The Center for Postsecondary Success (CPS) provides support and fosters collaboration among those who are interested in conducting research on student success and institutional effectiveness, and to identify and evaluate potential institutional, state, and federal policies and programs that may serve to improve those outcomes.
The mission of the Center for Postsecondary Success (CPS) is to provide support for, and foster collaboration among, those who are interested in conducting research on student success in postsecondary education, and to identify and evaluate institutional, state, and federal policies and programs that may serve to improve student success.
Goals and Objectives
The overall goal of the CPS is to foster a culture and create a structure where researchers, policy makers, and practitioners can come together to find solutions to address issues facing postsecondary success through rigorous and timely research and evidence-based policy and practice. The CPS’s primary goal is to:
Collaborate with key constituencies in the local community (e.g., FSU), in the state of Florida, and in the United States to identify and improve the conditions for postsecondary success.
Given that goal, the major objectives of the CPS include:
- Produce top quality and policy-relevant research;
- Be receptive to changing policy initiatives at the local, state, and federal level regarding postsecondary success;
- Contribute to educational policies, innovations and initiatives conducive to postsecondary success;
- Establish collaborative research teams, both at FSU and in the larger research community;
- Prepare the next generation of researchers and scholars; and
- Obtain the necessary external funding to accomplish these goals and objectives.
Shouping Hu, Center Director
Dr. Shouping Hu serves as a co-director for the CLASS. He is currently the Louis W. and Elizabeth N. Bender Endowed Professor of Higher Education and the founding director of the Center for Postsecondary Success (CPS) at Florida State University (FSU). Dr. Hu’s research interests examine issues related to postsecondary readiness, outcomes, and success. Dr. Hu has published more than 80 journal articles and book chapters and is the author of five books. He has secured, in total, about seven million dollars in funding support from the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Regional Educational Laboratory-Southeast (REL-SE), NPEC/AIR, and other sources. Dr. Hu has served as an editorial/advisory board member of Journal of Higher Education, Educational Researcher, Research in Higher Education, Review of Educational Research, and Journal of College Student Development. He is currently serving as the founding editor of Journal of Postsecondary Student Success and the associate editor for the policy section of Higher Education: Handbook of Theory and Research. He received a B.S. degree in Geography in 1992 from Peking University. He earned his M.S. in Economics (1998) and his Ph.D. in Higher Education (2000) from Indiana University Bloomington.
Tamara Bertrand Jones, Associate Director
Tamara Bertrand Jones currently serves as an Associate Professor of Higher Education in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at The Florida State University. Her research examines the sociocultural influences on socialization during graduate education and the professional experiences of underrepresented populations, particularly Black women, in academia. Her previous work as an administrator and program evaluator also influence other research interests in culturally responsive assessment and evaluation.
She is a founder and past president of Sisters of the Academy Institute, an international organization that promotes collaborative scholarship and networking among Black women in the academy. She collaborated with fellow scholars to write Pathways to Higher Education for African American Women (Stylus Publishing) and Cultivating Leader Identity and Capacity in Students from Diverse Backgrounds (Jossey-Bass). She has also authored, solely and collaboratively, referred journal articles.
In 2013, she received a Transformation Through Teaching award from Florida State University’s Spiritual Life Project in recognition of playing a transformational role in a student’s academic life. She has taught courses on Qualitative Research, Diversity in Higher Education, Student Services in Higher Education, Outcomes of Higher Education, Institutional Research, and Literature Review and Professional Writing.
Dr. Bertrand Jones remains active in the campus and community by serving on numerous college and university committees and volunteering regularly. In 2012, she was inducted into the FSU chapter of the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi, the nation’s oldest, largest, and most selective honor society for all academic disciplines. She was also named the 2009 recipient of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Distinguished Service Award from Florida State University for exemplifying outstanding service in keeping with the principles of Dr. King.
Dr. Bertrand Jones received her Doctor of Philosophy in Research and Evaluation Methods from The Florida State University in 2006.
