Denisa Gándara


Assistant Professor, Southern Methodist University

About Denisa

Ford Foundation Fellow    ·    Southern Methodist University


Denisa Gándara is an Assistant Professor of Education Policy and Leadership at Southern Methodist University. She is the recipient of the Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship and the Zell and Shirley Miller Graduate Fellowship. Her research agenda broadly explores state-level higher education policy formulation processes and impacts, especially on populations traditionally underserved in higher education. Her current work on the development of higher education finance policies focuses on: (1) social networks within policy development processes and what they suggest about (under)representation in higher education policymaking and (2) the types, quality, sources, and flows of information acquired and used in policy formulation.

Education & Experience


EDUCATION

Ph.D., Higher Education

2011 - 2016

University of Georgia

Athens, Georgia


B.A., Philosophy, Psychology Minor

2007 - 2011

The University of Texas at Austin

Austin, Texas


B.A., Spanish, Linguistics Minor

2007 - 2011

The University of Texas at Austin

Austin, Texas




EXPERIENCE

Assistant Professor

2016 - present

Department of Education Policy & Leadership, Southern Methodist University

Dallas, Texas

Responsibilities: conduct research on higher education policy; develop and teach courses in the Master's and Executive Ed.D. higher education programs; present research at national and regional conferences; and serve on departmental and school-wide committees


Project Manager and Lead Researcher

2011 - 2015

WT Grant Foundation

Athens, Georgia

“The Distinct Role of Intermediary Organizations in Fostering Research Utilization for State College Completion Policy” project funded by WT Grant Foundation ($350,000)


Responsibilities: collaboratively develop grant proposal with Erik Ness, Principal Investigator (PI), and James Hearn, Co-PI; design interview and observation protocols for five states; iteratively produce a coding scheme for qualitative data analysis; manage a six-member team in the data collection, analysis, and presentation of findings from Phase 1 of the project


Graduate Student Research Assistant

2011 - 2015

University of Georgia

Athens, Georgia

“Ideological think tanks in higher education”; with Erik Ness. Responsibilities: Build database for content analysis using archived data from 99 ideological think tanks’ websites; conduct qualitative analyses; write papers; guest lecture in Policy Studies course


“Private Financial Returns on Graduate Education” with Robert Toutkoushian. Responsibilities: Construct dataset using data on financing of graduate education and labor market returns; conduct quantitative analyses; write papers; guest lecture in Economics of Higher Education course


Higher Education Consultant

2013 - 2014

Ford Foundation / Tennessee Higher Education Commission

Various Locations

“Campus Responses to Tennessee’s Complete College Tennessee Act and Outcomes-Based Funding Formula” project supported by the Ford Foundation and the Tennessee Higher Education Commission


Responsibilities: collaboratively design ethnographic case study interview and observation protocols; conduct over 40 interviews with officials from two campuses and the University of Tennessee System; conduct observations; analyze qualitative data for two campuses; collaboratively write papers, including final report to THEC and the Ford Foundation


Policy Intern

2010 - 2011

Texas Senate Higher Education Committee

Austin, Texas

Responsibilities: write policy memos; research and prepare materials, including bill analyses and “talking points”, for higher education bills for use by Senate Higher Education Committee Chair, Judith Zaffirini, Ph.D.


U.S. Congressional Intern

2010

United States House of Representatives, Office of Congressman Luis Gutierrez

Washington, D.C.

As part of the Council for Opportunity in Education, Global Leaders’ Semester program, I was selected as the sole 2010 Fall Intern from a national pool of TRIO applicants.


Responsibilities: attend regular hearings and briefings and create memos for the congressional office, draft official constituent correspondence, participate in seminar workshops on theory and practice of government and politics

Awards & Honors


Publications


Accepted

Gándara, D. & Toutkoushian, R. Updated Estimates of the Average Financial Return on Master’s Degree Programs in the United States. Journal of Education Finance.


Accepted

Li, A., Gándara, D., & Assalone, A. Do Performance-Funding Policies Disadvantage Two-Year Minority-Serving Institutions? Community College Review.


2017

Gándara, D., Ness, E.C., & Rippner, J. Exploring the “How” in Policy Diffusion: A National Intermediary Organization’s Role in Facilitating the Spread of College Completion Policies in the States. The Journal of Higher Education.

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2017

Jones, T., Jones, S., Owens, L., Assalone, A., Elliott, K., & Gándara, D. Outcomes Based Funding and Race in Higher Education. Basingstoke, United Kingdom: Palgrave Macmillan.

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2016

Gándara, D. “College students, state policies, and undocumented status.” In Contemporary Issues for People of Color: Surviving and Thriving in the U.S. Today (5 of 5 volumes - Immigration/Migration), Eds. Alvaro Huerta, Norma Iglesias-Prieto and Donathan L. Brown. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO / Greenwood.

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2015

Ness, E.C., Deupree, M.M., & Gándara, D. Campus Responses to Outcomes-Based Funding in Tennessee: Robust, Aligned and Contested. Nashville: Tennessee Higher Education Commission.

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2014

Ness, E.C. & Gándara, D. (2014). Ideological Think Tanks in the States: An Inventory of their Prevalence, Networks, and Higher Education Policy Activity. Educational Policy, 28(2), 258- 280.

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Under Review

Gándara, D. & Hearn, J.C. College Completion, the Texas Way: An Examination of the Development of College Completion Policy in a Distinctive Political Culture.


Under Review

Gándara, D. Does Evidence Matter? An Analysis of Evidence Use in Performance-Funding Policy Designs in Two States.


Under Review

Gándara, D. & Rutherford, A. Mitigating unintended impacts? The effects of premiums for underserved populations in performance-funding policies for higher education.