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2017 Doctoral Student Awardees
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First Place Winner - Leonard Taylor 



Leonard Taylor, originally from Milwaukee, WI, Leonard grew up with a passion for education. A proud product of the Milwaukee Public School system, he became the first in his family to attend college. After seven years and two degrees from the University of Wisconsin – Madison he began a career in Student Affairs. Leonard has worked in several functional areas in higher education, including housing, greek-life, pre-college programs, and leadership education. His most recent role was as Director of the Higher Ed Redesign program in the Jandris Center for Innovative Higher Education at the University of Minnesota. As it pertains to higher education, especially those least served, Leonard is dedicated to creating meaningful and sustainable change on individual, institutional, and system levels.

In Spring 2016 he received a Doctorate of Philosophy in Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities. Leonard’s research is focused on how administrators, faculty, and staff in higher education institutions use research, data, and promising practices in the interest of enhancing student success efforts, particularly for underserved populations. This work seeks to encourage more astute consumption of knowledge and promising practices by leaders within higher education institutions. He also does work in leadership education, characterized by his most recent publication “Building inclusive leaders: A critical approach to leadership education in the forthcoming (in press) book Breaking the zero-sum game: Transforming societies through inclusive leadership by E. Shockman, A. Boitano, and R. Lagomarsino (Eds.). Here he uses critical theories to propose a framework for leadership education curriculum, and instructor development.

In August of 2016 Leonard joined the faculty of Mississippi State University (MSU) as an Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership in the College of Education. He is also and 2016 Fellow in the Educational Policy Fellowship Program, hosted by the John C. Stennis Institute of Government at MSU. Leonard also enjoys crossfit, traveling, and is an active member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.

Ph.D., University of Minnesota – Twin Cities; Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development
M.S., University of Wisconsin – Madison; Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis
B.S., University of Wisconsin – Madison; Communication Arts: Communication Science and Rhetoric


Second Place Winner - Derrick Robinson, Ph.D 



Derrick Robinson, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor in the Division of Educational Leadership at the University of South Dakota. Derrick also teaches in the Division of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of South Dakota. Derrick received his Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction in the Spring of 2016. Derrick also holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from Morehouse College, Masters of Business Administration from Johns Hopkins University, and Masters of Educational Leadership from Wingate University. His current research interests include, but not limited to, teacher and teacher educator effectiveness, school leader effectiveness, school culture and climate, and college and career readiness.

Derrick is an emerging scholar in the field of urban education with publications that range from discipline policy reform and school disaffection to literacy and teacher preparation. Derrick has presented on numerous topics ranging from Critical Media Literacy to Teacher Effectiveness in urban and urban characteristic schools. In addition to academic training, Derrick’s work is also informed by twenty-two years of service in urban schools as a teacher and administrator. Derrick is currently working with the school districts in South Dakota that are experiencing multiple facets of diversity and is in the process of developing a center for leadership, teaching, and research between the University of South Dakota and South Dakota school districts.


Third Place Winner - Brittini R. Brown 


Brittini R. Brown is the Director for Student Affairs Assessment, Research, and Strategic Priorities at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. Brittini’s research interests include the human capacity development of women and URMs in STEM, STEM identity, mentoring, and student affairs assessment.

Dr. Brown’s work has been featured in MSIs Unplugged, Diverse Issues in Higher Education, and the American Council on Education Blog. She has also presented her research at national conferences hosted by the American Educational Research Association, the Association for the Study of Higher Education, the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity, the American Association of Blacks in Higher Education, and the Association for Public Land-Grant Universities.  Brittini is also a Center Affiliate at the Center for Minority Serving Institutions at the University of Pennsylvania where her contributions have been specifically related to elevating the success of students and professors at Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

Prior to joining UMBC, Dr. Brown served as the Coordinator for Strategic Planning, Partnership, and Development for Mentoring@Purdue, an initiative aimed at enhancing mentoring relationships between faculty, and women and underrepresented minorities pursuing STEM-based agricultural and life science graduate degrees in the Purdue University, College of Agriculture. She also has prior experience with USDA, serving as a program analyst for the Food Safety and Inspection Service as well as the Interim Director for the USDA/1890 National Program.

Dr. Brown is a native of Augusta, Arkansas and a proud graduate of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff where she received her B.S. in Regulatory Science with a concentration in Industrial Health and Safety. She also holds a M.S. in Industrial and Agricultural Technology from Iowa State University. Dr. Brown recently received her doctoral degree in Youth Development and Agricultural Education from Purdue University. Not only was she the first African-American woman to graduate with a doctoral degree from the department, she was recently awarded the 2016 Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Award.


Third Place Winner - Tempestt R. Adams


Tempestt R. Adams is a recent graduate from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte where she received her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction- Urban Education. Tempestt is currently serving in several capacities as a Business Teacher for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, a Lecturer at UNC Charlotte in the Cato College of Education, and as an Instructor at Central Piedmont Community College.

Prior to UNC Charlotte, Tempestt attended North Carolina State University where she received her B.S. in Business and Marketing Education. After her undergraduate studies she worked as a Business and Marketing teacher at the high school level in Wake County. While teaching, she pursued her Master of Business Administration degree from Pfeiffer University. 

Tempestt’s dissertation, Vignettes of Scholars: A Case Study of Black Male Students at a STEM Early College High School, utilized the scholar identity framework model to examine how the STEM early college environment impacted Black males scholar identity development and their overall academic success. This dissertation research connects to her larger research interests which focus on the roles that nontraditional school models, career and technical education, and culturally responsive teacher preparation impact the academic achievement of marginalized students.

While pursuing her Ph.D., Tempestt worked in the College of Education as a research and teaching graduate assistant. She also served as a Doctoral Fellow with the Urban Education Collaborative supporting grant writing and research.

As it relates to her service, Tempestt has worked closely with Freedom School Partners, Charlotte’s division of the national Freedom School program sponsored by the Children’s Defense Fund. In her various roles she has served as a Site Coordinator, Program Evaluator, and Trainer for Servant Leader Interns. Tempestt is a reviewer for the Journal of Negro Education and a member of the American Education Research Association. She can be reached at 



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