Meet our Research Fellows

New Fellows in Residence for 2021-2022 Academic Year!

We are excited to share with the University of Phoenix academic community the fellows that have joined us for the 2021-2022 academic year. Check back here throughout the fall as we announce those who heeded our call for support and camaraderie.

Stephen More, Ph.D. 

Dr. Stephen More was born in Nigeria during the Nigerian Civil War. More obtained a Diploma in Industrial Electrics from MTI, a Bachelor of Science in business and management, a Master of Science in Industrial and Organizational Psychology, and a PhD in IO Psychology from the University of Phoenix. Dr. More is a Registered Nurse presently leading efforts to help Covid-19 patients and patients with post-covid residual heath challenges in the United States. More’s research interests include developing leadership competencies for team building and work-life balance for organizational effectiveness. More teaches in bible studies and preaches at special meetings. More has a farm where the produce is given out to feed the less privileged in the community. More is very involved in community development. His hobbies include traveling with the family on getaways and watching political news.

Dr. Jared Nieves 

Dr. Jared Nieves is an active duty Air Force member with great ambitions.  He completed his Doctor of Management degree and is currently pursuing a second doctoral degree in Industrial and Organizational Psychology.  Dr. Nieves is currently stationed in Birmingham, Alabama where he leads hundreds of Airmen in pursuit of readiness and organizational compliance as the Inspector General.  Further, he is a firearms enthusiast - where he is currently planning on obtaining a Federal Firearms License to connect with military veterans and first responders through firearm restoration and customization.  This effort is poised to build connectedness, increase self-worth and esteem, and decrease suicide.

Dr. Elvire Daniels

Elvire Daniels currently serves as a Special Education Teacher for Western Suffolk BOCES. With over 12 years of experience in the New York State Public School System & in bringing out the fullest potential in her students, Daniels is proud of her many accomplishments in and out of the classroom. A graduate of both the Executive Leadership Program in Diversity & Inclusion at Cornell University and the Sustainable Business Strategy Program at Harvard Business School, Daniels utilizes her extensive knowledge and experience to lead the charge in both her professional and personal arenas allowing her to deeply understand and be able to work with educational leadership across a broad swath of backgrounds and needs. Daniels holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Management, Human Resources from State University of New York, Old Westbury and a Masters in Business Administration from St. Thomas Aquinas College. Daniels’ strong belief is in the power of education and is reflected in her recent completion and conferment of a doctoral degree in Business Administration. Dr. Elvire Daniels’ recently shared her Dissertation with Southern New Hampshire University Undergraduate Research Day.  Serving as the current Co-Chair of Fundraising for Jack and Jill of Nassau County, Community Service Chair for Friends Academy, as well as, serving as a member on various committees and task forces, Daniels places a high priority on service to the community. When not educating the masses or serving the community, Daniels loves to spend time with her three children. Dr. Daniels is also an avid marathon runner with 5 of the Abbott World Marathon Majors under her belt and is on her way to the renowned 6 stars. Daniels has made it her life goal to be a generous, hard-working, and thoughtful leader.

Dr. Alana Morales

Dr. Alana Morales currently holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology, a master’s degree in Educational Leadership, and a doctorate in Educational Leadership with a specialization in Curriculum and Instruction. She is a lifelong educator with over twenty-four years of educational experience, ranging from teaching to administration. Her dissertation, entitled Secondary teachers' perceptions of professional development and teacher self-efficacy: A correlational study explored the relationship between teacher professional development and teacher self-efficacy. Her research focuses on improving professional development experiences for educators, particularly at the secondary level. She has been published recently in The Phoenix Scholar and was a presenter at the 2021 Knowledge Without Boundaries conference.


The 2020-2021 Fellows in Residence

The call for Volunteery Virtual Fellows went live on September 21st with the first of fellows to be considered set for Oct. 1st. Prior to the call we selected an inagural fellow. Please join the Center for Leadership Studies and Organizational Research (CLSOR) in welcoming our first VVFR:


Meet Dr. H.A. Cooper, VVFR

Dr. H.A. Cooper, Inagural Research Fellow in Residence since September 2020, joined the University of Phoenix Center for Leadership Studies and Organizational Research. His research examines leadership quality influences on organizational change.

