Calling colleges and universities

I am reaching out to St. Louis colleges and universities to chat with them about my research on the lived experiences of college students with disabilities.

This research will help us serve our campus community better!

If you’re interested in having me come speak with faculty, staff, and/or students on your campus, let me know!

My dissertation defense: Experiences of College Students with Disabilities

My dissertation is titled An Exploration of the Lived Experiences of College Students with Disabilities. Some of my friends and colleagues attended to hear the great research. Now you get to watch it and share it with your friends and colleagues! The SlideShare is below as well.

Cookies, Candy, and Qualitative Research

Thursday, July 21 at 1 pm CT have my public defense of my dissertation: An exploration of the lived experiences of college students with disabilities (my dissertation abstract).

All are welcome to attend, or email me if you’d like the link to the live cast. If you come in person, you’ll be able to enjoy homemade cookies. Otherwise, you’ll have to BYOC.

An exploration of the lived experiences of college students with disabilities

Below is my dissertation abstract in its current form. Enjoy and please do let me know if you’d like a copy of the final draft!

This dissertation presents a phenomenological study of the experiences of students with disabilities during higher education. This study began due to the lack of literature available regarding the experiences of students with disabilities regarding their pursuit of higher education. The research focus grew from the enrollment rate inconsistencies between students with and without disabilities in higher education. The rate of enrollment of students with disabilities in higher education is significantly lower than the enrollment of students without disabilities. The reasons behind this are complex. It is affected by individual student’s choice to not disclose his or her disability, the transition preparation of the students with disabilities, and the experiences of students with disabilities at higher education institutions. Much of the literature focuses on data about students with disabilities, but little engages students with disabilities in the research.

A qualitative research design provided rich data. Data collected from individual semi-structured interviews was analyzed for themes and sub-themes. The interviews were correlated with observations and observer notes. Nine students with disabilities attending a Midwestern private higher education institution provided nearly nine hours of dialogue, observations, and notes to analyze. From this data, the following themes were extracted and listed here in order of strength, from least to greatest: identity (self-advocacy, self-worth), accommodations (academic life, support from others), social interaction, assumptions and stigma, and barriers. Specific observations or quotes were used to illustrate the existence of themes and sub-themes.

The illustrations developed from the data the student participants provided aided in designing the concluding arguments. The conclusion of the study invites administrators at the Midwestern higher education institution to examine the data analysis. Some of the student participants provided suggestions for improvement in the accommodation and support of students with disabilities. Additional suggestions for improvement were developed from the data. While the information provided from the student participants aided in appreciating the experiences of students with disabilities, more research is needed regarding the experiences of students with disabilities in higher education.

Don’t limit yourself.

“Don’t limit yourself,” Dr. Porterfield said to me after asking what I want to do after graduation.

This is the best advice I have gotten in relation to my career. Dr. Kent Porterfield, VP of Student Development at Saint Louis University, told me this one morning over coffee. He’s been at SLU as long as I have, but me a green professional, and him a seasoned pro. He’d humbly shake off me calling him a pro. He’s a smart guy, and part of that is always being open to learning.

Finally, I appreciated this advice last night. The last 2 nights I spent at WordCamp socials (hosted by WordPress St. Louis enthusiasts). This is the first year Chris invited me to the socials. He just didn’t think about it before. I assumed, wrongly so, that WordCamp was going to be full of developers and people well-versed in WordPress. No, there are so many people from so many different walks of life. Their day jobs so diverse. Many were so interested in my research – some of them educators themselves or so glad to hear of me looking at education in that way.

So why am I limiting myself?

It took me 5 months to completely appreciate this advice. I shouldn’t limit my job search to my education, but rather assess my skills, my potential, and what I want to do. I’m smart. I learn on my feet.

Our potential is bigger than ourselves, that is, if we really unleash it and take the opportunities along the way. Don’t limit yourself.

Your data is the wrong data.

“Quantitative or qualitative?” he asked in a loaded, hurried tone.

This question always exasperates me. Immediately, I think, ‘Oh, you’re one of those. Oh, brother!” and roll my eyes.

I was at a social for WordCamp St. Louis hosted by the local WordPress community. This gent had traveled all the way from Indianapolis. He said he wouldn’t be attending the second day, as he “found what he needed.” His goal wasn’t to learn anything, but to find a person to build him a WordPress site. I guess no one knows the WordPress in Indiana?

Ok, let me start at the beginning. This gent started the conversation with, “Oh, I thought she was your daughter!” when I walked up to where he and Chris were already conversing. I asked what brought him to WordCamp and what he did. He’s a consultant in the K-12 sector and teaches statistic part-time. Then he asked what I do. I said I was finishing up my PhD and before I could tell him about my study he blurts, “Quantitative or qualitative?”

You see, among researchers, there are two camps: qualitative and quantitative. Each sees their own research type as better than the other. A vast majority of qualitative researchers see quantitative as good foundation for qualitative. It informs the study and points to where qualitative method should be used to go deeper. On the other hand, a vast majority of quantitative researchers refuse to recognize qualitative research as actual research at all.

I ignored his jabs and explained my study, all while he poo-pooed it.

I love Seth Godin’s example in his article: Actually, more data might not be what you’re hoping for.

So, data gave us the Kardashians.

I imagine the survey went something like this:

On a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is the least and 5 is the greatest, how much do you like spray tan?

On a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is the least and 5 is the greatest, how much do you like unimportant drama?

On a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is the least and 5 is the greatest, how much do you like rich people whining?

And the people interpreting the results viewed the data as, “By golly! People want the Kardashians!” *

But, did they ask questions like:

What are your favorite television shows?

What about those shows makes them your favorite?

Describe television characters you enjoy watching.

Tell me about how you decide on a new television show.

Do you see how the data both are valuable, but both will get you very different information? Data gave us the Kardashians, but maybe we could have had something cooler.

So, Dr. K-12 Qualitative Consultant, you see, my aim in life is to never stop learning and never forget how to listen. Maybe you have forgotten, or maybe you’re a republican and never learned how. Just crunching numbers together with some equations, or software, doesn’t give you the nuanced answers provided by the human condition. It takes critical thinking and continued learning about society to process that information.

*Yes, I know my questions are biased. I’m doing this as an example and to be funny. Relax, Mr. or Ms. Quantitative, there is room for humor amongst all those numbers.