The Dissertation of the Year Award process honors the top dissertations in the School of Advanced Studies (encompassing business, healthcare, and education). The process for the Dissertation of the Year Award was competitive, with a large number of applications to consider. Reviewers considered contribution to their field, student progress through the dissertation milestones, and rational for nomination from the graduate’s committee chair.
Each Awardee received an elegant glass flame award, a $500 financial award, and presented their doctoral research at the 2018 KWB Research Summit. Based on the submissions received, the following three 2018 winners were selected. Congratulations are in order to:
Dr. Scott G. Drexler for his dissertation titled “Mindful Awareness of Internal and External Influences on HRO Leaders: Heuristic Inquiry.”
This heuristic inquiry was an exploration of the mindful awareness of internal and external influences on the actions of leaders in High Reliability Organizations (HRO) when faced with dangerous situations so physical and psychological harm can be averted. HRO leaders require a discriminatory mindfulness to subtle danger signals and cues in complex, high-risk systems to sustain safe and reliable performance (Weick & Sutcliffe, 2007). In 2013, even with mindful principles in place, over 300 vital HRO personnel lost their lives in dangerous contexts (DOD, 2015; FBI, 2015; NFPA, 2015). Conceptually HRO leaders are conscious of subtle present-moment physical and psychological stimuli and cues while making decisions and applying behaviors in dangerous situations. The specific problem is that unsustained mindful awareness of internal and external cues may lead to severe injury or death of HRO leaders in dangerous contexts. Thirteen HRO experts in the South Eastern United States with experience leading in dangerous situations were selected from within law enforcement, firefighting, and military domains using purposeful sampling criteria. Data were collected through semi-structured participant interviews. Four themes emerged from an analysis of collected data including focus on present moment, consciousness of one’s environments, experiential learning, and reliability-enhancing training. The themes revealed individual mindfulness development, experiential leadership assignments, and wide-ranging education and training opportunities may enhance cue recognition and sustained mindfulness in dangerous contexts. The results of this study may prove beneficial to improving individual mindfulness and increasing HRO leader well-being and survivability in dangerous situations.
Dr. Kristine F. Meze-Burtis for her dissertation titled “Intrinsic Case Study on the Influence of Social Media Content on a Zoological Organization.”
The purpose of this qualitative intrinsic case study was to examine the influence of social media content on a zoological organization. To examine the problem of how social media influenced employee perceptions, an intrinsic case study was conducted to explore the influence of social media on a zoological park. Supported by social learning theory and mass communication theory, the study explored various themes to express the different perceptions of zoological employees through social media. The sample size of this study consisted of 18 zoological employees representing five different departments between the ages of 18 and 56 with an average of 12.20 years of experience in a zoological park in California. Findings of this study revealed a variety of perceptions on the influence of social media on a zoological organization and many participants perceived social media use by the organization and the employees as a vital step in correcting misinformation that has led to changed perceptions about zoos and aquariums. The findings of the study will assist zoological organizational leaders to make better-informed decisions in regard to how the content is handled as perceived by the employees. The study will also help stakeholders understand the perceptions of the information and how the organizations reaction to misinformation may influence the employees and change perceptions about zoological establishments.
Dr. Kelly Rhodes for her dissertation titled “Influencing Corporate Social Responsibility Decision Making in a Major League Baseball Team: A Case Study.”
This qualitative, single, intrinsic case study explores the forces that influence the decision making behaviors of one Major League Baseball team regarding its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) efforts between 2007 and 2015 and the outcomes of those efforts. Three sources of data were utilized: annual community reports, newspaper articles, and five personal interviews with purposefully selected members of the organization whose work is related to CSR performance. The problem is that it was not known what forces influence CSR decisions within professional sports even though these efforts represent a large investment of the organization’s time and money. The outcomes of these efforts were also unknown. Three theories were used to provide a foundation for the study: Identity Theory, Stakeholder Theory, and Institutional Theory. Six resultant themes were realized. 1.) The influence of leadership plays a significant role in the formulation, direction, and implementation of CSR efforts. 2.) CSR is performed for both strategic and altruistic motives; the organization believes it is the right thing to do and it is good for business. 3.) Knowing the community, understanding its needs, and being connected to the people are imperative for performing charitable work that makes an impact. 4.) Both internal and external influences impact the direction of charitable initiatives. 5.) Measurement of CSR efforts is difficult to perform but is essential to successful and sustainable initiatives. 6.) On-the-field performance does not dictate the amount of CSR efforts, but it can influence the impact of charitable efforts.
The following faculty recognized for their guidance in assisting SAS students with developing quality research. Dr. Elizabeth Young (chair), Dr. Elizabeth Thompson, and Dr. Jared Padgett guided Dr. Drexler’s work. Dr. Sandra Nunn (chair), Dr. Patricia D'Urso, and Dr. Ina Marie Peoples guided Dr. Meze-Burtis’s work. Dr. Kevin Bottomley (chair), Dr. Patrick Farabaugh and Dr. Sandra M. Lane guided Dr. Rhodes work. Each offered outstanding mentorship to their students, and deserve commendation for producing such fine doctoral graduates.