EHS Winners of 3 Minute Thesis Competition

J2716 Three Minute Thesis Competition

Jessica Gunzburger and Tanya Willard, two students in the Student Affairs in Higher Education Ph.D. Program in the Educational Leadership Department at Miami University, placed 1st and 3rd respectively in Miami University’s 3-Minute Thesis Competition. Tanya and Jessica had to present about their dissertations in under three minutes or less in a way that anyone could understand it…quite a challenge!

We talked with Jessica and Tanya to further understand what their projects were about and hear about their experiences in the competition. This is what they had to say:

Jessica Gunzburger

I am a PhD candidate in the Student Affairs in Higher Education (SAHE) program, situated within the department of Educational Leadership; this is my third year here at Miami University and I anticipate graduating in May 2017.

J2716 Three Minute Thesis Competition

My dissertation, The Role of Race in Student Affairs Supervision, focuses on how racial identity affects supervision relationships.  Good supervision has all kinds of benefits–increased employee retention, productivity, and satisfaction. Organizations benefit when employees are at their best, which happens when they get supervision that focuses on growth and development.  However, existing research does not address the role that identity has on the supervision process, which is particularly troubling given the extensive evidence that racism continues on college campuses.  My study aims to fill that hole, and provide supervisors with tangible ways to improve supervision so that every person within higher education has the opportunity to be at their best.

J2716 Three Minute Thesis Competition

Preparing for the competition had its ups and down.  I remember when I wrote the first draft I wrote what I thought would be half of it, timed it, and found that just that part was over 3 minutes!  It was a real challenge to get it down to that time limit.  After I got the script written, it was practice, practice, practice!  I also appreciated getting feedback from the judges after the preliminary round, at which point I made some changes that made my presentation stronger.  I was nervous for the competition, mostly because I wanted to do justice to the importance of the research and the time and energy my participants have given to the study.  I am happy that I feel the finished product and final performance was me at my best, talking about research I believe is important to higher education.

I am lucky to be in a program with a collaborative, supportive community, so I can easily say that many, many people have helped me along the way.  For this competition especially, other students in my program talked through ideas, gave me feedback on my slide and script, and listened to me practice.  Faculty also made space to come practice for their classes so I could feel more prepared for the finals.  I could not have done this without my exceptional colleagues and scholarly community; they provided important support and encouragement.  I also credit my current foster cat, Mox, who listened to me practice a lot. 🙂

Tanya Willard

 I’m currently working on a PhD in Student Affairs in Higher Education (SAHE) and will graduate in May, 2017.

J2716 Three Minute Thesis Competition

The title of my 3MT presentation was Understanding Chinese International Student Experiences in American Higher Education.  My research seeks to understand how Chinese international students experience systems of oppression like racism in the United States, and how they are successful despite that oppression.  It is a qualitative project that involves 30 interviews with some incredibly bright, resilient students, observations of campus, and an exploration of social media sites, particularly Yik Yak, because it allows students to post anonymous comments with fear of the repercussions, and because it provides insight into the campus culture that surrounds Chinese international students.  My goal is to make Chinese international students’ lives better by equipping everyone on campus – faculty, staff, non-international students – with tools that can make campus more equitable for students whose voices are frequently silenced.

I practiced a lot [for the presentation], mostly at home as I was cooking dinner each night, but as we got closer to the final competition, I practiced in front of several SAHE classes to get feedback and to get more comfortable presenting in front of an audience.  During the competition itself, I was a nervous wreck; in fact, as I was putting on the wireless microphone, I realized that I couldn’t remember anything about my presentation – my mind went completely blank.  Winning third place was great but hearing Jessica’s name announced as the first place winner was even more exciting.

Although I did a lot of preparation for 3MT on my own, getting my research to the point where it is now and to the point where it was ready for 3MT is the result of lots of help from lots of people.  I have been so lucky to have the support of the SAHE faculty, especially my advisor, Kathy Goodman, and my cohort.


Congratulations to all the participants in this challenging program!

For more information about the SAHE doctoral program, please visit:

For general information on masters and doctoral degrees in the Educational Leadership Department, please visit:


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