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AACTE Congratulates 2023 Holmes Program Dissertation Funding Competition Awards Winners

During its 75th Annual Meeting, AACTE recognized outstanding dissertation proposals submitted by Holmes Scholars as part of the Annual Holmes Dissertation Funding Competition (DFC). The competition awarded three non-renewable awards to support Holmes scholars’ dissertation expenses, including data collection and analyses costs, software fees, and editing services. Congratulations to Leslie Ekpe of Texas Christian University, Latifa Sebti of Rowan University, and Takeshia Pierre of University of Florida for placing in the top three of the competition.

This year’s competition was sponsored by AACTE, the Association of Independent Liberal Arts Colleges of Teacher Education (AILACTE), Teacher Education Council of State Colleges and Universities (TECSCU), and the Council of Academic Deans from Research Education Institutions (CADREI).

Leslie Ekpe, Ph.D. Candidate

Texas Christian University

Title: “The Test Does Not Define My Ability”: A Critical Narrative Study on the Experiences of First-Year Black College Students Who Took the SAT When Pursuing Selective Four-Year Institutions

This qualitative study explores the damaging effects of high-stakes standardized testing on first-year Black college students (FYBCS) when pursuing selective four-year institutions. As the longest-standing policy within higher education institutions, high-stakes standardized testing has been utilized as a gatekeeper to keep students of color out of colleges and universities for decades. While standardized testing was intended for more than measuring the quality of learning, in the past decade, standardized testing has been utilized as an assessment in sorting race (Au, 2016). For this study, utilizing Critical Race Theory (CRT) as a base framework, Ekpe examines the experiences with the SAT for FYBCS when pursuing four-year institutions. By decentering Whiteness through a critical narrative inquiry approach, this dissertation study highlights the lived experiences of FYBCS through an Endarkened Storywork methodology. Ekpe anticipates that the results of this study will oppose the deficit-absorbed literature around Black students’ experiences with high-stakes standardized testing and, instead, provide counternarratives in hopes of dismantling racialized assessment measures in higher education.

Latifa Sebti, Ph.D. Candidate

Rowan University

Title: Teachers’ Critical Consciousness and Agency in Socially-Just Inclusive Practices  

In response to the increasing diversity in schools and disparities between students with disabilities and their peers, it is imperative to critically uncover and address social and academic barriers to students with disabilities’ equitable access and participation in inclusive classrooms. Using Disability Critical Race Theory, the Sociopolitical Development theory, and teacher agency conceptual frameworks, this study explores the inclusive general and special education teachers’ critical consciousness, self-efficacy, and agency in enacting socially just inclusive practices for students of color with disabilities. This parallel mixed methods study includes a survey, interviews, and community of practice meetings with inclusive teachers. Findings will shed light on teacher agency’s enablers and challenges in implementing inclusive practices to inform policy and practice. This study will also offer new considerations about how inclusive education and teacher roles are constructed in schools and new ways of conceptualizing socially just inclusive education and building teacher capacity to achieve access, success, and equity.

Takeshia Pierre, Ph.D. Candidate

University of Florida

Title: Re-Authoring Stories of Success of STEM/Health Professional Males Holding Black Diasporic Identities: A Disaggregated Approach

In recent decades, a call for the recruitment and retention of minoritized populations has considerably increased, as a diverse and capable STEM workforce is necessary to maintain America’s global competitiveness (Hrabowski III, 2012). Populations such as Black males continue to be underrepresented in both STEM and STEM-related careers such as medicine (Laurencin & Murray, 2017), showcasing a need for strategies to intervene and further support their education in classrooms that do not reify discriminatory beliefs about their capabilities. Countering deficit-based perceptions of experiences in education (Howard, 2014), this dissertation highlights the success stories of Males holding Black Diasporic identities that have matriculated through their science education studies and are either currently working in or pursuing STEM/STEM-related careers. In addition, this study enlists a disaggregated approach to uncover the cultural nuances of males holding Black diasporic identities in STEM. Utilizing Critical Race Mixed Methods, this dissertation highlights the success stories of males holding Black Diasporic identities that have matriculated through their science education studies. 

The AACTE Holmes Program supports students who self-identify as racially and ethnically diverse and are pursuing graduate degrees in education at AACTE member institutions. Founded in 1991 for doctoral students, the Holmes Program provides mentorship, peer support, and professional development opportunities for doctoral, post-doctoral, and master’s students.

For more information about the Holmes Program or to launch a chapter at your institution, please contact AACTE’s Vice President of Organizational Advancement Weadé James at wjames@aacte.org.


Weade James

Vice President, Organizational Advancement