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Meet LaShica Davis Waters ‘20PHD: ‘Representation Really Does Matter and I Appreciate the College of Education for Recognizing That and Providing Me the Opportunity to Learn from a Variety of Brilliant Leaders’

NC State College of Education graduate LaShica Davis Waters '20PHD

This is part of a series of profiles on students who are graduating in December 2020.

LaShica Davis Waters ‘20PHD fell in love with higher education when she began her college career as a first-generation college student. As the academic advisor for NC State’s Leadership in the Public Sector program, the university’s only online undergraduate program targeted at working adults, she developed a desire to learn more about adult learners and their experiences.

After she earns her Ph.D. on Dec. 4, 2020, she hopes to use what she has learned to influence policies and implement practices that will benefit the adult learner population.

Learn more about LaShica Davis Waters.

Hometown: Goldsboro, North Carolina

Area of Study: Educational Leadership, Policy, and Human Developmentwith a focus in Adult, Workforce, and Continuing Professional Education

Activities (Research or Extracurricular): My current research interests are centered on non-traditional undergraduate online students. I also have an interest in college access, particularly in underrepresented populations such as minority, non-traditional, distance education, transfer and first-generation students. I am also an active member of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Area Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and the chair of our step team.

Why did you choose your area of study?

I have been the academic advisor for the Leadership in the Public Sector (LPS) online degree-completion program at NC State since 2011. LPS is the only undergraduate online program offered at NC State catered toward working adults. Prior to working for LPS, I advised traditional-aged, campus-based students at East Carolina University and quickly noticed the difference in the two populations, and I wanted to learn more about my online adult student population to better serve them. To do so, I initially completed the graduate certificate at NC State in 2016 in Teaching, Training, and Educational Technology where I learned many strategies that I incorporated immediately into advising for the LPS program.

Completing the certificate while advising for LPS revealed the many challenges adult learners face and how some institutions and community programs do not always implement the best teaching and training strategies to help streamline their learning experience. Being a constant advocate for my students confirmed my interest in adult learners and distance education, where I wanted to retain my focus to make an impact in this field. For that reason, I decided to further my education and completed the doctoral program in Adult, Workforce, and Continuing Professional Education at NC State. The mission, goals and objectives of the program aligned with my long-term career goals to become a senior level administrator advocating for the needs of adult learners.

What did your dissertation focus on and why did you choose that topic?

My dissertation title was “Being Seen from Behind the Screen: Narratives of Non-traditional Undergraduate Online Transfer Students’ Expectations and Experiences of Student Services.” As the advisor for the only online undergraduate program at NC State, I wanted to highlight my students’ voices of their expectations and experiences navigating their undergraduate career online as an adult student at an institution that primarily caters student services to the traditional-aged, campus-based undergraduate students. My students have some amazing background stories of how they found themselves completing their degree later in life and how those outside factors impacted their needs and experiences as online students. I wanted my research to not only resonate with NC State, but to also serve as an inspiration for NC State and other reputable brick and mortar schools to consider offering additional undergraduate online programs for working adults while ensuring that proper student services are available to help them be successful once enrolled.

What do you hope to accomplish in your field after graduation? 

I want to continue researching this population to help shape policy and work to garner collaborations among institutions and community stakeholders to best impact the adult learning process.

What’s your next step? What do you have planned after graduation? 

I plan to remain working with the LPS program to oversee programming and implement practices that allow adult learners the opportunity to enhance their learning experiences.

How has the College of Education prepared you for that next step? 

Completing my dissertation and research through the College of Education has stimulated many new ideas I am eager to share and implement in distance education at NC State, particularly for the LPS program.

Do you have a favorite memory from your time in the College of Education?

My favorite memories from my time in the College of Education were the lifelong friendships that I made with other students in various programs within the college. We mentored and encouraged one another which I know was an essential component of my perseverance and success. I also served as the treasurer of the Adult, Workforce, and Continuing Professional Education’s Graduate Student Association, which was a cherished experience working alongside other remarkable students, faculty and staff.

Tell us about an experience you had with the College of Education that had the biggest impact on you or your career. 

Assistant Teaching Professor Michelle Bartlett was the best mentor and chair who worked with me through my dissertation. She often challenged but also encouraged and inspired me to do more than what I thought I was capable of. She has given me some great ideas of how to catapult my career in distance education and she is one of my biggest cheerleaders who I know will always support me for many years to come.

I also encountered many other amazing professors who had a huge impact during my time in the College of Education and on my research. Representation really does matter and I appreciate the College of Education for recognizing that and providing me the opportunity to learn from a variety of brilliant leaders.

Why did you choose education? 

As a first-generation college student, I fell in love with higher education when I began working in undergraduate admissions at ECU as a student worker. That position turned into a full-time job upon graduation. As an admissions counselor, I was able to pay it forward and provide valuable information about college access to prospective students, ones like myself, who had no clue of where to begin. I knew I found my purpose in life in higher education when I saw the impact I was making in the lives of others and I’ve never turned back. From there I decided to earn my master’s degree in counselor education with a concentration in higher education which ultimately led me to my current career in academic advising.