A Student Experience with RMS Scholar Heather Blizzard

Heather Blizzard is a PhD student in the Morgridge College of Education (MCE) Research Methods and Statistics Program (RMS). Utilizing qualitative research methods and program evaluation, her research focuses on social and academic support for first-generation students. She is currently developing a measure to examine the self-perceived social support of first-generation, post-secondary students. “This is the first step to what I hope will lead to pinpointing ways to aid in their success as students” states Heather, who also works as a Graduate Research Assistant on a federally funded grant for the Kennedy Institute. We sat down with Heather to learn a little more about her Morgridge experience.

Research Methods and Statistics student Heather Blizzard

Research Methods and Statistics student Heather Blizzard

“I would say that the one thing we all have in common at MCE is the desire to make a difference.”

Morgridge Blog: How did you learn about the RMS program at DU?

Heather: I actually found the RMS program on accident. I was originally setting out to pursue a degree in Social Psychology; however, I had an interest in studying first-generation college students and teaching at a university level, so I decided to check out the College of Education and came across the program. After reading about the program and the faculty members in the program, I was extremely interested in learning more.

MB: How did you decide to pursue an MA in RMS at Morgridge, and then to continue on with the PhD program?

Heather: The faculty played an instrumental role in my decision to complete both my MA and my PhD in the RMS program. My partner was asked to come in for an interview session with a different program in Morgridge, so I emailed Dr. Duan Zhang to see if I could meet with her during that time, and she ended up getting me a meeting with every faculty member. Each faculty member has a unique background in how they approach research, and through their guidance I have grown as a person and as a researcher.

MB: How do you feel the programs in MCE are related, and how have other programs, professors, or students in other programs shaped your experience?

Heather: All of the programs have a central focus on education, but approach it in various ways. By having classes with professors and students in other programs I have gained different lenses to view research. I feel that collaborating with students from other programs enables me to learn more about the way they view research and gives me the opportunity to share my passion.

MB: How would you describe the core value of MCE and the programs within it?

Heather: I would say that the one thing we all have in common at MCE is the desire to make a difference. Some people want to make a difference in how education is attained, some want to change the way education is viewed, and some want to create better ways of assessing education. While each journey is different, the end goal of improving education is the same.

MB: Looking back, is there any decision/action you would change during your time in the program? Or, advice you would give to incoming/prospective students?

Heather: I wish I had gone to more of the events that were held on campus. The amount of free resources that are available is amazing, but I didn’t really take advantage of them. Advice for others: take advantage of the resources. Also, I recommend utilizing the assignments given to you in your classes to hone in on your personal research interests. Each assignment served as an opportunity to do more research on what I thought I was interested in. I came into the program with a very broad idea of what I wanted to study and was able to leave my MA knowing what I wanted to do my PhD dissertation on. Another piece of advice would be to make sure you check the schedule for what classes are being offered.

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