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Introducing My Dissertation: Developing Digital Student Leaders

After year in the making, I am finally in the data collection phase of my dissertation.  My research was approved in April, which really was only the start to the approval process going through two Institution Review Board (IRB) processes.  My dissertation proposal defense was a result of writing three chapters that took up over 120 pages and around that many sources.
Below I have included my proposal slide deck, which walked my committee through my research objectives, especially methodology and participant recruitment plan.  Feel free to explore my ‘big research plans’ and hopes for what this study will provide.

I have written previously about the idea of developing student leaders through social media communication tools, especially using the Social Change Model as a framework.  I approach this research not only aware of the research gaps, but how I can build and be inspired by existing leadership and student development theories to inform outcomes.  For example, how to remix student development theories considering the influence of social media.
The next two months will take me driving to two southern California institutions for focus groups of junior/senior college student leaders.  From resident assistants, orientation leaders and student government presidents.  I am eager to hear their experiences on social media through the lens of the responsibilities of campus student leadership.
September through November will be a different form of data collection, as I will be observing their actual behavior on social media.  This research has the intent to answer the following research questions:

  1.  What role does social media play in the identity and experiences of college student leaders?
  2. What patterns of behavior exist for social media activity of college student leaders in how leadership, identity and decision-making are portrayed online?
  3. Do the self-reported experiences of college student leaders represent their documented actual behavior documented on social media?

There have been two major pieces of advice I have heard over and over about a dissertation.  First, the best dissertation is a done one.  Second, your dissertation is not going to change the world.

Well, call me crazy but I need my dissertation to make a big difference.  

I believe Higher Education needs my dissertation to be more than something on a bookshelf.  The rate of change in our society, coupled with the high use of social media by college age-ed student begs the necessity to find answers on how educators can support all students in the digital age.
I already find myself dreaming about graduation…May 15th 2015 at 10am at California Lutheran University.  But at the same time I need these next nine months to go as slow as possible.  After data collection I approach the holidays to analyze data.  Then winter and early spring to write, write, write.
My goal is to defend before my birthday, April 5th 2015.
I could use as much of your digital and in-person support as you’re willing.  Cheerleaders, editors, opinion-ators.  I’ll take it!


About Josie

I’m Dr. Josie Ahlquist—a digital engagement and leadership consultant, researcher, educator, and author. I’m passionate about helping people and organizations find purposeful ways to connect, engage, and tell their unique story. I provide consulting, executive coaching, and training for campuses, companies, and organizations that want to learn how to humanize technology tools and build effective and authentic online communities.

My blog and podcast have been recognized by EdTech Magazine, Inside Higher Ed and the Chronicle of Higher Education. My book, Digital Leadership in Higher Education, was published in 2020 and was listed as a #1 new release for college and university student life. I have been growing my consultancy since 2013 and am based in Los Angeles. When I’m not helping clients lead online, you might find me training for a triathlon, spoiling my nieces and nephews, or exploring with my husband and our rescue dogs in our new RV called Lady Hawk.

I’d love to connect! Find me on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

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