Meet our Research Fellows

2018 Research Fellows

CLSER Research Fellows are integral to implementing the CLSER research agenda and supporting our center affiliates' professional development.  Read about our current 2018 and past fellow projects below. 

By C.A. Holland

A distinctive group of scholars of multi-talented individuals make up the 2018 University of Phoenix School of Advanced Study Fellows. Not only are they scholars and researchers, the fellows impact the lives of others in a variety of techniques and across many organizations here in the United States and around the world. The cohort of six fellows is comprised of two senior fellows and four junior fellows. One of the senior fellows, Dr. Kevin Bottomley, is charged with providing leadership, mentoring, and support to the junior fellows in the completion of their projects. The cohort includes the following additional fellows:  

Dr. Gary Berg, Senor Fellow; Dr. Tonia Perry Conley, Junior Fellow; Dr. Betty Jones, Junior Fellow; Dr. Carol A. Holland, Junior Fellow; Dr. David Probst, Junior Fellow, and Dr. Maria ReGester, Junior Fellow.

An interesting note is that five of the fellows have Leadership Studies as their field of study, one fellow is in the field of Pre-K12 Education, and one fellow is in Higher Education Administration.

Fellows Fun Facts (FFF)  – Did You Know?

  • That Dr. Gary Berg has authored, co-authored, or edited 8 books and over 20 articles and book chapters on current issues in higher education, public policy, and distance learning? Research Hub link.
  • That Dr. Tonia Perry Conley is a passionate researcher and writer. Dr. Conley is an experienced federal grant writer and writes a monthly blog, which contains a six-part series entitled All Lives Matter: An Educational Perspective? Research Hub link.
  • That Dr. Carol A. Holland is a Certified Yoga Instructor, who loves swimming laps and spending time with her children and grandchildren. Research Hub link.
  • That Dr. Betty Jones completed her dissertation, a qualitative, ethnographic study of the higher education governing policy in South Africa. For over 20 years, Dr. Jones worked in public education, primarily at the secondary level, in counseling and administration? Research Hub link.
  • That Dr. Dave Probst lives in a very small community of 27,000 people, likes to be called Dr. Dave, and has been a Superintendent of Schools? Research Hub link.
  • That Dr. Maria ReGester’s chief goal in life is to be at peace within and encourage others to gain a peaceful outlook? Dr. ReGester has a compassion for families and seeks to support the development of joy and happiness in all relationships. Dr. ReGester is also a certified fitness instructor. Research Hub link.

Education and Background of Fellows

Dr. Kevin Bottomley received his Ph.D. in Leadership Studies from North Caroline A&T State University, he has a Master of Public Affairs. Dr. Bottomley has been teaching for University of Phoenix for over 10 years in the HSM Program. In the fall of 2013,  Dr. Bottomley started teaching research courses in the SAS. In January 2016, Dr. Bottomley became one of the Lead Faculty Area Chair's for Research in the SAS. Currently, Dr. Bottomley teaches residency courses, which are designed to support doctoral students in the development of substantive dissertation proposal.                      

Dr. Gary Berg received a BA in English Literature from University of California Berkeley, a MA in Film Studies from San Francisco State University, a MFA in Film/TV Studies from UCLA in Los Angeles, and a PhD in Education from Claremont Graduate University. Dr. Berg is an experienced higher education administrator from both public and private institutions.

Dr. Tonya Perry Conley Dr. Tonia Perry Conley serves as the Executive Director of the Student Academic Success & Retention Center and Principle Investigator for the TRIO Portfolio (4 - Educational Talent Search, Student Support Services, Educational Opportunities Center, and McNair Research Project).  Dr. Perry Conley joined the University of Phoenix family as a Campus and Academic Affairs Director in 2015.  Dr. Peery Conley received her B.A. in Psychology from Spelman College, and her M.A. in Theology & Counseling from Eastern University. Dr. Perry Conley brings more than 20 years of dedicated and professional expertise in Student Services, and she worked as the Executive Director, principle investigator for a research program.

Dr. Betty Jones received a BA degree in Social Welfare from the University of California, Chico, and a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree from the University of California, San Diego.  Dr. Jones earned the Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) with a focus in Organization and Leadership from the University of San Francisco.  Dr. Jones also earned a minor in International and Multicultural Education Dr. Jones currently works at the University of Phoenix where she serves as faculty in the School of Advanced Studies, Doctoral Programs. As a mentor and dissertation chair, she has assisted many students through the dissertation process and taught doctoral dissertation courses.

