Graduate School names Dissertation Year Fellowship awardees

The Washington State University Graduate School has awarded its annual dissertation fellowship to three doctoral candidates: Chioma Ezeh and Emma McMain from the College of Education (COE) and Anna Jordan from the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS). 

The nine-month fellowships provide the candidates with financial support to complete their dissertation uninterrupted. 

Candidates are nominated by their department or program and are selected based on specific criteria, as well as a sound research project. 

Chioma Ezeh

Chioma Ezeh

Chioma Ezeh is a doctoral candidate in COE’s Language, Literacy and Technology program, exploring how teachers and students together can better use existing cultural and meaningful language practices to improve equitable language acquisition within current and future educational policy.

“I remember how ambitious my dissertation proposal seemed to my committee and the thoughts of how I could accomplish it within a set time frame,” she said. “I am thankful as much as I am encouraged to see where things are right now with my project.”

She said the dissertation fellowship will allow her to spend more time piecing together data from different sources, presenting, and developing her findings into publications, and converting the research into practice for educators in diverse linguistic contexts.

Associate Professor Tom Salsbury, Ezeh’s dissertation chair, says her research brings people together. 

“What stands out to me about Chioma’s research is how firmly it is rooted in equity instruction,” Salsbury said. “Her work is very collaborative too, engaging parents, children, teachers, and principals in observations, interviews and focus groups. One of the teachers at the school is also a co-researcher.”

Anna Jordan 

Anna Jordan

Anna Jordan from the College of Arts and Sciences is pursuing her doctorate in cultural anthropology, focusing on exploring psychological anthropology, as it relates to post-imprisonment life. 

“It is a wonderful honor to be selected as a recipient,” she said. “I am deeply grateful for the support and recognition of what I believe is important research.”

Jordan’s dissertation delves into the everyday experiences of formerly incarcerated adults living in Los Angeles. Her goal is to explore and understand ethical dilemmas rooted in post-prison life as they pertain to a changing political and social environment.

“I firmly believe that scholars whose work centers on issues of inequality have an ethical imperative to engage with social debates beyond the academy,” she said. 

Jeannette Mageo, professor of anthropology, is Jordan’s dissertation chair. She said Jordan’s love of the theory, her initiative, and her concern for her subject population are what stands out about her dissertation research.

Emma McMain

Emma McMain

Emma McMain is pursuing her doctorate in COE’s Educational Psychology program and her dissertation incorporates stories we tell about human and non-human relationships into educational curriculum, specifically social and emotional learning (SEL). 

“I cannot express what a gift it is to have the time and space to deeply pursue my own writing and research,” she said. “[The fellowship] means slowing down in some lanes so that I can speed up in others. It means narrowing my list of responsibilities so I can deepen my focus on a few,” McMain said. “It means breathing room.”

McMain said her main purpose is to foster SEL-teacher engagement for application in curriculum. This includes ways for educators to incorporate it in their teaching, reflect on the impact of the curriculum on social justice, and hold discussions about the topic with students.

McMain is completing her research through collaboration with six elementary school educators. She meets with them weekly to converse about a variety of shared readings and topics surrounding SEL. 

“I love sitting in a room by myself, caught up in intense theorizing/analyzing, and I also love witnessing the new knowledge and stories that emerge from communal conversations–particularly those with teachers,” she said. 

Zoe Higheagle Strong, McMain’s dissertation chair and an assistant professor of educational psychology, said McMain exemplifies integrity, respect, and care for all people and communities.

“She has served on several projects as a research assistant with diverse populations and tribal communities and is a humble learner while providing immense contributions that stem from her diligent study, exceptional academic and creative writing ability, and service work toward social justice and equity,” she said.

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