Social Justice in Dissertation Completion: Equity for Online Doctoral Students and Adjunct Faculty Chairs

Streamed Session Equity and Inclusion

Brief Abstract

This presentation describes a Dissertation Continuation Model (DCM) supporting equity for adjunct faculty serving as dissertation chairs and online doctoral students who have completed 12 credits of dissertation but have not defended their projects. This model was designed to center adjunct faculty experience and provide resources to online doctoral students.

Additional Authors

Donna DiMatteo-Gibson is the MIO and DIOP Online Program Director. She is in charge of managing the development and facilitation of the Industrial/Organizational psychology programs and certifications within these departments. She received her Bachelors of Arts in both Speech Communications and Psychology from the University of San Diego in 1994. She also obtained two Masters of Science degrees in the areas of general psychology and industrial-organizational psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology (CSPP), which is now called Alliant International University. In June of 1999, she graduated from CSPP with a Ph.D. in Industrial-Organizational Psychology. She has been teaching online graduate and undergraduate courses since 2001 and enjoys it immensely! Donna has developed many online courses as well as evaluated curriculum in the psychology field. She has provided evaluations and coaching opportunities to her colleagues and finds the collegial discussions very rewarding. She often makes professional presentations on topics, such as organizational effectiveness and distance learning. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family, exercising and spending time at the beach!

Extended Abstract

Extended Abstract:

This session will provide background on the development of a Dissertation Continuation Model (DCM) that supports equity for adjunct faculty serving as dissertation chairs and online doctoral students who have completed 12 credits of dissertation work but who have not yet successfully defended their culminating projects. Research demonstrates that BIPOC doctoral students experience disproportionately negative impacts of institutional policy. Further, research demonstrates that adjunct faculty are less likely to be prioritized in the implementation of institutional policy. This model was designed to address these findings, by centering both the adjunct faculty experience and providing resources to doctoral students to remove financial barriers associated with socio-economic status. The DCM involves a student owned process involving the development of a continuation plan to support efficient completion of outstanding dissertation tasks, and the distribution of a scholarship to support dissertation continuation titled the Last Mile Dissertation Continuation Scholarship.  

Topic Relevance:

This session will be relevant for higher education administrators working with online doctoral students and/or adjunct faculty who are serving as dissertation chairs. Additionally, this session will be relevant for all online faculty and all online administrators. Further, this session will be relevant for all online students. Instructional designers and those with responsibility for the delivery of professional development may also find this session relevant because it will cover engagement strategies within online modules.

Plan for Interactivity:

This session will include the use of polls and discussion questions.


At the end of this session, attendees will be able to:

  1. analyze challenges associated with the compensation of adjunct faculty supervising dissertations.
  2. evaluate factors which impact dissertation completion among online doctoral students.
  3. assess strategies for increasing equity in the dissertation process.
  4. assess the role of scholarships in increasing dissertation completion.