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First-of-its-kind Scholarship Established for Online Doctoral Students

by Tom Hanlon / Nov 15, 2021

Denice Hood, Yoon Pak, Sharon Lee

Sharon S. Lee, who earned her Ph.D. from the College of Education in 2010, is establishing a fund—in honor of two current College faculty—to help online doctoral students.

Sharon Lee’s motivation for establishing a scholarship was threefold:

  • Help online students
  • Support research advancing diversity and equity
  • Honor two professors who have impacted her professional development

With those ideals in mind, Lee, a teaching assistant professor in the Department of Education Policy, Organization & Leadership, is in the process of creating the Hood-Pak Dissertation Research Scholarship. The first recipients of the $500 scholarship will be named at the College of Education’s spring all-faculty meeting.

The annual scholarship is targeted specifically for doctoral candidates who are in the dissertation stage and who are online students focusing on diversity and equity issues.

“I wanted to honor Dr. Yoon Pak and Dr. Denice Hood,” says Lee. “I’ve worked closely with them in building this new online doctoral program, particularly its diversity and equity concentration. They’re both wonderful teachers, advisors, and mentors, so I wanted to recognize their work.”

Lee focused the scholarship on online students for a few reasons. “At this point, there are more online graduate students than there are on-campus grad students in the College of Education,” she says. “And the growth has been particularly fast at the doctoral level.

“At the same time, doctoral students can’t take advantage of many campus-based funding sources. These online doctoral students are highly motivated, but they’re in a double bind because they’re oftentimes paying out of pocket for tuition, working full-time with children or grandchildren and juggling all kinds of responsibilities, with limited funds available to them.”

Lee notes that as a graduate of the College, she benefited from fellowships and other support, and she wants to pass that help along.

“As someone who’s benefited from alumni-sponsored awards as a student, I want to continue that spirit of giving now as a faculty member,” she says. “I hope the scholarship can help a grad student fund some aspect of their research. The award also recognizes their potential and value of their dissertation study.”

Lee sees significant potential in the doctoral students she teaches and advises.

“They’re extremely motivated to do well and as practitioners they really want to effect change where they work,” she says. “They want to improve teacher trainings, they want to improve curriculum and the way that students are taught, they want to improve student services and mentoring programs. It’s really exciting to see the things they’re doing.”

This scholarship is the first of its kind for online doctoral students (the online doctoral program began in 2017). Lee says it has been very easy to set up through Lisa Denson, assistant dean for advancement, and hopes that the fund will continue to grow over time with additional donors who might wish to honor Dr. Hood and Dr. Pak for all the work they do to advance diversity and equity.