You are here: American University School of Education News & Events Outstanding Dissertation Awarded to Recent Alum

Recent Alumni Wins Prestigious Award Outstanding Dissertation Award Bestowed on EdD Graduate

Drs. Cohen, Batista, and DeCuirDr. Cheyenne Batista EdD '22 was awarded the prestigious Outstanding Dissertation award by the American Educational Research Association (AERA) at their 2023 Annual Meeting. She is the first person to win the award from American University, and only the third award winner completing her Doctorate of Education as opposed to a Doctorate of Philosophy.

The founder of theglobal education consulting business Firefly Worldwide and an adjunct professorial lecturer in the School of Education (SOE), her dissertation was titled “I Am Not Scary. I Am Strong. There’s a Difference.’ Disrupting Misogynoir and Transforming Interpersonal Conflict for Black Women Education Leaders: A Multiple Case Study. The award was bestowed by the Administration, Organization, and Leadership division of AERA to recognize her outstanding dissertation research appropriate to her field, which includes the leadership, organization, and administration of schools, and the preparation of educational leaders.

When interviewed about the award, Batista said, "It's motivating to see this work elevated and recognized and honored in this way. This award is special because it reflects the value of merging topics that were of real importance to me as a scholar practitioner, from identifying a topic of relevance to the field, to identifying a topic that felt pertinent and meaningful to my professional expertise. And it's motivating to see work that is focused on supporting Black women—particularly Black women leaders in education."

About the work itself, Batista said, "My main focus was on doing something excellent for the participants through my intervention. I wanted to support them, support their growth, support the education field and organizations by learning from their stories. Nearly every time I either presented this work, or recreated my intervention and delivered it as professional development, there is incredible resonance—deep, striking resonance—among participants, namely Black women leaders, but also leaders of all identities who recognize the challenging interpersonal dynamics that can exist within the workplace."

Dr. Cheyenne Batista '22 accepts her award at the podium.SOE Senior Professorial Lecturer Dr. Amaarah DeCuir, chaired Batista’s dissertation committee, and commented, "Simply amazing! It is an incredible honor to earn an Outstanding Dissertation Award, particularly when it comes from the premier education organization in one’s field. When we came to know that she won the Outstanding Dissertation Award from AERA Division A, the division that serves to organize education leadership researchers in the largest education association in the US, it meant that the quality and impact of her research contributes to the construction of new knowledges in education research."

"This is a significant achievement that describes both the quality of her research and its impact on the field of education leadership research," DeCuir continued. "I am at a loss for words beyond ‘simply amazing’ to describe how we should recognize that Cheyenne’s single dissertation earned both a Dissertation in Practice of the Year award from CPED and this award from AERA. This is a significant achievement that represents the ultimate goal of education research—to meaningfully impact practice and contribute new knowledges to the field."

Executive Director of EdD Program and Senior Professorial Lecturer Dr. Samantha Cohen said, “Dr. Batista’s approach to scholarly practice are examples to learn from. She embodied practice and collective action through her convening of Black women education leaders, while building their knowledge and practice of navigating interpersonal conflict while managing interracial teams. Her approach centered her own positionality as a Black female education leader, while drawing upon scholarship of misogynoir, sister circles, and intersectionality. Her cutting-edge work is a deep contribution to the field, spanning scholarship and practice and pushing on what dissertations of practice can look like, when they center antiracism.”

Dr. Cheyenne Batista '22 and her family awaiting the award announcement.“Dr. Batista and Dr. DeCuir’s collaboration and partnership highlight the collaborative work that scholar practitioners and chairs engage in to create bridges between scholarship and practice,” said Cohen. “And Dr. Batista and her committee’s recognition are significant, for our new EdD program, where we are building a pathway for antiracist scholarship and practice to co-exist and for the emergence of a new vision for the dissertation of practice.”

Batista, "celebrates this win with everyone who contributed to my journey in some way. I always start by thanking my Creator, my ancestors—I undeniably stand on their shoulders with pride and with a sense of responsibility. I thank my family, my closest friends, and particularly folks who were actively involved in the process. What kept me going were long walks with friends to talk about my work. My critical friends group, incredibly supportive faculty at the School of Ed, my own life partner who, though he's not in the field of education, he would just read my drafts and bounce questions off of me. [My critical friends group] were my go-to during some of the most challenging moments in the in the study where I needed the support of external voices who felt invested in the success of the study, and who could help me make sense of my findings. I will continue to do work building on the dissertation, because of the nature of the topic and its personal relevance to me."

DeCuir said, "I hope that our current and future EdD students can learn from Dr. Batista’s research to ensure that their Dissertations of Practice also serve to advance practice and the field of education leadership broadly."

Batista closed with advice for anyone considering working toward a doctorate, "Be purposeful in choosing your focus area, your problem of practice. Focus on work that matters to the field or that matters to you. In doing so, get really clear about what your North Star is and why—what do you want to do in the long term with this work, be it career wise, or how it contributes to already existing knowledge. And then the rest will fall into place as you align to your clarity about what guides you."

Read more about Batista's Carnegie Project on Education Doctorate (CPED) 2022 CPED Dissertation in Practice of the Year award hereLearn more about SOE's Doctorate in Education in Educational Policy and Leadership here.

About the 2023 National AERA Meeting

American University's School of Education had significant representation at the American Educational Research Association's (AERA) 2023 Annual Meeting in Chicago, Illinois. Educational research is the cornerstone of making informed change in education, and AU's SOE was well represetnted with many faculty and alumni presenters throughout the four-day conference. The theme this year was "Consequential Educational Research."

The AERA Annual Meeting is the largest gathering of scholars in the field of education research, with typically 13,000 of its 24,000 members in attendance. It is an event to showcase groundbreaking, innovative studies in a diverse array of areas: from early education through higher education, from digital learning to second language literacy. Ideas and data are presented and discussed that will shape tomorrow’s education practices and policies, and where to connect with leading thinkers from the U.S. and around the world.