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Dissertation Completion Grants

Dissertation Completion Grants are awarded to doctoral students on a competitive basis. The grant is to help support students enrolled in a doctoral program at Illinois State to complete their dissertation and graduate from their program within two years.

View the past Dissertation Completion Grants Award Winners

2023 Award Winners

  • Sarah Clark

    Mennonite College of Nursing
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Theresa Adelman-Mullally

    Faculty Incivility and Student Shame Behaviors in Undergraduate Nursing Education

    Creating civil and healthy academic work environments has become a priority focus of national nursing organizations. The prevalence and detrimental effects of faculty to student incivility has been documented in the literature. One of the detrimental effects identified by researchers has been the strong emotional response of students following acts of incivility by faculty. The emotional responses as described by participants and researchers closely align with definitions of shame behaviors. However, a gap in the literature exists related to incivility and shame. The purpose of this study is to explore the intersection of faculty incivility and shame behaviors in undergraduate nursing students. A concurrent embedded model for mixed methods, cross-sectional survey design will be employed to examine the relationship between specific uncivil behaviors, frequency, and shame behaviors in senior undergraduate baccalaureate nursing student cohorts at two Midwestern universities.

  • Arielle Flint

    Department of Psychology
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Brea Banks

    Impact of Race and Income-driven Microaggressions on Adolescents' Perception of School Connectedness and Self-Esteem

    Racial microaggressions are a form of everyday racism that harms individuals holding minoritized racial identities. Microaggressions are verbal or nonverbal attacks and communicate hostile messages toward People of Color (Sue et al., 2008). Researchers have also described microaggressions based on the intersections of an individual's socioeconomic status (SES), as these transgressions can impact individuals’ whose income is below the federal poverty line (Scarcedo et al., 2015). Previous research has shown that school personnel and peers view children who come from a low SES background as inferior and not capable of success (Speybroeck et al., 2012). Using survey-based methods, I will examine the impact of racial and income-driven microaggressions on adolescents. I that exposure to microaggressions will be associated with negative outcomes including perceptions of school connectedness and self-esteem. I also hypothesize that the significance of these relations will depend on participants’ race and family income.

  • Jessica McKinley

    Department of Psychology
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Adena Meyers

    “Trust Us To Teach It”: Examining The Associations Among Leadership, Organizational Trust, And Well-Being In Educational Settings

    Today’s educators are experiencing unprecedented levels of stress, which have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. There is evidence of the protective influence of positive climate, effective leadership, and support for educator autonomy in promoting educator well-being. There is also evidence to suggest that these protective factors are lacking in educational settings, significantly contributing to educator stress. This proposal outlines a study that will investigate the relations among educator well-being, transformational and autonomy-supportive leadership styles, and organizational trust through the lens of the educator. This cross-sectional survey-based study will examine the relations among these variables, as well as the relative contributions of leadership and trust in predicting educator well-being and the potential mediating effects of organizational trust on the relation between leadership and well-being in educational settings. Multilevel modeling will be used to account for school-level differences in these variables.

  • Logan Sauers

    School of Biological Sciences
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Ben Sadd

    Creating An Ecosystem, Does Colonization Order Matter in Host Guts Communities?

    Microbes colonize many host organisms from mammals, including humans, to invertebrates such as bees and coral. These microbial communities provide their hosts with many beneficial functions, including nutrition, defense from pathogens, and even developmental cues. Despite knowing the benefits of these communities, only recently has there been appreciation for how ecology and evolution shape the microbial communities and the beneficial outcomes hosts receive. Addressing the role of evolution and ecology in host associated microbial communities is crucial to understanding and predicting the benefits that hosts receive from these communities, and this is the central question of my dissertation work. One such ecological property that may influence these communities is that of priority effects, and I plan to use the DCG funds to advance the experiments from the final chapter of my dissertation to test for these properties in bumble bee gut microbial communities. Priority effects occur when the first microbial species within a host’s gut can shape the resulting community and these effects remain an understudied component of host associated microbial communities. The aim of my work is to test whether priority effects occur within host microbial communities, and what the outcome of these effects might be for host health.

