UNC Charlotte’s Christine Reed Davis, Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, has been awarded the Melvene D. Hardee Dissertation of the Year Award by the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators. Davis was selected for the award in a competitive field of submissions from across the country and will be recognized at the NASPA annual conference in March.
Davis said this achievement for her dissertation, titled “A Phenomenological Case Study of Faculty and Staff Experiences in Green Zone Training to Support Student Veteran Transition into Higher Education,” is a major honor because of her support from the University and the subject matter of the study.
"It is an incredible honor, and really culminates all of the work that I did in my research and the ways in which my faculty supported me,” Davis said. “It's really an honor for me to represent our educational leadership program in the Cato College of Education, and to represent my dissertation chair, Dr. Jae Hoon Lim, who also does a lot of work in researching veterans. It's also an honor to shed light on our veteran students, and the types of resources and the support that they need in transitioning from the military to higher education."
The findings from Davis’ dissertation revolved around what Charlotte’s faculty and staff experienced during Green Zone training sessions, which are designed to provide a deeper understanding and appreciation of the veteran and military experience. Davis said one of the most salient findings of the study was the impact Green Zone participants expressed in connecting a name and face to student veterans’ experiences, which allowed for increased compassion, empathy and understanding of the student veteran transition.
Choosing the subject matter of former military moving into the college atmosphere was one that made sense for Davis. She said her experiences with the military, both in her family and in her work, made it a topic close to her heart.
"I have both a personal and a professional connection to veterans,” Davis said. “Personally, both of my grandfathers, my father, my brother-in-law and my sister-in-law are all military. Professionally, while I was a senior associate dean at UNC Charlotte, I helped to create what is now our Veterans Services Office.”
Davis said that her conversations with student veterans about their journey from military service to college was the impetus for researching the topic.
“When I got into my graduate program, everyone was always asking: 'What are you going to research? What's your dissertation about?'" Davis said. "I kept coming back to this population of students that I think is often overlooked. With our University’s founding mission being to serve World War II veterans returning from war, I felt that it was a great culmination of my personal and professional interests.”
A dissertation regarding this subject led to a substantial amount of work thanks in part to over 20 interviews, color coding themes from the interviews and putting it all together for the findings.
In all, there were about 600 pieces of data she identified, and the coding of themes took at least 100 hours to complete. Davis said becoming this year’s Hardee Dissertation of the Year winner was some justification for all the effort she put into the case study.
"I did two sets of interviews with each of my participants, and two sets of interviews with the Green Zone facilitators. That's a lot of transcribing, that's a lot of reading through those interviews multiple times looking for themes,” Davis said. “It was really a lot of work, but I felt that I was very much connected to the information and really knew what I was talking about when I started to write it up. Receiving an award like this is just affirmation that it was all worth it, because honestly there were times when I was like 'Why am I doing this? Why have I chosen this?' But I loved hearing the stories.”
Davis, who earned her doctorate in education at Charlotte, said she is also proud of this honor because of the journey it took to get there.
"I've been able to intersect a lot of my identities here at Charlotte. I’m a staff administrator. I'm the parent of a UNC Charlotte student who's going to graduate in May. I'm now an alum of the University, so I have experience as a student myself,” Davis said. “The perseverance in finishing this degree and being an award winner twice, once at the University through the Cato College of Education and now nationally, is just very rewarding and humbling for me."