David Alpizar, a doctoral candidate in the Education Psychology program in the College of Education, won the Washington State University dissertation fellowship.

The fellowship gives a senior level doctoral candidate the opportunity to work on their dissertation exclusively, without other commitments that are typical of a doctoral candidate.

Criteria to be competitive for the fellowship include proof the candidate promotes equitable access to underrepresented groups as well as commitment to research that is sensitive to inclusion.

“I was super happy when I first found out that I won, but part of me didn’t believe it,” Alpizar said.

Alpizar’s research focuses on educational and psychological measurements and ensuring fairness as well as equity with the use of test scores in evaluating individuals.  One of the key theories of his research is Testlet Response Theory.  The dissertation focuses specifically on how scoring of assessments can violate various assumptions. Alpizar is researching this concept by conducting simulations to see how well violations can be caught when they occur. In addition, he is looking at how the field is carrying out these studies.

“Test scores are a part of our lives and there is a lot of work that goes on behind closed doors to try and make them as fair as possible,” Alpizar said.

Sola Adesope is a member of Alpizar’s dissertation committee and the assistant chair of the educational psychology program.

“David is adept at using advanced statistical approaches for tackling practical education problems,” Adesope said.

Brian French, Alpizar’s dissertation advisor of five years, said that Alpizar has gained attention from colleagues outside of WSU regarding his research.

“One thing I would emphasize is I appreciate that David is intellectually curious, and that intellectual curiosity drives his ideas forward.” French said. “He really brings a critical lens and a positive attitude and is a very good team leader for projects.”

“He has very good interpersonal skills and is a good collaborator on different projects in the lab, those are some really good professional development skills,” Adesope said.

Alpizar said the fellowship will provide him the time to think deeply about his research and dissertation while also searching for employment after graduation.