Completed Doctorates

NCLVI Completed and Near Completed Doctorates with Dissertation Topics
and Employed Positions 10.20.10
NCLVI Year Started First Name Last Name University Graduated & Anticipating Graduation Dissertation Title & Job Position
2005 Donna Brostek Lee University of Louisville Anticipating Graduation Fall, 2010 Increasing positive sleep behaviors in young children who are blind. The significance of auditory sleep association stimuli. (NOT YET DEFENDED)  Working Assistant Professor Western Michigan University
2006 Frances Mary D’Andrea University of Pittsburgh Graduated 2010 Preferences and Practices Among Students Who Read Braille and Use Assistive Technology  Successfully Defended Dissertation  Working as a Consultant in Pittsburgh
2005 Julie Durando University of Northern Colorado Graduated 2008 Home Literacy Experiences of Children with Visual Impairments and Multiple Disabilities   Working  Director of State Deaf Blind Program in Virginia
2006 Amy Freeland Western Michigan University Graduated 2009 Visual Impairment and Eye Care Among Older Americans: Secondary analysis of the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS)   Working for CDC in Atlanta Georgia
2006 Eric Grimmett Texas Tech University Anticipating Graduation Fall 2010 The Assessment, Development, and Implementation of an Augmentative Communication Intervention for Enhancing Communicative Behaviors in an Individual with Severe Multiple Impairments Including Cortical Visual Impairment (NOT YET DEFENDED)
2005 Beth Harris University of Arizona Graduated 2009 Paraprofessional Proximity and Decision Making During Interactions of Students with Visual Impairments  Working Assistant Professor North Carolina Central University
2005 Lori Johnson University of Louisville Anticipating Graduation Fall 2010 Defense Scheduled Social Support and Coping Self-efficacy as Predictors of Positive Career Outcomes for Professionals with Visual Impairments or Blindness
2005 Stacy Kelly Northern Illinois University Graduated 2008 Correlates of Assistive Technology Use by Students Who Are Visually Impaired in the U.S.: Multilevel Modeling of the Special Education Elementary Longitudinal Study .  Working Illinois State University
2005 Holly Lawson University of Arizona Graduated 2010 Independent living, post secondary educational and employment outcomes of adults with visual impairment  Working Assistant Professor, George Mason University
2006 Martin Monson University of Northern Colorado Graduated August 2009 The Expanded Core Curriculum and its Relationship to Postschool Outcomes for Youth who Are Visually Impaired. Working Principal Maryland School for the Blind
2006 Amy Parker Texas Tech University Graduated August  2009 Measuring an Adapted Form of Picture Exchange Communication Systems (PECS) for Young Children with Visual Impairments and Developmental Disabilities [Doctoral Dissertation] --Parker, Amy Tollerson. Texas Tech University. (2009)  This is the link to her dissertation is http://etd.lib.ttu.edu/theses/available/etd-06032009-203503   Working Research Assistant Profesor, Texas Tech University
2006 Rebecca Renshaw University of Pittsburgh Graduated May 2 with PhD and May 14 with Masters in Law 2010 Clinical Competencies of O&M Interns: Development and Validation of a Clinical Evaluation Tool (Defended April 5).  Working as Visiting Assistant Professor at University of Pittsburgh
2005 Derrick Smith Texas Tech University Graduated 2008 Assistive Technology Competencies for Teachers of Students with Visual Impairments: A Delphi Study  Working Assistant professor University of Alabama Huntsville
2005 Tilly Steele Florida State University Anticipating Graduation Fall 2010 Grade Level Instruction In Tactile Graphics (NOT YET DEFENDED)
2005 Eric Sticken University of Arizona Anticipating Graduation Fall   2010 (Anticipated to complete Fall 2010)
2005 Sharon Summers Texas Tech University Graduated 2009 Sensory Room Use: An Intervention Tool for Developing Visual Fluency in a Child with Cortical Visual Impairment (CVI)  Working as Teacher in Texas
2005 Shawn Sweet Piantoni University Northern Colorado Graduated 2010 Professional’s Perceived Qualities for Collaborative Parent and Professional Partnerships  Employed as a Research Consultant in Visual Impairment with Whirlwind Wheelchair International
2005 Tiffany Wild The Ohio State University Graduated 2008 Students’ with Visual Impairments Conceptions of Causes of Seasonal Change  Working Assistant professor, Ohio State University
2006 Tessa Wright Vanderbilt University Graduated 2010 An Assessment of the Effectiveness of Roadside Instruction in Teaching Children with Visual Impairments Street Crossings .  Working Assistant Professor University of Nebraska

Beth Harris Ph.D - University of Arizona

Completed her doctoral studies from the University of Arizona at Tucson in the Fall of 2009.  Her Dissertation Abstract is as follows:

