FSC Doctoral Candidates Take On Timely and Significant Research

Education Research

Sep 2, 2020

by Salma Nawlo
Assistant Director of Communications

At the heart of Florida Southern’s campus lies the cornerstone, the breath and very essence of what our students and alumni, faculty and staff pride themselves on as they work to create a positive and consequential impact on society.

Words like integrity, excellence of character, personal growth and respect for the rights of others are instilled into the campus atmosphere, creating a rich recipe for student success. These words provide a guiding light when we are challenged with social or political unrest. They provide a standard of excellence to which all institutions aspire.

Nothing speaks to an academic institution’s rigor more than its mission statement; how seriously the vision is enforced in the curriculum can be assessed through faculty instruction and student achievement.

“In addition to seeing the administration respond to today’s intricate times, I’ve also seen our professors and students respond through their efforts and quality of work,” said Director of Adult and Graduate Admission Kristen Pinner. “Some of the research that is coming out of our graduate programs in particular is phenomenally relevant and critical. It speaks a lot to the cohesiveness and academic aptitude of our community.”

The School of Education at Florida Southern College offers several graduate programs, among which is the Doctor of Education (EdD), comprised of a diverse student population that represents many different cultures, age groups, and academic disciplines.

“The diversity in the program brings an important narrative to the type of academic, peer reviewed research conducted,” said Dr. Victoria Giordano, dean of the School of Education. “One such framework is Critical Race Theory (CRT), which examines society and culture in relation to law and power. Some of our doctoral candidates are using that in their research to address the gaps in current studies. It couldn’t be more significant to the world, now and for the future.”

Two examples of those students are Sara Fasel Kane and Melody Moore. As a testament to their scholarship and progressive academic mindset, Moore and Kane have been fully engrossed in the topic of racial justice years before the nation at large was forced to truly address its underlying factors in the last few months.

Both doctoral candidates started their EdD journey together in 2017, and while they have different professional backgrounds, they are equally attracted to view their research through the lens of CRT, which aims to address the many intersections of race, gender, and socio-economic status by focusing on the importance of acknowledging human differences as opposed to taking a “color-blind” approach.

Kane currently serves as the assistant vice president for academic success at Warner University, where she hopes to make a lasting impact on racial achievement gaps by looking at disparities in graduation and retention rates in higher education through a CRT framework.

“From a critical race perspective, methods that fail to challenge racist structures are detrimental,” said Kane. “In higher education we have a platform for creating racial awareness by fostering diverse relationships and by discussing constructs such as racism, meritocracy, and microaggressions. We have the opportunity in higher education to eradicate colorblindness, to foster color-consciousness, and to elevate the status of underserved people.”

While retention and graduation rates are crucial to assessing college and university successes and failures, researchers are digging in and stretching out to explore other factors and influencers.

FSC doctoral candidate Melody Moore — previously a middle school teacher and currently a probation officer at the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice — is using CRT to explore first-generation Black students’ positive perceptions on the support provided at their collegiate institutions.

“It is well documented that Black Americans experience significantly lower graduation rates that often are attributed to financial barriers and lack of family support and that contribute to low self-esteem, and lack of college readiness. However, I want to know how some Black Americans are still successful, despite these barriers. More specifically, I want to know what college support interventions are contributing to these successes.”

Moore’s own academic success as a Black student sparks her detailed exploration of her topic through a CRT framework, encouraged that it may lead to the identification of essential tools in higher education that can credibly inform the conversations we’re having today on race, tolerance, and equity in society and in education.

Her important and relevant research is not only inspired by her own academic success, but also by the encouragement of the faculty at FSC. She takes pride in FSC’s rigorous curriculum, professors, and fellow students.

“FSC is responsible for guiding me to where I am today in my research,” said Moore. “I know I’ll excel thanks to the rigor, discipline and the diversity of the cohorts in the EdD program. Some of my peers are the smartest people I’ve ever met in my life. They’re inspiring, competitive, and collaborative and we really push one another to achieve our goals and to make a meaningful contribution to our field.”

As she sees society grapple with diversity, Kane sees Florida Southern encouraging its members of the community to challenge themselves and one another thoughtfully and with intention. The encouragement she is receiving from her professors to take on a progressive, yet impactful topic to the highest academic degree speaks volumes.