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Analytical Personal and Professional Update

Since my last portfolio review 12 months ago, I have had several new

opportunities present themselves to me that have allowed me to expand my

professional activities to grow as a higher education researcher. Until November

2017, I continued to work at George Mason University Recreation in the role of

Assistant Director for Club Sports and Assessment. I had been in that position for just

over three years and was finding that my personal growth had stagnated. I was

looking for new opportunities and interviewed as a finalist for two Director of

Recreation positions last summer and fall at Princeton University and William

Paterson University. While neither of those opportunities came to fruition, a new

option presented itself at the Council for Graduate Schools (CGS), the professional

association of Deans of Graduate Schools. I made the transition to CGS in November

and have since been working as the Program Manager for Best Practices and

Research. In this role I have been able to learn a great deal about the worlds of

graduate education, education research, grant applications and funding, associations,

and government affairs. I believe that my decision to take HE 722 (Organization &

Administration of Higher Education) with Dr. Hironao Okahana directly led to my

hiring at CGS as Dr. Okahana is one of my supervisors in this new role and someone

with whom I work closely on a daily basis.

Growth as a Researcher

At CGS, my primary responsibility is to manage the 62 institutional partners

involved in the National Science Foundation and Mellon Foundation funded

Understanding PhD Career Pathways for Program Improvement project. This has

involved: coordinating meetings for the institution’s project directors; assisting in

the development of survey instruments; compiling best practice trends based on

reports filed by the participating institutions; assisting in the collection and analysis

of data collected by the institutions; creating data visualizations of the analyzed data;

and ensuring that all project partners and our team at CGS follow project timelines

and institutional review board (IRB) guidelines. In this role I have been able to utilize

the skills I have developed in EDRS 811 (Quantitative Research Methods), 812

(Qualitative Research Methods), and 822 (Advanced Qualitative Research Methods)

as I work with both quantitative and qualitative data, including analysis of open-

ended question responses and identification of recurring themes in institutional


My work on this project, and my ability to speak French fluently, also enabled

me to travel to Quebec to present at two separate events. At the Association

francophone pour le savoie (ACFAS) conference, the largest French Canadian higher

education conference, I presented as part of a day-long seminar on improving career

outcomes for doctoral students in Canada. The other presentation was held at the

University of Quebec’s Institute of Scientific Research and was attended by

representatives from the government of Quebec’s Ministry of Higher Education, the

Fonds de Recherche de Quebec (Quebec’s equivalent of the National Science

Foundation), researchers from the University of Laval who are working on a similar

project in Quebec, and the Director of Research for the University of Quebec system.

This opportunity allowed me to build my professional network in Canada, to present

in French at an academic conference for the first time, and to learn about efforts to

improve graduate education in Canada and France.

Additionally, I have been preparing for a CGS-hosted convening of

representatives from approximately 15 institutions and 10 grant funding and trade

organizations associated with the Preparing Future Faculty to Assess Undergraduate

Learning project, which examined effective methods to train PhD students to teach

courses and assess student learning as faculty members. The meeting will provide an

opportunity to discuss lessons learned from the project and plan for the next phase

of this project. One of the classes I took in Spring 2017, Scholarship of Teaching and

Learning (SoTL) (HE 704), has proven particularly useful in this work. I feel my

knowledge of SoTL concepts and principles has allowed me to make substantive

contributions to planning meetings with my supervisor and our external evaluation


Other projects I have been involved in at CGS have all focused on research

practices, including developing an instrument, collecting data, and reporting the

results of surveys to our members. Our Pressing Issues survey, for example, focused

on Graduate Deans’ perceptions of the current status of graduate student’s mental

well-being. The results of this survey led to our hiring of a graduate student

researcher, who I have been helping supervise, to create a literature review and

white paper on this topic. My previous experiences working in student affairs and

student well-being have informed my work on this project.

