GSE faculty publish a two-volume book sharing the national impact of “action research”

When students graduate with their EdD at Northeastern’s College of Professional Studies, they have already made an impact. That’s because the EdD program is centered on principles of “action research” and the dissertations involve comprehensive research, as well as thoughtful implementation.

Doctoral Hooding Ceremony for CPS in Matthews Arena on May 11, 2017. Photo by Adam Glanzman/Northeastern University

Sara Ewell, Joe McNabb, and Joan Giblin collaborated on a comprehensive overview of national research led by EdD students around the country. This two-volume book highlights the work of graduate students whose EdD programs share Northeastern’s partnership with the Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate (CPED) – an international organization dedicated to transforming the Education Doctorate into the Professional Practice Doctorate in Education.

According to its website:

“Members are committed to rethinking advanced educational preparation through improved EdD program designs that offer academic rigor, practical impact, applied research, and value. CPED, the first action-oriented effort working to distinguish the EdD from the PhD, defines the EdD as one that prepares educators to become Scholarly Practitioners who can apply appropriate and specific practices, generate new knowledge, and steward the profession.”

The books are available at Information Age Publishing: https://www.infoagepub.com/authors/joe-mcnabb

We sat down with one of the collaborators, professor of practice and full-time faculty member, Joe McNabb, to learn more about the importance of this work and the value of Northeastern’s EdD program.

Q: What is “action research”

Action research is really at the heart of how we establish the EdD as an advanced professional degree — such as a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) or Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) — versus a PhD which is more of an academic research degree. It moves away from traditional research by taking the step beyond just making recommendations, to actually implementing change based on rigorous research findings. For EdD students, when they graduate with their doctorate, they are armed not only with a degree but with a story of how their research resulted in meaningful change with significant impact.

Q: Why is this approach to “action research” so important?

Action research can empower all administrators in higher education to engage more effectively in resolving challenges in colleges and universities.

The first volume of the work we published, Faculty Development: Achieving Change Through Action Research, presents a compelling collection of chapters that explore faculty development through the lens of action research, tackling a diverse array of challenges with innovative solutions. Chapters include Cragg’s investigation into the barriers preventing faculty from implementing digital formative assessments in a top-tier business school highlights crucial issues of self-efficacy and time. Brewer’s examination of developmental English courses offers insightful structural and pedagogical strategies to enhance student success.

The second volume, Taking Action: Creating Sustainable Change in Student Affairs is an insightful compilation that utilizes action research to tackle complex issues in student development and support. Through a series of chapters, the volume delves into various facets of student life and administration, offering valuable findings and recommendations such as Tresselor-Gelok’s exploration of leadership styles in student affairs and Bevins’ work that highlights the benefits of peer-mentoring for first-generation students’ financial resource access.

Q: How did you decide what students to include in the book?

We did an open call for book chapters and reviewed all the proposals. Those that we kept were those that really demonstrated the impact of action research. We looked for highly rigorous research as well as measurable impact. The call was answered by universities across the country who are part of the CPED network, and the results were truly moving.

Q: Why did CPS decide to join the CPED network?

Sara Ewell was the vision for moving in this direction. We wanted our students to do something with their degree instead of just getting a piece of paper. She really created this vision in 2017 and 2018. We introduced the program in Fall 2018 — pivoting away from the traditional model so our students can take away high-impact skills.

This is even more meaningful when you consider the mean age of our students is 43. Most are mid-career professionals who are looking for ways to not only advance their careers, in higher ed, K-12, or non-profit spheres but make an impact. We have students from all over the country, representing community colleges, private liberal arts colleges, specialized colleges in fashion and design, prestigious global research universities, and Ivy League and public research universities. It really is a broad and diverse network of seasoned professionals generating remarkable work.

Alumni Spotlight: Denise Reid: Double Husky, and A Collector of ‘Firsts’

A “Double Husky” is someone who attains more than one degree at Northeastern University.

In Denise Reid’s case, as the ‘Double Husky’ Associate Director of Communications, Social Media, and Brand Management for the College of Professional Studies (CPS), she helps the college understand the value of the online community. And she understands our mission, from more than one perspective.

In the last decade, Reid has applied her unique life experience to strategic action for Northeastern University on the digital front. She graduated with an MBA from D’Amore Mckim School of Business while working full-time to build and manage the university’s social media platforms. She grew these platforms to valuable size, and she continues to build on these strengths.

