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The 2023 CEITR Research Labs Projects 

In 2023 CEITR Research Labs launched 12 research team projects with a total of 64 researchers from various UOPX colleges. The researchers work on vital cutting-edge projects related to UOPX institutional teaching and learning, organizational leadership, and K-12 teachers. The list of topics is provided below.  

UOPX Institutional Projects

Team Members:  Dr. Mansureh Kebritchi, Dr. Stella Smith, Dr. Arnetra Arrington, Dr. Aaron Kenneston, Dr. Sonja Lamppa, Dr. Yuvonne Richmond, Dr. Richard Schultz, Dr. Susan Ferebee, Dr. Yvette Ghormley

The recent implementation of ChatGPT, an AI innovative tool, has roused interest across the world due to its vast capabilities to create an awe-inspiring spectrum of results based on simple searches. This interest has been extended to higher education institutions to determine the possible values that ChatGPT offers to both students and instructors in online learning. The purpose of this study is to investigate how using ChatGPT transforms online education. Specifically, we focus on evaluating ChatGPT implications in teaching, learning, assessment, and institutional policy in higher education using Rogers’ theory of Diffusion of Innovation.  

Team Members: Dr. Rheanna Reed, Dr. Frederick Lawrence, Dr. Jennifer Carriere, Dr. Laura Pipoly, Dr. Connie Houser, and Dr. David Mailloux

The objective of higher education is for student learning to increase career opportunities. Therefore, leadership within higher learning institutions seeks methods to support adjunct faculty to encourage faculty performance and enhance student learning thereby enhancing institutional performance. However, faculty who experience burnout or organizational cynicism may lack the initiative to stimulate student learning. This study proposes a quantitative multivariate correlational research design to investigate the potential relationships between faculty burnout, organizational cynicism, and adjunct faculty performance at a private online university. 

Team Members: Dr. Myrene Magabo (co-leader), Dr. Louise Underdahl (co-leader), Dr. Nicole Gulley, Dr. Shawishi Haynes, Dr. Maureen Marzano, Dr. Debra McCoy, and Dr. Mar Navarro


Existing literature validates a mismatch between the knowledge graduates acquire in the classroom and the skills requisite to workplace success.  Focus on disciplinary skills, rather than soft skills such as willingness to learn, flexibility, critical thinking, communication, and teamwork, has created graduates who are not prepared for a successful university-to-workplace transition.  Challenges are compounded by system failure to develop graduates' employability aptitude, defined as the capacity for continuous learning.  This study contributes to the literature by reporting actionable STEM employer recommendations to promote lifelong employability.

Team Members: Dr. Dave Aiken (leader), Dr. Sisay Teketele, Dr. Margaret Kroposki, and Dr. Sarah Pedersen

For years instructors in the business and practical disciplines have been encouraged to share real-life experiences in their courses to increase the relevance of the course to student careers. Researchers have discussed the impact of using real examples in coursework, but a review of the literature suggests that there could be value in further studying the impact of course assignment structure, specifically case studies and signature assignments applied to real-life organizations and problems. In addition, researchers have recommended that examining the practice of faculty sharing real examples and practical experiences with students should be studied in the context of improving student outcomes. This team will perform a quantitative study of student survey responses focused on the relevance of real-world experiences to explore the following question: What is the relationship, if any, student’s perception relating to faculty connecting course content to student’s real-world experience? 

The Team will study student surveys from Marketing and Strategy capstone courses for Bachelor of Business students at the University of Phoenix over three years from 2020 to 2022. The researchers will then correlate these results with the outcome from a faculty survey given to the instructors of those courses asking them about how they may have shared practical experiences with students. The results of this study may suggest some recommended practices or paths educational institutions and faculty could pursue to strengthen the practical applicability of the courses they offer.

Team Members: Dr. Joshua Valk (leader), Dr. Lorraine Priest, Dr. Ayanna Sterling, Dr. Margo Moreno, Dr. Marlene Blake, Dr. Angella Eanes, and Dr. Michael Twigg

Throughout history, there have been numerous examples of individuals who make major contributions to society with extraordinarily high intelligence that struggle with mental wellness. Some examples include John Nash, Beethoven, Mozart, and Albert Einstein. Nontraditional doctoral students face a plethora of challenges and obstacles which can often exacerbate existing mental wellness conditions or lead to new challenges. However, a high level of intelligence and degree of persistence is necessary to complete a doctoral degree. The purpose of this quantitative correlational study is to examine the relationship between high IQ and mental wellness, and how this potential linkage can affect doctoral student persistence.

Team Members: Dr. Brian Stern,  Dr. Robin Schupper, Dr. Mary Newhams, and Dr. Kim Hinton.

With the increased demand for online learning opportunities comes an increased responsibility for institutions to provide support for students. Moreover, the number of students matriculating at institutions that are not college ready continues to increase. Students are also coming to institutions with higher levels of non-academic needs. The literature provides a plethora of information related to student support approaches for students in traditional institutions; however, there is less information about best practices for supporting students in a virtual learning environment. This literature review seeks to illuminate what is currently in the literature related to student support approaches in online environments. The galvanizing research questions for this research focus on unique course content that supports first-year student success in an online modality, remedial support to foster student success in online programs, and strategies to support student computer literacy. 

