Dissertation Defense Announcements

Candidate Name: David E. Lynn
Title: The Development and Validation of an Intercultural Competencies Assessment Instrument for K-12 Educators
 February 21, 2023  12:00 PM
Location: COED 259, Ed Leadership Department Conference Room

As schools adapt curriculum and learning environments to better prepare students for entry into an increasingly globalized society, cultivating intercultural competencies in K-12 in-service educators is of heightened importance. The purpose of this study was to develop and validate a new instrument designed to assess these competencies called the Intercultural Competency Measure for Educators (ICME). Byram (1997) defines intercultural competencies as the ability to effectively communicate, understand, and work with people from diverse cultural backgrounds. Deardorff (2006) adds to this a call for action, which lends itself to the critical cosmopolitanism framework that guides this study. A pilot study was used to develop a four-factor theoretical intercultural competencies framework through a process defined in this study. Reliability and validity were examined using data collected from K-12 in-service educators at schools in the United States and Canada. An Exploratory Factor Analysis suggested a revision of the constructs to include five factors: Curriculum, Diverse Student Inclusion, Cross-Cultural Openness, Collaboration and Adaptation, and Systematic Awareness. Construct validity was tested using Confirmatory Factor Analysis and supported by examining demographic data using parametric tests. The emergence of a factor related to systematic awareness highlights teachers' increased role in addressing the root causes of inequity in schools. The five-factor model provides a framework for schools wishing to further develop and assess intercultural competencies growth in teachers.

Candidate Name: Joshua David Allen
 February 03, 2023  10:00 AM
Location: Zoom

Students struggle with mental health needs. Student support staff are, within the school, regularly the first employees to encounter and respond to the students’ specific mental health needs. It is not uncommon for students’ mental health needs to be professionally undiagnosed and professionally unsupported. Barriers to professional treatment are plentiful and when students lack support for their mental health needs, academic and social issues are exacerbated. For these and other reasons, schools struggle to respond to students’ mental health needs. The purpose of this qualitative study was to understand the lived experiences of student support staff (school counselors, school social workers, and school nurses) who work in small magnet high schools as they work to support students with mental health needs. In-depth, semi-structured interviews were conducted with seven student support staff from three different small magnet high schools within a public school district in North Carolina. After coding the transcribed interviews, four themes emerged from the data: 1) Magnet school student support staff are not professional therapists. 2) Magnet school student support staff struggle to perform their duties/roles. 3) Academic rigors and expectations in magnet high schools contribute to students' mental health needs. 4) Barriers to students abound and some are unique to the magnet school experience. Utilization of existing support structures such as Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) and/or 504 Plans and the Multi-tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) framework is recommended in conjunction with research-based mental health support programs to assist student support staff and schools in supporting students’ mental health needs.

Candidate Name: Susann Nash
 February 02, 2023  1:00 PM
Location: Zoom

The goal of this qualitative research study was to understand middle school principals’ perceptions of leading a transition from traditional grading to standards-based grading (SBG). Using a multiple case study approach six middle school principals who work in a school district that had successfully implemented SBG in elementary school, but not in middle schools, participated in the study. This study took place during the COVID-19 pandemic, thus the study also sought to understand how principals perceived the impacts from COVID-19 on their leadership of SBG. A demographic survey was sent to each participant that collected demographic data, and semi-structured interviews were conducted with each principal. Using the constant comparison method, four themes emerged: (a) misalignment between PLC practices and individual teachers’ grading practices exists, (b) a lack of district level SBG report card grading progressions from elementary school to middle school has created confusion and frustration, (c) parents and teachers expect traditional grading in middle school to prepare adolescents for high school, and (d) leading SBG was not a priority following the COVID-19 pandemic. The findings of this study also used Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory (SCT) as a framework to understand how principals’ self-efficacy impacts that of their teachers and how collective efficacy can be improved by increasing the principals’ self-efficacy as an instructional leader. Implications of this study include suggestions for principals to increase their knowledge and self-efficacy through professional development, collaboration, and district level supports. The unique role of middle school culture, including grading practices is discussed.