  • Sadia Sultana

    School of Biological Sciences
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Jan-Ulrik Dahl

    Deciphering Rcrb-Mediated Uropathogenic Escherichia Coli’s Hypochlorous Acid Resistance

    Neutrophils are cells of our innate immune response, and represent the first line of defense to fight off invading pathogens. Activated neutrophils generate potent antimicrobials such as hypochlorous acid (HOCl), which kills pathogens through widespread oxidative damage. Recently, we discovered that uropathogenic Escherichia coli (UPEC), the common culprit of urinary tract infections, show much higher resistance towards neutrophil-mediated killing and HOCl-stress than intestinal E. coli. However, how UPEC defend the HOCl-stress was unknown. In my PhD work, I identified the defense system responsible for these phenotypes: RcrB, a putative membrane protein with unknown function. We found that UPEC strains that lack RcrB are substantially more sensitive to HOCl-stress and phagocytosis, respectively, likely due to the increased level of oxidative damage they experience. My goal is now to decipher the precise mechanism by which RcrB contributes to UPEC’s increased HOCl resistance. I propose that RcrB expression controls the HOCl influx into the cell, which increases UPEC’s cellular integrity in a highly oxidizing environment. Using biochemical and phenotypic approaches, I will analyze RcrB expression and its impact on cellular integrity in the presence and absence of HOCl. The proposed study will help us understand how pathogens cause disease in highly inflammatory environments.

  • Nitza Torres-Gonzalez

    Department of Psychology
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Brea Banks

    Impact of Ableist Microaggressions on Dis/abled High School Students: Perceptions of School Climate and Academic Motivation

    Dis/abled youth must often navigate negative attitudes and discrimination based on their disability status (Hehir, 2002). Such biases are communicated everyday through subtle, unconscious, and automatic forms of communication, otherwise known as microaggressions (Pérez Huber & Solórzano, 2015). Researchers have found that ableist microaggressions are linked to negative mental health outcomes, isolation, and low academic performance (Conover et al., 2021; Kattari, 2020; Storey, 2007). Microaggressions have also been associated with negative perceptions of school climate (Solórzano et al., 2001), which can impact student wellbeing at school and academic functioning (Ellis et al., 2019; Suldo et al., 2012). Additionally, biases centering students’ ability diminishes academic self-concept that may cause them to feel that they cannot succeed academically (Lett et al., 2019). The aim of this study is to examine the impact of ableist microaggressions on students’ overall perception of school climate and academic motivation. I hypothesize that exposure to ableist microaggressions will significantly predict negative perceptions of school climate and diminished academic motivation. I also predict that these relations will be exacerbated for Participants of Color.

  • Jazsmine Towner

    Department of Psychology
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Brea Banks

    The Impact of Microaggressions, Racial Identity and Perceptions of Colorblindness on Black Women’s Cognitive Functioning

    Racial microaggressions are brief, everyday derogatory interactions in the form of subtle insults, gestures, or slights (Sue et al., 2007). Microaggressions often are intentional or unintentional interactions that communicate denigrating messages to individuals holding marginalized identities. Previous research suggests that exposure to microaggressions directly results in cognitive depletion. Specifically, participants have displayed diminished functioning from pre- to post-test on the Stroop (1935) color-naming task after experimental exposure to microaggression as compared to those not exposed (Banks & Landau, 2021). The purpose of this study is to examine the impact of exposure to racial microaggressions on Black women’s cognitive functioning. Using an experimental design, I will examine the impact of racial microaggressions on cognitive depletion. I hypothesize that condition assignment will predict changes in cognitive functioning for Black women. Also, racial centrality and age will moderate the relation between condition assignment and cognitive depletion. Last, I hypothesize that perceptions of colorblindness will mediate the relation between condition assignment and cognitive depletion.