PARAPROFESSIONAL PROXIMITY AND DECISION MAKING DURING INTERACTIONS OF STUDENTS WITH VISUAL IMPAIRMENTS Beth A. Harris, PhD University of Arizona, 2009 Jane Erin, PhD, Faculty Advisor DISSERTATION ABSTRACT This study examined two aspects of the use of paraprofessionals with students with visual impairments: 1) the effect of paraprofessional proximity on the students’ interactions with peers and teachers in the regular education classroom, and 2) factors that may influence a paraprofessional’s decision to interact or not interact with a student with a visual impairment. The four student/paraprofessional case studies included data collected by means of classroom observations, demographic forms, and semi-structured interviews. The classroom observation data were analyzed using the chi-square statistics to determine relationships between paraprofessional proximity and classroom activity setting, interaction participants, interaction initiators, and type of interaction that occurred. The data collected through the interviews were coded to determine themes. The data from all the case studies were cross analyzed to determine relationships and themes across cases.

Proximity of paraprofessionals to students with visual impairments in the regular education classroom appears to have an effect on the interactions that occur between students with visual impairments, peers, and teachers. More interactions occurred between students and peers and between students and teachers when paraprofessionals were at a distance. Also, when paraprofessionals were at a distance, peers and teachers were more likely to initiate interactions with students with visual impairments.

The decision making process for paraprofessionals is complicated. Factors that may influence how paraprofessionals make decisions concerning students with visual impairments were professional experience, personal experience, education level and type, and how roles and responsibilities were defined. All the paraprofessionals in the study indicated at some point during data collection the need to promote independence in their students.

Dr. Harris is presently employed as  Assistant Professor and Program Coordinator for the Visual Impairment Training Program (VITP) at North Carolina Central University in Durham, North Carolina.  Her professional contact information is: Beth Harris, Ph. D. Assistant Professor and Coordinator of the Visual Impairment Training Program North Carolina Central University 2133 H.M. Michaux, Jr  School of Education Building 712 Cecil Street Durham, NC 27707 Phone:  919-530-5346 FAX:  919-530-5353 Email:  baharris@nccu.edu


Tessa Wright, PhD - Vanderbilt University

Completed her doctoral requirements in August of 2010 from Vanderbilt University.  Her dissertation title was An Assessment of the Effectiveness of Roadside Instruction in Teaching Children with Visual Impairments Street Crossings. The link is http://etd.library.vanderbilt.edu/available/etd-07282010-135108/

She is presently  Assistant Professor of Practice, University of Nebraska--Lincoln, Barkley Memorial Center 202G, Lincoln, NE 68583.  Her current University contact information is  twright5@unl.edu and office phone is 402-472-6636.


Shawn Sweet Piantoni, Ed. D., University of Northern Colorado

Shawn Sweet Piantoni, Ed. D. University of Northern Colorado

Dr. Shawn Sweet Piantoni graduated in May 2010 with a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) and a Special Education Administrator’s Professional License from the University of Northern Colorado thanks to the financial and professional support of the National Center for Leadership in Visual Impairment (NCLVI) and the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) Cooperative Agreement H325U040001.

Related to her strong interest in conflict prevention and resolution between parents and professionals her dissertation is titled, "Professionals' Perceived Qualities for Collaborative Parent and Professional Partnerships"


Dr. George Zimmerman and Dr. Rebecca Renshaw

Dr. George Zimmerman & Dr. Rebecca Renshaw

Rebecca L. Renshaw, PhD University of Pittsburgh

Dr. Rebecca L. Renshaw graduated in May 2010 with a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) and a Master of Studies in Law (MSL) from the University of Pittsburgh thanks to the financial and professional support of the National Center for Leadership in Visual Impairment (NCLVI) and the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) Cooperative Agreement H325U040001.

Dr. Renshaw now serves as adjunct faculty at the University of Pittsburgh. In addition, she is collaborating with individuals at the national, state and local levels and working on a number of research projects.

Her dissertation is titled "Development of a New O&M Clinical Competency Evaluation Tool and Examination of Validity and Reliability Evidence" and is available at http://etd.library.pitt.edu/ETD/available/etd-04142010-090704/


Photo above is Amy Parker, Ed.D. & her children.Amy Parker, Ed.D.

Amy Parker, Ed. D. -
Texas Tech University

Amy T. Parker was a National Center for Leadership in Visual Impairment (NCLVI) Doctoral Fellow who recently completed her program of study at Texas Tech University. Her emphasis of research was on evidence-based practices in teaching and rehabilitation for people who are visually impaired or deafblind. The focus of her dissertation was an adapted form of the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) for students with visual impairments and multiple disabilities. Advocacy and policy development are two of her passions in the field of visual impairment and deafblindness. She has over 15 years serving in the field of deafblindness working as a Community Placement Specialist, Technical Assistance Specialist, and Regional Representative for Helen Keller National Center. Dr. Parker is also a certified interpreter of American Sign Language in the state of Texas.  She is working as a Research Assistant Professor at Texas Tech University in the Virginia Murray Sowell Center. She is married to Trey and has two young children, James and Abby.