Toby Park-Gaghan, Associate Director
Dr. Toby Park-Gaghan serves as associate director for research for the CLASS. He is currently Associate Professor and Department Chair of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at Florida State University where he also serves as associate director of the Center for Postsecondary Succes. Dr. Park-Gaghan's research utilizes quasi-experimental methods and large longitudinal student-level datasets to investigate student outcomes in postsecondary education. His research has been supported by nearly $7.5M in external grant funding from such organizations as the Institute of Education Sciences, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Regional Educational Laboratory-Southeast. Dr. Park-Gaghan is serving, or has served, as an editorial board for Journal of Postsecondary Student Success, Journal of Higher Education, Educational Researcher, and Innovative Higher Education. He is currently serving as associate editor for AERA-Open. Dr. Park-Gaghan received his B.S. in mathematics (summa cum laude) and his M.Ed. in Higher Education Management from the University of Pittsburgh, and his Ph.D. In Education Policy from Vanderbilt University
Walter Ecton, Senior Research Associate
Walter G. Ecton is an Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at Florida State University. Dr. Ecton’s research lies at the intersections between high school, higher education, and the workforce, and the pathways students take as they navigate those sectors. His work primarily focuses on students who take nontraditional pathways through education, with particular focuses on high school students in career and technical education, students who attend community college, and students who return to education later in life. He aims to produce work that can inform local, state, and federal policy decisions, and that shines light on the importance of equitable access to high quality educational opportunities for all students.
Professor Ecton’s research uses large administrative datasets at the state and federal levels to explore educational and labor market outcomes from students’ participation in education programs. He has been published in journals including Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis (EEPA), AERA Open, The Journal of Higher Education, Oxford Encyclopedia of Economics and Finance, and the Journal of Applied Research in the Community College, among others, and presents research regularly at the Association for Education Finance and Policy, the Association for Public Policy and Management, the Association for the Study of Higher Education, and the Association for Career and Technical Education Research.
Prior to joining the faculty at Florida State University, Dr. Ecton was a Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Pennsylvania and received his PhD from Vanderbilt University. He previously worked in new business development for an education technology firm, and as a high school social studies teacher in Atlanta Public Schools.
Lara Perez-Felkner, Senior Research Associate
Dr. Lara Perez-Felkner is an Associate Professor of Higher Education and Sociology in the Higher Education Program within the College of Education at Florida State University. Her research uses developmental and sociological perspectives to examine how young people’s social contexts influence their college and career outcomes. She focuses on the mechanisms that shape entry into and persistence in institutions and fields in which they have traditionally been underrepresented. In particular, she investigates racial-ethnic, gender, and socioeconomic disparities in post-secondary educational attainment and entry to scientific career fields. Dr. Perez-Felkner’s work has been published in journals including New Directions in Institutional Research, Developmental Psychology, Frontiers in Psychology, Journal of Higher Education, Journal of Latinos and Education, and Teachers’ College Record, as well in several edited volumes and news outlets. Her work has been supported by external agencies, including most recently a $900,749 grant from the National Science Foundation (#1920670; Co-PI: Hu): “Gendered Pathways: From Florida’s Two-Year Institutions to Computing Degrees.”
Currently, she holds appointments as an Affiliated Faculty member in the Department of Sociology; an affiliate of the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice; an alumni fellow of the Pathways to Adulthood Programme for the Comparative Study of Productive Youth Development, and a member of the international Network Gender and STEM.
At the university level, Dr. Perez-Felkner has been active in various roles including current service as Program Coordinator for FSU’s Higher Education graduate program, Co-Chair of the Latinx Faculty and Staff Collective at Florida State, a member of the APLU iChange ASPIRE alliance team, and a member of the President’s Taskforce for Diversity and Inclusion. Since joining the faculty, she received FSU’s Transformation through Teaching Award in 2014, was a 2015 finalist for the FSU College of Education’s Robert M. Gagne Research Award, won the 2016 Hardee Center Supervisor/Mentor Award, and received the 2019 FSU Graduate Faculty Mentor Award.
