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Johanna Phelps-Hillen

Graduate Student Spotlight: Johanna Phelps-Hillen

TAMPA, Fla. -- Johanna Phelps-Hillen, Ph.D. candidate in Rhetoric and Composition and Master’s student in Public Administration, was recently awarded a College Composition and Communication Research Initiative grant for her project, “Federal Grant Programs and Corollary Institutional Review Board Protocols: An Analysis of Reciprocity in Policy Determination, Implementation, and Impact on Writing Studies Research.” Her project combines research interests in public policy and writing studies to examine how the infrastructure of Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) may shape methods and methodologies in writing studies research. Heather Fox, the Department of English’s newsblog editor, interviewed her about her grant application experience.

What prompted you to apply for this grant? What are some considerations that graduate students should think about when applying for a research award?

I had my eye on this award during the 2014-2015 funding cycle, while working at USF’s Writing Studio. I wanted to include community outreach work there, but since my work ended with the Writing Studio, I did not apply with that project. Over the next few months, I ironed out my dissertation focus and decided to write the grant to fund my dissertation research instead.

It takes a great deal of time and energy to apply for a research award, but I view that investment of time economy as necessary. When you get down to it, you are trying to explain why it is important for folks to understand and support your work. I think of the process as another writing opportunity to sort out my projects. Another very important consideration is mentor support. I am grateful to have excellent advisers like Dr. Moxley and Dr. Staggers (before she left USF).

How will this research award help you to obtain your professional goals?

It's a tremendous honor to receive this award from CCCC (which was hosted in Tampa in 2015), and I believe that the work I produce, with their support, will have an impact on the field. This, in turn, will help me achieve my professional goals. Currently, I am the Institutional Review Board Coordinator at Utah State University and teach online for USF. I plan to go on the job market, but I love my job right now and may wait a couple of years. This award will help me to complete my PhD in a timely fashion, to compensate participants for their time, to have regular chats with the project consultant, and to relieve myself of teaching duties. Ultimately, I would like to obtain a tenure-track position at a smaller state school with R1 activity and Carnegie classification.

What advice might you give to graduate students who are considering funding options for their own research projects?

Subscribe to listservs, consider internal awards or local opportunities and Google a bit. Apply for things that are directly connected to the work that you are already doing. Be willing to apply for grants that are smaller than you'd like. I have been researching IRBs since my first semester at USF. I started off small and was able to build more resources and establish stronger proposals by using bits and pieces of previous projects to situate others. Potential funders like to know you've taken the time to consider what their investment will look like once it has been spent. For me, that means not only a finished dissertation, but a commitment to publish my findings and a commitment to support writing studies researchers as we move into the next era of human subjects’ protections. I believe the work I do has value to more folks than just myself and those in my immediate academic circles. This award is not the largest award I have received, but it has the most prestige, which makes me very proud. Regardless of where you are at, be hopeful, be thoughtful and good luck!


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