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2014 Doctoral Student Awardees
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 First Place Winner - Darris Means (NC State)

Dr. Darris Means is originally from Spartanburg, South Carolina. He graduated from Elon University in 2005 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and Sociology. He graduated from Clemson University in May 2007 with a master's degree in Education with an emphasis in student affairs, and he completed his Ph.D. in Educational Research and Policy Analysis with a concentration in Higher Education at North Carolina State University. He has spent the past seven years working at Elon University’s Elon Academy, a college access and success program for high school and college students with a financial need and/or no family history of college. Beginning in August 2014, Means will be an Assistant Professor of College Student Affairs Administration at the University of Georgia. His research interests include college access and success for underrepresented students; the collegiate experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students of color; and diversity in higher education. He is the recipient of several awards, including the Diversity Leadership Award from the Richard Riley Institute, the Bobby E. Leach Award from the Southern Association for College Student Affairs, and Elon University’s Young Alumnus of the Year.


 Second Place Winner - Christa Porter (UGA)


Dr. Christa J. Porter is an Assistant Professor in Higher, Adult, and Lifelong Education (HALE) and Coordinator of the Student Affairs Administration Masters program at Michigan State University. Dr. Porter’s varied administrative background includes experiences in residence life, fraternity and sorority life, multicultural affairs, career services, research and assessment, leadership development, student activities/organizations, TRIO programs, and support services for underrepresented students who hold majors in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). She has served in various settings such as small private institutions, both large and small public institutions, and a women’s college. Her research focuses on the identity development of Black undergraduate women, qualitative research design and methodology, and assessment in student affairs and higher education. Dr. Porter received her Ph.D. in Counseling and Student Personnel Services at the University of Georgia, her MA in Higher Education from the University of Maryland, College Park, and her BA in Social Relations from Michigan State University.


 Third Place Winner - Brian McGowan (IU-Bloomington)


Dr. Brian L. McGowan is an Assistant Professor of Student Affairs and Higher Education (SAHE) at Indiana State University. Brian’s research focuses on race and gender in higher education, college student development theory, and Black male college achievement and success. Prior to joining the faculty at Indiana State University, Dr. McGowan served as a project associate for the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) Institute for Effective Educational Practice at Indiana University and a Residence Life Coordinator at Rutgers University.  Dr. McGowan completed a Bachelor of Music in Music Education at Old Dominion University and a Master of Arts in Higher Education and Student Affairs from The Ohio State University.  His Ph.D. in Higher Education and Student Affairs is from Indiana University.


 Fourth Place Winner - Stella Smith (UT Austin)

Dr. Stella L. Smith serves as a Postdoctoral Fellow in Campus Diversity and Strategic Initiatives (CDSI), a portfolio in the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement (DDCE) at The University of Texas at Austin.  In this role, she assists with the implementation of the Division’s strategic plan; development, management, and execution of campus-wide diversity planning process; and faculty, postdoctoral fellow, and graduate student recruitment and retention initiatives. Dr. Smith earned her Ph.D. in Educational Administration with a portfolio in Women and Gender Studies from The University of Texas at Austin. Her dissertation study was a phenomenological inquiry to investigate the experiences, challenges and strategies for success of African American females in senior-level executive positions in higher at predominately white institutions. A qualitative researcher, her scholarly interests focus on African American female administrators and faculty at higher education institutions, persons of color in higher education, access to higher education for underserved populations, and P–20 educational pipeline alignment. She earned her M. A. in Organizational Management from the University of Phoenix and B.S. in Microbiology from The University of Texas at Austin.

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