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Outstanding Student Medal recipient melds love of education with philosophy background

by Eli Saleh / Oct 7, 2013

If Natasha Jankowski could do it all over again, she firmly believes she would still be in the education field. Jankowski earned her Ph.D. in higher education in December 2012 and now serves as the assistant director for the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA).

“I knew that I wanted to apply my background in philosophy in some way and I have always had an interest in educational systems. It made sense to me to continue my degrees with a focus on higher education and apply the reasoning, theories, and approaches from philosophy to education,” Dr. Jankowski said.

At the 2013 convocation, Jankowski was awarded the Outstanding Student Medal from the College of Education.

“I am delighted to be the recipient of such a prestigious honor and hope that as I continue my work in the field of assessment and evaluation in higher education that I further the interests of the college and the wonderful faculty and students who have supported me in my educational journey and continue to do so,” Jankowski said.

When reflecting upon her time at the university, Jankowski says the only thing she would have done differently was to connect in better and more meaningful ways with those in the K-12 field in the college.

“While my field is higher education and that was my focus of study, it is important that the two speak with each other and I did not do that particularly as much as I would have liked,” Jankowski says.

One piece of advice Jankowski gives to incoming doctoral students is to not rush through courses or miss out on opportunities to engage in research or scholarly dialogue.

As candidates pursue their Ph.D., Jankowski suggests they take the time to examine issues and ideas. "It really is about thinking deeply and reading broadly, and then joining in conversations with your peers and faculty to hash out and make sense or create shared meaning within or across your discipline,” Jankowski advises.

Jankowski attributes part of her success as a graduate student to Tom Schwandt in Educational Psychology. Without Schwandt’s support and guidance, Jankowski says that she would not have been able to complete her Ph.D. She also appreciated help and encouragement from Stan Ikenberry, former president of the University of Illinois.

“Stan Ikenberry gave me opportunities to conduct research, the belief that I could do it, and the space to explore my thinking as it developed. Having him as an adviser and working with him at NILOA are both experiences that helped me complete and do it in the style, or the way, that I wanted,” says Jankowski.

The time spent in the departments of Educational Psychology and Education Policy, Organization and Leadership adequately prepared Jankowski for the real world, and especially at NILOA.

“I began at NILOA when it was first developed as a research assistant and it was through my work experiences and advising and mentor relationships within the College that I was able to be prepared for my current position,” Jankowski reflected.