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Meet an Alumnus: Jera Niewoehner

Posted by on Tuesday, May 5, 2015 in Alumni, .

1. Just for starters– where are you from originally and what year did you graduate from HOCD/CDA? Any fun facts we should know?

I grew up in Dickson, TN, which is 45 miles west of Nashville. However, I have lived in Virginia, Texas, Spain, and Mexico for college and work. Fun facts? My Mom was a flight attendant and my Dad, a world geography and history teacher, both of whom cultivated my love for traveling and learning about different cultures. I have visited 46 states and 15 countries. I also participated in the 2012 HOD Fieldschool in Intercultural Education in South Africa. I graduated in May of 2013.

2. Tell us about your doctoral work: Where are you studying? What year are you? What are you researching?

I am in my first year doctoral student in Leadership Development. The program is part of the Agricultural Education and Communication Department at the University of Florida. My research areas of interest include understanding intercultural communication and leadership, initiatives in attaining gender and racial equity in education and organizations, and development of diversity and cultural competency development in higher education. I am still formulating a specific dissertation topic, but, in general, my work will analyze an aspect of the aforementioned areas within the context of agriculture and natural resources.

I am also a graduate assistant as part of my fellowship. I am a lead instructor for an effective oral communications course and teaching assistant for a leadership development course in which I have the opportunity to lecture as well. I have also guest lectured for an intercultural communications course. All of these have been great teaching opportunities for just being a first year doctoral student.

3. How did you get involved in this research?

I initially intended to pursue my research within a college of education; however, a former colleague in Metro Nashville Public Schools connected me with several Agricultural Education and Communication departments at land grant universities. My background in leadership development for both students and teachers, as well as my background in community development studies within CDA, made me a desirable candidate for these programs. Although I do not have an agriculture background, I am able to pursue my research interests within the context of agricultural education and communication.

4. Why did you do HOCD and how does it relate to your further research interests?

In looking into M.Ed. programs, I wanted broaden my interest in teaching and instruction to include other aspects of educational development. As a teacher, I had gotten involved with diversity and equity work with youth, and this prompted me to learn more about social justice and change as well as develop skills necessary to make an impact beyond the classroom. As I wrapped up my studies in the CDA program, I felt that additional research would allow me to work with and influence future leaders. Extension and leadership within the field of agriculture and natural resources dovetail well with my background in community development.

5. What advice would you give to others who want to earn a PhD or work in your field?

I think that on the ground experience acquired before or after the CDA program, whatever the area of specialization, is important before pursuing a PhD. This experience will provide context for applying theoretical models learned in a doctoral program. My background as an educator, both in the US and abroad, allows me to contribute alternative perspectives to conversations with my peers; additionally, I am able to engage young undergraduates to challenge and broaden their own perspectives. Working in the field also makes you a more-well rounded candidate. I would also suggest taking an introductory statistics class! It will help you understand empirical research encountered during your CDA studies and get you ahead of the game when beginning a PhD program.



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