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EHE’s Newest Fulbright Scholar

Janet Kiplinger Ciccone
April 01, 2013

Fulbright Scholar O’Connell Invites Ohio State/Ethiopia Collaborations

Ann A. O’Connell first fell in love with Ethiopia in her youth, when her plane touched down on the country’s lush, green Amhara Plateau. Although she spent two years in Tanzania, teaching math as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer, she never forgot the fertile richness of Ethiopia’s tableland.

She also has never forgotten that Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world, with a long-term vision of transforming into a middle-income country.

To reach this goal, the government is strongly vested in economic development and the expansion of education. This endeavor calls for Addis Ababa University (AAU), the country’s flagship university with 50,000 students, to prepare more teachers, as well as train master’s and PhD educators and researchers to support the expansion of teacher training. They are interested in areas such as mathematics and science, early childhood, educational psychology and counseling, special needs and inclusive education, and community and youth development.

As a newly designated Fulbright Scholar, O’Connell will spend a year in Ethiopia, enhancing the capacity of the College of Education and Behavioral Studies, Addis Ababa University, to graduate more doctoral students. The prestigious fellowship from the Fulbright Scholar program is awarded to a select few U.S. faculty and professionals through an annual competition.

As a professor of quantitative research, evaluation, and measurement in EHE’s Department of Educational Studies, O’Connell will focus on teaching statistical research methods and program evaluation to faculty and graduate students at AAU. Her Fulbright project, titled “Design and Outcomes of an Innovative Service/Internship Model for Statistical Education in Ethiopia,” will take place from August 2013 through April 2014.

O’Connell’s goal, through capacity building at AAU, is to boost the number of new PhDs who become teacher educators and leaders at AAU and other universities throughout Ethiopia.

O’Connell paved the way for her Fulbright last October when AAU hosted her as visiting faculty. She spent two weeks teaching a workshop on regression and multivariate analysis to 30 faculty and doctoral students.

“These faculty and students were well prepared and are eager to learn more. AAU is working hard to address a critical need for quantitative research training and mentoring at the graduate level – particularly in education and behavioral studies,” O’Connell said. “As the press for education research training builds, collaborative resources and networking structures can allow the university to advance its goals more quickly.”

In addition to teaching, the Fulbright will allow O’Connell to establish opportunities for AAU students to participate in research or service learning and internships at schools and community organizations within the larger AAU community.

She also hopes to establish faculty and student exchanges under a recently finalized memorandum of understanding (MOU) between EHE and the college at AAU. An EHE international seed grant allowed O’Connell to bring two Ethiopian officials to Ohio State for the formal talks.

Exploring Ideas for Collaboration with Ethiopia

O’Connell sees the needs of doctoral students and young faculty at AAU as matching those of their U.S. counterparts. “They all need advanced courses in research and statistical methods, long-term networking with experts as they form research questions and designs, and insights into how to use technology effectively.”

To address this last need, O’Connell invited Tracey Stuckey-Mickell to accompany her to AAU last October. As a senior lecturer in educational psychology and philosophy and a technology mentor to the EHE community, Stuckey-Mickell had always wanted to travel and work internationally. She appreciated the fact that O’Connell’s EHE international seed grant, funded by donors to the EHE Dean’s Discretionary Fund, made her one-week trip and future collaboration with Ethiopian colleagues possible.

Stuckey-Mickell invited the 30 AAU graduate students and faculty to share their basic goals for technology. After gaining a sense of what they had and what they needed, she posed ideas of how collaboration could occur.

“Ethiopia has colleges and universities around the country that need structures to build strong networking,” she said. “Since the country needs more PhDs, students need mentoring around completing dissertations. We could very easily use online technologies to do that once the hardware infrastructure is built up.”

Stuckey-Mickell is also prepared to share resources and access to faculty expertise with AAU. “One of the classes I teach is introduction to research methods. Through the Thompson Library, I’ve arranged to share resources on research methods. Both my local class and interested AAU students will benefit.”

For another course she teaches, adolescent development, Stuckey-Mickell has integrated cultural perspectives. “How cool would it be to include a real-world glimpse into another culture’s adolescent experience via AAU students?” she asked. “AAU students could get the same from us.”

Next Steps

Many possibilities for collaboration in teaching and research exist at AAU. Infinite opportunities also exist for collaborating with the Mary Joy Development Association, a nongovernmental Ethiopian agency that serves 1.6 million children, youth, and elderly through education programs, health initiatives, and HIV care.

“The director, Sister Zebider Zewdie Yitayew, is very interested in having Ohio State and AAU students help with work in their clinics,” O’Connell said, having visited several of those clinics last October. “Students could engage in research internships or service learning, or I could guide them in program evaluation, which is critical because funding hinges on evidence of program effectiveness.”

O’Connell pointed out that the health sciences and veterinary medicine programs at Ohio State have a very well-connected network of activities in Ethiopia. EHE, however, has not been formally engaged until now. “We really want to open doors to see what other ways we can collaborate.”

O’Connell and her husband, Nathan Morphew, are very committed to Ethiopia. Several years ago, they adopted their youngest daughter, Meseret, from there. “The country holds a special place in my heart,” she confided.

“Working and studying in another culture is life changing,” said Stuckey-Mickell. “You never look at the world the same way again.”

Throughout her career, Ann O’Connell has focused primarily on statistical methods for evaluating education and health interventions, modeling student growth, and evaluating the impact of professional development. She teaches and specializes in multilevel, multivariate, and categorical data analysis and is widely published in these areas.

She is a lead research affiliate and a leading methodologist for EHE’s Children’s Learning Research Collaborative, through which she is a co-principal investigator for a $600,000 grant from the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, for a rigorous training program for postdoctoral researchers. The training focuses on designing interventions to strengthen the language and literacy skills of children.

She is a co-PI for the Ohio Education Research Center, established in the College of Education and Human Ecology in early 2012 and funded by the Ohio Department of Education. She is also an established instructor in the nationally known Data Analysis Training Institute of Connecticut (DATIC).


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