Candidate Name: Fallon Richie
Title: Repair Following Healthcare Institutional Betrayal
 January 26, 2023  12:00 PM
Location: Virtual via Zoom

Institutional betrayal occurs when an organization perpetrates wrongdoing against an individual who depends on that system. There are serious known consequences of healthcare institutional betrayal including patient disengagement from care and healthcare organization distrust (Smith, 2017). The aim of this study was to examine specific reparative actions following institutional betrayal to determine the effect of repair behaviors on institutional betrayal, trust, expectations for future healthcare encounters, and intentions to avoid or disengage from healthcare. Undergraduate participants (N=198; 58% women; 53% White) read a vignette depicting institutional betrayal in a healthcare setting. They then completed measures of institutional betrayal, trust in healthcare, healthcare avoidance/disengagement, and expectations for future healthcare encounters. Next, participants were randomly assigned to one of four repair vignettes and completed measures a second time. As predicted, participants who were randomly assigned to one of the repair conditions (vs. control) reported significantly lower institutional betrayal scores at post-test, higher positive expectations for future healthcare encounters, and higher levels of trust. Overall, results from this study indicate that reparative actions following healthcare institutional betrayal influenced participants’ self-reported beliefs about the healthcare system. Given the documented negative sequelae to healthcare institutional betrayal, this study’s finding that relatively small actions can facilitate individual-system repair is clinically meaningful.

Candidate Name: Nanci (Burt) Stafford
Title: A Qualitative Interview-based Study of the Lived Experiences of North Carolina Community College Students Who report Food Insecurity
 February 10, 2023  10:00 AM
Location: Online

This study represents North Carolina community college student experience with food insecurity. Two-year students have a wide variety of challenges as they make their way to finishing a credential. One such challenge, hunger, has always been a component; awareness and discourse have not. The purpose of the research is to understand the narratives of students experiencing hunger by using a qualitative, semi-structured, brief biographic narrative approach to understand the lived experiences of community college students facing hunger. Using a qualitative interview-based approach, 15 North Carolina community college students were interviewed to know how they manage hunger while working, studying, parenting, and succeeding in school. Several seminal theories such as Bronfenbrenner (1981a), Engle and Tinto, (2008); Tinto (1989); Tinto (2017), in combination with Chickering, 1969; Chickering and Reisser, (1993); Maslow (1943); and Erikson (1963) were used in this study to provide foundations for this research. The findings suggest that community colleges need to implement programs such as basic needs assessments, additional support services, and policies drawing upon student experience with hunger. What also emerged were stories of life-long extreme hardships for the participants. These students tell the tale of their struggles, sacrifices, and tenacity to better their lives through education.

Candidate Name: Anand Kangala
 February 03, 2023  9:00 AM
Location: Virtual: https://charlotte-edu.zoom.us/j/98438434069

Firms must continually adapt themselves to survive and outperform competition during rapidly changing environments, both predictable and unpredictable. The dynamic capabilities theory provides a framework for firms to renew and adapt their organizational competencies and capabilities to achieve congruence with the changing market environment. Research has shown that this leads to sustained competitive advantage and superior firm performance. However, resilience during a disruptive event requires the firms to intentionally deviate from their patterned capability-building strategies to respond differentially to turn a challenging environment into a growth opportunity. There is a gap in the literature to empirically examine this resilience phenomenon and the extent to which dynamic capabilities gained during typical business environments assist in achieving resilience during disruption. In addition, the role of digital maturity in leveraging technology for transforming the business and social capital gained through extracting value from business ties needs to be better understood. This study empirically investigates these gaps by integrating dynamic capabilities and organizational resilience theories. The data was collected through a quantitative survey from senior executives of established, mid-to-large firms within the United States, and the results provide theoretical and practical contributions.