Dr. Perez-Felkner earned her B.A. in Psychology from Wesleyan University and her Master’s and Doctoral degrees in Comparative Human Development from the University of Chicago. At Chicago, she served as a Resident Head in the College and served on an NSF AGEP-supported Social Sciences Division Taskforce on Diversity for the Professoriate. While earning her B.A. at Wesleyan University, she also worked in residence life, admissions, and student leadership.
FengFeng Ke, Senior Research Associate
Dr. Ke’s research has been funded by National Science Foundation, Spencer Foundation, and MacArthur Foundation. She has authored and co-authored many articles that have been published in academic journals such as Computers and Education, Educational Technology Research & Development, International Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning, The Journal of Educational Research, British Journal of Educational Technology, American Educational Research Journal, and The Internet and Higher Education.
In her position as an Associate Professor at FSU, Dr. Ke typically teaches courses such as Introduction to Instructional Systems, Introduction to Systematic Instructional Design, Design of Learning Games, and Instructional Multimedia Design and Development.
She earned her Ph.D. in Instructional Systems from Pennsylvania State University in 2006.
Christine G. Mokher, Senior Research Associate
Dr. Christine G. Mokher is an Associate Professor of Higher Education in Florida State University’s Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, where she is also a Senior Research Associate with the Center for Postsecondary Success (CPS). Her research utilizes rigorous quasi-experimental analyses to examine state and local policies supporting college readiness and success. She is a What Works Clearinghouse-Certified Reviewer in Group Design.
Dr. Mokher is currently a Co-PI for a $1.5M grant from the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) to study Texas House Bill (HB) 2223, which requires all public colleges to implement corequisite developmental education (DE), where underprepared students enroll in introductory math and English courses while receiving DE support. She previously served as the Principal Investigator for a five-year, $4.6 million grant from IES to evaluate Florida’s College and Career Readiness Initiative. She has also been a Co-PI on a multi-year project investigating developmental education reform in Florida, with funding from an IES research grant and from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Dr. Mokher holds a Ph.D. in Education Leadership and Policy from Vanderbilt University and a master’s degree in Administration, Planning, and Social Policy from Harvard University.
Annie Wofford, Senior Research Associate
Dr. Annie M. Wofford (she/her/hers) is an Assistant Professor in the Higher Education program in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies. She previously received a master’s degree in Higher Education Administration at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, earned a Ph.D. in Education (specialty: Higher Education and Organizational Change) at the University of California, Los Angeles, completed a postdoctoral scholar position on an NSF-funded project at Northern Arizona University, and has several years of experience as a scholar-practitioner in medical school graduate admissions. Broadly, her research focuses on understanding and disrupting the structural disparities that typify students’ pathways to and through graduate education, with a specific focus on how to create more equitable structures of support (e.g., mentoring networks) in STEM fields.
Dr. Wofford’s current research projects focus on (in)equity within the pathways to and through graduate school in computing-related fields, using critical quantitative and qualitative methods to address related questions in this area. She has received funding from the Inclusive Graduate Education Network to engage in a research-practice partnership about graduate students’ equity-minded mentoring practices and serves as a workshop facilitator for the Equity in Graduate Education consortium.
Her independent and collaborative research has been published in many well-regarded journals, including top-tier higher education outlets (e.g., The Journal of Higher Education, The Review of Higher Education, Higher Education, Research in Higher Education) as well as outlets that cater toward audiences with STEM practitioners (e.g., Computer Science Education, Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering).
At FSU, she currently teaches content courses in higher education to master’s and doctoral students, such as Higher Education in America, History of Higher Education, and Organization and Governance in Higher Education.
