“My driving commitment to helping us better understand and address issues of educational inequality comes from my gratitude for my own educational experiences, including all of the important teachers and mentors that challenged me along the way.”
Graduate Scholarship Recipient
Dissertation Proposal Title: Start and Start Again: Educational Aspirations and the Community College Pathways of Disadvantaged Young Mothers
Dissertation Description: Troublingly low completion and transfer rates for students in two-year colleges beg an important question: Why does the “open door” of community college become a revolving door for so many students? Nicole Deterding’s dissertation provides a “mixed-method account of the post-secondary pathways traveled by economically disadvantaged young mothers attending community college.” Using data collected over a seven-year period as a part of the Resilience in Survivors of Katrina (RISK) study, she triangulates four waves of survey data and 125 in-depth life history interviews to understand how these women strive to balance family responsibilities, limited financial means, and their aspirations for a college credential. The challenges the women face are relevant to an increasingly large swath of the college-going population, given the contemporary reality of employment instability and economic insecurity. As such, their stories offer important lessons for those wishing to help young people with high aspirations achieve their dreams for social mobility.
Profile: Nicole grew up in a small town in the Pacific Northwest, the first member of her family to attend college. She earned a B.A. in Sociology, magna cum laude, from Wellesley College. Before beginning her Ph.D. at Harvard, she worked as a Research Associate at The Urban Institute in Washington, DC, and earned an M.A. in Education Policy Studies at The George Washington University. During Nicole’s time at Urban, she worked as a program evaluator studying higher education diversity programs and efforts to improve education at Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority Serving Institutions.
Inspiration: The late Dr. Kenneth Fox, Nicole’s high school social psychology teacher, “had an amazing knack for helping his students see each other as complex people facing common human struggles. The compassion he taught us remains both personally and professionally important to me.” Nicole added that when she has the opportunity to teach, “I strive to foster a similar environment in my own classrooms. I hope that students learn not just the course material, but also something about themselves and others.” Dr. Beatriz Chu Clewell at Urban Institute offered a model of intellectual integrity and demonstrated the power of high expectations and passionate teamwork. “I hope to emulate her long career of excellent research!”
Aspiration: Nicole hopes to pursue a career as a university professor and researcher.
Making a Difference: Teaching and mentoring undergraduates is one of Nicole’s favorite parts of her work as a graduate student. “Because I recognize how much my own college professors shaped me as a thinker and a person, I have been very touched by students’ nominations for awards for excellence in undergraduate teaching.”
Accolades: Nicole has delivered several presentations at regional and national conferences, including the American Sociological Association, Sociology of Education Association, and Eastern Sociological Society.
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Texas A&M University - Commerce