Candidate Name: Theresa Piwowar
 January 24, 2023  9:00 AM
Location: Zoom

Within established organizations, employee innovative behavior is vital for the long-term survival of firms. Employee individual entrepreneurial orientation (IEO) represents tendencies by an individual toward innovativeness, proactiveness, and risk-taking behaviors. IEO is an emerging construct in the entrepreneurship domain, and while an important construct, contextual factors can influence the employee’s demonstration of innovative work behavior (IWB). The degree of IEO similarity or fit between an employee and their supervisor is theorized to amplify the employee’s innovative work behavior. To guide this research, person-supervisor fit (P-S fit) theory and strategic consensus theory provided a theoretical framework to investigate the relationships between these constructs. Drawing on a sample of employees across all levels of an established firm, two sets of data were analyzed: perceptions of supervisor IEO fit (n = 265) and matched pairs of IEO between employee-supervisor dyads (n = 132). Results suggest that employees’ levels of innovativeness and proactiveness are positively associated with IWB. Additionally, the data suggest that the level of proactiveness and risk-taking fit have mixed findings, suggesting that the supervisor IEO fit magnifies the IEO-IWB relationship when the employee has low levels of proactiveness and risk-taking tendencies. This research has theoretical and practical implications by examining individual level EO, within the context of supervisor fit, in promoting innovative behavior in the workplace.

Candidate Name: Nazmus Sakib
Title: Design, Modeling, Prototyping and Analysis of Resonant Gate Driver for Wide Bandgap Devices
 January 12, 2023  11:00 AM
Location: Online

In recent years, Wide Bandgap (WBG) semiconductor based power devices has matured rapidly and are playing a significant role in high switching frequency power electronic applications. WBG materials such as silicon carbide (SiC) and gallium nitride (GaN) possess a higher critical breakdown strength, an increased thermal conductivity, and a wider energy bandgap than silicon which make WBG semiconductors as a material of choice in low on-resistance, high blocking voltage, high switching frequency and high operating temperature power applications. In addition, using these devices result in the overall size reduction of the devices as higher doping levels can be achieved at similar voltage levels.

A gate driver acts as an interface between power devices and logic-level control signals and plays a significant role in the switching behavior of WBG devices. To increase the overall efficiency and reduce the footprint of the system high switching frequency operation of the devices is desirable. However, power consumption in the gate driving circuit increases with frequency. A viable strategy to reduce the gate driving power consumption is to use resonant gate driving technique where part of the energy stored in the gate capacitance is recycled.

In this dissertation, a novel resonant gate driver (RGD) for WBG devices is proposed which drives the semiconductor device using quasi-square wave by utilizing higher order harmonics. Firstly, the operating principles of the proposed gate driver circuit is presented. Secondly, a detailed characteristic analysis and power loss analysis of the circuit are provided. Additionally, a comprehensive simulation study of the proposed circuit is introduced. Moreover, a prototype of the proposed RGD was built and tested. Experimental results demonstrate that the proposed gate driving technique can significantly reduce power consumption in the gate driver circuit in comparison to conventional gate driving techniques.

Candidate Name: Elizabeth Parsons
Title: Exploring the Effects of a Daily Audio-Guided Mindfulness Intervention for Teachers
 January 27, 2023  10:00 AM
Location: zoom link: https://charlotte-edu.zoom.us/j/98833804095

Exploring the Effects of a Daily Audio-Guided Mindfulness Intervention for Teachers.
(Under the direction of DR. REBBECA SHORE, COMMITTEE CHAIR)
Teachers are experiencing high levels of stress resulting in higher attrition rates that are impacting student achievement and placing considerable burdens on schools. The practice of mindfulness in the classroom may be a way to help teachers cope with perceived stress, be aware of mindfulness, and increase self-efficacy. The purpose of this quantitative study was to investigate the effects of teacher participation in a daily audio-guided mindfulness intervention to determine if the practice of mindfulness for nine weeks affects their perceived stress levels, awareness of mindfulness, and self-efficacy. The researcher used pre-survey and post-survey data from the Mindfulness Awareness Attention Scales (MAAS), the Perceived Stress Scales (PSS), and the Teacher Sense of Efficacy Scales Survey (TSES) Short Form and program efficacy data was collected during the intervention. The study consisted of 41 participants.
In this study, the researcher found that there was little to no significant change in teachers’ perceived stress levels and awareness of mindfulness. There was a small increase in teachers’ perceived self-efficacy. The research within this study describes mindfulness, the benefits to individuals who practice mindfulness, and the benefits that can be evident in the educational setting with teachers and students. It is evident that there is a place for mindfulness within the schoolhouse, but the path to mindfulness may require consistency over long periods of time, and time is not always a luxury schools can spare. For the program to succeed and see lasting impacts on teachers’ perceived stress, awareness of mindfulness, and increase in self-efficacy, it may take consistency over time, and teachers’ acceptance of mindfulness.

