Scholar Practitioner Leader Model Essays For Students

While sitting in my introductory course to student affairs,  my professor, Dr. Robert Reason, repeatedly tossed around the term scholar-practitioner reminding his students that this is the pinnacle to which we should aspire in our work.   Thus, early in my journey as a graduate student I was tasked with the reflection, “Exactly what is a scholar-practitioner?”  It was easy to ascertain that scholarly-practitioners followed the philosophy and values of the student affairs profession as they completed good work in the field. But, what did they actually do?

McClintock (2003) includes three key points in his definition of this ideal.  Scholarly practice is grounded in theory and research, also includes experimental knowledge, and is driven by personal values, commitment, and ethical conduct. Scholar practitioners reflect on and assess the impact of their work.   Benham (1996) adds a problem-solving approach to scholarly practice.  He sees the work of a scholar practitioner as learning about or recognizing problems, examining them closely, and searching for productive solutions.  These explanations inform my role as a student affairs professional for I do, indeed, strive to be a scholar-practitioner.

FTCAP Internship

This awareness was awakened during my internship at the First-Year Testing, Consulting, and Advising Program (FTCAP) at the Pennsylvania State University during the summer of 2010.  My supervisory staff began my training with a deep introduction to the history and philosophy of advising and the unit in which I was working, the Division Undergraduate Studies (DUS).  I absorbed how the development and growth of the field of advising was contextually influenced.  Current issues and debates that today’s advisers face were introduced and discussed.  The scholarly emphasis of my training helped me to see the importance of the integration of scholarship into one’s practice.  My colleagues at DUS were models for evoking a true appreciation of scholar-practitioners . The emphasis among the staff for scholarly inquiry and debate drives the work within the unit.  Staff members are encouraged to learn and share their learning through publications and conference presentations.  I was fortunate to be indoctrinated into a culture of scholarly-practice early in my graduate education.

My new found appreciation for scholarly practice influenced my choice of an internship project.  Through daily conversations about their choice of major with students in my role as a consultant, a personal inquiry began to form.  This inquiry was driven by my past experiences as a K-12 educator and behaviors I was seeing in first-year college students’ decision-making.  I knew that most students begin formal schooling at the same chronological age, but due to significant differences in physical and cognitive development, display varying degrees of readiness behaviors.  I hypothesized that varying degrees of certainty in students’ decisions about their major were related to differences in cognitive development and other possible influences.  A rich review of literature on student development theory appeared to support this hypothesis and also raised the issue of the role that transition plays in both entry to formal K-12 schooling and the first year of college and first-year student decision-making.  A formal presentation of my learning and its application to FTCAP and DUS was well-received by my FTCAP colleagues and the DUS advising staff.  On this day I realized I was on my way to becoming a scholar-practitioner.  My presentation can by viewed at  FTCAP Internship Project Presentation.

A personal characteristic that has been an important part of my work as an educator is that I am a problem-solver.  This characteristic drove my decision to leave the classroom as a K-12 educator and take on the role of an instructional support facilitator.  In this role, I worked with parents, teachers, and students to develop effective intervention plans to help individual students meet collaboratively designed learning goals.  I likened myself to a learning detective.  As per Benham (1996), I find my role as a scholar-practitioner involves problem-solving, or in other words, improving practice.   This aspect of scholarly practice influenced my putting theory that I learned in my campus environments course  into practice in my graduate assistantship as an adviser in DUS in the fall of 2011.

CSA 506 Student Development in Campus Environment

Through my reading of Educating by Design (Strange & Banning, 2001) and class discourse on student development in campus environments I was introduced to the powerful role that campus environments play in student learning and development. Strange and Banning (2001) believe, “Students deserve nothing less that an educational environment that is affirming, energizing, challenging and productive.” Professionals in higher education have within their roles the opportunity and responsibility to intentionally design campus spaces to promote student learning and development.  Early in the history of our nation’s educational system, Dewey (1933) recognized the powerful role environments play in student learning.  He stated, ” We never educate directly, but indirectly by means of the environment.  Whether we permit chance environments to do the work, or whether we design environment for a purpose makes a great difference.” Campus environments should also be designed to convey a respect and value for diversity and inclusion of all students of the community.  A class assignment, the audit of a campus space, taught me the power of the non-verbal messages communicated through a campus location.  I learned the importance of using the space to convey the mission and values of the office or division in which the space is located and of creating a space that will be perceived positively by all students.

