College of Education > News and Publications > 2017: 04-06 news > Doctoral candidate earns American Bar Foundation fellowship

Doctoral candidate earns American Bar Foundation fellowship

Rachel Montgomery awarded $35,000 to assist emerging scholars studying a variety of higher education topics.

Rachel Montgomery was seeking opportunities to engage with other scholars dedicated to a range of legal and higher education topics; she found that and more, thanks to a fellowship from the American Bar Foundation (ABF) in partnership with the AccessLex Institute (ALI).

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Doctoral candidate Rachel Montgomery was awarded a $35,000 fellowship from the American Bar Foundation and AccessLex Institute.
The Penn State College of Education doctoral candidate in higher education has been awarded a $35,000 fellowship from the ABF/ALI organizations. The purpose of the fellowship is to assist emerging scholars who are studying issues of access, affordability or value in legal and higher education.

"The fellowship will allow me the chance to more deeply delve into my research on law school leadership, and the specific context of law schools,'' Montgomery said. "With the interdisciplinary focus of my work, I look forward to presenting the findings of my research to multiple audiences in the coming year.''

Montgomery, who is expected to complete her doctorate in spring 2018, will be based at the American Bar Foundation in Chicago. Her dissertation, according to David Guthrie, the chair of Montgomery's committee, is on a unique administrative strategy that particular law schools are using where there are two deans who are viewed simultaneously as holding the same title and potentially sharing aspects of certain roles. 

"Utilizing qualitative methods, I aim to present the experiences of my co-dean participants as I seek a clearer understanding of what 'administrative co-leadership' means and looks like within the U.S. law school context,'' Montgomery said.

Her dissertation on co-deans of law schools explores intersections between the education, industrial/organizational psychology and strategic management bodies of literature. "There is incredibly sparse literature on this topic, even with considering what is available across these fields,'' she said.

"Needless to say, she's absolutely delighted because it's a great award … stipend, moving expenses, and travel expenses for conferences,'' said Guthrie, who is joined on Montgomery's committee by Karly Ford, Neal Hutchens (University of Mississippi), Susan Mohammed and Karen Paulson.

"I am honored by the fellowship and found it very affirming,'' said Montgomery, who earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Brevard College in Brevard, North Carolina, and a Master of Education from Lynchburg College in Lynchburg, Virginia. She worked several years in student affairs at a number of liberal arts institutions before entering the higher education doctoral program, housed in the Department of Education Policy Studies, at Penn State.

“My overarching goal with undertaking these different projects is to conduct research that emphasizes not only the actions of leaders, but also their perspectives on the pressures under which they operate. With my research, I often seek to adopt a multi-level approach to exploring and understanding the experiences of different stakeholder groups.”--Rachel Montgomery

Her primary research interests in leadership and governance initially stemmed from an extensive internship experience at Lynchburg, and she explored this interest—narrowing her focus to law schools and legal education—in classes taught by the higher education and industrial/organizational psychology graduate programs at Penn State, she said.

Montgomery's recent research projects look more closely at select student subpopulations, or leadership and governance strategies employed during change processes occurring in varied higher education contexts. She has presented on possible dimensions of institutional image and institutional identity found the official and unofficial mission statements of liberal arts institutions at the annual Conversation on the Liberal Arts, hosted by the Gaede Institute at Westmont College.

She also has presented preliminary results of her national survey on homeschooler graduates as college students at the recent Student Research Conference hosted by the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

“My overarching goal with undertaking these different projects is to conduct research that emphasizes not only the actions of leaders, but also their perspectives on the pressures under which they operate,'' Montgomery said. "With my research, I often seek to adopt a multi-level approach to exploring and understanding the experiences of different stakeholder groups.”

Montgomery said the connection she's developed with Penn State faculty and students in the higher education program has been beneficial.

"Both inside and outside the classroom, over the past three years I have engaged in meaningful discussions with faculty members and peers as I have developed my research projects and set my primary research agenda,'' she said. "I have grown much as a scholar and professional through this experience.''

Jim Carlson (April 2017)