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Abraham Luis Dones ’23EDD: ‘The Learning That Has Taken Place During My Time With the College of Education Really Forced Me to Think Differently About the Work That I Accomplish’

Headshot of Abraham Dones

Abraham Luis Dones ’23EDD remembers as a teenager seeing his mother return to school as an adult learner to earn multiple degrees. She was the first in the family to earn a college degree, and now Dones is continuing her legacy by becoming the first person in his family to graduate with a doctoral degree.

As he prepares to graduate in May, he is looking forward to using his Doctor of Education degree in Adult and Community College Education to achieve his goal of one day becoming a community college president.

Learn more about Abraham Luis Dones:

Hometown: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Concentration: Adult and Community College Education

Activities (Research or Extracurricular): Research areas of focus include diversity, equity, inclusion and social justice reform; students of color access and completion and Latinx students. Extracurricular Activities include Achieving the Dream Fellow, JMBE Hunt Institute ElevateNC Cohort 3 Member

Why did you choose the NC State College of Education?

There are many reasons why I decided to pursue my doctoral degree through the College of Education. First was the reputation of the program itself and its design focused on current working professionals and the modality and setup of the program. The other reason was the opportunity to complete a program that focused on leadership with the intention of moving into executive leadership roles at the community college. Finally, the opportunity to have an executive mentor and faculty who served in executive roles or as practitioners in the industry were another bonus of this program.

Why did you choose your concentration?

I attribute the decision to pursue this degree to my mother. She was an adult learner and I remember as a teenager watching her complete her degree. She started her higher education journey at the Community College of Philadelphia. She was also the first in the family to obtain a college degree. Her sacrifice, perseverance and legacy are all foundational in my decision to pursue this degree. She accomplished earning an associate’s, bachelors and masters degree. Additionally, I knew that if I wanted to advance in my career, a terminal degree would need to be part of the equation. Finally, I wanted to honor my mother and set the expectation in becoming the first in the family to become a doctor. I stand on her shoulders and am living up to her legacy by obtaining this degree.

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

I plan to continue serving in my role as the vice president of the chief student services office [at Durham Technical Community College]. This was a role that I entered into on March 1, 2022 and I really believe my preparation through this program helped me compete and enter into this role. Another objective is to identify a leadership institute to further support my development and growth during this time in my career.

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

The learning that has taken place during my time with the College of Education really forced me to think differently about the work that I accomplish and contribute to the profession. Through the mentoring with my executive, I gained first-hand insight about what to expect in a presidential role and serving at the cabinet level. Additionally, the faculty really supported our learning and engaged us to think of ourselves as future leaders who will transform the organizations that we are a part of.

What do you eventually hope to accomplish in your field?

I hope to become a community college president and a national leader in reforming the community college system to better serve the people and communities in which we reside.

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

My most memorable moment occurred during a lecture in a class. Our professor brought in a guest lecturer, Dr. David Gomez, who identified as a Puerto Rican male. It was the first time in my academic career from K-12 and all my higher education experiences where the individual in front of the classroom represented me. It was the first time in an academic setting of higher education where I felt the person in front of the classroom understood me from a racial/cultural perspective. It was a moment that left me speechless. I absorbed that moment and, at times, was not able to speak in the classroom. All of my classmates who understood such an experience allowed me the space to live that moment. It is a memory that will last a lifetime. I would challenge anyone who says that representation does not matter; it does and it makes a difference.

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

It was during the lectures in one of my classes when we were discussing  equity and practitioners. It was such an involved and challenging conversation. There were those of us who were ready for this type of conversation and I was impressed with how our professor allowed the conversation to organically evolve. What I really appreciated was, a year later, having a conversation with the same instructor who shared how powerful that moment was for them and how it was such a learning opportunity for all involved. This moment continues to reinforce how important it is to be in a position of learning and be willing to always be challenged with different experiences.

Why did you choose education?

My mother always taught me that my education was something I earned and that could never be taken from me. She is right. I can lose all my personal possessions, but this accomplishment of having an education and being able to use it for social and economic mobility.

What are your research interests? What inspired those interests?

My own lived experiences supported my desire to explore the experiences of Latinx students enrolling and persisting at community colleges. Additionally, I believe with the shift in our demography in our country, now more than ever it is important to know what promising practices exist to inform our work and how to best serve students.