My learning led to reflection as I continually observed the student waiting area of my space on campus, DUS.  Students  slouched in chairs, headphones plugged into ears, eyes staring vacantly ahead as they waited to see their advisers. The static bulletin board housed the same posters from the previous summer.  There were no artifacts to convey the culture of a unit for a diverse group of exploratory students.  It was unclear from this environment who or what mattered to the staff at DUS.  I could not ignore the loss of educational potential occurring in this space as it currently existed.  Was this space reflecting our values and our mission?  I thought not, and I requested permission to audit and improve the space. A major outcome of the audit was developed with the input of student participants.  Students from the DUS leadership council helped to create a checklist that welcomes students to DUS and assists them in preparing for their advising appointments.  This is in keeping with the DUS philosophy that students should take ownership of their educational decisions and make well informed intentional plans.  The checklist supports them in this endeavor and is a reminder of their responsibility to be prepared for appointments.

Another aspect of scholarly practice outlined by McClintock (2003) is that scholar practitioners are continually pushing forward, collaborating with others, and teaching the field to others.  They actively exchange ideas within communities of practice and scholarship.  When my assistantship provider encouraged me to submit a conference presentation proposal, we agreed that asking advisers to consider environmental theory in designing their student spaces was a timely topic.  At the NACADA Region 2 Conference in March, 2012, I presented a review of the elements of environmental theory, an outline of my lobby audit and improvements, and a template for advisers to use in considering their own redesign. My presentation was entitled: Environments Speak:  What is Yours Saying?  I am also on the schedule to present this topic at the ACPA National Convention in March 2013. This link provides the presentation delivered to advisers at the NACADA Region 2 convention:  Environments Speak Powerpoint.

Campus environments offered another opportunity to use not only theory, but research to inform practice. Taking a somewhat pragmatic approach, the project involved the use of self-collected qualitative data and a review of current research to design an environmental  intervention to improve an office or program on campus.  By interviewing students and a program or office staff member and by combining recent research with theory, information derived could be used to improve the practice of the unit.

During my summer internship at FTCAP, I became cognizant of the ever increasing number of international students on our campus.  I was also aware that students who were beginning in the fall semester often arrived just a week or less before classes started.  There was woefully little time to help them acclimate to a new culture both socially and educationally.  Through my research, I learned of the propensity for international students to depend on and get advise from their fellow co-national students often banding with them in lieu of joining campus clubs and organizations.  The international students with whom I spoke confirmed this information and also spoke of their difficulty in adjusting to the difference in American academic culture.  They voiced frustration with both social and academic assimilation and felt there was little time to adjust before classes started. The theoretical importance of engagement and involvement coupled with the information from the students and research led to an intervention that focused on an orientation for these students that was intermittent and ongoing.  My intervention proposed for international students to be clustered into small groups led by an American peer mentor.  The mentor’s role would be to physically lead students through experiences with academic resources, as well as campus events and activities, periodically throughout the first semester.  My intervention project was another example of improving practice with scholarly observation/inquiry coupled with information from theory and research. My environmental intervention paper contains a detailed description of my qualitative student and staff interviews and my subsequent intervention plan:  Environmental Interventions for Asian International Students

HI ED 556 Higher Education Students and Clientele

My class devoted to the study of student clientele in higher education afforded another opportunity for theory and experiences to ferment in the reflective dish of my mind.  This course was structured on Astin’s (1993) Inputs, Environments, and Outcomes model.   Changes in access to higher education for students and the historical-sociological contexts that influenced these changes were introduced.  Increased access remolded and diversified the student bodies on campuses.  Sub-groups of non-traditional students began to emerge along with increasing attendance of student from underrepresented groups.  Retention and persistence became a hot topic of study and led to the creation of models framed in various disciplines that attempted to explain the variables behind college persistence and retention.  A salient assignment from this class was to examine an important outcome of higher education and create our own model to explain the input variables and environmental influences that affect the outcome.  My prior experiences in education and especially, instructional support, led me to select academic achievement.  Extensive reading of studies that described the variables that may influence achievement along with a myriad of environmental programs designed to enhance it resulted in a network of intersecting lines depicted the complicated nature of academic integration.  Click on the link to see My Research and Model of First-Year Student Academic Achievement at Four-Year Universities.

Reflection on this activity caused me to examine my own experiences with student academic achievement in my advising practice.  It was uncanny how for every student I could think of; there were equally as many variables that influenced progress or lack of it.  Some students had difficulty with  social adjustment, some lacked self-efficacy, some became overly involved, while others had personal issues from home to confront. One first generation student who got off to a rough start displayed amazing resiliency by using all the resources at his disposal to make a stellar recovery.  Applying what I learned in the creation of  my model to my students reinforced that persistence and retention are multifaceted entities that cannot be explained by one singular theory.  Tinto (1993) suggests that the most useful information in his study of why students do not complete college is knowledge of the character, roots, understandings, and experiences of each individual who departs.   His statement reinforces why students and their individuality are the cornerstone of how I practice.


