35 Years of the NASPA Hardee Dissertation-of-the-Year Award
Kristen Renn and Amy Franklin-Craft, Michigan State University
As dissertation advisor and advisee we share a special bond through the Hardee award: Kris was a winner in 1998, and Amy was recognized for excellence in 2010. We are also bound by our shared commitments to scholarly practice in student affairs and to social justice. Our paths to, through, and beyond doctoral study have been different; and in that sense we illustrate the many ways of enacting a career in student affairs. Both of us began as practitioners in the field and kept our jobs as we pursued PhDs. Kris left the practitioner career ladder to become a faculty member, and Amy is a midcareer professional exploring post-PhD options.
Kristen Renn (left) and Amy Franklin-Craft
My dissertation on biracial college students emerged directly from my professional practice with diverse students at Brown University. Mentored by Professor Karen Arnold at Boston College (BC), I understood that interesting theoretical work can be connected to real problems of practice and that higher education is an applied field of study that can address issues of equity and social justice. I was fortunate to have the support of colleagues at Brown and the community of scholars at BC. I also benefitted as a monoracial White researcher from the generosity of biracial students themselves who pressed me to think more deeply about the role of research and researchers in the lives of college students. Those lessons have stuck with me now that I am in a position to mentor other researchers.
As an experienced student affairs administrator, I began my scholarly endeavors armed with some knowledge and insight into the ways practitioners contribute to and detract from the out-of-class experience of historically marginalized students. Though I had a clear understanding of the need to assess and develop intercultural competency among practitioners, I struggled to identify a clear definition of competency and an adequate assessment measure. I was fortunate to have had two strong role models and mentors, Kris and Dr. Linn Van Dyne. I also benefitted from the support of colleagues at Michigan State University and practitioners from across the country. I am particularly indebted to the subset of research participants who courageously waived anonymity, allowing me to solicit peer feedback regarding their intercultural competency. The insights I gained through comparative analysis resulted in a great deal of personal reflection, reshaping my thoughts and behaviors related to supervision, education, and workshop facilitation.
The Importance of Social Justice Work Across Generations
As advisor and advisee, we represent two generations of scholars committed to both student affairs and social justice. Between 1998 and 2010, there were substantial changes within the academy. The breadth and depth of scholarship related to identity, access, and difference increased. Our understanding of what constitutes competence, inclusion, and equity has evolved. Finally, the sheer number of individuals not previously welcomed within the academy as students, administrators, or scholars has multiplied. Yet, for future generations of student affairs practitioners and scholars, there is still much work to be done. Equity, access, and affirmation have not yet universally been achieved.