School of Education Doctoral Candidate, Dr. Channing Parfait, Defied the Odds of earning a PhD
November 15, 2022
BATON ROUGE, LA - Graduation is a special event that signals a milestone and marks a significant achievement. Earning a PhD is a momentous accomplishment. For Dr. Channing Parfait of Houma, Louisiana, earning his PhD in May, 2022, was a cause de fete. Dr. Parfait, a member of the United Houma Nation, is the first person in his immediate family to earn his doctorate, marking him as a first-generation scholar of Color. During his PhD journey, he was hired as the transition coordinator for Louisiana’s year-long teaching residency at Nicholls State, and when a tenure track position in Educational Leadership was advertised in the Fall of 2021, Parfait was finishing his PhD and well-positioned for the job. He applied and was selected as the top candidate and subsequently hired.
Indigenous residents of the state, The United Houma Nation citizens currently reside in a six-parish area of the state, encompassing the parishes of Terrebonne, Lafourche, lower Jefferson, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, and St. Mary. United Houma Nation Tribal enrollment reached 17,000 members in 1993. Given that Houma children could not attend Louisiana public schools until 1940, and graduation from high school did not occur on a regular basis until integration during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s, Parfait’s accomplishment is noteworthy, as is the strong emphasis his family put on education, their unwavering support, and his belief in himself and his abilities.
Based on NCES trend data, from 2005 through 2015, the number of earned doctorates rose among several underrepresented groups (U.S. citizens or permanent residents) in the United States, specifically Indigenous Peoples (named American Indian or Alaska Natives in federal reporting) Hispanic or Latinx, and Black or African Americans. As an example, in 2005, 1,741 persons identifying as Black or African American earned a doctorate; 1,435 people identifying as Hispanic or Latinx earned a doctorate, and just 137 individuals identifying as Indigenous, First Nation, American Indian, or Native Alaskan earned a doctorate. According to the Postsecondary National Policy Institute (PNPI), “Because Native Americans (both American Indians and Alaska Natives) comprise less than 1% of both the U.S. undergraduate and graduate student population, these students are often left out of postsecondary research and data reporting due to small sample size.”
That fact placed Dr. Parfait in a unique class of doctoral candidates. Parfait’s major professor, Margaret-Mary Sulentic Dowell, PhD, commented, “Statistics tell one story, narratives tell another, and Channing Parfait was an outstanding candidate from the onset of his quest for a terminal degree. He was very articulate, always inquisitive, and his contributions to classes made him an excellent student. He came to LSU with advanced preparedness. Dr. Channing Parfait made my job easy, and I was thankful to have worked with him on his PhD journey.”
Parfait investigated the co-planning conversations between mentor teachers and residents, a topic that is fresh and cutting edge, given the newness of the yearlong residency configuration in Louisiana. Parfait was recognized for his research by the Mid-South Educational Research Association (MSERA) and presented his findings nationally at the University of New Mexico Mentoring Institute in Albuquerque in October. According to Sulentic Dowell, that presentation has also been accepted for publication in the conference proceedings and Parfait has another presentation under review.
Dr. Parfait talked to us about his LSU journey and research. He explained, “I decided to pursue my doctorate because I have always had an interest in educational leadership, and through my master’s coursework at Nicholls, that interest only grew stronger. While I silently contemplated the pursuit of my PhD, one of my professors approached me with encouragement to take on the challenge. At that point, I knew I at least had to apply, and I am so grateful that I was accepted to the program at LSU. I decided to attend LSU because I wanted a program with in-person classes. I enjoy being able to participate in discussions, and Dr. Margaret-Mary Sulentic Dowell, my dissertation chair, always fostered engaging discussions within her courses.”
His dissertation entitled Exploring Co-planning Conversations as a Professional Development Activity for Mentors and Mentees at the Beginning of a Yearlong Teacher Residency explores the aspects of co-planning conversations that helped experienced and novice teachers expand their expertise and develop a mutually beneficial mentoring relationship at the beginning of a yearlong teacher residency model.
Dr. Parfait gives us 3 “things to know” for teacher mentors/mentees based off his dissertation research on the Yearlong Teacher Residency program
1. Co-planning requires trust, collaboration, and respect. When these elements exist
in a mentoring relationship, mentors are able to employ a gradual release model to
build their mentee’s planning and teaching confidence.
2. To co-plan effectively, mentors and mentees have to be willing to address differing viewpoints and the division of labor that inevitably exists between the experienced and novice professional. As mentors and mentees begin to learn from each other through co-planning conversations, they begin to question and deviate from the established norms typically expected of mentors and mentees.
3. Mentor qualifications are not defined by a set list of criteria. Rather, mentor qualifications stem from their ability to provide domain-based feedback. A mentoring relationship begins to flourish when mentors and mentees are able to discuss and turn feedback into action. Co-planning consists of rich conversations, and co-planning as mentorship is not limited to a specific conversation since it can occur through on-the-spot feedback during the school day.