Other tasks have included working with our Graduate Enrollment & Degrees

project, which reports trends in enrollment and degree conferrals in the U.S., and our

International Graduate Student Report, which surveys over 350 graduate schools in

the U.S. and reports trends on applications, offers of admission, and enrollments for

international students based on countries of origin and degree fields of study. The

latter report has been particularly relevant with the current political climate and has

garnered significant attention in the media and in the higher education policy fields.

Government Relations

Through an assignment in Leadership in Higher Education (HE 710) that

required me to observe a leader in higher education, I was able to join our Vice

President of Government Relations, Dr. Beth Buehlmann, on two advocacy visits to

Capitol Hill on behalf of our organization. This experience, particularly the discussion

with Dr. Buehlmann and noticing that we had many of the same personality traits on

the Myers-Briggs personality indicator and the StrengthsFinder assessment, has led

me to consider more actively advocating on behalf of higher education interests in

the future.

Student Services Involvement

Outside of my work with CGS, I also continued to be involved in NIRSA, the

association of collegiate recreation professionals, in multiple roles, including serving

as a consultant and presenter for the Collegiate Sport Club Institute (for which our

committee won a NIRSA Service Award), being a member of the organizing

committee for the 2017 NIRSA Club Soccer National Championships, and serving on

the Program Committee for the 2018 NIRSA Annual Conference.

Advising Master’s Students

Lastly, I was able to serve on master’s thesis committees for two of my

student employees at Mason, and I am currently serving on the committee for a

current master’s student. This has been, and continues to be, another great growth

opportunity for me as I feel I have learned a great deal about advising and assisting

students on research projects and about the thesis evaluation process in general.

This work has reminded me that I enjoy working with students and helping them

develop and rekindled my interest in teaching university level classes, likely in an

adjunct role, once I complete my degree.

Addressing Identified Skills Gaps from Portfolio 1

In the last year, I have addressed most of the skill gaps identified in my Portfolio I

review by taking Dr. Baker up on his offer to facilitate a directed reading course (HE

897), which we titled Philanthropy and Affinity in Sport and Higher Education. This

coursework focused on further exploring the scholarly work to date on the subject of

philanthropy and alumni affinity to their alma maters. This included expanding on

Thelin’s works, including his recently published Philanthropy and American Higher

Education. I also read many publications by Noah Drezner and have joined his $OPHIE

listserv (Scholars of Philanthropy in Higher Education), which is a useful resource for

contacting other scholars in philanthropy and staying abreast of the work they are doing.

Lastly, as I did the work for the directed reading course, I found several recently published

dissertations on the subject of philanthropy of former varsity student athletes. I have

contacted and connected with these newly minted PhD graduates and discussed my

research idea and their willingness to share information and review my work in the future.

Updated Intellectual and Professional Goals

Intellectually and professionally, my long-term goals have generally stayed

consistent in the last year. My topic of interest for a potential research project has

continued to focus on philanthropic donations and motivations to donate on the part of

former club sport student athletes. As I have discussed the subject with fellow students,

collegiate recreation professionals, scholars, and my new work colleagues, all have agreed

that a gap in research exists with this subgroup of alumni. At George Mason alone, we had

over 800 students who participated in club sports per year, which is more than double the

number of varsity student athletes for which a great deal of research has been conducted.

At Mason, club sport student athletes represent over 2% of the student population and

there is a need for more information about this subgroup of students and how their unique

experience while at the institution affects their decisions to donate in the future.

Professionally, my long-term goal of overseeing Student Services at a university

remains unchanged. While my current job is a bit of a deviation from that path, the

projects I am working on are generally related to aspects of student services, including

Career Services and Advising (PhD Career Pathways), International Education

(International Survey), and Wellness and Counseling and Psychological Services

(Graduate Student Mental Health). This detour was slightly unexpected, but it has helped

me grow as a professional and learn about different aspects of higher education. I would

ultimately like to return to a campus, preferably in a leadership role, such as Director of

Recreation. After gaining some more experience at CGS, I plan to keep an eye out for

such opportunities and to continue to maintain my professional network in the student

services field while adding to my portfolio of skills in other related domains.