Looking back at the work that was assigned during my graduate study, I recognize that it was intentionally designed to develop scholarly practitioners. Assignments reflect McClintock (2003) and Benham’s (1996) characteristics of scholarly practice.  All were grounded in theory and/or research. Each student  was encouraged to select topics that were meaningful to his or her own personal interests and reflected his or her values. The overarching outcomes were to solve problems to inform better practice, and within every context students participated in a community of scholars and shared their learning with each other. This is an enactment of the pragmatic approached espoused by John Dewey who believed that education should take place in the context of real world experiences and problems that are of interest to the student.  Another feature of his educative philosophy was that learning occurs best through problem solving.  My education has been grounded in applying problem solving to real work experiences as well as classroom assignments.  I have become a scholar-practitioner. I believe John Dewey would agree.



Astin, A.W. What Matters in College? Four Critical Years Revisited. San Francisco:
Jossey-Bass, 1993.

Benham, MKP. (1996). The practitioner-scholars’ view of school changes: A case-based approach to teaching and learning. Teaching and Teacher Education, 12 (2), pp. 119-135.

Dewey, J. (1933). How we think:a restatement of the relation of reflective thinking to the educative process. New York:  D.C. Heath & Company.

McClintock, C. (2003). Scholar practitioner model. Encyclopedia of Distributed Learning. Retrieved February 10, 2013 from

Strange, C. C., & Banning, J. H. (2001). Educating by design: Creating campus learning environments that work. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 

Tinto, V. (1993).  Leaving College.  Chicago, IL:  The University of Chicago Press.

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Sample Scholarship Essays

If you’re applying for a scholarship, chances are you are going to need to write an essay. Very few scholarship programs are based solely on an application form or transcript. The essay is often the most important part of your application; it gives the scholarship committee a sense of who you are and your dedication to your goals. You’ll want to make sure that your scholarship essay is the best it can possibly be.

Unless specified otherwise, scholarship essays should always use the following formatting:

  • Double spaced
  • Times New Roman font
  • 12 point font
  • One-inch top, bottom, and side margins

Other useful tips to keep in mind include:

  1. Read the instructions thoroughly and make sure you completely understand them before you start writing.
  2. Think about what you are going to write and organize your thoughts into an outline.
  3. Write your essay by elaborating on each point you included in your outline.
  4. Use clear, concise, and simple language throughout your essay.
  5. When you are finished, read the question again and then read your essay to make sure that the essay addresses every point.

For more tips on writing a scholarship essay, check out our Eight Steps Towards a Better Scholarship Essay .

The Book that Made Me a Journalist

Prompt: Describe a book that made a lasting impression on you and your life and why.

It is 6 am on a hot day in July and I’ve already showered and eaten breakfast. I know that my classmates are all sleeping in and enjoying their summer break, but I don’t envy them; I’m excited to start my day interning with a local newspaper doing investigative journalism. I work a typical 8-5 day during my summer vacation and despite the early mornings, nothing has made me happier. Although it wasn't clear to me then, looking back on my high school experiences and everything that led to me to this internship, I believe this path began with a particularly savvy teacher and a little book she gave me to read outside of class.

I was taking a composition class, and we were learning how to write persuasive essays. Up until that point, I had had average grades, but I was always a good writer and my teacher immediately recognized this. The first paper I wrote for the class was about my experience going to an Indian reservation located near my uncle's ranch in southwest Colorado. I wrote of the severe poverty experienced by the people on the reservation, and the lack of access to voting booths during the most recent election. After reading this short story, my teacher approached me and asked about my future plans. No one had ever asked me this, and I wasn't sure how to answer. I said I liked writing and I liked thinking about people who are different from myself. She gave me a book and told me that if I had time to read it, she thought it would be something I would enjoy. I was actually quite surprised that a high school teacher was giving me a book titled Lies My Teacher Told Me. It had never occurred to me that teachers would lie to students. The title intrigued me so much that on Friday night I found myself staying up almost all night reading, instead of going out with friends.

In short, the book discusses several instances in which typical American history classes do not tell the whole story. For example, the author addresses the way that American history classes do not usually address about the Vietnam War, even though it happened only a short time ago. This made me realize that we hadn't discussed the Vietnam War in my own history class! The book taught me that, like my story of the Indian reservation, there are always more stories beyond what we see on the surface and what we’re taught in school. I was inspired to continue to tell these stories and to make that my career.