Reid was born in Boston and raised by her parents, Dwayne and Bridgette, both Jamaican immigrants. When she was just ten years old, her father was deported after being racially profiled and harassed by a client who hired his livery service. The entire family was forced to return to Jamaica, where Reid continued her education at a private school. She said, “My parents weren’t wealthy, but they always prioritized education for their kids.”

Five years later, at 15 years old, Reid was sent back to Boston by her parents to attend high school. She said,

“They thought it was best to send me back and my mom was like ‘You need to go to college’. While she didn’t go herself, she knew the value of it [education].”

She moved in with her grandparents who resided in Dorchester, and she attended Boston Public School (BPS). Her re-emigration was a difficult transition. “I live between two different worlds. I’m Jamaican but was born here. So, the Jamaicans are like ‘You’re not Jamaican’ and I’m like ‘but I am.’ Then I move back to the States and the Americans are like ‘You’re not American’ and I’m like ‘But I am’.”

While at BPS, Reid experienced a curriculum that was less rigorous than it was in Jamaica, and she soon found herself enrolled in advanced placement (AP) classes for the duration of her high school years. She said, “By my senior year, I attended [a prominent Boston-based university] through a partnership program that my principal championed. I received college credit for English 101 and English 102 courses and every day, we were allowed to leave school at BPS to attend class on university campus and this experience gave me a window into college and for the first time.” she said.

During this time, Reid experienced another ‘first’. “Unfortunately, my time in the partnership program also gave me a window into the world of ‘microaggressions’. Some of the professors treated us differently, and it was the first time I really felt marginalized.” Reid describes professors assigning books about poor inner-city circumstances and then expecting the teens to relate to its subject matter directly.

“They would intensely ask, ‘How do you feel when you read stuff like this?’ I’m looking at this professor like ‘I didn’t realize that you thought I was poor!’ It was the first time I felt that a narrative was being pushed on me from the outside. And then I started to wonder, ‘Is this really how the world sees me, or am I just being painted this way?’” Reid says that this experience also prepared her with expectations of going to a predominantly white institution as a Black student. She said, “I realized I needed to learn how to navigate that.”

So I started to take responsibility over my own narrative because I didn’t want people to place that on my authentic identity. If you’re going to know me, you will learn that from me and not what you think you learned from TV or wherever

DENISE REID

Reid said, “This was the first time I could identify with my father’s struggle because he came to the U.S. as a ‘whole citizen’ earning a living as a cab driver and one encounter with a customer led to him having to defend himself in an environment where they essentially forced him to plead guilty to charges that ultimately got him deported.” She said, “They were forcing my dad to be a person he wasn’t, and in my classroom as a high schooler, some painted me to be who they thought I was, and that was the first time I realized all of this.”

After graduating high school, Reid applied to a program called ‘Bottom Line’ which provides college counseling for inner-city youth. The program identified and secured scholarships that paid the way for Reid’s first year at St. Johns University in Queens, New York. But she failed to secure funding for the second year. “It was a diverse college and I loved being immersed in all the cultures,” she said.

Without the ability to pay after that second year, Reid returned to Boston in 2010 and began working in retail at places like Forever 21 and H&M – and she felt depressed. Resolved to resume her education, she soon enrolled at Bunker Hill Community College in Boston. “I decided to just take one class,” she said.

That one class turned into two, then three.

Introduction to Northeastern

In 2011, a friend who worked at the Northeastern Office of Student Employment called to see if Reid wanted to work a summer job in that department. She jumped at the chance. The office’s executive assistant went on maternity leave and that provided Reid the opportunity to extend her employment there. While in that role, two things happened: a large digital media project presented itself and they asked Reid to work on it, and the former executive assistant did not return from her second maternity leave of absence. At 19, Reid landed her first full-time job working on digital media strategy at Northeastern.

That’s when Reid enrolled in the Organizational Communication bachelor’s program at CPS, made possible by the program’s evening course schedule. She recalls, “Balancing a full-time job with studying didn’t really give me the full experience of being a college student; I was able to do a couple of things in my job that did prove helpful to the program, but I didn’t feel like I walked away with a strong skill set that made me an immediately attractive candidate in my field.” she said.

In 2018, Reid became the first person in her family to attain a bachelor’s degree.

Still working in the Student Employment office, Reid decided to use her free time to network. “I got more involved in committees at Northeastern, like NU Dream (for Black and Brown faculty) and other things. There are so many groups on campus to explore,” she said.

