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Quest Scholar of the Week

The Office of Research & Engagement presents the Scholar of the Week award to faculty members in recognition of significant research, scholarship, and creative accomplishments.

Faculty scholars must be tenure line members of the UT Knoxville faculty. They can be nominated only by deans, department heads, or other tenure line faculty members. They must be recognized by peers as independent, original, and substantive researchers in one of the following areas:

  • Publication of original research in rigorously refereed major journals
  • Major national grant or fellowship support, awarded through peer review
  • Major national awards and honors awarded through a rigorous selection process
  • Plenary or other distinguished lectures at major scholarly meetings, through invitation
  • Individual exhibits, performances, or commissions at a major venue, through invitation

The commission seeks to highlight the scholarly activities of our African American and Black faculty. To this end, we highlight the scholarship and creative activities of Black and African American faculty, as well as research that impacts African American and Blacks in our society.

The Commission for Blacks nominated the following faculty members to be honored as Quest Scholars of the Week.

Dr. Christopher Wright

May 13, 2016

Christopher Wright is an assistant professor of STEM Education in the Department of Theory & Practice in Teacher Education, and engages in research that supports the teaching and learning of engineering in urban K-8 formal and informal contexts. Specifically, his research questions lay at the nexus of STEM learning experiences for males of color and their educational and career aspirations and outcomes. His research is typically framed within socio-cultural theories that emphasize the interdependence of social and individual processes in the co-construction of STEM knowledge and practices.

In March 2016, Wright was awarded a NSF Early CAREER Award entitled, Investigating Engineering Expansive Learning Spaces for Boys of Color. This project will investigate the ways in which males of color develop identities with and competencies in various engineering practices, and includes K-16 participants within various engineering learning contexts.

The key objectives of the project are:

  • Examining and characterizing the relationship between competencies with engineering practices and identities for males of color.
  • Examining and characterizing elements within engineering learning environments that impact participants’ developing competencies and identities.
  • Developing hypotheses for the design of expansive learning spaces in engineering for increasing participants’ competencies and identities.

This work builds upon findings from a previously NSF-funded project entitled, Multimedia Engineering Notebook Tools to Support Engineering Discourse in Urban Elementary School Classrooms.

Dr. Dorian L. McCoy

February 29, 2016

Dorian L. McCoy is an assistant professor of Educational Leadership & Policy Studies and conducts research that focuses on the experiences of people of color in higher education. More specifically, his research explores the socialization and transitional experiences of faculty, administrators, and graduate students from historically underrepresented groups, which includes issues of access for undergraduate and graduate students to higher education. His work is typically framed in critical race theory and social reproduction theory, with specific reference to cultural or social capital.

In May 2015, his co-authored monograph, Critical Race Theory in Higher Education: Twenty Years of Theoretical and Research Innovations, was published as a part of the Association for the Study of Higher Education monograph series. The monograph explored critical race theory’s introduction to higher education and its appropriateness as a theoretical framework, analytical tool, and research methodology for addressing race and racism in higher education. He recently completed a book chapter, “Mixed Methods Research,” in Research in the College Context: Approaches and Methods (2nd ed.), a widely used text for master’s programs in higher education and student affairs.

McCoy’s research has been published in several top-tier higher education journals, including the Journal of College Student Development, Journal of Higher Education, and Journal of Diversity in Higher Education. Consistent with his research focus on access to higher education for historically underrepresented student populations, McCoy serves as the co-director for the UT Project GRAD Summer Institute. The Summer Institute is designed to provide a unique opportunity for historically underrepresented students to participate and gain experience in an academic setting.

Dr. Derek H. Alderman

April 16, 2015

Derek Alderman, professor and head of the Department of Geography, is a cultural and historical geographer who examines the racial struggles that underlie public memory, heritage tourism, and place naming in the southeastern United States. Much of his work focuses on the memory-work, commemorative activism, and place-making efforts of African Americans as they assert their right to belong, remember the past on their own terms, and shape cultural landscapes.

Alderman is perhaps best known for advancing scholarly and lay understanding of memorials to the Civil Rights Movement, particularly the politics of naming streets after Martin Luther King, Jr. In doing so, he has established himself as a national authority on the issue. Alderman has moved beyond academia to contribute to the national dialogue about King streets and other commemorative and cultural issues. He is frequently interviewed or quoted in prominent print, radio and television news outlets, and he has provided unpaid consultation to over 40 government organizations, non-profit groups, and minority initiatives. In April of 2014, Alderman was conferred the Media Achievement Award by the Association of American Geographers. The award, one of the Association’s highest honors, recognizes exceptional and outstanding accomplishments in publicizing geographical insights through media outreach and public engagement.

Alderman is founder and co-coordinator of the interdisciplinary research initiative called RESET (Race, Ethnicity, and Social Equity in Tourism), and he is currently working with a team from five universities—including faculty and students at HBCUs—to examine the changing and contested ways that slavery is remembered at southern plantation museums. In fall of 2014, the RESET team began a three-year, National Science Foundation-funded project to examine plantation tourism in Louisiana, South Carolina, and Virginia. Alderman and other researchers will conduct surveys of visitors to plantations, interviews with docents and site managers, and content analysis of exhibits and guided tours to identify strategies for improving the narration of slavery and the history of African Americans.

Dr. Bertin Louis

March 6, 2015

Bertin Louis, assistant professor of anthropology and Africana studies, examines the growth of Protestant forms of Christianity among Haitians transnationally. He also studies stateless Bahamians of Haitian Descent.

In December 2014, Louis’ book My Soul is in Haiti: Protestantism in the Haitian Diaspora of the Bahamas (2014) was published by the nationally recognized NYU Press. In My Soul Is in Haiti, Louis combined his multi-sited five-year ethnographic research in the United States, Haiti, and the Bahamas with a transnational framework to analyze why Protestantism has appealed to the Haitian diaspora community in the Bahamas. His book illustrates how devout Haitian Protestant migrants use their religious identities to ground themselves in a place that is hostile to them as migrants, and it also uncovers how their religious faith ties in to their belief in the need to “save” their homeland, as they re-imagine Haiti politically and morally as a Protestant Christian nation.

His book has already received positive reviews stating, “As a Haitian-American, Louis is cognizant of the subtleties of Haitian culture and the cultural differences between Haitians living in Haiti and Haitians living abroad. A major strength of this book is the author’s keen recognition of the importance of boundary maintenance and his insights into native constructions of ‘religion,’ such as the distinction Haitians make between being Protestant (Pwotestan) and being Christian (Kretyen).” In addition to his new publication, Louis has received a 2013 Southeastern Conference Faculty Travel Grant and was a 2012 American Anthropological Association Leadership Fellow.

Dr. Courtney Wright

July 4, 2014

Dr. Courtney Wright’s research program examines relational communication and conflict. In instructional settings, she investigates difficult student-teacher interactions, with special attention to academic disappointment and the factors that influence how undergraduates communicate with instructors about grades.

Most recently Dr. Wright was recognized for her paper, Examining the silence of academic disappointment: A typology of students’ reasons for not discussing disappointing grades with instructors, when she received the top paper award at the Instructional Development Division of the Southern States Communication Association (SSCA). The paper appeared in the Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 13(5), 46-60. Her paper offers insights into how instructors can manage grade conversations more effectively and improve students’ overall educational experiences.

Dr. Wright also received the 2013 Faculty Research Award from the College of Communication and Information and a 2013-2014 Southeastern Conference Faculty Travel Grant to collaborate with a colleague at Louisiana State University on research examining social cognition and teasing.