Education alumna receives Outstanding Dissertation Award

UMSL alumna Juliet Scherer received the 2012 Outstanding Dissertation Award from the National Association for Developmental Education.

After 13 years of teaching at a community college, Juliet Scherer has seen students at all points of the learning spectrum. And when she decided to pursue a doctoral degree from the University of Missouri–St. Louis, she knew right away that her dissertation work would revolve around developmental education.

Scherer, who teaches English at St. Louis Community College-Meramec, completed her doctoral degree in 2010 at UMSL. Her dissertation, “Developmental Reading Course Repeaters with Significant Cognitive Disabilities at the Community College: Evaluating Enrollment Motivations and Goals,” has received the 2012 Outstanding Dissertation Award from the National Association for Developmental Education. She  was presented the award Feb. 23 at the NADE conference in Orlando, Fla. Scherer received a $500 stipend, a plaque and an invitation to present her dissertation at the 2013 NADE conference.

She credits the amazing faculty in UMSL’s College of Education for her success.

“My professors in the college were entirely committed to my development as a scholar,” Scherer said. “I was given a great deal of latitude to pursue my research interests while also being provided the support and guidance I needed to execute the study. (Kent) Farnsworth is more than any student could hope for in a graduate adviser. He guided me during every stage of my dissertation work, provided constructive feedback, maintained high standards and gave me room to make mistakes and grow from them. He is the consummate scholarly model; fortunate are those who have the opportunity to work with and learn from him.”

She began coursework at UMSL in 2004, emphasizing community college leadership. Scherer’s research centers on developmental education and the delivery of precollegiate coursework in a higher education environment. She decided to focus her dissertation in this area because of her experience over the years with individuals in her classroom. She saw students with low cognitive abilities enroll in college courses and repeatedly failing.

Scherer found that most students with significant cognitive disability continued to enroll in courses because they strongly believed they were intellectually capable college students; they were interested in boosting their self-worth by earning college degrees or they were interested in increasing their employability by earning college degrees. Additionally students indicated that they were inspired by others to take classes, they did it for social reasons or because they didn’t have other post-secondary education options.

She said she’s grateful to UMSL, for providing her the professional growth opportunities she had been looking for.

“One of my primary goals upon enrolling was not to prepare to be what is traditionally thought of as a higher education leader – an administrator – but rather to become a more capable faculty leader,” Scherer said.  “I figured the best way to strengthen my abilities was to learn from colleagues who had more and different experiences than me. The program at UMSL exceeded my expectations in that I was co-enrolled with traditional graduate students, student services personnel, faculty from a variety of disciplines and administrators with many years of experience in the field. My colleagues and I agree that one of the greatest benefits of being in the program has been membership in a regional network of community college professionals.”

The National Association for Developmental Education was founded in 1976 and focused on the academic success of students by providing professional development, supporting student learning and facilitating communications among developmental education professionals. The Outstanding Dissertation Award is presented annually.


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