Dr. Carol A. Holland holds a BA in Sociology and Psychology from West Virginia State University, a Master and EDS in Education from the George Washington University, and a Doctorate in Education from the George Washington University. Dr. Holland currently works for the University of Phoenix as a Dissertation Chair, Online Dissertation Faculty, and Residency Faculty. Dr. Holland is also an active Kiwanis International Member and works tirelessly to improve the quality of life for children around the world. Dr. Holland is currently President of the local Kiwanis Club. Dr. Holland worked for over 30 years in the Pre-K to 12 Public Schools in two states and three different districts.

Dr. David Probst holds a B.S. in Education University of Nebraska at Omaha majoring in social studies and psychology, an M.S. in Education University of Nebraska at Omaha with a major in special education, and a EdD in Administration, Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Besides my formal education. Dr. Probst has continued to study at the University of Missouri-Columbia and Central Missouri State as well presented at many state, regional, and national conferences.

Dr. Maria ReGester earned a Bachelor of Science in Government from Campbell University, a Master of Arts in Organizational Management from University of Phoenix, and a Doctorate in Management Decision Science with a focus on Organizational Leadership from Walden University.

CLSER additionally has the pleasure of hosting a number of more recent Writing and Publication Fellowships for the 2018 academic year namely, Drs. Michelle Witherspoon, Consuelo Meux. Witherspoon is an active writer and blogger on the Hub including informative pieces like Practical Guidelines for Devising a Concrete Plan: Before, During, and After the Dissertation Oral Defense and Social Networks: A College Professors Constitutional Right to Privacy. She holds a Doctorate in Leadership & Education with Specialization in Higher Education Administration from Barry University. Her research philosophy aligns she says to the great Albert Einstein’s inclination that “not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted” (Patton, 2002, p. 12). Consuelo, on the other hand, has had numerous academic appointments at several schools and is a certified health coach. Her work has focused on wellness for women to tips for entrepreneurial success. “I served on the editorial board of Journal of Small Business Management as a peer reviewer. As a public speaker, I have given commencement speeches and have been a featured presenter at conferences and seminars throughout the United States and overseas."

Fellow Project Details Forthcoming...

Carla Lane-Johnson, Ed.D.


Dr. Carla Lane, Ed.D. has an extensive background in distance learning and evaluation of mediated educational programs.  She is Executive Director of The Education Coalition, a non-profit that provides educational evaluation services to districts, universities, and other entities requiring local, state and national evaluations.   She has been extensively involved in the education field through her research in distance learning. Her work has been published in many research reports and journals.  Lane was with WestEd for 15 years -a regional educational laboratory - as a senior researcher and project director of the Star Schools dissemination project - the Distance Learning Resource Network (DLRN).

The literature regarding dissertation student mentoring suggests that dissertation chairs are advanced in their content knowledge but may lack experience in facilitating the dissertation level student or acting as a mentor/coach for the student.  Dissertation chairs may be unresponsive to their dissertation level students which may result in the student’s dissatisfaction with the dissertation chair and with the university’s management oversight of dissertation chairs.  Such dissatisfaction may slow the student’s progress, requiring multiple enrollments in dissertation courses that may lead to higher attrition rates, fewer graduates, and potential financial aid default rates after three years. 

Two academic theories may contribute to improvement for dissertation chair working in the online environment which include transactional distance and situational management. Transactional distance (Moore, 2013) focuses on reducing the sense of isolation in distance learning environments by using techniques that increase the interaction between the instructors, students, and content.  Training in these techniques may reduce the transactional distance between dissertation chairs and their students. Situational management (Blanchard, 1985) allows management of students based on their competence and skill level using 4 quadrants ranging from least to most competent. 

In the least competent mode, the dissertation chair applies the most hands-on strategies and intensive work with the student.  In the fourth quadrant, less management is required. Because students progress in different areas at various paces, situational management allows the dissertation chair to be directive in the first quadrant for one competency and delegate/oversee work in the fourth quadrant for another competency.  For example, a student may be fully competent in writing the literature review but have little competence in the research design.  Situational management allows the dissertation chair to use varying instructional strategies depending on the student’s competence.

