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By Dr. Shu-Sheng Liaw

 In 1997, after eight years computer science teaching experience at the college level, I decided to study in the doctoral program at Seattle Pacific University. Indeed, I spent three years in the School of Education and earned my doctoral degree in 2000. During the three years at SPU, my major study and research fields were focused on educational theory, educational statistics, and education psychology. Professors, such as Dr. Ellis and Dr. Sink gave me great assistance as I integrated educational theories as well as educational research methodology into an investigation how technology can assist learning. I was particularly interested in the Internet as a learning assistance tool. While at SPU, I learned how to integrate educational theories, such as constructivism and active learning theory, into technology for learning purposes.

After earning my doctoral degree, I come back to Taiwan. In this period of time, my research interests include e-learning, mobile learning, attitudes toward technology acceptance, knowledge management, and Virtual Reality for learning. In my recent work, I am more interested with e-books or hand-held devices for learning. My research has been published in over 70 research papers in journals, conferences, and book chapters that include the British Journal of Educational Technology, Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology, Computers & Education, Computers in Human Behavior, Lecture Notes in Computer Science, Lecture Notes in Electrical Engineering, Educational Technology, Information Systems Management, International Journal of Instructional Media, Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, Perceptual and Motor Skills, and Psychological Report.

I am glad that I had an opportunity to study at Seattle Pacific University.

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Dr. Shu-Sheng Liaw is currently a Professor at China Medical University in Taiwan.

Bright Ideas: Connect the Classroom With District Progress

In a classroom in Federal Way High School, SPU doctoral student Lindsay O’Neal posts a thoughtful new quote every day. It’s just one of her strategies for inspiring students to prepare themselves for the world beyond graduation.

Read the complete article in Response Magazine.

by Melike Yucel Koc

In 2008, with three years of teaching experience at a state secondary school and a master’s degree in English Language Teaching, I decided to come to the U. S. to explore the American culture. My journey in the States started as a Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant at Portland State University (PSU), Oregon. After teaching Turkish at PSU for one academic year, I decided to take classes from the Applied Linguistics Department. In 2009, I was accepted to the master’s degree program in Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) in Applied Linguistics. As a bilingual, my research interest was on bilinguals and their use of emotion language. I completed the degree in TESOL in two years with a thesis topic focused on Emotion Language of Turkish-English Bilinguals.

After completing the master’s program, I started looking for doctoral programs in the Portland and Seattle area. I always wanted to pursue a Ph.D. degree in language education. My master’s degree experience at a university in the U.S. encouraged me to stay in the country and continue my studies. When I couldn’t find Ph.D. Programs in Applied Linguistics in the Pacific Northwest, I started to look for professors with similar research interests and I found Dr. Nagy at SPU! I thought working with him would be a great opportunity for me – and indeed it is!

Since starting the program in 2011, I completed three quarters of coursework and I learned much about research and educational theories in the core courses. Writing a colloquium paper gave me the opportunity to focus on my own research interest which is morphological awareness and academic reading of adult second language learners. Working as a graduate assistant in School of Education at SPU provides me with the opportunity of conducting research. In short, SPU has been a great learning environment for me. Through a teaching practicum that is part of the doctoral program, I was able to teach second year Turkish at the University of Washington in the Department of Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations. I had 8 students – 7 were American and one Albanian. Preparing the course syllabus and materials, keeping a reflective journal, and being formally observed all contributed to my learning and teaching to a great extent. Furthermore, I gained teaching experience at the university level.

After completing the Ph.D. program at SPU, my long-term goal is to get published and teach at the university level in a TESOL program while training future language teachers.

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Melike is a student in the Ph.D. Program in Education at Seattle Pacific University. She currently serves as a Graduate Assistant at SPU and as an Instructor at the University of Washington’s Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilization

By Dr. Gail Stewart

Over the last fifteen years, I have developed and maintained an interest in equity, retention and social justice in higher education, especially among historically disadvantaged/marginalized social groups attending colleges and universities (such as students of color, for example). In addition, my experiences as a doctoral student at Seattle Pacific University have sparked an interest in sociolinguistics and assessment; specifically, the relationship between language attitudes, racial identity and the quality of classroom experiences.  The aforementioned influences, along with consistent questions from colleagues regarding classroom engagement among African American males attending community colleges, served as the motivation for my recently completed dissertation Racial Identity, Language Attitudes and Educational Experiences: The Voices of African American College Students.

This study provided an opportunity for me to develop a new research instrument that measures language attitudes and racial identity- The Language Attitudes Questionnaire (LAQ).  The results of my research also indicate several issues for consideration: 1) the power of language dictates to a large extent, the language one speaks, and is intimately tied to one’s sense of identity, 3) understanding of students’ home language or dialect has a major influence on classroom performance, especially among African American students, 3) in a classroom setting, the way students are evaluated and labeled by teachers may have a major lifelong impact on their educational trajectory and 4) language attitudes may serve as a retention issue that has a profound impact on students of color.

I look forward to conducting follow-up studies on language and racial identity among diverse racial-ethnic populations attending colleges and universities to further develop my research instrument.

I am extremely grateful to the faculty at Seattle Pacific University, especially my dissertation committee, Dr. William Nagy, Dr. Nyarazdo Mvududu and Dr. Cher Edwards. I feel truly blessed to have had such wonderful mentors who provided me with an outstanding quality of education, guidance and support that will have a positive influence on my future professional endeavors and personal growth.

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Gail Stewart successfully defended her doctoral dissertation in April 2012. She earned a master’s degree from Pacific Lutheran University and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Washington. She has taught at the community college level for 11 years. She is a classically trained musician who enjoys anything pertaining to the arts.

