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Get to Know Our 2024 CCD Research and Scholarship Award Winner!

Community Colleges Division
March 20, 2024 Erin Iowa State University in the School of Education

My name is Erin Doran (she/her), and I’m currently an Associate Professor at Iowa State University in the School of Education. I’ve been at Iowa State since 2016. Before then, I was a student and full-time employee at the University of Texas at San Antonio, and I also taught night classes in history at Northeast Lakeview College, one of the Alamo College campuses. I work with a number of community college professionals and leaders in my classes at Iowa State, especially in our M.Ed. in Higher Education and Ed.D. programs that both offer emphases in Community College Leadership. 

What is the focus of your community colleges research?

I usually say that I have three research strands: Latina/o/x/e students, the faculty who teach them, and the institutions they attend. I’m very focused on understanding the factors that contribute to success of Latina/o/x/e students who begin their postsecondary education journeys at community colleges. As part of this, I’ve been really interested in Mexican American/Chicana/o/x Studies programs and the ways that they help students learn about their own identities. There’s been a lot of research done on Ethnic Studies programs in K-12 education and at four-year institutions, but there’s a huge gap in these programs specifically in community colleges.

A lot of my research is also based on my experience as a community college adjunct, so I’ve also been very interested in the professional development of community college faculty. When I started teaching, I didn’t know what I was doing! So I want to know more about the ways community college faculty develop their teaching skills, especially to meet the needs of the students in their classrooms. Recently, I’ve also been developing some research around community colleges that are Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) and how this is a unique institutional type. 

What do you hope to uncover/highlight?

Overall, I don’t believe in one-size-fits-all solutions for tackling complex educational problems. But I hope that I can describes contexts and practices that appear to be working well and make suggestions for how other institutions might adapt those practices to better support their students. More than anything, I hope that people who pick up my work will do so with an open mind and be open to changing existing practices on their campuses. I never want to hear any higher education professional say, “Well, we’ve always done it that way!”

Why is this important to Student Affairs professionals?

On a community college campus, the lines between student affairs and academic affairs are way more blurred than they might be on a “traditional” four-year campus. For non-community college scholar-practitioners, I think it’s incredibly important to know that community colleges often have vibrant student affairs infrastructure on their campuses. And for faculty at community colleges, I really want to highlight the incredible support that personnel throughout the college can provide to reinforce what goes on in the classroom. We are all working towards the same goal: our students’ success.

Community colleges are magic. I say that a lot, and I sincerely mean it. I think there’s been a lot of effort in the last 5-10 years to break down community college stigmas, but I don’t think community colleges get the love and respect that they deserve.