Featured Alumni

Shakeer Abdullah (MA ’04)Shakeer Abdullah photo

Current City: Morrow, Georgia
Current Job: Vice President of Student Affairs, Clayton State University

The HESA and SPA programs really started me on my path to diversity work in higher education administration.  I was a graduate assistant for two years in OSU’s Multicultural Center and spent two more years there following the completion of my Masters degree.  Dr. Susan R. Jones’ courses related to diversity in higher education help give me my voice and a theoretical understanding of social justice and the experiences of underrepresented students in colleges and universities.  I am grateful to Dr. Bob Rogers for pushing me to dig deeper and become more of a leader by presenting in the summer orientation program and mentoring the cohort behind me.  My love for international travel and study was sparked during my summer studying higher education at Lancaster University in England with Dr. Mary Ann Danowitz-Sagaria. All of those experiences had me well prepared for my PhD program following my time at Ohio State. The seeds of my research interests in the experiences of diversity services staff in higher education, Muslim students in higher education, and the impact of study abroad programs on students of color were all planted in the HESA/SPA program and there is no doubt in my mind that I wouldn’t be in the position that I am today but for the caring and knowledgeable faculty, students, and staff at OSU.

Jessica Brinker (MA ’05)Jessica-Brinker 2014

Current City: Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Current Job: Interim Director, Friday Center for Continuing Education, and Director, Credit Programs at University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill

My time at OSU prepared me well to be a generalist practitioner in higher education administration.  I was a master’s student from 2003 to 2005; my assistantship was in The Ohio Union (the old Union, that is…).  Since then, I have worked in capacities of student organization advising, academic advising, budget management, enrollment management, and academic program administration.

HESA’s ability to bridge the gap between theory and practice, as well as the opportunities to learn tangible skills in both the classroom and my assistantship, are what led to my current success.  A broad theoretical foundation AND a confident, practical readiness are what have together driven my professional progression.

I especially remember being in the classroom with Dr. Susan Jones and Dr. Ada Demb.  Neither of those faculty members lectured in the traditional sense; they challenged us and they questioned our assumptions.  To this day, I reflect on specific classroom discussions to find guidance in my work.  Likewise, my peers were brilliant! Our lengthy out-of-class conversations were often debriefs of heady theoretical content with real-life application.  I’m grateful to the HESA program, and glad to champion it as an alumna.

John Halsteadjhalstead (PhD ’80)

Former Job: President, SUNY College at Brockport

The HESA Program at The Ohio State University prepared me well for a lifelong career in higher education. However, never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be a university president, and now I’ve done it twice in the past 14 years. I aspired to be a chief student affairs officer (and I’ve done that at two different institutions over 18 years) and also taught graduate seminars in higher education. My dissertation on the time allocations of VPSA’s at Big Ten/CIC institutions provided a wonderful research context for being a VP right out of Ohio State. But little did I know that as I cited Cohen & March on “Leadership & Ambiguity” that the excerpt about the “relentless pace of college presidents” would come home to roost. Yet, it was the kind of “support & challenge” often cited by Bob Rodgers (from Nevitt Sanford) and the rigors provided by my doctoral advisor, Bob Silverman, that served me well. Student affairs is a terrific platform for a presidency and I am grateful that both vice presidents I worked for at Ohio State, Dick Armitage and Bill Nester, encouraged me to launch my professional career at the highest level. Yet, even now, I still consider myself a lifelong student of higher education as both of my presidencies have been at universities focused on student success.

Adrian Huertaahuerta (MA ’09)

Current City: Los Angeles, California
Current Job: Provost Postdoctoral Scholar, University of Southern California Pullias Center for Higher Education

The HESA program provided me an opportunity to understand the intersections of research, theory, and practice. Through internships, graduate assistantships, and research projects, I found my niche in studying and developing programs that promote access, equity, and success for male students of color. I attribute my interest in mixing research and practice to my advisors/mentors, Dr. D’Andra Mull and Dr. Tatiana Suspitsyna. They consistently challenged me to engage in the literature, develop my research innterests, and search for professional development opportunities. [As] a PhD student at UCLA, I [continued] studying college access and equity for young males of color and [developed] strategies to increase their postsecondary degree attainment.