For my next article for the class, I wrote about the practice of my own high school suspending students, sometimes indefinitely, for seemingly minor offenses such as tardiness and smoking. I found that the number of suspensions had increased by 200% at my school in just three years, and also discovered that students who are suspended after only one offense often drop out and some later end up in prison. The article caused quite a stir. The administration of my school dismissed it, but it caught the attention of my local newspaper. A local journalist worked with me to publish an updated and more thoroughly researched version of my article in the local newspaper. The article forced the school board to revisit their “zero tolerance” policy as well as reinstate some indefinitely suspended students.I won no favors with the administration and it was a difficult time for me, but it was also thrilling to see how one article can have such a direct effect on people’s lives. It reaffirmed my commitment to a career in journalism.

This is why I’m applying for this scholarship. Your organization has been providing young aspiring journalists with funds to further their skills and work to uncover the untold stories in our communities that need to be reported. I share your organization’s vision of working towards a more just and equitable world by uncovering stories of abuse of power. I have already demonstrated this commitment through my writing in high school and I look forward to pursuing a BA in this field at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor. With your help, I will hone my natural instincts and inherent writing skills. I will become a better and more persuasive writer and I will learn the ethics of professional journalism.

I sincerely appreciate the committee’s time in evaluating my application and giving me the opportunity to tell my story. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Scholarship Essay Do's and Don'ts

Do:Follow the prompt and other instructions exactly. You might write a great essay but it may get your application rejected if you don’t follow the word count guidelines or other formatting requirements.
DON'T:Open your essay with a quote. This is a well-worn strategy that is mostly used ineffectively. Instead of using someone else’s words, use your own.
DON'T:Use perfunctory sentences such as, “In this essay, I will…”
DO:Be clear and concise. Make sure each paragraph discusses only one central thought or argument.
DON'T:Use words from a thesaurus that are new to you. You may end up using the word incorrectly and that will make your writing awkward. Keep it simple and straightforward. The point of the essay is to tell your story, not to demonstrate how many words you know.

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Planners and Searchers

Prompt: In 600 words or less, please tell us about yourself and why you are applying for this scholarship. Please be clear about how this scholarship will help you achieve your personal and professional goals.

Being African, I recognize Africa’s need for home- grown talent in the form of “planners” (assistants with possible solutions) and “searchers” (those with desperate need) working towards international development. I represent both. Coming from Zimbabwe my greatest challenge is in helping to improve the livelihoods of developing nations through sustainable development and good governance principles. The need for policy-makers capable of employing cross-jurisdictional, and cross- disciplinary strategies to solve complex challenges cannot be under-emphasized; hence my application to this scholarship program.

After graduating from Africa University with an Honors degree in Sociology and Psychology, I am now seeking scholarship support to study in the United States at the Master’s level. My interest in democracy, elections, constitutionalism and development stems from my lasting interest in public policy issues. Accordingly, my current research interests in democracy and ethnic diversity require a deeper understanding of legal processes of constitutionalism and governance. As a Master’s student in the US, I intend to write articles on these subjects from the perspective of someone born, raised, and educated in Africa. I will bring a unique and much-needed perspective to my graduate program in the United States, and I will take the technical and theoretical knowledge from my graduate program back with me to Africa to further my career goals as a practitioner of good governance and community development.

To augment my theoretical understanding of governance and democratic practices, I worked with the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) as a Programs Assistant in the Monitoring and Observation department. This not only enhanced my project management skills, but also developed my skills in research and producing communication materials. ZESN is Zimbabwe’s biggest election observation organization, and I had the responsibility of monitoring the political environment and producing monthly publications on human rights issues and electoral processes. These publications were disseminated to various civil society organizations, donors and other stakeholders. Now I intend to develop my career in order to enhance Africa’s capacity to advocate, write and vote for representative constitutions.

I also participated in a fellowship program at Africa University, where I gained greater insight into social development by teaching courses on entrepreneurship, free market economics, and development in needy communities. I worked with women in rural areas of Zimbabwe to setup income-generating projects such as the jatropha soap-making project. Managing such a project gave me great insight into how many simple initiatives can transform lives.

Your organization has a history of awarding scholarships to promising young students from the developing world in order to bring knowledge, skills and leadership abilities to their home communities. I have already done some of this work but I want to continue, and with your assistance, I can. The multidisciplinary focus of the development programs I am applying to in the US will provide me with the necessary skills to creatively address the economic and social development challenges and develop sound public policies for Third World countries. I thank you for your time and consideration for this prestigious award.

