By Jonathan Morales
Meredith Galloway was in a bind. An educational leadership doctoral student, she was one of just eight Sacramento State students selected to compete in the annual California State University Student Research Competition at CSU East Bay in April. But there was a problem: Both the competition and Galloway's Ed.D. program’s classes were held on the weekend.
That conflict resolved when, like so much else during the COVID-19 pandemic, the research competition was forced to go virtual.
“It was an honor to be nominated from Sac State,” Galloway said. “When I found out the state-level competition was going to be virtual, I was actually thrilled.”
Galloway’s research, “Policies of Promise: What Policies Impact Outcomes Equity for California Community College Students?”, took first place in the education category, making her the only Sac State student to place at the competition.
“I thought, 'Oh, that's my name. Look at that!' ” Galloway said of finding herself listed among the winners. “It’s certainly a feather in the cap of our Ed.D. program. I was very proud to be representing my cohort and my school.”
Conducted over the past academic year with Professor Robert Wassmer, the research looked at data from all of California’s 108 community colleges to determine what programs, policies or practices increase the number of students who successfully complete a two-year degree or certificate, or transfer to a four-year university.
Their findings offer guidance for policymakers deciding where and how to invest in the community college system. For example:
- Educational Opportunity Programs (EOPs) benefit all students, not just those who participate in the programs.
- Larger class sizes were actually positive for most students, except those who identified as economically disadvantaged yet academically prepared.
- Holding classes during the day improves student success more than evening or “mixed-time” classes do.
- There is likely a strong economic trade-off to hiring additional full-time faculty and providing other services that could benefit the students in other areas of their academic careers.
Galloway became Wassmer’s research assistant in fall 2019, and he quickly put her to work gathering the community college data. It’s a task he had wanted to do for years but was unable to because of the difficulty of collecting all the information.
“Even though she is a full-time parent, doctoral student, president of the Ed.D. student association, and research assistant for another Ed.D. faculty member, she plunged into this and got the data gathered quickly,” Wassmer said. “I am grateful for Meredith’s help to bring this critical research to fruition.”
Galloway has lived in nearly every part of the country over the course of her career as an educator. That’s a fact of life when you’re married to a member of the military, but it’s one that has given her a broad perspective on education across the United States.
“I think that’s part of what really sparked an interest in me to study education systems more formally,” she said. “I get fascinated about how decisions get made, or how people are treated or not treated in different educational systems, how schools are financed.”
Around the same time she decided to pursue her doctorate, Galloway and her family moved to Sacramento. The University’s educational doctorate director at the time, Julian Vasquez Heilig, convinced her that no school would care about her as much as Sac State, something she said turned out to be true.
“I’ve gotten excellent mentoring and wonderful opportunities at Sac State that I don't know I would have had at a different university,” Galloway said.
Entering her third and final year in the doctoral program, she says she and Wassmer plan to broaden their research to study race and ethnicity, especially Latino students, who make up the largest population at California community colleges. She’ll also, of course, be writing her dissertation.
“One of the greatest things about the doctoral program is the rigor with which you learn to interrogate evidence, and I think that’s applicable no matter what you do after,” Galloway said. “The greatest thing that I will take away from this program, no matter where I end up or who I end up being, will be that mental capacity to challenge truth and to challenge the way truth is portrayed and constructed.”