ASHE-Spencer Research to Practice Project

The goals of the 2020 Research to Practice Project were to collaborate with New Orleans and Louisiana-based higher education institutions and community-based organizations on higher education issues of local concern (with state and national implications) to produce some product of value, such as a brief that can inform policy and practice.

We aimed to solicit project ideas from Louisiana-based higher education institutions that were locally important but also had implications for broader audiences. To help guide the project we created an advisory board made up of colleagues from Louisiana-based institutions and other higher education associations. Finally, we sought to recruit volunteers to work on research to practice teams from Louisiana as well as across the country and to have teams that were intergenerational and included faculty, student affairs administrators, academic leaders, and graduate students.

Indeed, we accomplished each of these objectives. First, we identified three topics via a survey of LA higher education and community-based organizations, and consultation with the LA Board of Regents in April, 2020. We formed three research to practice teams on the topics of college affordability, equity-minded personnel decisions, and student employment. Each issue was especially salient for Louisiana-based higher education institutions living through the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, many high school students changed their college-going plans to either delay or not attend higher education, and the plans of Black and Brown students especially effected. Many LA college students attending HBCUS and state schools are self-support and depend on college student employment for living expenses. Yet many lost employment opportunities as campuses shut down due to COVID-19. Finally, LA institutions will have to make hard decisions about furloughs and lay-offs given the financial fall-out of the pandemic.

Furthermore, we made sure project topics were actionable in the context of LA politics, finances, local realities, and have potential stakeholder(s) identified that could benefit from the final products. It was important that projects had a relevant research base in field of higher education, were able to be studied remotely, with extant data or data that could be collected within a three month period without taxing campuses, and could result in value-added products—useful for higher education leaders and practitioners.
Our advisory board was convened in April 2020 and helped with the design of projects and recruitment of topics and volunteers in May 2020. We launched the project with our teams in June 2020 and introduced teams to advisory board members and the values and principles of research to practice projects. Two of our advisory board members with significant experience with research to practice projects held a webinar to answer team questions and P.I. O’Meara outlined expectations and a timeline for the projects. The teams then began meeting every two weeks throughout the summer, connecting with LA stakeholders on questions, sources of data, and to ensure they were crafting products that would be value-added. The advisory board held two webinars in July and August 2020 to check in with teams. Two members of the advisory led a special session on communicating findings for broad audiences. 

Each of the three teams had a liaison from the advisory board who also worked to guide and check-in with teams (e.g. Christopher Broadhurst, Judy Kiyama and KerryAnn O’Meara).

  • By September 15th, 2020 teams began submitting draft products to the advisory board for feedback and P.I. O’Meara ensured each product received feedback from at least 3-4 advisory board members. Final versions of reports and op-eds were submitted to ASHE by October 15th and we used funds from this Spencer grant as proposed to support graphic design services for those reports. We also utilized funds from the Spencer grant, as proposed, to support attendance by LA-based colleagues at our national conference.
  • The three teams and members of the advisory board presented the final products and reflected on their experiences at the 2020 Virtual ASHE conference, November 21st, 2020 in a presentation we have attached entitled: “In Partnership with Louisiana: 2020 Research to Practice Project Reflections.” One of the reports is currently under slight revision with our graphic designer and then all of the products will be posted on the ASHE website by December 7th, 2020. Both reports are also going to be shared with the LA Board of Regents and community college chancellors.  Overall the products created for this project include:

College Affordability:

“State Financial Aid Policy Changes to Meet Louisiana Postsecondary Education Attainment and Equity Goals.” A policy report authored by Kevin R. McClure, Ashley B. Clayton, Melissa Whitley & Catherine Hartman.

“Louisiana’s Public Community Colleges and Universities Are Great Option in The New Economy.” An Op Ed run in local LA newspapers by Joy Blanchard and William Wainwright; with contributors Dr. Tireka Cobb - Field Outreach Services Director, Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance (LOSFA), Dr. Emily Campbell - Chief Enrollment Management Officer, Louisiana Community & Technical College System (LCTCS); Dr. Claire Norris – Associate Vice President for Inclusion, Diversity, and Effectiveness, University of Louisiana System.

Student Employment:

“The Crisis of On-campus Student Employment Amid COVID-19, An Additional Burden for Vulnerable Groups.” An Op Ed that will shortly be submitted to Diverse Issues in Higher Education by authors: Steven Kenney, Vincent Carales, Desiree Anderson, Tyler Hallmark, David W. Robinson-Morris, Chris Marsicano, Danica R. Brown, and Jennifer Johnson.

Equity-Minded Personnel Decisions

“An Equity-Minded Framework for Faculty and Staff Employment Decisions.” A policy report by authors: Desiree Anderson, John Braxton, Dawn K. Culpepper, John W. Curtis, Margaret Graham, Sara Shaw, Courtney Williams.


The research reported in the 2020 ASHE Research to Practice Project was made possible (in part) by a grant from the Spencer Foundation (#202100030). The views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Spencer Foundation.

Advisory Board

  • KerryAnn O'Meara, 2020 President, Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE)
  • Jason Guilbeau, Executive Director, Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE)
  • Carrie S. Robison, Deputy Commissioner for Research and Sponsored Initiatives, Louisiana Board of Regents 
  • David A. Tandberg, Vice President Policy Research and Strategic Initiatives, State Higher Education Executive Officers
  • Jason Lee, Postdoctoral Fellow, State Higher Education Executive Officers 
  • Matthew Holsapple, Associate Program Officer, Spencer Foundation
  • Judy Kiyama, Department Chair and Associate Professor of Higher Education
  • Christopher J Broadhurst, Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership, University of New Orleans 
  • Lorelle Espinosa, Vice President Research, American Council on Education 
  • Brian Sponsler, Vice President of Policy, Education Commission of the States