Contact: Shouping Hu, FSU College of Education
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April 2016

CPS Graduate Assistant Receives Spencer Foundation Dissertation Fellow Award

TALLAHASEE, FLA. — FSU Higher Education Doctoral Candidate Samantha Nix has been recognized as a 2016-2017 National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation Dissertation Fellow. Selected by a committee of NAEd members and other eminent senior scholars in a highly competitive national application process, Nix was one of 35 promising candidates selected to receive $27,500 in dissertation funding and professional development retreats with national mentors. Fellows are selected on the basis of the importance of the research question and quality of its approach, as well as the scholarly potential of the applicant. Scholars represent a range of academic and professional disciplines and tend to hail from the nation’s top doctoral programs in education and social science fields. According to the Foundation, Nix is the first student from Florida State University ever to be honored with this prestigious Dissertation Fellowship.

Nix’s dissertation aims to develop a framework for how societal beliefs about difficulty in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) translates into individual perceptions of ability under challenge in mathematics-intensive fields and influences students’ subsequent decisions to major, complete degrees, and pursue careers in those domains.

Through secondary analyses of nationally representative Education Longitudinal Study data as well as a qualitative analysis of original interview data, Nix’s dissertation will (1) illuminate the manner in which students perceive social signals of STEM domains as particularly difficult throughout their educational experiences, (2) describe interactions between college students’ perceived ability under challenge in mathematics-intensive fields and their race/ethnicity and gender identities, and (3) illustrate the relationships of those perceptions to physics, engineering, mathematics, and computer sciences major persistence, degree completion, and career intent. Findings will help inform researchers, practitioners, and policymakers of the existence, impact, and development process of these perceptions of difficulty, which contribute to cultures of exclusivity through social signals of challenge in STEM.

The mission of the Center for Postsecondary Success (CPS) is to provide support for, and foster collaboration among, those who are interested in conducting research on student success in postsecondary education, and to identify and evaluate institutional, state, and federal policies and programs that may serve to improve student success.