OCCRL expands its research-based outreach to underserved populations

by the College of Education  /   Oct 16, 2017

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New grants focus on STEM pathways and transitioning learners at community colleges

Formed in 1989, the Office of Community College Research and Leadership (OCCRL) uses research and evaluation methods to improve policies, programs, and practices that lead to enhanced education in community colleges and for diverse learners who are transitioning to college statewide, nationwide, and internationally. OCCRL researchers strive to enrich outcomes for youth and adults in underserved populations who are transitioning into employment.

This past year, OCCRL received a grant for nearly $300,000 for a national study of STEM pathways at Hispanic-serving community colleges and was granted National Science Foundation funding of more than $468,000 from a $1.6 million collaborative research project on transitioning learners to calculus in the community college. 

OCCRL researchers were involved with 43 events and presentations and authored or co-authored 32 publications. The organization published 66 blog posts and released nine Democracy’s College podcasts, its newest media platform for outreach and engagement.

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In addition to research on career and technical education pre-apprenticeships, partnerships, reverse transfer, and continued work on STEM pathways at minority-serving community colleges in Illinois, OCCRL provided technical assistance to 13 community colleges through the Pathways to Results project via support from the Illinois Community College Board.

Eboni Zamani-GallaherSince 2015 the unit has been led by Eboni Zamani-Gallaher, a professor in the Department of Education Policy, Organization & Leadership. This year Zamani-Gallaher became the first person of color to receive the Senior Scholar Award from the Council for the Study of Community Colleges (CSCC). The award recognizes scholars for their publications that contribute to the national body of knowledge about community colleges. Other credentials for the award include candidates’ demonstrated excellence in teaching, advising, or mentoring; integration of knowledge to teaching and service; and contributions toward significant new discoveries in community college research or practice. 

“My involvement in CSCC over the years has facilitated my professional and personal growth,” Zamani-Gallaher said. “This award, for me, demonstrates that I have been able to stay true to my academic and creative endeavors, be of service, and make a knowledge contribution to the field.”

In April 2015, Dr. Eboni Zamani-Gallaher was named director of OCCRL. She is a professor in the Department of Education Policy, Organization & Leadership and earned her doctorate at Illinois while working at OCCRL. After completing her degree she held faculty positions at West Virginia University and Eastern Michigan University, where she was promoted to full professor and became a leader of the community college leadership graduate program.

Throughout her career, Zamani-Gallaher's scholarship has focused on adjustment and transition of marginalized collegians, transfer students, access policies, equitable student outcomes, student development, and services at community colleges.