Celebrating the Class of 2022; College of Education

Education doctoral students find collaboration, support in ‘DiPpy Friends’


DiPpy Friends
The DiPpy friends and their advisor (left to right): Kedralyn Folk, Anne Marie Rogers, D.J. Wilson, their advisor Daniella Hall Sutherland and Anjail Salahudin-Bolden.
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In the fast-paced world of doctoral study – especially when a full-time job is also in the mix – a student will find comfort, collaboration and support in the unlikeliest of places. Faculty in the Clemson University College of Education’s Education Systems Improvement Science Ed.D. program have been inspired to see a group project among doctoral students with little in common blossom into a full-on friend group and support system.

Groups in the program are usually comprised of students with a similar research focus or at least a similar approach to research methods. Kedralyn Folk, Anne Marie Rogers, Anjail Salahudin-Bolden and Dannie Joe “D.J.” Wilson were an exception to this rule and at first glance had nothing in common.

Now that Folk, Rogers and Salahudin-Bolden are closing in on earning their doctoral degrees in August – with Wilson not far behind – they don’t know how they would have made it without one another.

“We started out as the ‘island of misfit toys’ for sure,” Rogers said with a laugh, “but we grew into a really strong group that held each other accountable, provided direction and truly supported one another. The ‘Dissertation in Practice’ we worked on created these ‘DiPpy friends.’”

The DiPpy Friends met weekly even though it wasn’t required and quickly developed a set of norms. A required 10-15 minutes of venting among the four of them would transition to a focus on a single individual in the group so that each member could help with a specific question or issue, whether it was helping with further narrowing a research question or zeroing in on an approach to research methods.

The group members’ very different research focuses also became an unlikely source of strength, according to Rogers. It ensured that members received fresh opinions that weren’t skewed by another perspective studying the same thing, and each member got to learn a great deal about a topic in education with which they were previously unfamiliar.

Folk’s focused her research on barriers rural teachers face when trying to implement personalized learning. Her study illustrates the role school, district and state leaders play in supporting implementation of instructional practices.

Rogers’research focused on online cheating and academic dishonesty at Clemson, and she has developed a policy brief with recommendations for the University.  

During the pandemic, Salahudin-Bolden observed high rates of student failure on credit recovery classes as a director of counselling at an Upstate high school. For her research, she implemented a successful, easily replicable intervention to support students who were taking credit recovery classes.

Wilson is researching how social emotional learning can improve children’s literacy development after the pandemic.

DiPpy Friends 2
Rogers, Salahudin-Bolden, Wilson and Folk (left to right) during a meeting of the DiPpy Friends.

Daniella Hall Sutherland, assistant professor in the College of Education, served as advisor for all four students. She said the group found common ground in conducting research that would be meaningful and improve education, and they were also committed to completing their dissertations within one year. Three of the students started and finished that process in a year; She said this has not been done before and is a remarkable achievement.

“Their commitment to each other was so powerful,” Hall Sutherland said. “I think it shows the best of our program – the bonds that our students develop as they go on to become experts in educational improvement science. The ‘DiPpy Friends’ show how improving education is truly a team process, and we are so proud to see them graduate.”

For more information on the Education Systems Improvement Science Ed.D. program, click here.

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