February 2013—Dr. Michael Schwab was awarded Walden University’s Bernard L. Turner Award for supporting Dr. Piroska Bisits Bullen, a 2012 PhD in Public Health graduate and the 2013 recipient of the Harold L. Hodgkinson Award, as her dissertation faculty chair.

“We’re so used to looking for the answers as researchers and then telling the world what we’ve discovered. Piroska’s approach is to go to communities to ask what they’ve discovered,” Dr. Schwab says. “One reason why she wrote such a good dissertation is that she chose a topic aligned with her employment. She was quick to grasp the elements. This was a very practical dissertation, one of the most practical I’ve ever chaired.”

How can you create a dissertation that receives a similar amount of success? Follow this advice from Dr. Schwab:

First, love what you’re researching. “Piroska had that passion from the start,” he says.

Second, choose a topic that fits with the rest of your life. “You’ll invest so much energy in your research that you’ll become an expert, and this expertise will mark the direction of your life for years after you graduate.”

Third, find a chair who is truly interested in your topic. Communicate with faculty members until you discover a person whose interests and experiences align with yours.

Fourth, make sure you’ll be able to access the data you need. “Piroska had to abandon her first proposal because the African country where she wanted to work would not give her permission to research.”

Lastly, and most important of all, bring a positive attitude to your work. It sounds basic, but it’s true. “An attitude of cheerful persistence can carry you through ‘the swamps’ you encounter while you’re writing your research. When Dr. Bullen had to abandon her first proposal, she didn’t view it as a waste. She just added some additional literature, changed her methods, and created a new proposal. Accept what’s happening and move on!”

About the Bernard L. Turner Award
The award is bestowed annually upon the faculty chair of the dissertation committee of the recipient of the Harold L. Hodgkinson Award and honors the unique contributions to American higher education of Bernard L. Turner, chairman of the board (emeritus) and founding president of Walden University. An innovator in graduate-level distance education for professionals, Mr. Turner’s lifetime concerns for critical thinking and social change have left an indelible mark on the Walden curriculum. A passionate advocate of educational equality of opportunity and social justice, he made the Walden dream a reality through his persistence and dedication.

Read about past recipients of the Bernard L. Turner Award.

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