2014- 2015 Seminar Series

With the wonderful interest in this project, our premiere series for 2014-2015  scheduled seven seminars, and featured the following speakers:

Andrew L. LaFave – Scrivener, Process, and Finding Art in Academic Writing! 

was presented by 

Andrew L. LaFave 

a full-time Ph.D. student in K-12 Urban Education Policy at the University of Southern California, Rossier School of Education 

October 5th, 2014,  8:00 p.m. USA/New York Time Zone

Andrew L. LaFave

This presentation will provide students with concrete strategies to improve the quality of their academic writing. Based on my own experience developing my voice as an emerging scholar, I offer an overview of an all-in-one research and writing application called Scrivener1. Scrivener was originally developed for screen writers and novelists, but the program’s capacity to organize and store literature-based research coupled with an easy-to-use nonlinear word-processing function makes it ideal for academic use. After the overview, I provide a variety of strategies for organizing a writer’s thoughts, including mind-maps and outlines. I conclude with several suggestions for how to avoid the opaque drudgery that weighs down so much academic writing, and provide some guidance on how to turn students’ writing from dreary academic lead into artful, literary gold.

Andrew LaFave is a full-time Ph.D. student in K-12 Urban Education Policy at the USC Rossier School of Education. His current research focuses on the schools as organizations and the power dynamics that exist between and among administrators, teachers, and students. Prior to becoming a student at USC, LaFave was an award-winning conductor and high school band director in Las Vegas, NV, where his ensembles consistently earned superior ratings at state and regional music festivals. He lives on a 34-foot sailboat in Ventura, California with his wife, son, and cat.

Follow Andrew on Twitter at @Andrew_LaFave; he can be reached at alafave@usc.edu 


Raúl A. Mora –  Dissertating across the miles: Survival skills for international students… and their families!

was presented by 

Raúl A. Mora, Assistant Professor at Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana

November 2, 2014, 8:00 pm, USA/New York Time Zone)


Raúl A. Mora

Dr. Raúl A. Mora

Pursuing a Ph.D., no matter how you want to frame it, is not an easy feat. If you add to the already hard requirements leaving family and friends behind, or sometimes the issues your own family faces once they move to school with you, and the odds may stack up against you more than you wished for. There’s an element of doing your Ph.D. abroad that may not be fully comprehensible for domestic students and there are levels of support and ideas to cope with everything that only “survivors” who can relate to it can provide.

 This seminar, told from the perspective of one of those survivors (and one who had great moments and instances of despair during his doctoral years at the University of Illinois), intends to offer some ideas to help doctoral students and their families on campus and overseas deal with the doctoral program, in particular the dissertation stage. Topics that this seminar will include are:

  • How to garner support from you family… even if it’s just prayers!
  • Helping the dissertator’s family cope with the dissertation (especially if haven’t walked that path)
  • Dealing with language barriers… on campus and at home
  • Facing the tough questions (e.g. what’s your dissertation about?)
  • The importance of study groups… or the value of international students (and recent international PhD graduates) as a safety blanket
  • Why isolation is the worst thing one can make as a dissertator

 Doctoral students and candidates, along with MA/MS students working on their master’s theses, are welcome to join us in the seminar. The presenter also encourages students’ families on campus to participate in the seminar. The goal of this seminar is to start a conversation about how to make the doctoral (and dissertation) experience one that is not too onerous to the families. After all, what good is getting a PhD if your family is the cost you may have to pay?

Dr. Raúl Alberto Mora, born and raised in Colombia, finished his Ph.D. in Language and Literacy at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (2010, under the tutelage of Dr. Arlette Willis). He is currently an Assistant Professor at Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana, in his hometown, Medellín. He also coordinates the MA in Learning and Teaching Processes in Second Languages at this university. He teaches undergraduate seminars on communicative competence and teaching methods and graduate seminars on research methods and literacies in second language contexts. His current research focuses on exploring second language literacies in urban contexts in Medellín, both inside and outside of schools.



Gabriela del Villar, Albina Khabibulina, and Shim Lew – 

International students’ experiences in US doctoral programs: What to expect when you are in one.

was presented by

Gabriela del Villar, Albina Khabibulina, and Shim Lew – Doctoral students at University of Georgia

January 11, 2015, 8:00 pm, USA/New York Time Zone)


Gabriela del Villar

Gabriela del Villar

Gabriela del Villar is a fourth year PhD candidate in the TESOL and World Language Education program at the University of Georgia. She was born and raised in Oaxaca, Mexico. Her research interests include Writing in a Second Language, Systemic Functional Linguistics, Spanish Pragmatics, and sociolinguistics. Her dissertation study examines how English majors experience writing in Spanish as a foreign language.  Before pursuing her doctorate, she taught Spanish to college students at Auburn University.