Candidate Name: Aravind Ingalalli
Title: Hierarchical decentralized optimal control and reconfiguration of networked microgrids in the power distribution system
 January 16, 2023  1:00 PM
Location: EPIC 2344

The digital era has brought revolutionary automation technology in various science and engineering domains.
Integration of large-scale sustainable Distributed Energy Resources (DERs) in the power distribution network has led to the decentralization of power generation, contrary to the conventional power grid. Supplementary information and communication technology, decentralized digital economic structures, and data-driven learning-based technology have transformed distribution networks as a system of systems in recent decades. Thus the ecosystem surrounding the electricity consumer is getting socially, economically, and politically complex. There is a strong requirement for a technology framework that can offer operational and managerial independence to the geographically distributed consumer base. In the context of power distribution network operation, the need for decentralized hierarchical control structures is dictated by the rapid integration of sustainable DERs. To tackle the contemporary problems of climate change, 100\% sustainable generation-based power grid operations can be a milestone toward carbon neutral society. The nature of such power networks entails a variety of properties including variability in a generation, bidirectional power flow, and nonlinear network dynamics due to complex generation and load mix. The key operational challenge is the coexistence of large-scale DERs to achieve stable and accurate load power sharing while regulating the voltage and frequency in the network to the nominal values. The technology solution needs to be scalable by reducing the dependency on the communication network, robust against the measurement noise, and adaptive to the changing network dynamics. Furthermore, to enhance the overall resiliency of the operation, network dynamics have to be systematically studied and optimal network reconfiguration methodology has to be devised. The vision of the dissertation work is to formulate a hierarchical decentralized control structure to accommodate three-level research objectives. Firstly, at the DER level, considering the low \textit{X/R} and unbalanced nature of the distribution network, appropriate cascaded primary control loops are designed. A unified control architecture is proposed for stable multiple DER power sharing, achieving ride-through capability, and maintaining the network voltage and frequency close to nominal values. The unified control architecture is devised through a systematic definition of steady-state operating modes and the interaction among hierarchical entities in the grid. Secondly, at the microgrid level, a decentralized predictive optimal constrained secondary control framework to maintain the nominal voltage and frequency is formulated. The proposed strategy is built on a first-order model of the primary controller and local/global measurements-based state estimation, facilitating the deployability to grid edge devices. The framework is further extended to incorporate a data-driven approach when model parameters are not available. Lastly, at the network level, detailed network dynamics are modeled as a real-time environment by incorporating primary, and secondary control and protection functions. The reinforcement learning agent is designed by utilizing an extended q-routing methodology, which interacts with the environment through event-driven communication and performs optimal network reconfiguration during events in the environment. The ultimate purpose of this dissertation work is to bring value to engaged stakeholders in the process of achieving 100% sustainable power grid. There exists a gap between the aforementioned hierarchical technology solutions and business delivery models. This gap is addressed in chapter 7 by fostering a market for resiliency services through the Energy-as-a-Service model. The regulatory framework and ownership agreements are yet to evolve to support the delivery model acceptable to the involved stakeholders. Sophisticated technology aggregation and cost structure must be achieved through systematic economic analysis to maximize the revenue for technology and service providers. The author, lastly and most importantly, emphasizes the need for sustainable business model innovation in coordination with the big technology players, new players such as startups including aggregators, and utilities to position themselves in the market.