Pei Hu, Research Faculty
Dr. Pei Hu is a Research Faculty for the CLASS at Florida State University. Her research focuses on student success, leadership education, and international education in postsecondary education. Her previous work as a research associate at the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice at Temple University evolved her research interests in basic needs insecurity, equity, and social justice issues in higher education. Pei has co-authored several articles as a member of the Center for Postsecondary (CPS) research team studying Florida’s developmental education reform and student success. She received her Ph.D. in Higher Education and a M.S. in Higher Education from Florida State University. She completed her B.A. in Chinese Literature and Linguistics at Jianghan University.
Monoka Venters, Research Faculty
Dr. Monoka Venters serves as research faculty for the CLASS. Her research interests include postsecondary student success with a focus on low-income students, understanding the factors behind the development of education policy, and the legal aspects of higher education including federal policies designed to assist low-income students. Previously, Dr. Venters worked at the State University System of Florida Board of Governors as a senior policy advisor to the chancellor and the Board, a policy analyst in the academic and student affairs unit, and a research associate for the general counsel. She received a Ph.D. in Higher Education from Florida State University, a J.D. from Washington & Lee University School of Law, and a B.A. in English from Furman University.
Taylor M. Burtch, Postdoctoral Fellow
Dr. Taylor M. Burtch earned her Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration and Policy from the University of Florida in August 2023. Before her doctoral degree, she earned a Bachelor of Arts in women’s and gender studies from the University of Toledo (2016) and a Master of Arts in gender, sexualities, and women’s studies research from the University of Florida (2018). She also served as UF College of Education’s inaugural legislative fellow in the U.S. House of Representatives in Fall 2022. Taylor’s research interests focus on program and policy evaluation, with specific emphases on barriers to access and success for multiply marginalized students. She currently leads the qualitative arm of a multi-year IES-funded study of corequisite education reform in Texas.
Chantra Nhien, Postdoctoral Fellow
Dr. Nhien is a Postdoctoral Fellow for the Community College Pathways to Computing project. On the project, he focuses on using state administrative data to investigate the saliency of course-taking on computing education outcomes. Broadly, his research agenda centers around unpacking the experiences of underrepresented groups in postsecondary STEM. Using a quantitative research design, his dissertation examined the development of science self-efficacy and science identity of first-year Southeast Asian STEM college students. Chantra earned his Ph.D. in Higher Education and Organizational Change from the University of California, Los Angeles.
Jinjushang (Chena) Chen, Graduate Research Assistant
Jinjushang Chen is a Ph.D. student in the Learning and Cognition program at Florida State University. Her master’s thesis examined how the concepts of general and disciplinary epistemic beliefs of mechanical engineering students were associated with each other and with students’ academic performance, as well as how they developed together across the semester. Her current research focuses on refining the measurement of students’ epistemic beliefs, especially under a specific context such as in an engineering education setting, or under a different cultural context such as in a Chinese college.
Morgan M. Danyi, Graduate Research Assistant
Morgan Danyi (she/they) is a Ph.D. student in the Higher Education program at Florida State University and assists with research on developmental education reform and longitudinal student success policy impacts within CPS. Their additional research interests include the racial socialization of student affairs practitioners in higher education and Critical whiteness Studies. Before pursuing their Ph.D., Morgan worked as a higher education practitioner for five years in social justice education, orientation and transition programs, student activities, and violence prevention.
Anum Fatima, Graduate Research Assistant
Anum Fatima is a second-year Ph.D. student in the Higher Education program in the Educational Leadership and Policy Studies Department at Florida State University College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences. Additionally, she works as a Research Assistant at the Centre for Postsecondary Success (CPS), where she assists the research term on the project “Computing Terminology and Equitable Outcomes for Graduate Students at Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs)”. Before pursuing her Ph.D., Anum accumulated seven years of experience in the education sector in Pakistan, including teaching, advising, and mentoring students in private schools and higher education institutions. Her research interests extend to the experiences of first-generation students and the analysis of content creation on digital platforms within the context of Pakistan.
