Mentoring roundtables find new home in College of Education

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State is deepening its commitment to mentoring emerging scholars in the areas of higher education law, finance, economics and governance.

Alicia Dowd Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

Alicia C. Dowd, professor and director of the Center for the Study of Higher Education, and Dara Purvis, associate professor and associate dean of diversity and inclusion with Penn State Law in University Park, will co-direct mentoring seminars for assistant professors in these areas of scholarship, beginning with a cohort in May 2020. 

Dowd and Purvis will be carrying on the tradition of mentoring established by Michael Olivas of the University of Houston’s Institute for Higher Education Law and Governance (IHELG). Olivas, who is retiring, has hosted the IHELG Roundtables annually since 1999 to improve participants’ research skills, capacity for success in peer-reviewed publishing and scholarship of teaching. 

Dara Purvis Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

In the intervening two decades, more than 100 scholars participated, becoming part of an interdisciplinary and intergenerational network and community of scholars.

During each mentoring roundtable, a half-dozen emerging scholars have sat down for meals and intensive seminar sessions alongside senior faculty who have expertise in their areas of specialty. 

Throughout the years, the collaborating senior faculty mentors have included professors Ronald Ehrenberg and Amaury Nora, who brought a focus on higher finance, economics and governance; and legal scholars Amy Gajda, William Kaplan and Leland Ware. The emerging scholars benefited from critique, coaching and encouragement as they workshopped works-in-progress toward publication in peer-reviewed journals.

“There can be no better steward of this program than Penn State’s Center for the Study of Higher Education, which has been among the premier university units to study the field and to produce the faculty and leaders in higher education," Olivas said. "Mentorship is a reciprocal arrangement that benefits both parties. The roundtables will be in good hands.”

Although the work of the mentoring roundtables will now take place at Penn State, the archives, activities and programs of IHELG will remain at the University of Houston. 

“I am honored to carry on the mentoring legacy of Michael Olivas," Dowd said. "His distinguished scholarship and service has been unparalleled. I am gratified that Professor Purvis will provide her legal expertise to this endeavor." 

College of Education Dean David H. Monk and Penn State Law Dean Hari M. Osofsky supported the re-launch of the roundtables, which builds on the prestigious and unique Ph.D./J.D. program offered jointly by the Department of Education Policy Studies and Penn State Law.

To inquire about participation in the roundtables in May 2020 or beyond, email

Last Updated June 19, 2019