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2019 Summer Research Assistantships

The Faculty Development for Student Success program is a U.S. Department of Education Title III funded activity that supports faculty development and emphasizes innovation in instruction. One focus of the program is the development of research on faculty approaches to teaching in the faculty members’ individual academic disciplines, known as the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL). SoTL research at HBCUs has been very limited, so the summer support for SoTL graduate research assistants is a first step in developing a campus culture that values research into innovative pedagogies in a variety of content areas.

For the summer of 2019, four faculty members were awarded graduate assistants to assist with research on pedagogy in their disciplines and to take part in activities from research design, to data collection, to drafting articles or literature reviews.


Dr. Natalie Williams

Assistant Professor, Department of Counseling, Rehabilitation, and Psychometric Services

Graduate Research Assistant: Ms. Sasha Williams, doctoral student in the Department of Psychology


Dr. Williams’s project involved the design of a SoTL research plan, drafting of a literature review, and drafting of another research article. The graduate research assistant, Ms. Sasha Williams, was able to contribute to the drafting of the literature review, complete the first step of the scoping review, complete a first draft of an article manuscript, and complete the methodology section for an article. Both manuscripts (“Are African Americans with Cognitive Disabilities Striving to Work?” and “The Pursuit of Employment among African Americans with Cognitive Disabilities: A Scoping Review”) will be submitted to journals this fall.

Dr. Williams wrote the following about how the experience changed the way that she works with students:

This summer’s experience has prompted me to spend more time helping students expand and develop their writing skills. Beginning this summer, I have embedded a new practice to help improve students’ writing and scholarship. In all of my classes, I have offered students the opportunity to submit their papers at least one week prior to the due date, to take advantage of detailed feedback and one-on-one support. I have also encouraged students, starting this fall, to start framing their own research agendas by selecting topics (for class assignments) that are of genuine interest to them, as scholars and as budding practitioners. Students’ papers are also reviewed, on an ongoing basis, for presentation and publication opportunities.


Dr. Shanna Smith

Assistant Professor, Department of English, Foreign Languages, and Speech Communication

College of Liberal Arts

Graduate Research Assistant: Mr. Anthony Gomes, master’s student in computer science in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Computer Science


Dr. Smith worked with Mr. Anthony Gomes to conduct a literature review on the readings for her fall English composition class, which is the course on which she plans to conduct her SoTL research. In designing the online components of the course, Mr. Gomes assisted with the research on and organization of photographic images, film, music, and video to be used as supplementary material in the course. Having a graduate student help with the design of the Canvas course was particularly helpful as it provided a student’s insight into the organization of the course materials. He provided input from a student’s perspective on the readings and other materials, giving suggestions on a breakdown and pacing for presenting the course materials.

Dr. Smith was delighted with the work her graduate research assistant provided, preparing her for a thematic redesign of ENG 105 in collaboration with Dr. Arlette Miller-Smith of St. John Fisher College in Rochester, New York. During this summer collaboration, the groundwork was laid for future SoTL research on student writing in HBCU composition courses.


Dr. Nelson Atehortua De la Pena

Assistant Professor, Department of Behavioral and Environmental Health

College of Health Sciences

Graduate Research Assistant: Ms. Shaina McMillan, doctoral student in the Department of Psychology
Dr. Atehortua worked with his graduate research assistant, Ms. Shaina McMillan, on a systematic review of the literature using the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) for public health and social sciences. The two have a manuscript in process related to the SoTL on the pedagogy of study abroad programs in public health. There is also the possibility of expanding this to an application in clinical psychology, which is the field of the graduate research assistant. Dr. Atehortua says that he will be introducing adjustments to the teaching process because, for him, the summer research experience with SOTL was an eye-opening experience in ways of thinking about teaching and learning.


Dr. Talya Thomas

Associate Professor, Department of Urban and Regional Planning

College of Science, Engineering, and Technology

Graduate Research Assistant: Mr. Glenn Greer, a master’s student in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning


Dr. Thomas worked with her student on the completion of data collection and a literature review for a book chapter that was submitted for review in early September. Based on the work that Dr. Thomas and Mr. Greer completed during the summer, Dr. Thomas has begun exploring additional avenues for research on her current SoTL topic. The summer research project will also serve as the basis for a proposal for external funding to be submitted to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.