2024 Outstanding Dissertation Award Winner

Faculty Matter: A Case Study Of Rural Community College Faculty Involvement In Vertical Transfer

Jingjing Liu 
William & Mary - School of Education
Chair: Dr. Pamela Eddy


The community college has one of its missions to provide access for students who intend to transfer to a 4-year university using a vertical transfer pathway. As potential advocates for students in the transfer process, faculty who work in community colleges need to recognize the importance of supporting transfer students and help to improve the transfer pathways. Yet, little is known about the role faculty have in promoting transfer. The purpose of this dissertation study was to investigate the role of community college faculty in the vertical transfer process. The study addressed two research questions: How do community college faculty perceive their role in the transfer process? and How do community college faculty interact with potential vertical transfer students? A case study of a rural community college in Virginia with a high percentage of its students transferring and a dedicated transfer center served as the research site. Data analysis used the theoretical framework of momentum. Faculty perceived their role as a connector for transfer students and interacted with aspiring transfer students both in and outside the classroom. The community college faculty worked with content area faculty at the local 4-year schools and collaborated with the college’s transfer center to inform students of transfer resources. In particular, a faculty member was highlighted as a role model in advocating vertical transfer and bridging academics and advising. This advocacy role helps extend the understanding of the momentum theory. The study contributes to new insights into faculty’s essential role in building transfer students’ momentum toward a successful transfer and showcasing rural community college faculty involvement in vertical transfer to inspire higher education institutions to engage faculty in achieving institutional transfer mission, supporting transfer students, and fostering more equitable transfer pathways. 





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Dissertation Document 


2023 Outstanding Dissertation Award Winner


Niraj Anil Wagh 
University of Florida
Chair: Cliff Haynes
Cochair: Lindsay Lynch
Major: Higher Education Administration


The purpose of this study is to describe queer students’ of color (QSOC) sense of inclusion in a community college (CC). Prior research studies have examined the experiences of QSOC in higher education but seldom have focused on CCs. This study was conducted using qualitative methodology and utilized narrative inquiry as its research design. Data from 32 semi-structured individual interviews (19 initial interviews and 13 follow-up interviews) serve as the primary data source.

After conducting thematic analysis, five themes emerged from the data: Visibility, Affirmation of Identity, Importance of Curriculum, Safe Spaces, and Isolation and Discrimination. Specifically, Visibility, Affirmation of Identity, and Isolation and Discrimination spoke to both QSOC’ in-class and out-of-class experiences, whereas Importance of Curriculum spoke to strictly in-class experiences, and Safe Spaces spoke to strictly out-of-class experiences on campus.

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Exemplified within these themes were three central findings: the need for supportive structures at a CC, having relatable and inclusive curricular content, and the ways in which QSOC feel alienated and are not able to fit in at their CC. These findings indicate that there are many experiences on CCs in which QSOC feel a strong sense of inclusion, but there are also many experiences that reduce QSOC’ sense of inclusion and seek significant improvement.

The primary implications of this study to accepted for who they are and the multiple identities that they embody.


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2022 Outstanding Dissertation Award Winner

Characteristics of Collaborative Community College/Economic Development Organization Partnerships: A Multiple Case Study

Stegeman, Pamela Lane 
Kansas State University 

Inconsistent prosperity across the country and a dearth of skilled workers for new middle-skills jobs have led to a rise in the importance of local workforce development and a consistent talent pipeline for employers. Over the past few years, the availability of a skilled local workforce has become the top concern of business executives and relocation consultants when evaluating locations for company expansion and economic growth. With over half of all jobs in the U.S. middle-skills jobs, and community colleges the primary educators and trainers of middle-skills workers, the need to marry economic development activity and community colleges is becoming clear. Some areas recognized this need and have taken steps to bring these two important community development endeavors together. Certain forward-looking states have been successful at developing employer-specific training programs and have successfully merged them into their state economic development programs. In these programs, community colleges act as the delivery platforms across the state for these employer training programs.

On the local level, some economic development organizations (EDOs) and their local community colleges understand this need to deliver a consistent skilled workforce to business to build economic prosperity. These community colleges and EDOs work together to help local businesses grow and attract new business to expand or diversify the local economy. A number of researchers have examined the work between community colleges, EDOs, and local businesses to improve the local economy. Little has been done to understand what it takes for community colleges and EDOs to attract new businesses to an area.

The purpose of this study is to understand the characteristics of the partnership between community colleges and EDOs that have a proven track-record in attracting new businesses to their area. Understanding the elements of successful partnerships may help communities wishing to expand their employer base and diversify their economy. This multiple case study examined community college/EDO partnerships using the lens of Kanter’s (1994) critical success factors for collaborative partnerships to determined commonalities across the partnerships and elements of the community colleges that may have contributed to their success.

Participants in this study had a very consistent message on critical success factors for their productive, ongoing relationship: Work together across all critical areas of community development for the good of the community; communicate, collaborate, and trust the partner organization; build respect for and from your partner by delivering on promises, understanding your partner’s struggles, and working in innovative ways that help the partnership deliver on its goals. The commonalities across the partnership in regards to these critical success factors suggest their importance in local business attraction efforts, but it also indicates these critical success factors stretch across all community college/EDO partners employing a variety of economic and community growth tactics, as the participants integrated business attraction efforts with other community development activities. Expanding this research to a broader group of partners across the United States in a quantitative study may help further distinguish the critical success factors in community college/EDO partnerships.

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