Albina Khabibulina

Albina Khabibulina

Albina Khabibulina is a second year PhD student in the TESOL & World Language Education program at The University of Georgia. Her research interests include adult second language acquisition, heritage language maintenance and discourse analysis. Recently, she has become interested in studying the international graduate students’ participation behavior in graduate level courses using a multimodal social semiotic approach. In her free time, she enjoys running, hiking trails around Georgia, attending theater performances and art exhibits, and spending time with her friends. Albina is originally from Russia.

Shim Lew

Shim Lew

Shim Lew is a third year PhD student in the TESOL and World Language Education program at the University of Georgia. She was born and raised in Korea. She began her teaching career as a middle school English teacher in Korea. After she moved to the US, she taught Academic Writing to international students and Korean as a foreign language to undergraduate student. Her research interest is second language acquisition, cognitive linguistics, bilingual education, and linguistic minority student education. She currently serves as assistant director for the Georgia ESOL for Content Area Teachers (GECAT) Project.

Abstract: According to the Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange (2010), in 2009-2010, the U.S. hosted a record high of over 690,000 international students (IS), making it the top country with more IS than any other destination. In this web-seminar we will describe the personal experiences of Mexican, Russian and South Korean students in a doctoral program. We hope to provide an insight into the requirements, challenges and benefits of being a doctoral student in a US university. We acknowledge that our experiences might be different from those of other IS in other disciplines and institutions, but we also expect a lot of similarities. Below are some of the points we will address in our presentation:

  • Reasons for going into a doctoral program
  • What you need to know before entering a program
  • Expectations for doctoral students in the US versus other countries
  • Some challenges IS experience and how to handle them.
  • Writing for publication
  • IS’s using their international background in academia
  • Choosing and working with your advisor
  • What advisors need to know working with international students



Rebecca Rohloff Barria – Writing the IRB Research Protocol

Writing the IRB Research Protocol

was presented by

Rebecca Rohloff Barria- Doctoral student at Georgia State University

February 15, 2015, 8:00 pm, USA/New York Time Zone
Rebecca Rohloff Barria

Rebecca Rohloff Barria

Rebecca Rohloff Barria is a doctoral student in the Language and Literacy program at Georgia State University. She has experience teaching students from eighteen months old to eighteen years old in subjects ranging from Language Arts to Computer Science. Her research interests include writing development, the intersection of children’s play and literacy practices, motivation, and literate identity formation.

So you’ve got a great idea for a qualitative study, located a potential research site, and hashed out the details with your advisor. Now it’s IRB time… Now what?!

This presentation will guide doctoral students through writing the research protocol, from crafting the first draft to obtaining study approval, by using the presenter’s first study as an example. The presentation will focus on the key components of the research protocol (summary, rationale, objectives, methodology, data management and analysis, and ethical considerations) by addressing such things as writing style and what details to include in which sections of the protocol. For example, will the investigator video/audio record participants in the field? If so, how many devices will be used, where will they be placed, and how long will participants be recorded? Does this fit into the methodology section or under data management? Or both? Additionally, the presentation will address supplementary documents, such as informed consent forms, parental permission forms, and recruitment materials, with a highlight on working with children under the age of required assent. For example, what if a child lacks the verbal skills to convey discomfort? When, in that case, might the investigator terminate the child’s participation in the study? The presentation will include tips for writing a strong protocol and pitfalls to avoid, supported by examples from the presenter’s experience with the IRB process.


Nicole Pettitt & Molly Friesenborg – An introduction to community-engaged research

was presented by

Nicole Pettitt (Doctoral Student at Georgia State University)  & Molly Friesenborg  (Director of Programs at Girls Inc. of Greater Atlanta)    

May 3rd, 2015, 8:00 pm, USA/New York Time Zone
Nicole Pettitt

Nicole Pettitt

Nicole Pettitt is a PhD Student in Applied Linguistics and ESL at Georgia State University. As a Language and Literacy Research Fellow, she conducts research in and with community-based educational organizations. Her current work centers on the English language and literacy learning of adult and adolescent refugees with interrupted formal schooling – as well as teacher education in those contexts. Her previous experience spans non-profit and higher education settings, and includes teaching ESL and Spanish, grant writing, program administration, board service, and service-learning program coordination.

