Success Stories

Alumna's dissertation wins award

Tara Star Johnson

Grand Valley alumna receives award for dissertation

After graduating from Grand Valley in 1993, Dr. Tara Star Johnson taught high school science and English for six years. Though she loved her job, she was ready for a new challenge.

Johnson decided that her next step would be to attend graduate school. In 2005 she graduated from the University of Georgia with a Ph.D. in language education. She then taught at Georgia Southern University for one year, and in 2006 began teaching at Purdue University. 

“I work with students who are preparing to be English teachers as well as practicing teachers returning for advanced degrees. I can't imagine a job for which I could be better-suited,” she said. 

Most recently she was awarded the National Council of Teachers of English Promising Researcher Award. The award is given annually to scholars who submit the best article-length version of their dissertation. The article can be up to 50 pages, but scholars can only apply up to two years after they earn their Ph.D.  Though putting the finishing touches on her article was a painful experience, she completed it in time to submit it for the award.

“My plan was to apply the last year I was eligible, and the deadline was coming up during my eighth month of pregnancy. I was on bed rest, so I ended up finishing the last edits during the early stages of labor,” she said.  

Johnson's book, From Teacher to Lover: Sex Scandals in the Classroom, is due to come out in late fall 2008. It looks at both how and why teachers choose to have a sexual relationship with a student.

“The next step is to research what to do about it. I am developing a professional relationship with an entrepreneur who has designed a workshop to educate school personnel about sexual misconduct. Confronting the issue rather than ignoring it is something I plan to continue to do,” she said. 

by Leah Burns

This story was filed with the tags: Published, Research after GVSU, Undergraduate Alumni