June 13, 2023

2023 – 2024 Transdisciplinary Studies Dissertation Award Fellows

It is our pleasure to announce the Transdisciplinary Studies Dissertation Award Fellows for 2023 – 2024. The recipients and brief descriptions of their dissertation projects are listed below. This is an impressive set of projects and illustrates that high quality, high impact research is being conducted across all disciplines here at CGU.

Minji Cho

Division of Behavioral & Organizational Sciences

“Developing a Conceptual Framework for Decolonizing Evaluation and Building Evidence”

The dominance of euro-western evaluation theories has resulted in western-rooted evaluation approaches. Decolonizing evaluation is crucial to avoid neocolonialism and better serve communities better. However, decolonizing evaluation (DE) practice and its impact remain poorly understood. This dissertation proposes to develop and validate a DE framework through Indigenous mixed-methods design. The study involves multiple phases, including a content analysis of DE literature and Indigenous interviews to develop the DE framework, qualitative comparative analysis and talking circles to generate evidence, and surveys and storytelling to validate the framework. The study aims to advance empirical DE practice by bridging western and Indigenous methods.

Jaclyn Gaffaney

Division of Behavioral & Organizational Sciences

“How Might We Design Effective and Sustainable Systems-Informed Wellbeing Interventions? A Mixed Methods Checklist Development and Validation Study”

The pandemic shed light on people’s rampant struggles. In response, many organizations, educational institutions, and communities have developed interventions or made systemic changes designed to prioritize wellbeing. Existing research fails to incorporate a systems-thinking and culturally responsive lens, plus, insights from practice may not yet be represented. This dissertation will fill this gap by exploring how to optimize the design of systems-informed wellbeing interventions so that they are effective and sustainable. The answers will be used to develop and validate the Systems-Informed Wellbeing Intervention Design Checklist (SWID) using a multidisciplinary Mixed Methods Exploratory Sequential Design. The checklist will provide a framework for program designers, implementers, policymakers, researchers, and evaluators to optimize their work.

Sarah Jane-Pedersen

School of Arts & Humanities

“Madly in Love: How Love is Imperative for Social Transformation in The Mad Community”

“Madly in Love: How Love is Imperative for Social Transformation in The Mad Community,” aims to explore the possibilities of love in creating a Mad positive community. This dissertation is a call to action, not only to Mad peoples, but their allies and all people who engage in a Mad person’s life—to build the capacity to engage with madness and Mad peoples in compassionate and loving ways thus enacting sustainable and transformative global social change. The significance of the dissertation is multifaceted, as will contribute to the fields of cultural studies, disability studies, mad studies, psychology, and narrative methodology.

Khang Nguyen

School of Arts & Humanities

“Aesthetic Contemplation of the Reflexive Mirror”

Certain fundamental epistemic and ontological states can be disclosed by suspending the subjective faculties of the intellect, sensory-perception and affect through specific contemplative practices, including aesthetic appreciation. In the first part, I bring into dialogue Abhinavagupta’s philosophy of nondual Shaivism and Martin Heidegger’s metaphysics, which investigate how certain fundamental epistemic and ontological states can be disclosed by means of their respective contemplative practices. I frame the perspectives of these two figures as a response to
Immanuel Kant’s critique of a priori reason and philosophy of religion, and Ludwig Wittgenstein’s philosophy of thought and language. In the second part, I show that the aesthetic theories of Heidegger and Tantra assert to have the capacity to give insights into hitherto underappreciated or unknown epistemic and ontological domains that exceed the intelligible world, specifically the nothingness of Being as such (“the earth”) for the former and nondual, reflexive awareness for the latter. In contrast, the aesthetic theories of Abhinavagupta, Kant and Wittgenstein are predominantly concerned with certain aesthetic objects or experiences within the bounds of the sensible world.

Jenelle Nila

School of Educational Studies

“Women of Color Collectives in Doctoral Education: How Women of Color Doctoral Students Thrive Together”

Women of color have a variety of experiences within academia, many of which are marred by the interstices of racism, classism, sexism, and the hetero-patriarchy that upholds the structure of white supremacy in higher education (Gay, 2004; Garcia-Peña, 2022). However, there is a legacy of women of color who have created and continue to create collectives to survive and, more importantly, thrive within academia. This qualitative phenomenological study uses Critical Feminist theory and Plática methodology to understand how and why women of color create collectives in their doctoral programs. Furthermore, this study serves as a marker on the genealogical map that traces women of color collectives and epistemologies inside and outside academia.

Gloria Page

School of Educational Studies

“Understanding Graduate Students’ Sense of Belonging in Research Universities: An Individual and Environmental Factor Model”

This quantitative study will explore graduate students’ sense of belonging at research universities using a national longitudinal dataset to identify individual and environmental factors about masters, doctoral and professional students. The socio-ecological model of school belonging will be extended to the university level where graduate students’ responses reveal their sense of relationship to their peers, faculty, staff, and campus, including family and community. The purpose of this study is to learn how graduate students’ sense of belonging is affected by interactions with others to establish best practices for student affairs professionals concerned with student sense of belonging.

Akua T.J. Robinson

School of Arts & Humanities

“Africana Healing: Spirit, Wellness and Music”

This dissertation is to address the continued effects of the Maafa. Applied Africana Healing is healing, power, spirit, and love. It is the result of protests, marches, uprisings, resistance, cries, laughter, healing circles, rituals and soul work. This project is interdisciplinary in nature as it cuts across fields for a comprehensive and wholistic cultural approach for healing. This continuation of culture to heal on a psychological level is applied through spirituality, and music on a Diasporic level. Applying this necessitates an engagement of discourse as it relates to culture and identity, Diaspora, Music, Spirituality and African Psychology.

Braden Michael Tabisula

Center for Information Systems & Technology

“Leveraging Technologies to Manage Mental Health Distress in a Pandemic: A Sociotechnical Model for College Students”

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States enforced stay-at-home orders to slow the spread of the disease. Isolation, however, triggered anxiety for many, and students turned to technology to cope and sustain their connection to society. This research will examine the technologies college students use to cope with their anxiety during the pandemic. Design Science Research (DSR) methodology is used to develop a sociotechnical model to help manage anxiety during lockdowns. The prototype of this model will be evaluated through focus groups of college students who have experienced anxiety during the pandemic and were isolated during the episode.

Haley Umans

Division of Behavioral & Organizational Sciences

“Promoting Continuous Learning and Organizational Improvement Through Role-Based Evaluation Capacity Building”

Afterschool programs want to engage in evaluation to learn how to improve their services to make a better impact on youth; however, they often experience barriers like high staff turnover or limited funding. This mixed-methods study seeks to develop an evidence-based approach to building evaluation capacity called role-based evaluation capacity. In this approach the evaluation skills taught would align to the established skills of afterschool staff in their respective roles. Both evaluators and afterschool staff will participate in surveys and interviews to explore the feasibility and practicality of the role-based approach to evaluation capacity building.

The Transdisciplinary Studies Dissertation Fellows Award is generously funded by the “Richter Memorial Funds Master Code, Bank of America, N.A., Trustee.” The Transdisciplinary Studies Program thanks them for their generous support of our students and their research.