Holly Henning, Graduate Research Assistant
Holly Henning is a Ph.D. student in the Higher Education program at Florida State University. She is also a Research Assistant in the Center for Postsecondary Success where she assists with research on developmental education reform, alternative course placement, and other student success initiatives. Her additional research interests include the role of undergraduate student identities and development in academic major selection. Prior to pursuing her Ph.D., Holly worked as a higher education practitioner for almost a decade in academic advising and international education settings.
Yang Li, Graduate Research Assistant
Yang Li is a volunteer research assistant in the CPS team. She is a Ph.D. student in the Higher Education program at Florida State University (FSU). She earned her M.S. in Global Higher Education program at Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis Department from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Yang currently serves as a graduate assistant in the Center for Global Engagement (CGE) and her main work at CGE is to assess programs related to international students’ campus experience and involvement. Her current research interest lies in student success, especially international students’ success in U.S. campuses.
Xinting Wu, Graduate Research Assistant
Xinting Wu is a Ph.D. student in the Higher Education program at Florida State University. She is also a Research Assistant in the Center for Postsecondary Success. Her additional research interests include low-income/first-generation students' access, experience, and academic achievement at the university, the role of socioeconomic status, university environment, and education policy in shaping student success. She earned her M.S. in Education at Huazhong University of Science and Technology.
Joshua Burns, Graduate Research Intern
Josh Burns is a master's student in the Higher Education program at Florida State University. He is a research intern for the Helios-Acceleration research project. Also, he is a graduate assistant in the Center for Undergraduate Research and Academic Engagement (CRE). His research interests include the first-year experience of first-generation and low-income students in higher education.
Cat Metcalf, Graduate Research Intern
Cat Metcalfe is a Ph.D. student in the Higher Education program at Florida State University. They are a Research Intern in the Center for Postsecondary Success where they support research on accelerated students in the State University System of Florida. Their additional research interest focuses on student transitions from high school to postsecondary education, with a special interest in the impact of parasocial relationships on enrollment decisions. Prior to starting their Ph.D., Cat worked for eight years in student conduct, residence life, and precollege programs.
Corbin Ryder, Graduate Research Intern
Corbin Ryder is a master's student in the Higher Education program at Florida State University. He is a research intern for the Helios-Acceleration research project. He serves as a graduate assistant in the Center for Health Advocacy and Wellness (CHAW). He serves as the advisor for Health Noles, CHAW’s peer health education organization. His research interest is in fraternity & sorority life interpersonal students' experiences.
Venus Skowronski, Graduate Research Intern
Venus Skowronski is a master's student in the Higher Education program. She serves as a research intern for the Helios project at Florida State University, contributing to higher education research. She is particularly interested in gender socialization within higher educational institutions, exploring how gender dynamics influence student experiences. Additionally, she is passionate about investigating the utilization of artificial intelligence (AI) in the classroom and its impact on education. Before embarking on her master's program, Venus received her bachelor's degrees from Florida State University in Psychology and Human Development and Family Sciences.
Florida Developmental Education Reform
Community College Pathways to Women's Participation in Computing
Texas Corequisite Developmental Education
Computing Terminology and Equitable Outcomes for Graduate Students at MSIs
Archived Projects and Research
The Center for Postsecondary Success (CPS) is a research center dedicated to identifying and evaluating institutional, state, and federal policies and programs that may serve to improve student success. In keeping with this mission, researchers in the Center are engaged in a number large scale projects which have the potential of informing and improving postsecondary policy at all levels.
The Journal of Postsecondary Student Success (JPSS) is a quarterly, open-access, interdisciplinary journal that publishes peer-reviewed research, editorials, and practitioner reports related to student success in higher education. We welcome submissions from both scholars and practitioners from all disciplines that involve student success, institutional effectiveness, and educational policy.
Part of the mission of the CPS is to partner with and foster collaboration among those who are interested in conducting research on and learning more about student success in postsecondary education. We appreciate, and recognize the support we have received from, the following partners: