Dr. Louis Zabaneh serves as EALR visiting professor

Dr. Louis Zabaneh
Dr. Louis Zabaneh

WKU’s Department of Education Administration, Leadership and Research is pleased to host Dr. Louis Zabaneh as visiting assistant professor for the 2016-2017 academic year.

Dr. Zabaneh is the former president of Galen University in Belize. He earned his Ph.D. in economics from Clemson University and is currently a doctoral candidate in WKU’s Doctor of Educational Leadership program. Louis is teaching research courses such as EDFN 500 (Research Methods in Education) and EDFN 501 (Education Statistics).

“Western Kentucky University is a very special place,” said Dr. Zabaneh of his appointment:

The people here are its greatest treasure. They practice genuine openness and kindness, and are focused on making others better through their academic and community work. I have been completely impressed by everyone I have had the privilege to meet and work with, including my fellow colleagues in the Educational Leadership doctoral program, the students in the classes I have facilitated, the EALR faculty, and those in the wider WKU community. I have visited many universities in the United States, and WKU stands out as one of the best! My family and I are blessed to be here.

Dr. Zabaneh brings a professional background in economics, business, and higher education. He is currently writing his EdD dissertation on the topic of sustainable human development.

EALR selected for Wallace Foundation grant to improve principal preparation

Today the Wallace Foundation announced that WKU’s Department of Educational Administration, Leadership, and Research is one of seven universities across the nation selected to participate in a four-year grant-funded initiative to improve principal preparation.  WKU will partner with the Green River Regional Educational Cooperative and the Kentucky Education Professional Standards Board to make school principal training “more inclusive and cooperative with the community, state and other stakeholders,” according to EALR Department Chair Dr. Marguerita DeSander.

Read more about the announcement here.

With its partners, WKU will develop a competency-based principal training program that will track the development of aspiring school leaders from their initial interest in administration, through their university training, and into their early years of service on the job. The goal is to make principal professional learning more responsive to the needs of schools in the region and to deliver more customized and on-time supports for administrators new to the field.  WKU will receive more than $1.7 million in the first year along with guidance and support from the Wallace Foundation and technical assistance partners.

EALR professors, students present at CREATE Conference

Dr. Tom Stewart presenting at CREATE 2016
Dr. Tom Stewart presenting at CREATE 2016

Several professors and students from WKU’s Department of Educational Administration, Leadership, and Research participated in the Consortium for Educational Assessment and Teaching Effectiveness annual conference held September 29-October 1 in Louisville, Kentucky. The CREATE Conference was marking its 25th anniversary and featured researchers and graduate students from around the nation sharing their work and ideas about school improvement.

Presenters from EALR included the following:

  • Dr. Kimberlee Everson shared her research on value-added measures of teaching effectiveness.
  • EALR Department Chair Dr. Marguerita DeSander co-presented with a colleague from George Washington University on their preliminary work on teaching effectiveness and leadership development in Puerto Rico.
  • Dr. Gary Houchens and Dr. Steve Miller shared their research on developing a new teacher perception survey called the School Improvement Scholastic Review (SISR). Dr. Everson and WKU EdD program director Dr. Tony Norman are also participating in this research.
  • Dr. Houchens moderated a panel discussion featuring superintendents and other district leaders from GRREC/OVEC Race to the Top district grant schools that have made strides with personalized learning.
  • Dr. Tom Stewart and Dr. Houchens presented their research on using executive coaching to help school principals develop as instructional leaders.
  • Dr. Stacy Leggett presented her research on North Carolina’s teacher evaluation system.
  • WKU doctoral student Josh Howard shared research on personalized learning self-evaluations and site visits conducted as a part of the Race to the Top grant. His collaborators included doctoral students Komako Suzuki and Trudy-Ann Crossbourne and was supervised by Dr. Norman and former EALR professor Dr. Jie Zhang.
  • Dr. Houchens presented additional results from Race to the Top schools’ personalized learning self-assessment on behalf of Dr. Norman and the Rock Solid Race to the Top evaluation team.
  • Dr. DeSander and Dr. Janet Hurt shared research on how principals and teachers co-construct theories of practice.
  • On behalf of doctoral student Trudy-Ann Crossbourne, Dr. Houchens shared additional research on how schools in the Race to Top grant developed their personalized learning plans.
  • Dr. Stewart co-presented with EALR aspiring principal student Linda Caudle and her principal Vicki Gough from the Ballard County Schools, sharing their work on professional learning communities.

Additionally, several WKU doctoral students delivered poster presentations, including the following:

  • EALR alumna and EdD student Savannah Denning shared her proposed dissertation research, a case study of leadership in one of Kentucky’s Districts of Innovation.
  • Robert King presented his proposed dissertation research on behavior modification programs for at-risk students.
  • Candida Murphy presented her proposed program evaluation dissertation assessing implementation of Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports on her school.
  • Christy Spurlock and Jia Pei shared their research on doctoral student persistence at WKU.
  • Derick Strode presented his dissertation research on study abroad at WKU’s Gatton Academy. Derick received the CREATE Emerging Researcher Award for his presentation.

