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College of Education awards the 2020 Kole-McGuffey Award to Dr. Rachel Hulse

November 2, 2020

The Peter C. Kole - William H. McGuffey Prize for Excellence in Educational Research is the most prestigious award that is bestowed by the College of Education, specifically for doctoral students. This year, the Graduate Committee selected Dr. Rachel Hulse as the 2020 Kole-McGuffey Award Recipient.

Hulse received her Doctorate of Education in Educational Leadership with a concentration on Higher Education Administration in 2019. She is currently the Program Director and Assistant Professor in the Medical Laboratory Science Program at Idaho State University.

With a background in Medical Laboratory Science and Higher Education Administration, Hulse wanted to focus her dissertation on an area where she could combine these two diverse skill sets to make a unique but also meaningful contribution to something that really plagues higher education. Her dissertation is titled, “Assessing Clinical Factor Contributions to Idaho's Higher Education Crises.”

“It is well known that the freshman year is a critical year, with the majority of attrition happening in the first year of college. This is particularly true in the state of Idaho with only one out of 10 high school graduates completing a higher education degree. Decades of retention studies have driven retention theory and practice, yet it remains a pervasive issue across the country," she said. " My project was an interdisciplinary approach that looked at the clinical biological, and mental health of Idaho freshman to determine if health played a larger role in attrition choices. And what I found was strong biological evidence that supports that Idaho higher education freshman’s physical and mental health really is declining at alarming rates, and this decline is correlated to decreases in academic success. Ideally, this information can be used to identify novel ways to approach, monitor, and shape future retention strategies across, not only in Idaho but across the country.”

Hulse hopes that this award will draw attention to the importance of her research and stimulate meaningful advances in higher education retention strategies, as well as stimulate other novel interdisciplinary approaches to critical issues that we face in higher education.

“First, I would like to thank Peter and Nancy Kole for this tremendous opportunity, and for their generosity in supporting research excellence in the College of Education. I am deeply honored and grateful to be a Kole-MuGuffey award recipient. To me, this award signals a dedication to continue in meaningful educational research and a personal pledge to make a positive difference in the field of higher education,” she said. 

When asked about her experience with the College of Education and the Educational Leadership program, HHulse mentioned the importance of flexibility.

“I think that it is worth noting the Doctorate of Education in Higher Education Leadership along with several other graduate degrees in the College of Education is designed with the working student in mind. Almost the entire cohort of students I associated with were full-time working professionals. Programs are designed to allow you to work and obtain your degree. That flexibility is so badly needed, I would not have been able to obtain my doctoral degree without it.”

In addition to the flexibility of the program, she has been able to build friendships and collaborate with other professionals on campus as well as improve her leadership skills, allowing her to advance in the field of higher education.

“These relationships with both my fellow students and the COE faculty have been priceless as I continue to navigate my roles and duties here at Idaho State," she said.  

Hulse will be recognized formally during the College of Education’s Celebrating Excellence event scheduled for spring 2021. Her advice for fellow students is simple. 

“Lift where you stand. Every student comes to ISU with unique perspectives, talents, and life experiences. With that, I would encourage students to find ways to contribute in their own unique and invaluable ways to strengthen and improve whatever situation they may find themselves in. Additionally, I would also encourage students to not give up on their educational pursuits. Life throws curveballs, but there is always a way to make your educational dreams a reality. ISU is such a supportive environment, and there are so many faculty, staff, and supportive services available to them.”



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