Project CULTURED students

With Clark County School District (CCSD) as one of the fifth largest diverse school districts in the nation facing a teacher shortage, training programs to prepare students to understand and respond to exceptionalities and diversity is critical. Project CULTURED, which stands for College and University Leaders Trained to Understand and Respond to Exceptionalities and Diversity, is one such federally-funded program aimed towards preparing future leaders for work in CCSD. The expected outcomes of the project are to prepare graduates to: (a) work at colleges and universities, (b) conduct high quality research in urban public schools, and (c) provide high quality teacher education of teachers to target the achievement of this population in urban settings.

Project CULTURED is a federal grant intended to develop doctoral scholars in research, teaching, and service as it relates to the provision of access to college and career readiness standards, especially for students with disabilities identified as English Language Learners. The five-year training program, funded by the U.S. Department of Education for $1.03 million, is intended to recruit and retain high quality doctoral students through the provision of support for tuition, stipends, travel money, research funds, and professional organization membership.

In addition to their doctoral studies, scholars funded through Project CULTURED participate in a series of internship activities designed to enhance and expand their understanding of conducting high quality research in urban public school settings. Project CULTURED scholars are also involved in an urban public school research internship during the four years of their program, in which they shadow the administrators and teachers on the school campus to develop a thorough understanding of the variables that impact research in urban public school environments. The first year of their internship is focused on developing a thorough understanding of the variables impacting urban research. The second and third years of this internship will focus on developing a pilot study to address the academic and behavioral outcomes of high needs students with disabilities, and then bringing that study to scale. Finally, they teach a series of courses and serve on various committees to fully understand the role the academy plays in public school educational policy.

The seven doctoral scholars funded through Project CULTURED are as follows: Kathy Ewoldt, Matthew Love, Sarah Murphy, Heike Ruedenauer-Plummer, Dominique Tetzlaff, Kristan Withey, Katelyn Zirkus.

"Being a doctoral scholar means I am able to immerse myself in my studies 24/7. I don't have to work as a full time special education teacher during the day, and then have to switch hats to focus on being a doctoral scholar. I'm able to solely focus on my studies."
Kathy Ewoldt
"Being a doctoral scholar has been a great experience and under taking. With the experience has come a myriad of opportunities to grow personally and professional. Upon completing my studies, I hope to use the knowledge I've gained in the field of special education to develop effective methods for transitioning young adults with disabilities into a college or career path of their choice, ultimately aiding in this portion of the population experiencing a high quality of life and actively participating in their communities."
Matthew Love
"I am truly excited to extend the skills and knowledge I will acquire and strengthen during my doctoral program as an educator and leader in higher education. Helping undergraduates and other professionals pave their educational path and career is the ultimate highlight to obtaining my Ph.D."
Sarah Murphy
"Being a scholar in the program represents an incredible opportunity to bridge the gap between what we learn in class, and the actual practice application. It is also a chance to see and experience real world practice fields, observe, and conduct research in fields that were new to me. It is a great honor to be chosen as a scholar, and uniquely allows me to get the needed financial support for pursing my doctoral degree."
Heike Ruedenauer-Plummer
"Being a doctoral scholar has provided me the opportunity to apply my leadership skills and develop relationships with leaders in the community and in the field of education. Ultimately I have been able to support a greater number of teachers and students through my research and bring about positive change for children with disabilities and their families. My training will prepare me to work with school districts and various personnel in higher education to engage in impactful, relevant research that can revolutionize the learning of students with disabilities. I feel empowered to make significant changes for at-risk populations and bring my institution to the next level in teaching and scholarship."
Dominique Tetzlaff
"It means getting to be a leader in the field and a catalyst for change. It means getting to have a broader impact on the field about which I care so passionately. Project CULTURED allows me the opportunity to experience and train in all the areas in which I will be expected to participate as a professor. I am able to complete meaningful research on local school campuses and share my findings via the courses I teach, scholarly articles I write, and professional conferences I attend. I am so lucky to have a mini taste of my future career while under the guidance of high quality faculty."
Kritsen Withey
"Moving forward, I hope to have an everlasting impact on both the lives of pre-service teachers and their prospective students through challenging, real-life teaching."
Katelyn Zirkus

Dr. Joseph Morgan, Assistant Professor, serves as the Principal Investigator of the grant, with Drs. Kyle Higgins (Co-Principal Investigator), Joshua Baker, and Tracy Spies serving on the project team. Team members are faculty in the Department of Educational and Clinical Studies.