa State will present research on topics ranging from international college students to low-income students, students of color, students with disabilities, and conditions impacting post-secondary student outcomes. The presentations all had to go through a peer review process to be accepted at the conference.

The 21 Iowa State participants include: Baber, Glennda Bivens, Brian Burt, Yu (April) Chen, Erin Doran, Jillian Downey, Nancy Evans, Ann Gansemer-Topf, Ulrike Genschel, Garrett Gowen, Hagedorn, Lincoln Wesley Harris Jr., Kevin Hemer, Ran Li, Aurelia Kollasch, Shaohua Pei, Rosemary Perez, Robert Reason, Sarah Rodriguez, Dian Squire, and Lu “Wendy” Yan.  

“I think that having 20+ presentations is very impressive for one program,” Baber said.The fact that we have not just tenured faculty but we have students and visiting colleagues and former students who are academic professionals now — it’s not just the number of presentations but the types of folks. The topics that we cover are very wide-ranged.”

“Orphaned” doctoral students

At the conference, Hagedorn and graduate assistant Lu (Wendy) Yan will participate in a roundtable discussion about what happens to doctoral students who are “orphaned” when they lose their mentors.

Doctoral students rely on their major professor for an introduction to the network of professionals in their fields. This opens doors to the world of research or practice. But in a paper titled “Doctoral Students: Stories of Abandonment, Hope, Grief, and Survival,” Hagedorn and Yan describe the fate of students when they lose their major professor.

“In this work we investigate what is likely the utmost barrier to the prize: the loss of the major professor,” their paper states. “Although we used the word ‘loss’ of a major professor, loss can occur for a number of reasons: death, retirement, resignation, or a move to another institution. Of all of these ways, the most common by far is the move to another institution.”  

Meanwhile, Dian Squire, a visiting assistant professor of student affairs in the School of Education, today presented a paper and moderated a symposium about how plantation politics can be used to better understand the modern-day university.

“There is a resurgence of resistance to the racism and whiteness upon which institutions have been built,” he said. “There are parallels between historic plantation life, universities, and rebellion.”

Faculty of color supporting one another

Brian Burt, an assistant professor in the School of Education, will be one of seven presenters today in “Together We're Stronger: The Making of a Faculty of Color Cohort,” an invited presentation for ASHE's Council on Ethnic Participation pre-conference.

The session is about the "Faculty of Color Cohort 2014" (FOCC) — a group of third-year faculty of color in ASHE from many different institutions who all started faculty careers in higher education in 2014.

“FOCC was intentionally created to purposely reject competition, and instead support each other, especially because we are all faculty of color at predominantly white institutions,” Burt said. “In our session, we will talk about how and why we formed the group, and how the group has helped us to be successful in academia.”

And Garrett Gowen, a graduate student in the School of Education, will chair a session about historical perspectives on institutional formation and reform. He will also present a paper about how "the public" is discussed in higher education research.

“When we discuss the public good, which is the theme of the conference, we spend a lot of time discussing what the ‘goods’ are, but not necessarily who the ‘public’ is,” Gowen said.

“In fact, when we write about the public, we implicitly suggest a certain audience, such as business or the state,” he said. “More often than not, we negatively define what is public by defining what is private. I argue that we should contest the public in our research on higher education as it ultimately shapes how we view the purposes of education and to whom it is beholden.”

Other Iowa State scholars will share their research relating to challenges to college success, international students’ perceptions of their American university experiences, and the importance of considering parents and families for student transitions and belonging.