Dr. Cooper has previously served in multiple industry healthcare administrative roles, and as an adjunct instructor in management, leadership, economics, and strategy at Grand Canyon University. Dr. Cooper also received a BA in Psychology and Statistics from San Diego State University, an MBA and DBA in business from the University of Phoenix.

Check back here after the October 16th call ends for the final VVFRs selected for this unique opportunity. 

Meet Dr. Donte Vaughn, VVFR

Dr. Donte Vaughn, DM is a scholar, practitioner, and leader in the field of Organizational Leadership and Culture with over 17 years of experience driving results in the public and private business and academic sectors. Dr. Vaughn presently serves as the VP of Organizational Leadership & Culture with the Powers company; a results-based Management facilitation firm serving mid and large-scale enterprises across multiple industry verticles. Prior to Powers, Dr. Vaughn founded and managed a boutique Operational Management Consulting practice serving the small business community. He also served in a Senior Executive capacity for firms providing labor strategy and workforce management solutions for the Industrial market space.

Dr. Vaughn studied at Drexel University and the University of Phoenix, where he earned a Doctor of Management (DM), Master’s degree in Management and Organizational Leadership, and Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration & Management. Dr. Vaughn also serves as an Adjunct Business Faculty Member for American Intercontinental University (AIU). His professional memberships include the National Society of Leadership and Success (NSLS), Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), National Speakers Association (NSA), National Small Business Association – Leadership Council, and the National Business Educators Association (NBEA).

Meet Dr. Kim Sanders, VVFR

Dr. Kim Sanders is a senior leader in population health, government programs, health care and public health informatics.  She has gained experience managing programs and projects, by guiding all levels of IT and health care professionals through clinical systems and software configuration, development and implementations. In this capacity she has inspired and fostered team commitment, pride, and trust.  Dr. Sanders is adept at facilitating cooperation and motivating team members to accomplish group or personal goals. She thrives on strategy development, capitalizing on opportunities and managing risk. Dr. Sanders values cultural competency and respects diversity.

Dr. Sanders completed or graduate studies at the University of Phoenix. She earned a Doctorate in Health Administration (DHA) in 2011, and a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) in 2004. She has spent the last 20 years as a heath care IT consultant who has experience at both the state and federal levels directing government programs.  As such she has gained knowledge about the significant facets of health policy, social justice, leadership and public health coupled with skills in critical thinking, analytical writing, and public speaking.

Dr. Sanders gained international experience when she was asked to develop and facilitate a course for an international university in Jakarta, Indonesia. She currently guest lectures delivering an introduction to public health informatics course she developed for the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.  Dr. Sanders serves as doctoral mentor for Walden University DHA and PhD programs in the School of Health Sciences.  She is adjunct faculty at California Baptist University. 

Meet Dr. Gena Aikman, VVFR

Dr. Gena Aikman holds a Doctorate in Educational Leadership and Curriculum Instruction, University of Phoenix; BS in Business Administration, University of Phoenix; BS in Education, Weber State University; MA in Educational Counseling, University of Phoenix; Educational Leadership Endorsement in Educational Administration, Adams State College, and holds an Arizona, K-12 Principal Certificate and K-12 Counseling Certificate.  The National Society of Leadership and Success, Sigma Alpha Pi chapter, recognized and honored her as a member in good standing for high academic achievement, on June 10, 2020. 

Her professional experience includes teaching business education, physical education, educational counselor, and school administrator, both at the elementary and middle school levels.  She has been in education thirty years and is presently in her sixteenth year as an Assistant Principal. 

Additionally, she has worked at the university level advising, recruitment and assisting with collegiate level guidance to students in the areas of their degree programs and commencement.  Dr. Aikman also has worked at Fortune 500 companies, such as Kimberly-Clark and Revlon, that allowed her acquire knowledge about industry innovation and global projects.  She has enjoyed  owning a white-water raft and has operated a jeep tour business in Colorado. She is married to an optometrist, has two children and two dogs. She completed her doctorate in July 2020.

Meet Dr. Ryan Tierney, VVFR

Dr. Tierney works in the field of information and network security. Over the last 15 years he spent most of his time working in very large private sector organizations as a red teamer, penetration tester, or application security specialist. In his spare time, he performs research in new technology and vulnerablitites associated. Along with his professonal career he has a long academic history which includes both university and certification programs. Outside of technology research, his interests include attachment theory in professional environments.

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).