By the end of the year, her boss recommended her for a full-time role in the Residential Life Offices for digital media. “Around that time across most industries, people were underestimating or just not understanding the value of social media but they also understood that they needed to have it, so my job included doing budgets and operational tasks in addition to the social media part,” she said. Reid built the office’s first social media platform, and in December 2019, she was asked to work at CPS as the college’s Student Engagement Manager, a role that was an amalgamation of communications, events, and social media. Just like she had done at Residential Life, Reid built out the college’s first comprehensive social media platform for the college and is still growing its audience.

She also thought about going back to school. In January 2020, Reid enrolled in the Master of Business Administration with a concentration in marketing. “Just in time for the pandemic!” she jokes.

Shortly after both her master’s program and the COVID pandemic began, George Floyd was murdered and the country rallied behind Civil Rights advocacy and Black Lives Matter protests. Reid, alongside Earlene Avalon, established CPS’s first Equity and Inclusion Council to advise the Dean. That initiative yielded the college’s first DEI Director, a role appointed to Magali Feruzi.

This was a challenging time for Reid.

“I enrolled in my MBA so excited to get the support of a collaborative environment and that was all gone as we migrated to online learning in isolation. By the end of my first year, I contemplated quitting, and I almost did!”

– Denise Reid

Reid took a hiatus from her studies in the first semester of 2021. “It was just a lot. I needed to take time for myself; I had to process all of it. But when I saw how many credits I had left to finish, I saw that I was halfway there and realized ‘I can’t give up now!’”, she said.

Reid graduated with her MBA in May 2023. She was the first in her family to attain a master’s degree.

Credited with crafting CPS’s first social media strategy, and now equipped with knowledge of the strategic framework to go even further in her career, Reid had successfully established a powerful Instagram presence on the student side and the CPS Dean asked her if she could do the same for the entire college.

In 2022, Reid stepped into her current role as Associate Director of Communications, Social Media, and Brand Management.

I love making each of our social platforms powerful drivers of our key message of access and opportunity to education that transforms futures. Social media is about storytelling, experimenting, and finding community in relatability. I leaned into my own personal narrative to make this happen for CPS, and I realized when I started our Instagram, as a student myself, that what I am actively going through is relatable to our student population.”

Denise Reid

“I believe the strength of our college is the power to storytell. It really transforms the future. This college always seems to have the genetic makeup of resilience. Students that come through here, faculty and staff, are resilient leaders, and their stories not only deserve to be told but telling their stories keep the door open for those who may not otherwise see their way out of their circumstances.” she said.

Transforming the future of education through a social justice lens.

Faculty in CPS’s EdD program prioritized compassion and connection in advancing curriculum development and research in a variety of education settings. As a result, 92% of graduating EdD students actively participated in change initiatives focused on social justice.

Sara Ewell, Director of the EDD Graduate School of Education
Director of the EDD Graduate School of Education, Sara Ewell does work outside in the Richardson Plaza on Thursday, August 26, 2021. Photo by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University

Learn more in this recently published paper “Developing and Sustaining Northeastern’s EdD Program During and Post Pandemic” in Impacting Education.

Journal on Transforming Professional Practice:

https://impactinged.pitt.edu/ojs/ImpactingEd/article/view/409/421

Writing your Problem of Practice & Application Support

This session is designed to help you choose your own problem of practice and write about it in your application to Northeastern. Every student in our program chooses a problem of practice and uses cycles of investigation to find innovative and systematic solutions to create change in their workplace and/or community.

Find more online events: Here

Writing your Problem of Practice & Application Support

This session is designed to help you choose your own problem of practice and write about it in your application to Northeastern. Every student in our program chooses a problem of practice and uses cycles of investigation to find innovative and systematic solutions to create change in their workplace and/or community.

Find more online events: Here

What Can You Do with an EdD?

Learn how a Doctor of Education can help you further your career, advance within your organization, and create meaningful change within your community. You’ll also learn more about Northeastern’s career design services and how they help you prepare for your future career moves.

Find more online events: Here

Discover Northeastern EdD

Join us for the unique opportunity to hear from our education faculty who teach in our global campus network. We’ll discuss the program curriculum, balancing work and school, developing a problem of practice, and more.

Find more online events: Here

Discover Northeastern EdD

Join us for the unique opportunity to hear from our education faculty who teach in our global campus network. We’ll discuss the program curriculum, balancing work and school, developing a problem of practice, and more.

Find more online events: Here

A “College of Access”

“What we are essentially doing is incorporating a value for lifelong learning,” explains Erin Clair, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Programs. “This is a story of empowerment, because not all students are going to have a linear path and access to opportunity.”

