College of Education

Grants introduced in the College of Education to encourage, support research


The best things in life may be free, but the work and travel required in graduate-level research rarely are. Pursuing a new line of education research often requires intervention materials, assessments and supplies, while networking with fellow researchers requires travel and conference attendance.

With these costs in mind, the Department of Education and Human Development in the Clemson University College of Education has established the Cultivating Opportunities for Research in Education (CORE) awards.

According to Shanna Hirsch, associate professor in the department and member of its graduate student support committee, the department developed the CORE awards to defray the direct expenses of the recipient’s research and conference presentations.

“Graduate students should be able to take advantage of any opportunity that helps them explore their field of interest and build a strong background and network of peers,” Hirsch said. “These awards are designed to remove some of the financial barriers to research, which for many students makes or breaks that research happening at all.”

The CORE awards fall into two categories: CORE Research Grants and CORE Conference and Travel Awards. Students can use the former award to support any research project, including thesis and dissertation-related studies. Alternatively, students can use the CORE Conference and Travel Award to fund attendance and a presentation at a regional or national conference.

Mya Kelley, a special education doctoral candidate and graduate research assistant, has earned both CORE awards. Kelley used the conference and travel award to attend the American Speech Language Hearing Association Convention in November 2023. At the conference, she presented on collaborating with teachers to improve the implementation of culturally responsive strategies with diverse students.

Kelley used the research grant to help support her dissertation on using mixed reality simulation in special education. In the context of preparing pre-service teachers, mixed reality simulation allows them to enter into a virtual classroom and interact with avatars that human actors control. This virtual classroom allows students to practice specific instructional or behavior management strategies or to conduct meetings, conferences or individualized education program meetings.

Mya Kelley
Mya Kelley

Kelley knew collaborating with another university on the project would strengthen her research, but she required funding to cover the cost of their faculty’s use of the mixed reality technology.

“The CORE award allowed me to really ‘seal the deal’ and collaborate with another university and give their faculty and students the opportunity to see mixed reality in action,” Kelley said. “That would not have happened without this funding.”

Kelley said she is grateful for both awards and that the funding was crucial for travel and pushing her research further, but their actual value revealed itself when combined with the faculty support she has experienced throughout her time at Clemson. That includes the application process for the awards and the day-to-day support she has received from Hirsch and others in the department and throughout the College.

She said the faculty’s depth and breadth of experience in special education provide options for what graduate students can concentrate on in the program, which makes it unique. Faculty support and help via awards such as CORE combined with access to cutting-edge technology has provided Kelley with an experience she feels is unparalleled in a doctoral program.

“To even be considered for one of these awards requires an application, which for me meant encouragement and support from faculty,” Kelley said. “Faculty support is crucial and critical in collaboration with the CORE award itself; I have always felt supported in that way since beginning my Ph.D. studies at Clemson.”

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