When the American Educational Research Association convenes for its annual meeting later this month, Dr. Renae D. Mayes, an assistant professor and director of the School Counseling Program at Ball State University, will be among those that the organization will honor.
Mayes, 28, a rising star in the field of school counseling, will receive an award for her 2013 dissertation which she wrote while she was still a doctoral student at The Ohio State University (OSU).
Mayes completed the 181-page dissertation under the direction of Dr. James L. Moore III, who holds an endowed chair in education at OSU and is associate provost for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and director of the Todd Anthony Bell National Resource Center on the African American Male.
“Dr. Renae Mayes is walking in excellence,” said Moore in an interview with Diverse. “I knew when I first met her that she would make a great doctoral student and eventually an outstanding faculty member. Receiving the American Educational Research Association’s Division E Outstanding Dissertation Award in Counseling is testament of her hard work and commitment to excellence.”
Growing up in a suburb of Tulsa, Oklahoma, Mayes — the first in her family to attend college — had early aspirations of being a middle school math teacher. But during her senior year at the University of Missouri, she tried her hand at research as a participant in the Ronald E. McNair Program, and fell in love with it.
“I actually wasn’t supposed to be in the field. I was a math person” said Mayes, who was a Gates Millennium Scholar. “I didn’t know until much later that grad school even existed and didn’t know you can do research and study people.”
When Mayes graduated from Missouri, she headed to the University of Maryland and then entered the doctoral program at OSU because she wanted to study with Moore.
“It’s really great to find a faculty member who looked like me and who was eager to talk about the experiences that I had,” said Mayes. “I just felt very connected to Dr. Moore. I wanted to learn from him and he was so gracious.”
Mayes’ dissertation, which was titled “‘How are they being helped if I don’t even know about it?’: Adversity and pitfalls of twice exceptional urban learners,” was a qualitative study that focused on gifted African-American students who also have a disability. The study examined the experiences of parents and educators in supporting twice exceptional African-American students in urban schools and focused on three major themes: the significance of labels; social and personal experiences of twice exceptionality; and challenges and strategies in the school environment.
A three-member review committee evaluated the dissertation based on the significance, quality of research, interpretation of findings and the quality of writing. According to Drs. Chris Slaten and Allison Ryan, co-chairs of AERA’s Division E Awards Committee in Counseling and Human Development, the review committee rated every nomination on each of the criteria and provided an overall rank order of the nominations.
“I am truly proud of Dr. Mayes,” said Moore. “Her university is really lucky to have her on its faculty, and I am honored to have had her as my former doctoral mentee and now colleague.”
Mayes, who now teaches other graduate students, will accept the award at the annual meeting of AERA which will take place from April 16-20 in Chicago.
“It’s very exciting and I am thrilled to have the work recognized,” Mayes said, adding that she plans to continue her research with a focus on examining gifted students with a disability through the lens of racial and ethnic identity and socioeconomic status.
Jamal Eric Watson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on Twitter @jamalericwatson.