Scholarship Essay Do's and Don'ts

DO:Research the organization and make sure you understand their mission and values and incorporate them into your essay.
DO:Focus on your strengths and turn in any problems or weaknesses into a success story.
DO:Use actual, detailed examples from your own life to backup your claims and arguments as to why you should receive the scholarship.
DO:Proofread several times before finally submitting your essay.
DON'T:Rehash what is already stated on your resume. Choose additional, unique stories to tell sell yourself to the scholarship committee.
DON'T:Simply state that you need the money. Even if you have severe financial need, it won’t help to simply ask for the money and it may come off as tacky.

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Saving the Manatees

Prompt: Please give the committee an idea of who you are and why you are the perfect candidate for the scholarship.

It is a cliché to say that I’ve always known what I want to do with my life, but in my case it happens to be true. When I first visited Sea World as a young child, I fell in love with marine animals in general. Specifically, I felt drawn to manatees. I was compelled by their placid and friendly nature. I knew then and there that I wanted to dedicate my life to protecting these beautiful creatures.

Since that day in Orlando, I have spent much of my spare time learning everything there is to know about manatees. As a junior high and high school student, I attempted to read scholarly articles on manatees from scientific journals. I annoyed my friends and family with scientific facts about manatees-- such as that they are close relatives of elephants--at the dinner table. I watched documentaries, and even mapped their migration pattern on a wall map my sister gave me for my birthday.

When I was chosen from hundreds of applicants to take part in a summer internship with Sea World, I fell even more in love with these gentle giants. I also learned a very important and valuable lesson: prior to this internship, I had imagined becoming a marine biologist, working directly with the animals in their care both in captivity and in the wild. However, during the internship, I discovered that this is not where my strengths lie. Unfortunately, I am not a strong student in science or math, which are required skills to become a marine biologist. Although this was a disheartening realization, I found that I possess other strengths can still be of great value to manatees and other endangered marine mammals: my skills as a public relations manager and communicator. During the internship, I helped write new lessons and presentations for elementary school groups visiting the park and developed a series of fun activities for children to help them learn more about manatees as well as conservation of endangered species in general. I also worked directly with the park’s conservation and communication director, and helped develop a new local outreach program designed to educate Floridians on how to avoid hitting a manatee when boating. My supervisor recommended me to the Save the Manatee Foundation so in addition to my full-time internship at Sea World, I interned with the Save the Manatee Foundation part-time. It was there that I witnessed the manatee rescue and conservation effort first hand, and worked directly with the marine biologists in developing fund-raising and awareness-raising campaigns. I found that the foundation’s social media presence was lacking, and, using skills I learned from Sea World, I helped them raise over $5,000 through a Twitter challenge, which we linked to the various social media outlets of the World Wildlife Federation.

While I know that your organization typically awards scholarships to students planning to major in disciplines directly related to conservation such as environmental studies or zoology, I feel that the public relations side of conservation is just as important as the actual work done on the ground. Whether it is reducing one’s carbon footprint, or saving the manatees, these are efforts that, in order to be successful, must involve the larger public. In fact, the relative success of the environmental movement today is largely due to a massive global public relations campaign that turned environmentalism from something scientific and obscure into something that is both fashionable and accessible to just about anyone. However, that success is being challenged more than ever before--especially here in the US, where an equally strong anti-environmental public relations campaign has taken hold. Therefore, conservationists need to start getting more creative.

I want to be a part of this renewed effort and use my natural abilities as a communicator to push back against the rather formidable forces behind the anti-environmentalist movement. I sincerely hope you will consider supporting this non-traditional avenue towards global sustainability and conservation. I have already been accepted to one of the most prestigious communications undergraduate programs in the country and I plan to minor in environmental studies. In addition, I maintain a relationship with my former supervisors at Save the Manatee and Sea World, who will be invaluable resources for finding employment upon graduation. I thank the committee for thinking outside the box in considering my application.

Scholarship Essay Do's and Don'ts

DO:Tell a story. Discuss your personal history and why those experiences have led you to apply for these scholarships.
DO:Write an outline. If you’ve already started writing or have a first draft, make an outline based on what you’ve written so far. This will help you see whether your paragraphs flow and connect with one another.
DON'T:Write a generic essay for every application. Adapt your personal statement for each individual scholarship application.
DO:Run spellcheck and grammar check on your computer but also do your own personal check. Spellcheck isn’t perfect and you shouldn't rely on technology to make your essay perfect.

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Sample Essays

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