As a Fellow, she has worked on CLSER's Research Project, "Reducing transactional distance through instructional design strategies and mentoring/coaching."

Erik Bean, Ed.D


Research Fellow, Erik Bean, Ed.D. is in the process of developing a research study about customer experience (CX) and user experience (UX) that initially captures the content, messages, and interactions of the University of Phoenix Center for Leadership Studies and Educational Research (CLSER) offerings and the personas of its customers, University of Phoenix chairs and doctoral students. The purpose of this study is to take the Center from a default CX state developing a formative assessment and evaluation tool to a deliberate CX advantage for sustainable memorable experience improvements leading to customer advocates.

Gary Berg, PhD, MFA


Center Research Project: Case study on Latina/o and African American students in an online doctoral program: Understanding opportunities and challenges in the dissertation process and mentor relationships

What are common challenges in and outside the classroom for Latina/o and African-American doctoral students? What are the characteristics and patterns observed in the mentor-mentee Latina/o and African-American doctoral student relationships? How do Latina/o and African-American doctoral students evaluate the “value” of their degree?

Latina/o and African-American participation in doctoral programs nationally is low. According to the NCES (Condition of Education 2012), of the doctoral degrees earned annually in the United States, only 7.4% are African-American and 5.8% Latina/o students. Although rates are improving gradually, the lack of diversity in graduate programs nationally continues to be a significant problem, especially for the growing Latina/o population. The University of Phoenix, with its mission of open access to high quality educational opportunities, serves an unusually large percentage of ethnic minority students. The overall self-reported composition of the student body is 29% African-American, and 14.3% Hispanic ( As a result, the University has played a unique role in American higher education by opening access to doctoral degrees to traditionally underserved populations, and has a wealth of data available from which researchers can learn about specific obstacles for students, best practices, and potential directions for doctoral programs wanting to better serve students.

Heath Boice-Pardee, EdD

James Lane, Ed.D.


Center Research Project: A Synthesis of Research Describing the International Development of Professional Ethics Within the Field of Education

Jim Lane has spent nearly 40 years as an educator and writer. He has worked as an English teacher, district supervisor, and middle school principal. He teachers a variety of courses for UOPx in Communications and Education. He also works with doctoral students through the School of Advanced Studies. He has worked as a free-lance writer and has written more than 100 articles for various publications. His articles have ranged from technical pieces and newsletters for businesses to profiles of national celebrities, including Joe Theisman and John Madden. His research interests include ethical frameworks, ethical dilemmas, educators’ codes of ethics, autoethnography, narrative analysis, constructivism, school leadership, and middle school curriculum.

Jason Flora, PhD


Center Research Project: Doctoral mentoring through the lens of experiential learning

Dr. Jason Flora teaches introductory and upper-division courses in Humanities and the History of Art at Brigham Young University-Idaho, with particular interests in Italian Renaissance, the scholarship of teaching and learning and things aesthetic. His doctoral research, Adult Experiential Learning in Short-term Study Abroad: An Heuristic Study of the Power of Place, uncovered fresh intersections between experiential learning theory and andragogy within the dynamic backdrop of short-term study abroad programs. An active practitioner of experiential learning curriculum design/ implementation in the classroom and beyond, Dr. Flora coordinates the department’s growing internship program and regularly co-directs domestic and international travel study programs.

More on "Doctoral Mentoring through the Lens of Experiential Learning"

The opportunity presented in this study is to discover the essence of successful doctoral mentoring via an experiential learning lens. The premise is simple: the dissertation process is both an experiential education/learning opportunity for the candidate, chair, and committee. The dissertation process, from the perspective of the committee chair, would include all steps and products required by the university, chair and doctoral candidate engagement, as well as chair and committee engagement ending in the production and dissemination of an approved dissertation. This study situates itself at the intersection of experiential learning (as well as experiential teaching/facilitating) and the scholarly leadership engaged when guiding doctoral students as a chair/mentor.

The focus of this reflexive discourse is on how doctoral faculty can approach the doctoral research process as an active, co-experiential event leading to greater effectiveness across all metrics of success. Such measures include maintaining strong collegial relationships, a completed and approved dissertation, and professional advancement. Experiential learning is presented as the theoretical framework supporting this discourse. Scholarly leadership is introduced and defined.

