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College of Education

The online Ed.D. gives students solutions to turn problems into opportunities: STEM Education

Part of a four-part series featuring Dawn Pilotti, STEM concentration

Dawn Pilotti knew she wanted an online doctoral program that was academically rigorous, had an excellent faculty who were active researchers in STEM fields, applied to her daily work and concluded with a dissertation. For her, the choice was made when she had the opportunity to work with an exemplary scholar in mathematics education. Professor Kristin Harbour’s expertise in the intersection of mathematics education, special education and professional development paralleled exactly with Pilotti’s interests.

“Being able to study with Professor Harbour was a huge draw to the program for me,” Pilotti says. “After meeting her, my decision was made.”

Pilotti is the McRae Family Foundation PK-12 Faculty Chair of Mathematics and a mathematics specialist at Currey Ingram Academy, a research-based, model school for students with learning differences located in Tennessee. Pilotti’s passion for improving mathematics learning outcomes for typically underserved students is reflected in the educational doctorate’s STEM Education concentration.

“I found exactly what I was looking for,” Pilotti says. “The courses are high quality, the faculty are very committed to student success and research is encouraged and emphasized in every course.”

Pilotti says that her dissertation mentor, Professor Harbour, has helped her create a comprehensive, yet focused, project that specifically applies to influencing local changes at her school through professional learning communities. Pilotti hopes her continued work in mathematics education and special education will positively impact the teaching and learning of mathematics for students with learning disabilities on a national level.

“I have used something, whether it’s a skill or knowledge, from every course taken in this program for my dissertation,” Pilotti says.

Pilotti also credits her program advisor, Professor Bridget Miller, with meeting her individual needs throughout her program journey. This personalized approach is necessary for individuals working full-time jobs and managing family life while completing the program. Pilotti shares that the cohort model is another program highlight.

“The cohorts allow students in the program to form collaborative groups of professionals where everyone supports each other,” Pilotti says. “The cohorts are small, and we have been able to build global working relationships with others in different phases of the program to further our growth and learning.”

Dawn shares that the most exciting part of the program is how practical the knowledge is.

“Everything I’m doing in my courses and for my dissertation naturally transfers to my daily work,” Pilotti says. “Knowledge gained from the Ed.D. program at the University of South Carolina has become an active part of decisions and professional learning in mathematics education and STEM education at Currey Ingram Academy. My work through the University of South Carolina program has impacted positive change for the teachers and students at my school.”

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