Professor Katrina Cummings Wins Award for Article Based on Dissertation

As part of obtaining her doctorate from the University of North Carolina in Greensboro, Katrina Cummings wrote about raising children with special needs in rural contexts and parent engagement in learning activities.

The dissertation was approved, she obtained her Ph.D. and left to teach at the University of Illinois, eventually landing this fall at Simpson, where she serves as an assistant professor of education.

Cummings was notified recently that the article she published based on her dissertation research was named Article of the Year by the Rural Special Education Quarterly Journal, which originally published the work last year.

To say Cummings was surprised is an understatement.

“I didn’t know the award existed,” she said.

The Journal publishes academic work that focuses on special education services for children in rural areas. Cummings studied how parents engage and provide learning activities for their children with special needs.

She discovered that parents were devoted to “making accommodations” for their children. “They were actively adjusting their environment so that they were able to engage with their children,” such as finding unique ways to engage when they worked non-traditional hours. For example, allowing children to go to bed a little later so the parent would be available for bedtime routines.

They also relied to a support system of friends and relatives for help.

“They want to take care of their families,” she said.

For Cummings, the dissertation reflected her interest in research and teaching, including family engagement, collaborative parent-teacher models and providing special education for young children from marginalized groups.

“It probably stems from my desire of wanting to help others,” she said. “Children are a vulnerable population in general when it comes to a lot of things, so I’m passionate about helping them get a good, healthy start in life.”

Cummings hopes to attend the Journal’s annual conference in March in Salt Lake City, where the award will be presented. Having spent most of her life in North Carolina, she said she was attracted to the academic climate at Simpson.

“When I came here for my on-campus interview, the feel of the people here was something that really interested me,” she said. “Simpson was friendly and inviting. And I appreciated the focus on teaching across all age spans.”