The graduating president of the College of Education Student Association is ready for his next chapter.

When Sajjid Budhwani arrived at Morgridge College of Education in 2016 to get his PhD in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, he never wanted to be a teacher. He never wanted to work in a school system. He came to Morgridge from Mumbai with an MBA in Marketing, an undergraduate degree in finance and auditing, and years of experience in the business world. What was Sajjid doing at Morgridge, exactly?

Sajjid’s research interests led him to the Educational Leadership and Policy Studies program. His dream is to be an educational researcher, focused on improving educational equity and close the opportunity gap through leveraging geospatial research methods, tools, and statistics.

“I want to focus on leveraging Geographic Information System (GIS) to be able to visibly show my research to educators,” Budhwani said. “This is a powerful tool. Social science research can make the most out of GIS. Through asking space and place-based questions, educational researchers, policymakers, and leaders need to continue to grow their capacity in this domain.”

When it came time to decide on his dissertation research, Budhwani wanted to take a transdisciplinary approach.

“I presented my case to my advisor, department chair, and to the Associate Dean, Dr. Mark Engberg,” he said. “They were truly very kind and supportive. Of course, there were hiccups on the way. Challenges are inevitable, especially if you choose to walk the road that is less travelled by others. You need to be persistent and goal-oriented if you need something that badly!”

His dream got one step closer to reality when he was selected by the University Council for Educational Administration (UCEA) as part of the 2018-2020 Jackson Scholars Network (JSN). The JSN develops future faculty of color for the field of educational leadership and policy. UCEA facilitates the development of a robust pipeline of faculty and graduate students of color in the field of educational leadership. As a result, Barbara Jackson Scholars and Alumni enhance the field of educational leadership and UCEA with their scholarship and expertise.

“This has been sort of a dream for me,” he said, referring to the scholarship. “Through the JSN network I am connected to my mentor, Dr. Jayson Richardson [University of Kentucky]. He has been incredibly supportive of my goals. His research interests includes Educational Leadership, School Technology Leadership, and Comparative Education to name a few.”

Besides his mentor, Sajjid also has very high regards and appreciation for his advisor-cum-dissertation director, Dr. Erin Anderson.

“She walks along with you and makes effort to ensure we cross the finishing line,” he said.

His mentor and dissertation director provided several opportunities for Sajjid to leverage his GIS expertise through publication, several paper presentations, and inter-university research collaborations.

Sajjid is graduating this Spring, 2020. “I have just a few days left before I graduate. As I reflect on my journey here at the University of Denver (DU), I think that it was incredible and the most stupendous one. I feel extremely privileged and blessed to have such a wonderful family here at Morgridge College. Our deans are fantastic! Department chairs are truly amazing. Faculty, staff and the Ricks Center for Gifted Children – all have been extremely supportive of my goals, interests, and aspirations! It didn’t feel like I was alone in this journey. Morgridge College was my village, my true asset!”

After graduation, Sajjid’s new and permanent home will be in Toronto, Canada, the dream city of his childhood. He will be working remotely for a company in the United States and feels fortunate to be able to do so. According to Budhwani, he was able to secure his job because of the opportunities presented to him through his time at Morgridge College.

“Although I will be moving to a neighboring country,” he said, “I’m indebted to Morgridge College and University of Denver at large.”

The Morgridge College of Education commons area was home to an overflow crowd of family, friends, faculty, and soon-to-be graduates at this year’s Graduate Reception. The event celebrated all MCE graduates and featured remarks from Dean Karen Riley, who encouraged graduates to “put the ladder down” for those who follow in their footsteps.

A live jazz band added to the festive occasion, accented by a live stream of hashtagged photos and a video memory corner where graduates recorded their favorite Morgridge memory and left words of inspiration to future students.

To see tagged event photos, search #MCEgrad17 and view the entire reception photo gallery here.

Congratulations to all graduates who go forth to be Morgridge agents of change!

Morgridge College of Education (MCE) held its annual Hooding Ceremony in the Katherine A. Ruffatto Hall Commons on June 8, 2017. A total of 35 PhD and EdD graduates and candidates received the honorary doctoral hood from their faculty advisor.

After Dean Karen Riley’s welcome, each graduate was hooded by their faculty advisor and given a chance to share comments with the audience. Common themes of the doctoral reflections focused on overcoming obstacles, the impact of MCE faculty, the support of the student cohort, and the goal of creating more equitable opportunities for all.

The Hooding Ceremony is a symbolic passing of the torch from one generation of academic doctors to the next. Please see the entire Hooding Ceremony photo gallery on Flickr.

Duan ZhangDr. Duan Zhang, Associate Professor in the Research Methods and Statistics program at Morgridge College of Education, recently returned from a 5-month sabbatical in China. During her time abroad, Zhang served as a visiting scholar at the School of Psychology at Central Normal University in Wuhan, China, teaching a graduate course to an international student cohort, assisting with research, advising graduate students and attending conferences.

“I worked with five other professors in the personality psychology division. The professor I worked with is one of the biggest names in his field in the Chinese Psychological Society (CPS); we attended the first ever CPS conference for the division of personality psychology in Chongchang,” Zhang states. At the CPS-PP conference, Zhang gave a presentation on goal orientation and student motivation.

Towards the end of her visit, Central Normal University sponsored an international workshop on mathematical modeling for psychology and social sciences, bringing in five international experts to share their cutting edge research methods using different types of mathematical modeling. “That scope of modeling is quite beyond what we are used to with APA and AERA research.  Those research methods could be widely applied and I look forward to learning more about those techniques in order to bring them into my research,” Zhang commented.

Upon returning from her sabbatical, Zhang has served on the standing committee for the development of the upcoming Data Visualization and Statistics Center. The Center, scheduled to open by the end of this academic year, is a part of DU’s research incubator initiative and plans to support students and faculty with statistical analysis at DU’s Anderson Academic Commons. “I am excited about all kinds of possibilities for student and faculty projects. As a college, MCE can contribute a lot of expertise to the new center.”

Dr. Zhang’s research interests focus on statistical and methodological research, dealing with multilevel data  with hierarchical structures. “I focus on quantitative methods, providing methodological support for faculty grants and other types of research projects, figuring out how large datasets should be analyzed to best serve different education and psychology research questions.”

Currently, Dr. Zhang is wrapping up a mixed method research project, Supporting Parents in Early Literacy through Libraries (SPELL), with her MCE colleague Dr. Mary Stansbury. SPELL is funded by Colorado State Library and explores how public libraries and community agency partnerships promote early literacy to low income families. For the project, Zhang served as the research scientist and Dr. Mary Stansbury served as the content expert. Elaborating on the research, Zhang explains: “We had four sites, covering a broad demographic in Denver, Colorado Springs and rural Colorado. We collected and analyzed data from surveys, focus groups and interviews.” Having recently presented their research to the advisory board, Zhang and Stansbury plan to submit the abstract and present their findings at upcoming local and national conferences with audiences in the Early Literacy and Library communities. Zhang comments, “I have a 16-month-old boy, so I have a strong interest in this project, even from a personal standpoint. Early Literacy focuses on children ages 0 to 3 years-old; when they are that young, you can’t teach them how to read, but rather promote interest in books and form the habit of reading and the love of libraries.”


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