Northeastern University’s College of Professional Studies (CPS) helps nontraditional learners achieve higher levels of education that open professional doors. This work is deeply rooted in the University’s founding principles of urban engagement and experiential learning and is set to have a ripple effect for individual communities and national workforce development goals.

“This is the ‘access mission of CPS’. Our purpose is clear, regardless of the jargon: we are creating access however we can. It’s a Robinhood-type story, its mission driven, and it’s why I’m here,”

Erin Clair

CPS Executive Director of Marketing and Communications, Joe Brock, said, “Dating back to the founding of CPS’ (formerly known as University College), we have provided opportunities for working adults to complete their bachelor’s degree, meeting them where they are with educational excellence, and flexibility to enable their educational goals. This hasn’t changed over the years as we continue to expand and grow our partnerships with community colleges and organizations that focus on access for underrepresented communities.”

The college has amassed over 40 partnerships with community colleges across the country. Most are articulation agreements, which maximize credit transfer into Northeastern University and count towards a higher degree. But some of the partnerships exemplify more resourced options, include Middlesex Community College, Roxbury Community College, and Miami Dade Community College, where each comes with either public grants or philanthropic sources for scholarship and provides additional resources for students. This, coupled with the University’s unique placement as the number one University in coop experience [as listed by US News], becomes a compelling offering.

Clair’s team is responsible for the entire program that creates these partnerships, which began in 2017 when Liz Zuilick, formerly CPS Associate Dean of Undergraduate Programs and now Vice Chancellor of Strategic Planning & Projects, spearheaded a partnership between CPS and Middlesex Community College (MCC). The partnership, which is currently in its fifth and final year, received a $4.4 million-dollar grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to award scholarships to low-income and under-represented minority students in biotechnology who participate in an accelerated Associates to Masters’ Degree Program, known as “A2M.”

As an example of impact, in 2021-2022, the partnership with MCC served 40 students at the Associate’s level, 48 at the Bachelor’s level, and 14 at the Master’s level, with 92 distinct students. A total of 34 students graduated from one of these degree programs within the calendar year.

In 2020, Northeastern University’s President Joseph E. Aoun established the ‘Experience Unleashed’ strategic vision, which committed the University to a mission of equitable access across its global campus network. Part of this effort, known as the ‘Impact Engine’ initiative, formally adopted the A2M bachelor’s completion program as an approach to meeting its goal of ‘making the world a better, more equitable place through access to higher education’.

The University is currently working on replicating the approach at a faster pace throughout its global campus network, focusing on partnering with community colleges that are located in proximity to Northeastern campus locations. The hope is that many of these partnerships will grow to attract additional resources that will benefit students.

As testament to the college’s agility in making higher education accessible beyond barriers, the approach has taken many forms – A2M, eA2M, PlusOnes, and Pathways are all common names associated with it. The overarching focus is the same: to provide a “bachelor, and beyond, completion initiative” aimed to equip learners with whatever it takes to provide them with professional opportunities, while simultaneously removing barriers to higher education.

Who’s Behind the Effort

“Through the eA2M Model, we plan to reach learners in the regions surrounding our global campus sites. In addition to experiential opportunities, we offer funding support, support with childcare, and 1:1 student coaching that will help students navigate the complexities of college learning!” said Chris Cook, Director of Impact Engine, Professional Programs, who works to grow partnerships through what is referred to as the Experiential Associates to Masters (eA2M) model.

“We strategically align our programming to be in fields where there is high demand and pathways to economic viability. We know there is significant underrepresentation in high skill, high paying jobs, we intend to support incredible learners to develop those skills and access those jobs! This objective is tied to national workforce development and that approach is championed by Northeastern.”

Chris Cook

Oftentimes, the students who are taking advantage of these partnerships are first generation college students, the first ones in their family to attend college or university.

Earlene Avalon , Erin Clair , and Francesca Grippa (left to right)

“When you are the first person in your family to pursue a college degree, you do not necessarily have access to information on how to best navigate a complex college system.”

Earlene Avalon, Associate Teaching Professor and Director of the Lowell Institute School, who recently helped launch CPS’s newest Bachelor completion partnership with Roxbury Community College.

The partnership is supported by the $1M Federal grant awarded to the application that Avalon co-wrote with Francesca Grippa, Professor and Associate Dean of Research for CPS Undergraduate Programs. The provides 30-50 students scholarship opportunities in STEM related fields of healthcare, technology and biotech.