Next year’s CREATE Conference will be held in Virginia Beach, Virginia where EALR professors and students expect to again share their on-going research interests and accomplishments.

Dr. Wilson earns Fulbright to study in South Africa

University of Limpopo
University of Limpopo

Dr. Kristin Wilson, associate professor in WKU’s Department of Educational Administration, Leadership, and Research, has been awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to conduct research in South Africa during the next three years. Dr. Wilson uses qualitative methods to study post-secondary education. Through her Fulbright she will explore college persistence patterns among South African students, primarily at the University of Limpopo.

During the Summer of 2015, Dr. Wilson participated in the Sophia Zuheir Endowed International Fellowship program, which sponsored a group of WKU faculty members to visit South Africa over a three-week period. She made contacts with various universities there and leveraged the experience into a successful Fulbright application.

Traditionally Fulbright fellowships are for a six-month stay in a host country, but Dr. Wilson received one of the first “flexible” Fulbrights, which will allow her to visit for two months each year over a three year period. The extended engagement will allow her to follow students she is studying over the majority of their university experience.

Dr. Wilson joined the faculty of WKU in 2013. She teaches post-secondary leadership and qualitative research methods courses in the Doctor of Educational Leadership program.

EALR professor Dr. Gary Houchens appointed to state board of education

Dr. Gary Houchens
Dr. Gary Houchens

This past May, Governor Matt Bevin appointed EALR associate professor Dr. Gary Houchens to a four-year term on the Kentucky Board of Education.  Dr. Houchens was sworn in to service on the 11-member board on June 8.  The Kentucky Board of Education helps establish policy and provides oversight to the Kentucky Department of Education.

“I’m tremendously honored by this opportunity,” Dr. Houchens said. “I’ve devoted my career to improving leadership and student outcomes for Kentucky’s schools and will do my best to bring those experiences and perspectives to the work of the Board.”  Dr. Houchens said he anticipates the board will be actively engaged in work to overhaul the state’s school accountability system and revisions to the teacher and school principal evaluation programs.

Dr. Houchens is a former teacher, assistant principal, principal, and school district administrator.  He joined the faculty of WKU in 2010. He primarily teaches courses in the principal certification program but also advises doctoral students and is engaged in several on-going research initiatives.  Dr. Houchens received the 2016 College of Education and Behavioral Sciences Faculty Excellence Award for Student Advising.

Dr. Everson helps launch International Year of South Korea

Dr. Kimberlee Everson, assistant professor in WKU’s Department of Educational Administration, Leadership, and Research and researcher methodologist for the WKU Doctor of Educational Leadership program, was selected to participate in the Zuheir Sofia Endowed International Faculty Seminar (ZSEIFS) program during the summer of 2016 and visited South Korea as the first step in WKU’s celebration of the International Year of (IYO) South Korea, which lasts throughout the 2016-2017 academic year.

Dr. Everson, second from left, during her visit to South Korea
Dr. Everson, second from left, during her visit to South Korea

Dr. Everson joined a select group of other WKU faculty for a visit of almost three weeks to numerous locations throughout South Korea.  The purpose of the trip was to engage in cultural learning and sharing, but also to make contacts with academic, business, and government leaders for future collaboration.  “The experience in South Korea gave me confidence in my ability to international research in the future,” she said.

ZSEIFS participants like Dr. Everson will help facilitate numerous campus events during IYO South Korea to promote cultural exchange and engagement of entire WKU community in learning about South Korea, including a film festival, workshops, and numerous presentations and seminars.


EALR bids fond farewell to Dr. Zhang

Dr. Jie Zhang
Dr. Jie Zhang

WKU’s Department of Educational Administration, Leadership, and Research recently said goodbye to beloved associate professor Dr. Jie Zhang.

Dr. Zhang has accepted a position at the University of Houston in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction.  She said the move was motivated by better job opportunities for her entire family.

“It has been a truly blessed experience working with the most supportive and caring leaders, most collaborative and respectful colleagues, the most thoughtful and motivated EdD students over the past six years,” she said. “It is my first and best academic job as I have grown from PhD to professor at WKU. As I move forward in my career at the University of Houston, I will sorely miss my wonderful colleagues and students at WKU. Very excitingly, EALR is thriving and making strides toward a brighter future. I wish EALR, CEBS, and WKU all my best.”

Dr. Zhang joined the WKU faculty in 2010. She taught research methods classes in WKU’s Doctorate of Educational Leadership program.  She was author and collaborator on numerous grants, including serving on the external evaluation team for the $42 million federal Race to the Top grant administered by the Green River Regional and Ohio Valley Educational Cooperatives.  She was the recipient of a 2013 National Academy of Education’s Spencer Fellowship and received the 2016 CEBS Faculty Excellence Award for Research.

Dr. Zhang touched many lives in her tenure at WKU and EALR wishes her and her family much happiness and great blessings in Houston!