ImageI have always been interested in how children learn words and how vocabulary can best be taught, and over the years I have often tried to synthesize what I know about effective vocabulary instruction.  My most recent publication (Nagy & Townsend, 2012) is the latest such attempt, focusing in particular on the challenges students face in understanding academic language.  I am also interested in how students’ awareness of language contributes to their reading ability.  In particular, I have been investigating morphological awareness – students’ knowledge about morphemes (prefixes, roots, and suffixes).  In my recent work with Dr. Scott Beers, I have also begun dealing with another aspect of literacy, writing.

Everything I know about these topics is going to be needed for my upcoming research.  Dr. Beers and I are now part of the research team led by Dr. Virginia Berninger at the University of Washington in the new Center for the Defining and Treating Specific Learning Disabilities in Written Language.  This center is part of the Learning Disabilities Research Centers Consortium funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD).  (For a press release, see http://www.nichd.nih.gov/news/releases/011712-learning-disabilities-centers.cfm).  We’ll be part of an interdisciplinary team, including not only educators, but computer scientists, geneticists, and experts in brain imaging.  Our work will range from basic research on the nature of writing disabilities to very applied work on developing interventions to help students who struggle with writing.

Nagy, W.  & Townsend, D. (2012).   Words as tools:  Learning academic vocabulary as language acquisition.  Reading Research Quarterly, 47(1), 91-108.

Dr. Nagy has been a Professor in the School of Education at SPU since 1996. He teaches literacy and research courses and mentors many doctoral students. He was inducted into the Reading Hall of Fame for his pioneering work in vocabulary development. 

My Path to SPU

by Amy Vaughn

As a math teacher in California, I was fortunate enough to be hired to teach at a Catholic high school that openly honored the values I felt called to demonstrate.  I immediately felt that I was a part of a unique community and wholly embraced the hallmarks of the school, particularly that of community service.  In the classroom, I felt that I had much more impact on my students’ emotional and spiritual growth because we could openly discuss our shared values.  But beyond this, I believe my students also participated in learning at much deeper levels because of our trust in each other and their willingness to take risks.             

During my time teaching in California, I felt called to continue my education to the doctoral level, and these same principles became part of the criteria in my search for a university.  I searched the nation for a school that I believed would best suit my needs as a student, a professional, and a Christian.  I wanted a school that was small enough to have a family feel, but large enough to have a powerful presence in the education community.  In fact, during my first visit to SPU, I could feel the same sense of community, rigor, and spiritual connectedness that I felt at the Catholic high school where I was teaching.  I genuinely feel fortunate to have found SPU as a fit for my educational, professional, and personal goals.

Now, as a professional pursuing a doctoral degree, I am committed to innovation and change in terms of teacher preparation and support, especially in light of the high attrition rate of new teachers.  This means raising the standards within the profession and teaching teachers as they should teach their own students.  I am committed to producing better teachers by maintaining my own research and modeling the latest instructional techniques. SPU has allowed me to pursue these goals.  Additionally, the faculty members at SPU have always treated me as a respected colleague and I greatly value their expertise.  SPU and the School of Education have far exceeded my expectations and I would recommend this institution to anyone seeking more than an academic degree. 

Amy is a student in the Ph.D. in Education program at SPU. She earned a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Atmospheric Science from the University of Louisiana at Monroe, post-baccalaureate teacher certification in mathematics at Texas Tech University, and a Master’s of Arts from Notre Dame de Namur University. She taught high school mathematics in Texas and California and currently serves as an Clinical Instructor of Teacher Education at SPU.

By Robin Henrikson

The coursework at SPU for my doctoral program has been quite fulfilling. To be perfectly honest, I have learned more than I thought I would and have been challenged to grow in many ways, including improvement in my knowledge about my specialization, growth in my writing skills and in my ability to understand statistics. Perhaps most important has been growth in my self-confidence and in my ability to critically examine new research, initiatives and programs to help advise and support educators in making decisions about programs for their schools.

My area of specialization is in professional development and pre-service teacher preparation. I have been able to design a doctoral program that met my needs with a combination of coursework, independent study and hands-on experiences that will enable me to be prepared to work in a variety of positions within my area of expertise once I have completed the program. One of the main reasons I wanted to pursue my Ph.D was to help support leaders in the improvement of their schools and to support pre-service, novice and experienced teachers so they are competent and prepared to be effective teachers.

This program has been challenging and I have had to learn how to be disciplined. Balancing school, part-time work as a math and professional development specialist as well as a wife and mother of three young children is no simple task, not to mention the more than two hour commute one way just to take classes. However, throughout my time in this program so far, I have had support from different professors, each offering me a different way to grow through their unique teaching styles. I have also built great relationships amongst other doctoral students. The flexibility of taking night, weekend and online classes has allowed me to pursue my degree whereas I would not have been able to without that type of coursework design.

I am happy with my experiences at SPU and once I am finished with my program I will be a stronger person in many ways including academically, emotionally and professionally. I thank God for the support He has given me throughout the past two years.

When I am finished with this program my goals are to pursue a career working at a university where I can continue to support teachers, whether they are at the beginning of their career or a veteran. I feel confident that this program has prepared me to do that.

Robin Henrikson is a student in SPU’s Ph.D. in Education program. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Western Washington University and a master’s degree in Educational Leadership from Seattle Pacific University. She holds Washington state certification in Special Education K-12, General Education K-8, and Building Principal. Robin served as a middle school special education and mathematics classroom teacher before becoming a teacher leader. She currently works as a Professional Development Specialist for the Olympic Educational Service District 114 in Bremerton, WA. She is married and the mother of three children.

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