Avalon is herself a first-generation college grad who understands the barriers faced. “This can be a huge barrier, coupled with the fact that some students have to work full-time or are raising a family, all while pursuing their degree.” she said.

Each enriched partnership aims to be tailored to the socio demographic needs of the student body. In the case of Miami Dade Community College, the partnership aims to provide childcare to accommodate the need voiced by the prospective student body, many of whom are young mothers trying to gain professional opportunities through higher education. Wherever possible, the partnerships are funded by a third party like a state or federal grant that supports workforce development.

“This work is about building a pathway to prosperity not just for students, but also prosperity for the country because of this talented workforce that we know nothing about,” said Deb Jencunas, one of many CPS change agents at the helm of forging these community partnerships. As Director of Pathway Partnerships, Jencunas primarily works to build partnerships that support bachelor completion programs.

“Because they lack access to finance, they haven’t had the opportunity to develop professionally beyond high school or have greatly struggled to do so. What would our world look like if access wasn’t a challenge? That’s why I do this.”

Deb Jencunas

When asked why Northeastern University is so attractive to learners, Jencunas explains that CPS’s direct connection to industries and professional fields offer students an immediate benefit of a network.

Northeastern’s Alumni network is also actively supporting this model. CPS Director of Development Tara Esfahanian says, “Many of our donors are alumni, themselves once in the position of being first generation college graduates that were helped by this approach. They are usually eager and excited to give back in the same way they were given to.”

The Navigator

One of the most unique aspects of the funded partnership model is in the form of direct support from student academic support coaches called ‘CPS Navigators’, whose role is to walk each student through the process of onboarding into a program at Northeastern University.

Mary McCarthy, CPS Director of Strategic Partnership of Funds, seeks to activate philanthropic support from a variety of sources including federal monies, community college partnerships, corporate and foundations sponsorships, and the tremendous generosity of alumni and friends, to enable students to enter and excel in higher education.

“That support can come in many forms including endowed or current-use scholarship awards, in addition to wrap-around services that provide students with textbooks, laptops, and personnel support in the form of the Navigator role. A Navigator is a CPS employee whose responsibility is to partner with students to help them navigate the unique complexities of higher ed administration. CPS is pleased to have spearheaded this model for success, wherein A2M students have a steadfast ally in navigating the various hurdles of admissions, enrollment, matriculation, and degree completion. In different cities, student experience unique region-specific needs. The Navigator can be particularly useful in diagnosing the nuanced needs of a given region, allowing us to successfully clear those unique hurdles. While I have only been at Northeastern a short time, in my 26 years in Higher Education I have never witnessed a more robust and generous student support infrastructure.”

Mary McCarthy

Tahir Abbas is the Navigator for the MCC A2M Program Biotech who facilitates student transitions from Middlesex Community College into Northeastern University. His office is located within MCC and students can drop by to visit him.

Visibility is really important, by having this office and being located at the community college, we are demonstrating how committed and accessible the program really is.”

Tahir Abbas
Tahir Abbas

Abbas helps at every stage of the process, from the application process all the way to placing them in a job internship and anything else in between, including aligning the student with financial assistance, helping with funding tuition, textbooks, or parking passes. Tahir also helps students determine their eligibility for financial support. For example, the MCC Tech program provides students with $5k per semester with a maximum cap of $10k per year. The typical out-of-pocket cost to students is $2-3k per semester. Sometimes, Tahir will work to find alternative funding sources to cover even that.

The navigator role is a major factor in the success of the whole approach. The value lies in specialized attention tailored to the needs of each student.

“If a student comes to me, I never send them away. Universities have complex financial aid and enrollment systems, but if students come to me, I help them figure that out. Once they trust me, they begin to believe they can accomplish bigger goals with this sort of support behind them.”

Tahir Abbas

Abbas related that the hardest part of the job can be quite labor intensive: delivering textbooks. “Sometimes our students are single parents, or pregnant, so I deliver to the house. And I don’t mind because it helps, and I like that.” Abbas continues, “The students are supposed to return those books at the end of the semester. In December, I will drive again to collect them!”

It’s all in a day’s work for the CPS team that is helping students achieve goals they never knew were possible.

Snell Library Tour for CPS Students

Meet CPS Librarian Anaya Jones outside Snell’s temporary entrance on the west side of the building for an up-close and personal tour of the library! Please complete this registration form so we know you’re coming. Thank you!