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Florida State University (FSU)
Senior Research Associate
Center for Postsecondary Success (CPS)
Founder & Executive Director
College Autism Network (CAN)
Truth - Action - Sensitivity - Order
I privilege the pursuit of truth above all else, or at least I try to. I can make no claims to having found truth, and don’t have the space here to engage in a discussion of ontology or how I define truth. But I find the pursuit of truth the most invigorating and important activity I undertake. The pursuit of truth must be active (thus, “action”), and the value of that pursuit is magnified when it guides individual and collective action. Along the way, is important to be sensitive to the varied perspectives and interests of multiple stakeholders, for those alternate perspectives may contribute to a more comprehensive understanding of what constitutes truth, and how associated actions will affect a variety of people. Finally, I find chaos more intriguing than order, yet I recognize that structure and consistency provide the foundation from which we can effectively pursue truth. Although I value such order, I usually must rely on others to provide it.
Question Convention - Challenge Assumptions - Explore Possibilities
My first instinct is almost always to ask questions of conventional wisdom, historical precedent, or standard operating procedures. By asking these questions, I often bring to the surface underlying assumptions (both others’ and my own) that have not been fully articulated nor adequately explored. But asking such questions also helps ensure that everyone in the room becomes aware of the relevant historical context and benefits from the insights of those who hold institutional memory. Subsequently, I tend to challenge many of the assumptions that implicitly guide thinking. Sound assumptions withstand critical scrutiny; faulty assumptions crack under pressure. Although my challenging assumptions is most visible when I’m challenging someone else’s assumption, I actively solicit challenges to my own assumptions, for I too hold a mix of evidence-backed understandings and unsubstantiated assumptions. With the clarity that results from questioning convention and challenging assumptions, I begin to explore possibilities that may not have been previously possible, discussed, or implemented. I take pride in seeing – and pursuing – opportunities were others do not. Of course, with this willful pursuit of novel possibilities, I acknowledge and accept that many of my efforts will not succeed as I might envision.
Insight - Evidence - Clarity
I judge the quality of my own work, and the quality of others’ work, on these three criteria.
Insightful arguments demonstrate a deep understanding of subject-matter complexities; present novel, efficient, and effective applications of theory and research; integrate concepts from multiple theories, viewpoints, perspectives, or fields of knowledge; and recognize areas of uncertainty, contradiction, and potential complications.
All arguments must be supported with evidence. Everything I read or write is subjected to the “how?” and “why?” tests: any assertion should explain how one reaches a particular conclusion and why that conclusion is the most appropriate. Successful papers and publications will use source material (e.g., data, research findings, theoretical relationships) to build a cohesive and logical argument to support their conclusions. Comprehensive arguments will also anticipate and address potential challenges to and critiques of the author’s conclusion.
Clarity of presentation is critical to persuasion, teaching, and discussion. In both verbal and written communication, clear presentations are guided by logical, theoretical, or conceptual frameworks; present accurate and relevant information; limit superfluous, misleading, or redundant information; employ methods of presentation that most effectively convey the author’s intent; and meet professional standards for language and grammar.
The College Autism Network (CAN) family of projects examine the systemic, institutional, and personal conditions that shape college access, experiences, and outcomes for students on the autism spectrum.
The Linking Institutional Policies to Student Success (LIPSS) project sought to identify specific institution-wide policies that can be leveraged to increase college student engagement – a key predictor of student grades and persistence that is especially beneficial to underrepresented and academically under-prepared students.
I have been the recipient of the 2011 Outstanding Faculty Research Award from the FSU College of Education and have twice won the Robert M. Gagne Outstanding Research Award (in 2014 and 2017). I was also named an Emerging Scholar by ACPA: College Educators International for the 2013-14 school year.