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Friday, May 26, 2006
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Education doctoral student wins dissertation fellowship

ATHENS, Ohio (May 26, 2006) -- Melissa L. Freeman, a doctoral student and research associate in Ohio University's Center for Higher Education, has been awarded the Charles I. Brown dissertation fellowship.

Melissa L. Freeman photo by Rick FaticaThis nationally competitive award entitles Freeman to a $15,000 stipend to complete her dissertation, "Gender, Geography, Transfer and Baccalaureate Completion."

The Charles I. Brown fellowship is reserved for the author of an outstanding dissertation proposal on the topic of underserved groups in higher education. Freeman's research focuses on women in rural areas who attend community colleges, transfer to four-year institutions and successfully complete their bachelor's programs.

"There are two issues," Freeman said. "First, we know that students from rural areas do not attend postsecondary education at rates similar to their nonrural counterparts. Understanding how geography impacts transfer and baccalaureate attainment is important.

"Second, women encounter more risk factors than men, additional roadblocks to completing their degrees," she added. "I'm trying to tease out which variables lead to successful completion. How do some women, particularly from rural areas, overcome all odds to get that diploma? Once we figure that out, we'll know best how to empower other women to follow in their footsteps."

The fellowship, funded by the National Center for Education Statistics and the National Science Foundation, is administered by the Association for Institutional Research as part of a grant program aimed at improving institutional research in postsecondary educational institutions. The goal is to provide professional development opportunities to doctoral students, institutional researchers, educators and administrators while encouraging the use of existing federal databases for institutional research in higher education.

Freeman is the first Ohio University recipient of this type of grant, which the association has been awarding since 1995. Her dissertation was one of only two to be selected for funding this year. Valerie Martin Conley, assistant professor of counseling and higher education, is Freeman's doctoral committee chair, mentor and adviser.

"There was no shortage of applicants this time around, but we do not award a set number of fellowships each year," said Anthony Bichel, the association's assistant director. "Recipients are selected based purely on the merit of their projects."

Freeman received a master's in public administration from Ohio University in 2000. She is a member of the Association for Institutional Research, Gamma Pi Delta Honorary for nontraditional students, Phi Theta Kappa National Honorary for two-year colleges and the Golden Key National Honor Society. She is the primary author of "Successful Vertical Transitions: What Separates Community College Transfers Who Earn the Baccalaureate from Those Who Don't?" in Journal of Applied Research in the Community College (2006) and the co-author of "The Causes and Consequences of Public College Tuition Inflation" in Higher Education: Handbook of Theory and Research (2005).

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Media Contact: Public Affairs Coordinator in the College of Education Amy Robinson, (740) 593-4465 or robinsona@ohio.edu

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