Nichols’ Team Earns Research Grant Funding

Dr. Keegan Nichols, vice president for student services at Arkansas Tech University, is part of a team of three researchers that has received grant funding to conduct a study entitled “The Influence of Leadership Education on First-Generation College Students’ Transition Into and Through College.”

The American College Personnel Association (ACPA) Commission for Student Involvement presented Nichols, Dr. Brett L. Bruner of Fort Hays State University and Dr. Lisa Baumgartner of Texas A&M University with resources that will allow them to conduct qualitative research to discern how first-generation college students understood how participating in leadership education programs, events, services and interventions assisted in their transition into and through the first year of college life.

Interview subjects will be first-generation college students in the sophomore, junior and senior years.

“As the number of first-generation college students continues to grow and enroll on college and university campuses, many campuses do not know how to best serve this student population with programs, events, services and interventions to support student transition, contributing to persistence and success,” wrote Nichols, Bruner and Baumgartner in their grant submission. “This study will explore the intersection of leadership education as a transition strategy to support first-generation college students through a qualitative approach, understanding how this student population viewed the influence of leadership education on their transition and success. Thus, the research will contribute broadly to the call for colleges and universities to re-think their approaches to support first-generation college students as well as more specifically to the Commission on Student Involvement and the leadership education focus. The results will be useful for leadership educators, student involvement professionals, first-generation college student advocates and new student transition administrators.”

The research team hypothesizes that “engagement in leadership education programs, events, services and interventions positively influenced the transition of first-generation college students into and through the first year of college life.”

A native of Vilonia, Nichols joined ATU as its vice president for student services on June 26, 2017. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Education degree from the University of Central Arkansas, a Master of Science degree in college administration from the University of Central Missouri and a Doctor of Education degree in adult and higher education from Northern Illinois University.

Nichols was previously associate vice president for student affairs at Fort Hays State University from 2013-17 and vice president of student affairs at Colby Community College (Kan.) from 2010-13. She has additional experience working in student services at Northern Illinois University and Rockford College (Ill.).

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