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Need help finding higher education PhD program!


meganljohnson06
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I have a masters in higher education and now I'm looking into doctoral programs.  I've read over and over again about how important it is to choose a program/university based on similar research interests.  But I have an extremely specific interest related to military/veteran dependents in higher education and, so far, I haven't been able to find anyone with my specific interests.  I've gone on the websites of more universities than I can remember and found a few people with not-quite-adjacent interests, but no one with my specific interest as it just isn't an area that gets researched.

So how do I choose a program/advisor?  Do I choose someone that has any kind of military/veteran/higher ed research interest?  "Military" and "veteran" are such a broad areas and I'm not sure if that matters.  How close does an advisor's interest have to be to mine?  Or maybe I find someone with a research style?  Or are there higher ed doctoral programs that more individualized?

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Hi! I'm not sure about how close an interest has to be to yours, but from my own application process, I've had more positive communications and acceptances to programs with whom my interests closely align with the professor(s) I indicated. I also had kind of a niche research interest within the realm of education. One thing that I did to identify professors/programs is search for peer-reviewed articles on my research interest, look at the author(s) of the article and then google that author to see if they are currently a professor in any education PhD programs. 

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What I can suggest you is that reach out to those couple of professors you have found and ask them if there are other faculty members they know that work on the issues of your interest. My interests are somewhat very specific and considered as a newly emerging literature in education so I had to ask around to find certain professors that actually work on issues of my interest.

Good luck!

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  • 6 months later...

I am not sure about their Education department specifically but USC is widely known to have very strong connections with student veterans, and some programs offer optional certifications for working with this population. The Social Work department has research opportunities with this population and several faculty who specialize in working with vets-- maybe not in the exact way you want to, but that might make it a more symbiotic relationship. It might make your application stand out if you are able to integrate your knowledge of opportunities to grow your training and interest in this work on campus with the higher ed component of the  Education program.

https://dworakpeck.usc.edu/research/military-and-veterans-programs/research/areas-of-interest

Edited by optimisticSW
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One option might be to see who has published in journals focusing on this area. Off-hand, I am aware of at least one journal that focuses on veterans (Journal of Veterans Studies). Looking at who has previously published in this journal could be a good start to identifying who is doing this work (or similar work).

One other point to consider it to echo what others have said here and to slightly broaden your search in terms of departments/Ph.D. programs. Student affairs administration and social work are a couple of fields that come to mind for me as places that would likely have faculty working in/around this area. 

I texted a colleague that does some work with student veterans, and he shared this upcoming conference information with me that he said may be helpful (depending on your timeline). 

https://www.naspa.org/events/naspa-symposium-on-military-connected-students2

Hope this helps. Good luck on your search! Can't wait to hear about your success in your search and beyond! 🙂 

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You've already received some good advice, but one other thing you might want to consider is to focus on people doing research using the framework you want to use, but on a different population. For example, you might find a PI whose work you like who researches university belonging, or the application of student support services, but hasn't yet applied it to military or veteran populations. You could be offering a way for them to expand their work that they hadn't considered.

The research "match" is something that can be argued and justified...it isn't something that is either there or isn't.

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Yes, you have a very specific area of interest. I think that there are few universities that can help you with this kind of specialized education. My area of interest is to analyze the flight characteristics of different types of aircraft.

 

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Oh, education is hard. It's a complicated topic, but I think a website https://edubirdie.com/write-my-thesis that I have been using for many years in my studies can help me. This website can help me to write my thesis in the future. Probably you should change your field of interest and take apart details, for example, just the life of the military after the dismissal from the army.

Edited by Lydia Douglas
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On 3/20/2020 at 2:43 PM, meganljohnson06 said:

I have a masters in higher education and now I'm looking into doctoral programs.  I've read over and over again about how important it is to choose a program/university based on similar research interests.  But I have an extremely specific interest related to military/veteran dependents in higher education and, so far, I haven't been able to find anyone with my specific interests.  I've gone on the websites of more universities than I can remember and found a few people with not-quite-adjacent interests, but no one with my specific interest as it just isn't an area that gets researched.

So how do I choose a program/advisor?  Do I choose someone that has any kind of military/veteran/higher ed research interest?  "Military" and "veteran" are such a broad areas and I'm not sure if that matters.  How close does an advisor's interest have to be to mine?  Or maybe I find someone with a research style?  Or are there higher ed doctoral programs that more individualized?

You are thinking too deeply here. Honestly, all you really need a professor who knows to access data and filter by veterans + can highlight higher education trends that you can proxy onto Veterans (granted with nuances and interpretations). Anyone who can coherently speak to higher education data vis-a-vie veteran filtering should do. Vanderbilt might be a good place to start because they have so many military partnerships with Fort Campbell next door. 

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  • 1 year later...
  • 1 month later...

It would be logical to talk to professors whom you know and clarify what they could advise, perhaps one of their colleagues whom they could recommend to you is competent in the issue you are working on.

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