Spotlight on Virtual Research Symposium Presenter Dianna Montfort, Ed.D.

Dianna Montfort Ed.D.Dianna Montfort, Ed.D. is a graduate of the UNE Doctor of Education program and was a presenter at last year’s inaugural CGPS Virtual Research and Scholarship Symposium. Here, she talks about her experience in the Ed.D. program as well as what it was like presenting at CGPS’s first Symposium in 2019.

Last year you presented at our first Virtual Research and Scholarship Symposium. Can you talk about your experience?

I absolutely loved it. It was very eye-opening because it was the very first time that I had ever shared my research with other people outside of my cohort and workplace. To hear the feedback from some of the attendees was very beneficial to me.

The symposium would also be very beneficial for anyone who may not be sure how to get started with presenting their research because it compels you to look at your study from a different lens. It really encouraged me to seek out other opportunities to do more research and to explore other scholarly opportunities that may be on the horizon.

It really kept me connected to my research and had me reevaluate some of the things that I learned. I was able to step back and reexamine my research data and consider some of the findings, and also to think about my participants and where they are now.

The most encouraging aspect of the presentation for me was realizing that your research doesn’t stop. You never know when you’re going to pick it up again and revisit your findings or see how things have changed. Revisiting my research opened up a lot of questions for me and gave me the desire to do the study again. I got to consider what I would change, and what would I add.

The virtual symposium really had me thinking about my research through a different lens. I found it to be a fantastic opportunity for growth.

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and what encouraged you to pursue your Ed.D.?

Originally from Indianapolis, I attended Indiana State University where I received both my bachelor’s as well as my master’s degrees. During that time I was your traditional student, not entirely sure of my direction, except that I always knew I wanted to get a doctorate degree. After much exploration of my options and a few years of career experience in the field of higher education, I knew I wanted to get an Ed.D.

How did you choose UNE Online for your Ed.D.?

I knew I needed to find a program that would value me as an individual and also see the potential that I had. I narrowed my search to a select few, and chose UNE. I was attracted to the fact that UNE is a reputable university with strong on-ground programs, but has a 100% online Ed.D. program with no residency requirements – so I could tailor the program to fit my life and my needs.

I really have grown since going through the program. I’ve matured as a professional, and the program has encouraged me to develop my own values within the work that I do best.

How did you feel when you were going through the program?

I felt like I was part of a community, and I felt like I had support. The faculty were very open and very honest about what they were looking for in your work and your writing, and I found the feedback from the other students to be very valuable. My work was evaluated from different points of view, different levels of education, and different experience levels – and I was able to grab ahold of all of that at the same time.

It made for a rich experience for me personally, and I found that the UNE program was beneficial to me because I was able to learn from a diverse set of people – some of whom had been in the education industry for a lot longer than I had.

And then graduation was a culminating event. I got to actually meet the people that I’d been working with, face-to-face. We had met via Skype and text of course, but at graduation when we met in person I felt like I really knew every person that I had come in contact with – both fellow students and instructors.

Can you talk about maybe your dissertation a little bit like what you researched and did it on?

My topic was dealing with adult learners. I work at an extended campus of Columbia College that is based in Florida, with the main campus being in Missouri. The average age of my students is about 46, so my student population is a little different from a traditional campus. I began to notice a trend that there was an influx of students returning after being on probation, suspension or dismissal.

I was intrigued – why would a person come back to this particular school after they’ve experienced academic difficulty of this magnitude?

After speaking with a number of students, I kept hearing the same sentiment. So I designed my dissertation research to test to see if this trend of persistence was statistically significant among the entire returning adult learning population.

And what did you find in your research?

By examining why students persist, I discovered that the students themselves are a vehicle for change in their communities. The encouragement that they’re able to give to other students because they had the support that they needed and were able to go to college, made a difference in their community.

I found that creating a family-like structure within the institution that incorporated faculty, staff, and the student’s advisor was key. It was important because sometimes the students don’t have that support outside of the school.

Some students were looking to the advisors to be a sort of parental figure, even though a lot of times the student was a lot older than the advisor. The students still looked heavily to the advisor for support and guidance in general. It was beyond just the academics.

I also found that a student’s actual family and home life could be a hindrance, especially if they don’t have that support or if they were being pulled in many different directions and trying to take on a lot of different responsibilities. Having a school structure that was built like a supportive family was beneficial to them as well.

What was your biggest takeaway from the program?

Becoming a lifelong learner is what this program is definitely about. It encourages you to want to do more. It encourages you to seek out opportunities. It encourages you to push yourself. And in my case, I was able to apply my research to my career.

Do you have any words of advice for a potential student looking to start getting their Ed.D.?

Well, I have two things actually. This is not a cookie-cutter program, there’s no one type of student. There are various students, there are various industries, and various experience levels and backgrounds. So when you go into the program, make sure you have an idea of what you’re interested in studying. If you have an idea, that makes the process a lot easier.

The second thing I would say is to be open-minded. Even though you may have an idea going into the program, don’t be so married to it that you’re not open to receive the feedback that your classmates and your instructor are giving you. The people in your cohort may not be in the same industry or work with the same age groups that you do, but many times you can extrapolate their key learnings to fit the challenge that you are experiencing.

I enjoyed the online Ed.D. program at UNE not only because of the personal relationships, but also because it’s a high-quality program, it has depth, and it has vigor. I think that a lot of people could genuinely benefit from this program. If UNE ever needs me, I would gladly answer the call.

Apply to be a presenter at the 2020 Virtual Research and Scholarship Symposium!

This is an opportunity for current students and alumni to share their research, content expertise, and experience with professionals in their field through live-streamed virtual sessions.

Virtual Research & Scholarship Symposium 2020

View last year’s presentations

Successful proposals will address timely topics and current challenges faced by professionals in the fields of Education, Leadership, Health Informatics, Nutrition, Public Health, and Social Work. Proposals must be grounded in best practices and informed by research.


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