Team Members: Dr. Jennifer James, Dr. Olivia Miller, and Dr. Karen Myers

The expectation of providing rigor for online university students has the potential to fundamentally change how faculty approach teaching in the online classroom. This is because faculty understanding of digital technologies, along with student expectations, impact faculty perception of rigor when teaching online. Despite the extensive research on defining and using academic rigor for students, there is little known about how faculty perceive of the challenges that come with facilitating the online classroom. There seems to be very little agreeance regarding the definition of rigor for faculty who work with non-traditional online students. Therefore, this Literature review looks at 1) Faculty perception of online teaching rigor before and during and coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic; 2) Faculty perception of rigor regarding course management; and 3) Defining rigor for faculty who teach online. The literature review provides an overview of the current body of knowledge regarding faculty experiences in the online classroom. The literature review illustrates key moments in the online teaching dynamic that explain reasons for faculty perceptions of rigor. 

Organizational Leadership Projects 

Team Members: Dr. Angela Larson (co-leader),  Dr. Russ Carfagno (co-leader), Dr. Gilbert Franco, Dr. Jonas Stromback, Dr. Cheryl Joyner, and Brandy Benedict

As more workers move to work arrangements that are more flexible, organizations face challenges in maintaining organizational culture. Flexible working arrangements (FWA) provide value to employees and can help with work-life balance, but at the same time can have an impact on employee loneliness and contribute to higher turnover. This quantitative study looks at the relationship between leadership behavior, loneliness, and organizational culture and its impact on employees in organizations that support FWA.

Team Members: Dr. Stella Smith,  Dr. Ela-Joy Lehrman, Dr. Valerie Bradley-Holliday, Dr. Tiffany Lemmen, Dr. TaMika Fuller, and Dr. Martha Zepeda


There are many factors expressed in the literature on the role of women in leadership and what societal, cultural, and organizational viewpoints affect the role of women in leadership. This systematic review aims to examine the literature to explore these viewpoints.    The purpose of this research is to complete a comprehensive review of the current (2018 through 2023) published research literature to present an overview of the status of women across racial/ethnic groups in higher education leadership positions in the United States in the areas of Business and Technology, Education, and Health Care.   A systematic literature review is appropriate for this study as this research will include a synthesis of current published qualitative and quantitative studies. Current research studies tend to include a specific under-represented racial/ethnic group of women as participants; there is a need to bring those research findings together into a comprehensive overview of the status of all women in higher education. Studies will be limited to studies conducted within the 50 United States to avoid confounding factors found in foreign educational systems.

Team Members: Dr. Samantha Bietsch, Dr. Susan Jones, Dr. Suchitra Veera, and Dr. Paul Ward

Environmental stewardship, social responsibility, and corporate governance (ESG) are becoming increasingly important as complementary efforts to improve corporate financial performance and achieve the long-term sustainability of global organizations. Prior empirical research on the relationship between corporate sustainability initiatives and financial performance has shown inconsistent results because of a lack of clarity and consensus regarding the conceptualization, implementation, and evaluation of corporate sustainability and its impacts. The purpose of this study is to examine the relationship between corporate sustainability and the financial performance of medium to large international companies headquartered in the United States, utilizing multiple types of performance measures and taking into consideration stakeholder theory. Another objective is to develop a framework for the measurement of costs and benefits of sustainability initiatives and financial performance with stakeholder influence being a moderating factor. This study will adopt a qualitative methodology by conducting a systematic review of prior literature and a content analysis of Company sustainability reports. The findings will be important in understanding these practices' impact on the company's financial outcome. Green practices benefit all members of society, and understanding the business benefits and target market relationships could promote more widespread adoption of sustainable practices.

K-12 Teachers Projects 

Team Members: Dr. Karen Johnson (leader) and Dr.  Juana Lang

Acts of verbal or physical violence against teachers perpetrated by students are not a new problem (Winding et al., 2022). After the COVID-19 pandemic, physical and verbal abuse toward teachers committed by students increased (McMahon et al., 2022). Hence, this interpretive phenomenology study will focus on understanding teachers’ lived experiences with verbal or physical violence at the hands of students after the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic when schools reopened for face-to-face instruction. The study of aggression against teachers is significant for education and society as teachers’ well-being is an ethical issue and a collective responsibility. Teachers have the right to feel safe while fulfilling our children’s nation’s academic and emotional needs. The sample for this study will comprise 5 to 10 teachers who self-reported being the victims of verbal or physical violence. The study will be grounded in the tenets of the Social Learning theory, the Social-Ecology theory, the Attribution theory, and the Transactional Stress theory. Instrumentation will consist of open-ended interviews. Data analysis will follow the recommendations of Moustakas (1994), consisting of iterative interviews allowing for the researcher’s reflection and the participants to glean rich data. Data will be coded, and categories will be formed to develop themes.

Team Members: Dr. Danielle Sixsmith (leader), Dr. Charlene Romer, Dr. Nicole Baker, and Dr. Jesse Fidelio Garza

Much attention has been focused on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education in school classrooms. Effective integration of STEM education is believed to increase skill sets, college readiness, and American innovation. The purpose of this mixed methods study is to explore the lived experiences and perceptions of elementary STEM educators in their preparation and their execution of STEM teaching practices. Using a quantitative instrument and follow-up interviews, the findings of the study may reveal what empowers STEM educators and identify the best practices that efficacious teachers are using. By considering and incorporating these recommendations, teacher preparation programs may help empower even more elementary teachers to embrace STEM education for their students.