The title of  Dr. Parker's dissertation is:

Measuring an Adapted Form of Picture Exchange Communication Systems (PECS) for Young Children with Visual Impairments and Developmental Disabilities [Doctoral Dissertation] --Parker, Amy Tollerson. Texas Tech University. (2009)  This is the link to her dissertation is http://etd.lib.ttu.edu/theses/available/etd-06032009-203503


L to R: Dr. Robert Wall Emerson, Amy Freeland, Dr. Sue Ponchillia, Dr. Paul Ponchillia, Roger Gibson (Amy’s father), Diana Gibson (Amy’s mother); Front: Ellie the Dog Guide.

L to R: Dr. Robert Wall Emerson, Amy Freeland, Dr. Sue Ponchillia, Dr. Paul Ponchillia, Roger Gibson (Amy’s father), Diana Gibson (Amy’s mother); Front: Ellie the Dog Guide

Amy Freeland, Ph. D.- Western Michigan University

Dr. Amy Freeland graduated with her Doctor of Philosophy from Western Michigan University's College of Health and Human Services with the the financial and professional support of the National Center for Leadership in Visual Impairment (NCLVI) and the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) Cooperative Agreement H325U040001.  Freeland is now an Epidemic Intelligence Officer at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, assigned to the National Center for Environmental Health in the Healthy Community Design Initiative.

Dissertation Abstract: Visual Impairment and Eye Care Among Older Americans: Secondary analysis of the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS)


Dr. Sharon Summers and Dr. Nora Griffin Shirley 

Sharon Summers. Ed. D.,Texas Tech University

Dr. Sharon Summers with her Doctor of Education from Texas Tech University, College of Education with the the financial and professional support of the National Center for Leadership in Visual Impairment (NCLVI) and the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) Cooperative Agreement H325U040001. 

Dissertation Abstract:  Sensory Room Use: An Intervention Tool for Developing Visual Fluency in a Child with Cortical Visual Impairment (CVI)


Dr. Julie Durando

Julie Durando, Ed. D., University of Northern Colorado

Dr. Julie Durando graduated with her Doctor of Education from The University of Northern Colorado thanks to the financial and professional support of the National Center for Leadership in Visual Impairment (NCLVI) and the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) Cooperative Agreement H325U040001.

Dissertation Abstract: Home Literacy Experiences of Children with Visual Impairments and Multiple Disabilities


Dr. Tiffan Wild

Tiffany Wild, PhD - Ohio State University

Dr. Tiffany Wild graduated with her Doctor of Philosophy degree (PhD) from The Ohio State University on August 24, 2008.  This degree was made possible with the financial and professional support of the National Center for Leadership in Visual Impairment (NCLVI) and the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) Cooperative Agreement H325U040001.  Thank you to all who made the dreams of Dr. Wild come true!

Dr. Wild will begin her career as a visiting assistant professor at The Ohio State University in September.  She will be coordinating the Program in Visual Impairments for the university. 

Dissertation Abstract: Students’ with Visual Impairments Conceptions of Causes of Seasonal Change


Dr. Stacy Kelly

Dr. Stacy Kelly is pictured on the far right during the AER NCLVI Research Showcase in Chicago, Illinois

Stacy Kelly, Ed. D. - Northern Illinois University

Dr. Stacy Kelly graduated with her doctor of education degree (Ed.D.) from Northern Illinois University on Friday, August 8th, 2008. This terminal degree would not have been accomplished without the financial and professional support of the National Center for Leadership in Visual Impairment (NCLVI) and the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) Cooperative Agreement H325U040001. Dr. Kelly would like to express her gratitude for this doctoral fellowship program. Her dissertation was titled, "Correlates of Assistive Technology Use by Students Who Are Visually Impaired in the U.S.: Multilevel Modeling of the Special Education Elementary Longitudinal Study" and her dissertation director was Dr. Gaylen Kapperman. This dissertation study investigated the assistive technology use of students who are visually impaired in the U.S. through a secondary analysis of the Special Education Elementary Longitudinal Study (SEELS). The aim of this study was to estimate the level of assistive technology experience with text-to-speech devices and screen reading software nationwide and investigate some of the contextual circumstances that may contribute to the use of this special technology for the blind. Analysis of the data showed that the vast majority of students with visual impairments in the U.S. were not using assistive technology during each of the three measured time periods. It was determined that any change in assistive technology use as the three years of the survey progressed was not statistically significant. The findings were discussed in terms of implications for interventions and potential changes in policy or practice. Dr. Kelly looks forward to the opportunity to work for the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) as their Policy Research Associate beginning this fall.


Dr. Derrick Smith Awarded Dissertation of the Year Award by the Council for Exceptional Children, Division for the Visually Impaired.

Dr. Derrick Smith Awarded Dissertation of the Year Award by the Council for Exceptional Children, Division for the Visually Impaired.

Derrick Smith, Ed. D., Texas Tech University