Molly Friesenborg

Molly Friesenborg

Molly Friesenborg is the Director of Programs at Girls Inc. of Greater Atlanta. She has experience with a variety of youth serving agencies with strengths in informal education and program development. Her past experience also includes non-profit fundraising and marketing, specializing in individual giving and special events. Friesenborg currently serves as Board Chair of the Young Nonprofit Professional Network of Atlanta, is an AmeriCorps alumna and was awarded the Nonprofit Leader “30 Under 30” Award by the Georgia Center for Nonprofits.


Many doctoral students find that their research interests take them beyond the borders of their institutions and into their surrounding communities – after-school programs, non-profits, faith-based organizations, and more. While many community-based organizations and PhD students could benefit greatly from research partnerships, practical training in community-based research is difficult to come by in most PhD programs. This seminar is intended as an introduction for PhD students interested in conducting research in community-based settings, as well as current or potential community partners.

  • The continuum of research ABOUT a community, research IN a community, and research WITH a community
  • Building inclusive community relationships that benefit both partners
  • Negotiating competing or conflicting demands and investments in community-university partnerships/research
  • Navigating timelines and common stumbling blocks
  • Research ethics: important questions — including language(s), literacy, and the IRB
  • Resources for moving forward


Jennifer L. Nigh, Ryan McElyea, Michael Levicky  –  Meeting in the Middle: The Mixed Methods Paradigm

Meeting in the Middle: The Mixed Methods Paradigm 

 presented by

Jennifer L. Nigh, Ryan McElyea, Michael Levicky– Doctoral students at 

Kent State University

April 26, 2015, 8:00 pm, USA/New York Time Zone)
Jennifer L. Nigh

Jennifer L. Nigh


Jennifer Nigh is a full-time doctoral student and research assistant at Kent State University where she is studying Curriculum and Instruction-Literacy. Prior to her doctoral studies, Jennifer was an elementary teacher and reading specialist. Her research interests include picture books, multicultural education, and the use of technology to inform reading development and engagement. She can be reached at jnigh@kent.edu.


Abstract: This presentation will provide a foundational understanding of the third research paradigm, mixed methods. To provide this foundational understanding, the presenters will describe their professional experiences and the contrasting worldviews that they come to their research with. she will then argue for the use of mixed methods as a methodological tool for merging those experiences and worldviews. She will further demonstrate how mixed methods research is both rigorous and robust and can be a viable option for cross-disciplinary, team-oriented research.


Kim Foster, Kyle Jones, Nick Thompson – “From the Water Cooler to the Firehose: Teaching Our Way through an English Ed Doctorate”

From the Water Cooler to the Firehose:

Teaching Our Way through an English Ed Doctorate

was presented by

Kim Foster, Kyle Jones, Nick Thompson – Doctoral Students at Kennesaw State University, GA, USA  

MAY 17, 2015 - 8:00 pm, USA/New York Time Zone)

Kim Foster

Kim Foster is a second year doctorate student at Kennesaw State University, and she has been teaching English language arts for six years now. Her research interests are utilizing students’ funds of knowledge and cultural identities in the classroom and to explore how that informs and shapes their academic writing.

Kyle Jones

Kyle Jones

Kyle Jones is a second year doctorate student at Kennesaw State University, and he has been teaching English language arts for seven years now. His research interests encompass out-of-school and critical literacies as well as student identity and agency formation.

Nick Thompson

Nick Thompson


Nick Thompson is a second year doctorate student at Kennesaw State University, and he has been teaching English language arts for nine year. His research interests include student and teacher learning communities and collective intelligence.


As literacy educators, we have varying teaching experiences in our separate school buildings on a daily basis. Some of the interactions with our colleagues and administration are positive and engaging while others are stifling and lackluster. A short fourteen months ago, each of us chose to return to a doctoral program for various reasons, yet the common denominator was that we wanted more out of teaching than what we were experiencing. The first English class we had together, our professor frequently posited the phrase, “It’s like drinking from the firehose” to describe our sudden immersion into the field of literacy theory and research. Pursuing a research-based degree while continuing to practice as full-time educators has presented us with certain insights and tensions in both of these arenas. We hope that pursuing research makes us better teachers, likewise we think that teaching helps to inform our research, but sometimes they get in the way of each other. This discussion will focus on the pressures, the tensions, and–perhaps most importantly–the growth we have experienced as teacher-researches.


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