EALR hosts visiting scholars from Turkey, China

The Department of Educational Administration, Leadership, and Research has recently advanced WKU’s mission of being “an American university with international reach” by hosting visiting scholars from Turkey and China.

Nuray Kisa
Nuray Kisa

Nuray Kisa, a doctoral student in Educational Sciences from Hacettepe University in Ankara, Turkey, visited WKU from December 2015 until June 2016.  Nuray was a guest of EALR associate professor Dr. Gary Houchens.  With Dr. Houchens’ guidance, Nuray completed a draft of her doctoral dissertation, which focuses on the gap between theory and practice as perceived by principals, school administrators, and university professors in Turkey.  She presented the results of her research at a Brown Bag research luncheon in April.  Nuray will soon defend her dissertation and commence her own professorial duties at Hacettepe.


Huan Zhang
Huan Zhang

Huan Zhang, assistant lecturer in the Foreign Language Department in Anhui University of Science and Technology in Ma’anshan, China, arrived at WKU in March 2016 as a guest of EALR associate professor Dr. Jie Zhang.  Huan will remain until September 2016 advancing her research agenda on bilingualism, language teaching, and second language acquisition (an interest she shares with Dr. Jie Zhang).


EALR faculty, staff, and students have enjoyed the opportunity to engage in cross-cultural sharing with our guests and deepen our understanding of education issues from an international perspective.  We look forward to hosting more scholars in the future.

EALR professors Houchens and Zhang win Faculty Excellence Awards

WKU’s Department of Educational Administration, Leadership, and Research was honored to have two professors earn Faculty Excellence Awards for the 2016 College of Education and Behavioral Sciences.

Drs. Houchens and Zhang with CEBS Dean Dr. Sam Evans
Drs. Houchens and Zhang with CEBS Dean Dr. Sam Evans

Dr. Gary Houchens won the CEBS award for Student Advising, while Dr. Jie Zhang earned the award for Research.  They were recognized with a university-wide reception and awards ceremony in April.

Each year students, faculty, and administrators nominate faculty members for awards in Teaching, Research, Student Advisement, and Public Service.  This year awards were also given for outstanding part-time faculty members.  A faculty committee reviews a portfolio of materials from nominees and each college selects an award winner for each category.  Drs. Houchens and Zhang will now be considered for the university-wide faculty awards, which will be announced at the faculty/staff Convocation in August.

Drs. Houchens and Zhang were also awarded tenure in 2016.  Both joined the faculty of WKU in 2010.  Dr. Houchens works primarily with students in the principal certification program while Dr. Zhang teaches research methods in the WKU Doctorate of Educational Leadership program where she also serves on numerous dissertation committees.

EALR concludes another successful year

EALR faculty prepare for 2016 Commencement
EALR faculty prepare for 2016 Commencement

As the 2015/16 academic comes to a close, the Department of Educational Administration, Leadership, and Research celebrates a host of accomplishments.  Among the highlights of the past academic year were the following:

1.      Dr. Kristin Wilson was the FIRST EALR faculty member to be awarded a ZSEIFS “Year of South Africa” scholarship and spent almost three weeks in SA establishing a research network from mid-May through the first week of June.
2.      Dr. Tom Stewart joined the EALR faculty in August 2015
3.      Dr. Stacy Leggett accepted an appointment to EALR in August, with a January start date
4.      Dr. Janet Hurt accepted a visiting faculty position with EALR Fall 2015 and was the successful candidate through a national search with a Fall 2016 start date
5.      Dr. Jie Zhang achieved promotion to the rank of Associate Professor and was granted tenure, effective with the 2016/2017 academic year
6.      Dr. Jie Zhang received the CEBS Faculty Award for Excellence for Research 2016
7.      Dr. Gary Houchens was granted tenure, effective with the 2016/2017 academic year
8.      Dr. Gary Houchens received the CEBS Faculty Award for Excellence for Student Advising 2016
9.      Dr. Gary Houchens (PI) and Jie Zhang (Co-PI) were awarded an RCAP grant for research
10.   Dr. Jie Zhang was awarded a QTAG grant to continue her work from the Spencer Foundation
11.  Dr. Jim Berger received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the COABE conference Fall 2015
12.  Dr. Kristin Wilson was the recipient of a Fulbright Flex Scholarship for a three-year research project at the University of Limpopo in South Africa
13.  The EDAD program was one of 24 principal preparation programs of 700 nationally to be invited to submit a proposal for Wallace Grant Funding for the University Principal Preparation Initiative and was is a FINALIST for funding!
14.  Dr. Kimberlee Everson was awarded a ZSEIFS “Year of South Korea” scholarship and will travel to South Korea for almost three weeks from mid-May through the first week of June
16.  Dr.  Jie Zhang was elected to the Board of Directors for CREATE – The Consortium for Research in Educational Assessment and Teaching Effectiveness
17.  Dr. Margie DeSander was elected to the AERA Law and Education SIG Board of Directors as Secretary-Treasurer through Spring 2017.
We’ll be exploring each of these accomplishments in greater depth in follow up posts over the summer.  Congratulations to all EALR faculty for an outstanding year!