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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

ODU Education Graduate Receives National Dissertation Award

By Brendan O'Hallarn

A recent doctoral graduate from Old Dominion University's Darden College of Education is in Jacksonville this week, receiving an award for dissertation of the year from the National Education Finance Academy (NEFA).

Jessica Ellison, who is principal of Hornsby Middle School in Williamsburg, completed her Ph.D. in Education Leadership at Old Dominion in December. Her dissertation, "The relationship between state educational fiscal effort and state juvenile incarceration rates" was recognized for its timely contribution to education scholarship by NEFA.

Her dissertation committee chair Bill Owings, professor of educational foundations and leadership, said Ellison examined a figure known as "state fiscal effort" for education (what portion of a state's wealth is dedicated to public schools) and its relationship with juvenile incarceration rates over time.

"Dr. Ellison found that when state fiscal effort increased, juvenile incarceration rates decreased," Owings said. "Spending more money upfront on education saves more money than putting youths into jail, making it a far better investment of taxpayer dollars."

For her dissertation, Ellison relied on a database of state fiscal effort in education over 40 years, from all 50 states and the District of Columbia that was developed by Owings. Eight of Owings' doctoral students have used this database to examine things such as student achievement, employment rates, graduation rates and per capita income.

Ellison said her recognition would not have been possible without the efforts of her dissertation committee, especially Owings, her chair.

"I am truly honored that the National Education Finance Academy is recognizing my dissertation. It is very exciting that such a prestigious association found this work valuable," she said. "This would not have occurred without the input and guidance of my dissertation committee and the quality education Old Dominion University provides."

Ellison also thanked her other dissertation committee members John Ritz, professor of STEM education and professional studies; and Steve Myran, associate professor of educational foundations and leadership.

"Dr. Owings, the dissertation chair, worked tirelessly to support me every step of the way. I would like to thank everyone involved, Dr. Owings, Dr. Ritz, Dr. Myran, and all the professors at ODU that have contributed to my education. I am proud to be a Monarch."