Graduate Q&A: Lauren Nixon
Lauren Nixon has worked at TCU for her entire professional career and is graduating from TCU’s Higher Education Leadership doctoral program. She has earned all of her degrees from TCU as well – she received her B.A. in History with a minor in Education Studies and a B.S. in Advertising and Public Relations in 2008, an M.Ed. in Educational Administration in 2012 and will earn her Ed.D. in Higher Education Leadership.
How did you get to TCU, and why did you stay for your degrees and work?
“I grew up in the Houston area and came to visit campus on a tour the summer before my senior year. The two young men who gave my tour still work at TCU and I work with them regularly. I was really fortunate to receive a generous scholarship offer which made it possible for me to attend TCU.”
What led you to study and work in higher education?
“I’ve always had education in the back of my mind because my mom’s a teacher but you don’t realize that a university is a place you can work until you’re here. I started working as an admission counselor, then moved to a job in the Chancellor’s Office in 2016. I have been really spoiled in that when the next opportunity has presented itself that’s what I’ve gone after. I’ve worked at TCU for 11 years now and if I’m lucky I’ll be here for life.”
What has your experience in the Ed.D. in Higher Education program been like?
“I thought I had a pretty good idea of what the program would be like, but what I found is that a doctoral program really changes the way you think and approach problems. You’re taught to examine things critically and ask a different type of question. The coursework was instrumental in developing me as a student, writer, thinker and novice researcher. The faculty and relationships that I’ve been able to build with them have been amazing and Don Mills has truly been a part of my educational journey the whole way.
I have amazing classmates and colleagues who have made the process fun and worth it and become incredible sources of support. We’re all coming from such different backgrounds and have different goals that it makes it a much richer experience and discussion in the classroom.”
What was the focus of your dissertation?
“I manage the Chancellor’s Scholars program and government relations work and I also co-chair the admission committee for TCU’s STEM Scholars.
“I’ve always worked with students who are high achieving as they transition from high school to college and noticed that they conceptualize failure different than others. If you’re a healthy patient you may not get as much attention or support from the physician, so there’s potential for these students to be overlooked because they’re confident or successful.”
I wanted to know what events high achieving students considered as failures and how they reacted, so I designed a qualitative case study to see what issues are at play and what variables merit further study. On the support side, the significant finding was that these students do reach out and seek support as needed, but they prefer to start with peers first, then faculty and staff and family. They really don’t take great advantage of institutional support like a counseling center or academic services because they felt like they’d be a burden to someone. It’s important to re-frame why these services exist and make them more accessible.
I’ve gleaned practical application that myself and others can implement quickly, hopefully setting direction for further study.”
Do you have advice for future or current doctoral students?
“A dissertation is something most people only do it once and it’s unlike anything you’ve ever done – it tests you from an independence perspective. It’s supposed to be hard. When you feel like you don’t know what to do, remember you haven’t done anything like this before, so it’s normal to feel frustrated or confused. There’s no rush. Take it piece by piece, and before you know it you’ll be done.”