Nikki Tennessen

Nikki Tennessen, PhD student, higher education and student affairs, educational measurement and statistics

Helps universities support students

“Nikki is an absolutely stellar student… As a former first-generation undergraduate herself, Nikki is strongly committed to the success of today’s students, especially those who hold minoritized identities.” – Nicholas Bowman, professor

Appleton, Wisconsin

Faculty mentor/advisor:
Nicholas Bowman, PhD, professor and Mary Louise Petersen Chair in Higher Education, College of Education

What is your degree program and anticipated graduation date?
PhD in higher education and student affairs; PhD in educational measurement and statistics

Please describe your research:
I study how colleges and universities use information about their students to support student success. My current projects examine the success of low-income students in comprehensive support programs, how various forms of financial aid support—or do not support—students to graduation, how LGBTQ+ students thrive in college, and the prevalence of housing insecurity among college students across the United States. These projects aim to provide institutions with clear recommendations about how to best support students.

In simple terms, why does this research matter?
Colleges and universities provide access to education that should benefit those who attend them. Students, their families, and the public invest significantly in colleges and universities, so it’s critical to identify how institutions can better support students.

How soon after starting at the University of Iowa were you able to participate in research?
Immediately—the higher education and student affairs faculty and advanced doctoral students invited me onto projects that ranged from international higher education to understanding difference to first-generation student success. Through these projects, I was able to engage in all types of research throughout the entire research process.

How has being involved in research made you more successful at the University of Iowa?
Participating in research deepened my curiosity about student success and how colleges and universities support their students. Through various research projects, I’ve engaged in real-world complex research that cannot be simulated in a classroom.

What are your career goals and/or plans after graduation?
I hope to become a faculty member, conducting research and teaching courses about methods and institutional research.

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