I had the opportunity to spend two days in Phoenix, Arizona at an exciting event introducing the first nine University of Phoenix Research Centers. I thought I’d share what I thought were the most relevant highlights with you. My focus will be on the intended contributions the research centers will make to the growth of scholarship within University of Phoenix. Before starting my review of the event, however, I’m going to introduce why I was there and what I did Thursday afternoon.
I am one of the four initial Research Fellows in the Center for Leadership Studies and Educational Leadership. There are three other research fellows for this Center; Drs. Russ Volckmann, Walker Karraa, and Jason Flora. As a research fellow I will receive financial payments as I complete major milestones in the development of a research-based paper for a peer-reviewed journal. I also will help kick off the new research center and help grow our culture of scholarship. I was selected because of the research I’m doing on Women on Corporate Boards of Directors. Perhaps as pertinent to the objectives of the emerging research centers has been my growing involvement in the scholarly community addressing women and leadership. We hope my experience being welcomed as a scholarly leader will encourage students, alumnae, and faculty to join the communities of scholars focused on their areas of interest. On Thursday afternoon I had the opportunity to make a video that we expect will be placed on the Center’s future website. Dr. Mark McCaslin, the new research chair of this research center, and I sat on stools and chatted about my research and my involvement in the community of scholars. It appears I’m becoming a video star.
I’m excited about all I am going to learn from Dr. McCaslin and my research team. Among his strengths, Dr. McCaslin is a methodology guru. He has had the pleasure of working with Dr. John Creswell! My teammates include a phenomenology scholar and a grounded theory scholar! Dr. McCaslin is also devoted to helping us help students write publishable papers based on their dissertation efforts.
The event began on Thursday night with an opening dinner and a welcoming address from Tim Sluttow, the new President of the University of Phoenix. It is exciting that he and University of Phoenix are clearly focused on growing our culture of scholarly research. Even though he had only been President for a few weeks, President Sluttow answered questions and indicated his support for the doctoral program and the growing investment the university is making in research.
Dr. Jeremy Moreland, the School of Advanced Studies (SAS) Academic Dean, was the emcee throughout the conference. His excitement about and dedication to the new research centers was palpable. I didn’t count how many he times he said “Is that great, or what?” Dr. Aaron Coe, the Associate Dean working with him on the research centers and scholarly support, was also very evident throughout the conference. One of the keynote addresses on Tuesday was given by Hinrich Eylers, the Executive Dean for SAS. We listened to presentations on each of the centers. I’m attaching a list of the new centers and the name of each center chair. While the research chairs’ names are probably not familiar to you yet, it appears to me the school has attracted some very impressive established and emerging leaders in their scholarly fields.
Some themes kept reappearing throughout the research center chairs’ presentations. The first was collaborative research. As we have spoken of intra-organizational and inter-organizational collaboration in class discussions, the conference presenters spoke of collaboration among research centers; collaboration of the research centers with faculty and students, particularly dissertation chairs and doctoral students, and with alumni; and collaboration outside the university, whether with other universities, corporations, or other scholarly organizations.
The second recurring theme was publishing. Although publishing in peer-reviewed journals and presenting at peer-reviewed conferences received the most attention, there were some other less expected discussions. The need to ensure practitioners are aware of the results of our research was also noted frequently. The research of one of our new research center chairs, Dr. Gregory Privitera from the Center for Healthcare Research has been featured recently in Wall Street Journal articles and will be featured in one of Oprah’s upcoming publications. Dr. James Gillespie, who is chairing the Center for Healthcare Research, made an observation that I thought was important. He noted that his center’s goal is to develop a community of scholars and he observed that peer-reviewed journal articles and presentations are merely a part of that process, not the end goal.
A third recurring theme was practical knowledge or usable knowledge. This was tied to the UOPX/SAS focus on practitioner doctorates. There were discussions of the need for the research we do to be of value to practitioners. It was noted the advantage we have because our students, all of you, are active practitioners with daily opportunities to observe real problems and access to organizations where these problems can be studied.
I found a discussion of UOPX and the competition quite interesting. It was acknowledged that many, many other schools are now competing with University of Phoenix in the graduate and undergraduate arena, and we are striving to stay two to three years ahead of the competition. It was observed that we are actually ahead of the competition with our doctoral programs and we want to maintain that large gap. One way we will do this is with the new research centers.
The Research Centers
As is evident from the centers’ names, several of the centers will be focused on research related to the healthcare and education industries. . I hope the research centers will help students (and even potential students) think about the exciting general topics they might want to reflect on as they develop ideas for their dissertations! As the centers develop, they should be rich sources of information regarding who at University of Phoenix is conducting research in the area, a source for exciting research support in the form of webinars and tutorials, help in locating committee chairs with expertise and interests in your selected area, assistance identifying journals to publish in and research communities to become involved in, potential research partners, and research funding sources.
You might be wondering how these centers will be of value to current and future doctoral students. The answer is still evolving, but many ways are already evident. Some are indirect. Increasing University of Phoenix’s reputation in the area of research and scholarship will increase the value of the University of Phoenix brand, and of their graduating doctoral students. Another indirect improvement should be the increasing scholarly skills of the doctoral, particularly the dissertation, faculty as the centers will provide encouragement and support for our research. There will be direct benefits as well. There should also be webinars, blogs, and other sources that will help you as scholars. I’m sure the centers will have value I am not imagining yet.
It was evident that what we see initially in the portal and it the research centers themselves will be start-up activities. The centers will evolve as we all – center chairs, research fellows, faculty, students, and alumni – use the centers and discover how they can best serve our objective to grow our culture of scholarship. I’m excited to have the opportunity to participate in the start-up!
The Center for Leadership Studies and Educational Research exist to inspire, support, and guide the professional development of University of Phoenix faculty through scholarly leadership. Scholarly leadership is a potentiating relationship, among experienced and aspiring researchers, that imbues the critical importance of planning, preparing and producing publishable and presentable research findings towards the advancement of the professional life and the culture of scholarship.
Directed by Dr. Mark McCaslin, the Center creates and promotes opportunities for developing and disseminating theoretical and practical research agendas encompassing leadership studies and educational research. Our vision is aimed at putting research to work in the world in order to create a community of scholars, who are dedicated to the advancement of the field and their own professional advancement, aimed at creating real solutions for the challenges we face today and tomorrow.
About the Author
Lynne E. Devnew, DBA, is on the doctoral faculty for the University of Phoenix where she teaches online, facilitates a five day residence leadership class, and chairs doctoral committees. She has her BS from Simmons College, her MS from Columbia University, and her DBA from Boston University. Before pursuing her doctorate, she spent 23 years with IBM and was among the first women there to manage professionals. She also coaches church leaders and serves on several non-profit boards. Her focus is now on women and leadership. She co-chaired a discussion of women’s leadership development at the International Leadership Association Women and Leadership Affinity Group Inaugural Conference at Asilomar in 2013 and will be co-chair of the research stream Increasing Equality in Power and Decision-making at Asilomar in 2015. A participant in the 2014 academic colloquium Advancing Theories of Women and Leadership at Utah Valley University, she and her team will be presenting Women’s Leader Identity Development: Traveling the Twisting Path at the International Leadership Association’s 2014 preconference follow-up workshop.