Joy Gaston Gayles (PhD ’02)Gayles 2014

Current City: Raleigh, North Carolina
Current Job: Professor of Higher Education, North Carolina State University

When I started the doctoral program at The Ohio State University I was very clear about what I wanted to do after completing my degree: I wanted to be an athletic administrator. Fortunately, the HESA program exposed me to a wealth of experiences and taught me how to think about educational problems in complex ways that led me to a different path. I had the opportunity to work alongside the program faculty on research projects and I was able to sharpen my administrative skills through my assistantship and full-time work experience at OSU. It turns out that I was prepared not only to become an athletic administrator (my original goal), but also I was prepared for a tenure-track faculty position. The success I have experienced as a faculty member is in large part due to the wonderful role models and mentors I had as a doctoral student. Professors like Susan Jones, Mary Ann Danowitz, Len Baird, Ada Demb, and Bob Rodgers and Bruce Tuckman (my dissertation co-chairs) taught me important lessons about faculty life both in and outside of the classroom! The professors in the program challenged and supported me while giving me the space to chart my own course. The best way I can thank them for their investment and belief in me is to offer the same level of investment and support (if not more) into the next generation of higher education students!

Jeong-eun Rhee (PhD)jerhee 2014

Current City: Brookville, New York
Current Job: Professor, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, Long Island University

During my doctoral work in the HESA program, I was encouraged and supported to pursue my own scholarly interests that often crossed the boundaries of existing programs.  The OSU was a great place to explore other fields and develop an interdisciplinary approach. As a part of my plan of study, I took courses not only in HESA but also in postcolonial studies, Asian American studies, women’s studies etc. I also developed a reading group with other students from various educational programs. These enriching opportunities and layered engagements made such difference in my academic trajectory. Where am I now? I am currently working in the department of curriculum and instruction and my reading group from the OSU since 1999 is the team of editors for Educational Studies, the journal of American Educational Studies Association!

Justin Samueljsamuel (MA ’12)

Current City: Austin, Texas
Current Job: Assistant Director for Residence Life and PhD Student, The University of Texas at Austin

I thoroughly enjoyed my two years at Ohio State. I was able to take what I learned in class and apply it to a 24/7 assistantship in Housing! Beyond this, I had the privilege of experiencing two practica – in the Student Wellness Center and the Multicultural Center. Both have shaped by professionalism and work ethic. I am thankful for the faculty and my peers; I have soaked in so much knowledge from both groups.  The academic coursework in HESA provided me with exceptional tools to ground my practice.

Dafina-Lazarus Stewartdstewart (MA ’98; PhD ’01)

Current City: Fort Collins, Colorado
Current Job: Professor, Student Affairs in Higher Education, Colorado State University

Both my master’s and doctoral work in HESA prepared me to think about higher education and student development issues in complex ways and equipped me to function effectively as a faculty member in teaching, research, and service activities. The HESA faculty demonstrated what it meant to be caring, committed, and passionate teachers, scholars, and leaders in the field; their examples shaped my aspirations for the kind of faculty member I wanted to be.

Beth WiserDSC_0016 (MA ’95; PhD ’09)

Current City: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Current Job: Director, Visitor Experience at Carnegie Mellon University

My experiences in the Higher Education and Student Affairs at Ohio State prepared me in ways that exclusively work experience could not do. The coursework I pursued and the experience of undertaking a research project taught me ways to analyze problems and to think complexly that helps me lead a fast-paced office of 40 professionals. Ohio State’s commitment to diversity and identity development prepared me to work with a diverse workforce and the broad array of students considering UVM. Finally the colleagues in my cohort and the students who served in assistantships remain important professional resources. My time at Ohio State in the HESA program prepared me well for the challenges and the opportunities that I have encountered.

Catherine WoodBrooks (PhD ’91)WoodBrooks photo

Current City: Worcester, Massachusetts
Current Job: Vice President for Student Affairs, Assumption College

In the late 1980s, I was part of a cohort of ten doctoral students in search of a dissertation topic.

The whole enterprise seemed shrouded in mystery: how would we find the perfect match between our own scholarly enthusiasms and the exacting standards of a faculty committee that had not yet been asked to serve?  I knew that I wanted to address the missing presence of black women in higher-education research. I knew I wanted to write in a feminist voice. But that’s all I knew, and it wasn’t nearly enough.

Enter Patti Lather, a brand-new professor. By the end of that first class, I already suspected that this woman would be the best teacher I’d ever met. And I was right. Patti had a way of penetrating mystery—like a snowplow in overdrive, to be honest. She clarified and illuminated daunting concepts like deconstruction theory, identity politics, and post-modernism. She introduced me to an elite International crowd: Jürgen Habermas, Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida. My eyes felt pinned open, and my brain, like that snowplow, lurched into overdrive. And stayed there. Mary Ann Danowitz graciously invited me to participate in an affirmative action grant she had secured, which gave me access to the data I needed to complete my dissertation. The women in my study, all highly accomplished women of color, capped off my experience as a profoundly grateful student in the HESA program. My doctoral program has influenced every aspect of my scholarship and practice as a student affairs senior administrator, and my students are all the better for it.