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Xianxuan Xu, Ph.D. '11

Named for the 2011 Dean's Award for Excellence

Dean McLaughlin and Xianxuan XuXianxuan Xu was among two doctoral graduates named for the Dean's Award for Excellence at the Spring Awards ceremony held on April 29.  Dean Virginia McLaughlin said of Dr.. Xu, "Xian's ability to analyze complex issues, the ease with which she collaborates with her colleagues, and her deep understanding of the process of conducting quality research has made her one of our top doctoral students. Her passion for learning is contagious as she contributes insightful ideas and unique perspectives in all of her classes. Xian's dedication to good teaching practices, in addition to her ethical and professional demeanor makes her an ideal candidate for the award for excellence."

 "Xianxuan Xu's dissertation defense was, "A Cross-cultural Comparative Study of Teacher Effectiveness: Analysis of Award-winning Teachers in the United States and China."

In her remarks after receiving the award, Xian said, "I am deeply honored to have been selected as a recipient of the School of Education Award for Excellence. Without false modesty, I feel that my other fellow doctoral students are also worthy of this reward. So again, I am sincerely grateful for the recognition.

It's been a privilege to be a student here. The professors here are brilliant and engaged. I felt connected to the raging currents of thoughts and ideas, either within or without the classrooms 

During my doctoral studies, there are a number of professors provided words of direction, unfaltering support, and wisdom. Their encouragement and beliefs that I can succeed acknowledged my presence in a well-esteemed research institution. They made me think about myself as a doctoral student in a different way. The formal and informal conversations I had with my advisor, other faculty researchers, and fellow students helped me recognize my capacities as a young researcher. For the past three plus years, they molded an insecure learner into a confident researcher. Inspired by them, it's my hope I will also provide constant acts of support and guidance to future learners in my native country—China.

I am forever grateful to Dr. James Stronge, my academic advisor, and his wife Terri, and his daughter-Sally for their unreserved support, encouragement, and belief that I can succeed. As a part-time graduate assistant to Dr. James Stronge, I am especially fortunate that he offered me opportunities to observe him and assist him with various research projects. Dr. Stronge and many other professors at the SOE helped me become established as part of the research community. They helped with process of funding conference travel, encouraging me to publish research results early so that I can get substantial and useful reviews from journals, collaborating on joint publications, introducing me to colleagues, using me as a resource of reference, and promoting my work. 

I am also a part-time graduate assistant for Project HOPE, where I have extensive opportunities to learn, research and write about the needs of homeless/at-risk students and the strategies to provide appropriate educational services to them. In addition, the highlight of my learning experience in Project HOPE is the modeling offered by Dr. Popp about how to be of service to the kids from the most disadvantaged situations. I was continually inspired by how much she and local homeless educators achieved in making the educational services more accessible to the students who need them most. 

I am grateful for the opportunities of graduate assistantship I received from the School of Education, and I have the deepest appreciation for the Galfo Research Fellowship and Brickell Partnership Award, which are generously offered by members of this community who are giving and who have a strong belief in education. These financial supports made my graduate studies here possible. They also help me conduct a much better funded dissertation study. All these will be kept as lifetime fond memories and will continue to remind me what I value most.

I am graduating with the deepest satisfaction. This is more than of getting a diploma. The satisfaction is of the new knowledge, skills, and invaluable experience I acquired here. I will remember the days of my studying here as the most precious and quality years in my life. This is an incredible place to learn and I hope to uphold the SOE's standards of professionalism, excellence, and passion for education in my future career."

Xian will stay at the School of Education for two more years as a post-doctoral research associate. She will be working with Drs. Stronge, Grant, Popp, and Tonneson on a teacher/principal effectiveness program, which is funded by the Virginia Department of Education. She plans to be a professor in a research university in China after finishing this project.