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Walden Magazine // Jan 21, 2014

Bernard L. Turner Award: Creating a Successful Doctoral Committee

Dr. Gary J. Burkholder was awarded Walden University’s 2014 Bernard L. Turner Award for supporting Dr. Elizabeth Moxley-Paquette, a PhD in Psychology student and the 2014 recipient of the Harold L. Hodgkinson Award, as her dissertation faculty chair.

“Dr. Moxley-Paquette did not let any obstacle get in her way,” Dr. Burkholder explains. “For example, she was not well-versed in structural equation modeling, but she was willing to take the time to teach herself. I guided her, but she taught herself how to use the software, understand the assumptions, and analyze the outcomes. She was driven. It was exciting to see her enthusiasm about the research.”

Here, Dr. Burkholder offers advice to help doctoral students build a collaborative committee and ultimately write a successful dissertation:

Approach your research with passion. “Elizabeth loved what she chose to study,” he explains. He looks for the same enthusiasm and commitment to research when he’s asked to be a doctoral committee member.

Dive into the literature. “Elizabeth wanted to understand the fundamentals of language development, which drove her to the literature,” he explains. That allowed her to synthesize the research she read, hypothesize how she believed language develops normally, and then pinpoint what she wanted to test through a data analysis.

View your committee as members of your team. “My role as a dissertation committee faculty chair is both as a mentor and a colleague,” he explains. “The doctoral process is a collaborative effort, and we are all members of your research team.” While Dr. Burkholder guided Dr. Moxley-Paquette through the research to help her with the data analysis and in crystallizing her research question, committee members Dr. Christos Constantinidis acted as content expert and Dr. Frederica Hendricks-Noble was the university research reviewer. Each contributed their expertise, but all ultimately focused on the collaboration.

Stay in constant contact with your committee. “Elizabeth was the driver of the research and the agenda,” he says, “I didn’t have to push her. She set up regular Skype calls very early in the process, and we met on a regular basis. It was exciting to see her enthusiasm and regularly hear about what she was doing.”

Maintain your passion—and your persistence. “Elizabeth was incredibly passionate, even when she was frustrated, which allowed her to keep her focus on the topic. She persisted through a lot to complete her dissertation,” he says.

“I love mentoring doctoral students,” Dr. Burkholder continues. “Mentoring and developing the next generation of researchers is my priority. My work has placed me in roles as a faculty member and now as an administrator, but I love mentoring research so I always participate in a few doctoral committees.”

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, 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.