Lynne Devnew, DBA


Dr. Lynne E. Devnew is on the doctoral faculty for the University of Phoenix where she teaches online, facilitates a five day residence leadership class, and chairs doctoral committees. She has her BS from Simmons College, her MS from Columbia University, and her DBA from Boston University. Before pursuing her doctorate, she spent 23 years with IBM and was among the first women there to manage professionals. She also coaches church leaders and serves on several non-profit boards.

Dr. Devnew’s doctoral studies focused on the strategic responsibilities of leaders. Her dissertation, a comparative case study, was Interpreting the Implications of the Internet: An Exploratory Study of CEOs in the Consumer Catalog Industry. Her focus is now on women and leadership. She co-chaired a discussion of women’s leadership development at the International Leadership Association Women and Leadership Affinity Group Inaugural Conference at Asilomar in 2013 and will be co-chair of the research stream Increasing Equality in Power and Decision-making at Asilomar in 2015. A participant in the 2014 academic colloquium Advancing Theories of Women and Leadership at Utah Valley University, she and her team will be presenting Women’s Leader Identity Development: Traveling the Twisting Path at the International Leadership Association’s 2014 preconference follow-up workshop.

As a Fellow, she has worked on CLSER's Research Project "Women on boards lived experiences of women’s influential power and decision making on boards. ."

Russ Volckmann


Center Research Project: Language and action in leadership

Dr. Russ Volckmann has taught and served on dissertation committees in several universities, while at the same time serving as an organization development consultant and executive coach in many companies and organizations. He is the Publisher, of Integral Publishers, LLC, and of the Integral Leadership Review. He has published numerous articles and interviews related to leadership. The interviews have included CEOs of global corporations, executives, consultants and coaches, development professionals, academics and authors. Some of these have been published in a three volume series, Insights on Leadership. He is also the Co-author of Transversity: Transdisciplinary Approaches in Higher Education.

More on "Language and Action in Leadership"

The field of Leadership Studies is inundated with definitions of terms (e.g., leader, leadership) and a sizable literature in which the meaning of these terms is assumed to be shared. This study explores a chain of relationships between meaning making and action in understanding the concepts and how we apply them in theory, development and practice. The central formulation will be grounded in the English language and will draw from diverse fields, such as philosophy, linguistic anthropology, psychology and leadership studies. That formulation will explore the following series of hypotheses:

  1. The language we use influences the way we think;
  2. The way we think influences our sense and meaning making;
  3. The way we make meaning influences the choices we can consider;
  4. Our choices lead to contextual action, e.g.,   
    a. Formulation of theories of leadership,
    b. Approaching development of individuals for leader roles; and
    c. The actions stakeholders take in relation to leader roles within variable contexts.


Leadership Studies is a rich and complex field of diverse perspectives. It begs for multi- and transdisciplinary approaches in study and practice. With the growing complexity and “messiness” of problems human systems face, more such approaches to leadership will help societies and organizations to use leadership as a collective phenomenon that includes the individual in relation to communities of practice with more promise of success. This study suggests a meta framework that integrates perspectives from multiple disciplines and points to a way that may lead to such success.

Walker Ladd, Ph.D.


Dr. Walker Ladd is dedicated to the advancement of education scholarship and advanced leadership studies. A thought leader in higher education and media, she serves as the Media Review Editor for The Journal of Leadership Studies at the School of Advanced Studies. She is a Research Fellow for the Center of Leadership Studies and Educational Research. As faculty, Dr. Ladd serves as a Dissertation Research Chair for the School of Advanced Studies. As a methodologist, she pursues deeper understanding of pragmatic philosophy through qualitative methodologies with particular interest in grounded theory methods. She is currently advancing research regarding mid-career scholars and successful peer-reviewed publication. Dr. Walker Ladd is the Media Director for The International Marcé Society, and serves as Program Co-Chair for the American Psychological Association’s (APA) Trauma Division.

As a Fellow she has recently published the CLSER Research Project "Published: A grounded theory of the nature of successful peer reviewed publication for mid-career scholars."

**Booth, W. C., Colomb, G. G., & Williams, J. M. (2008) The Craft of Research (3rd ed.). Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (p. 5).