March 22, 2011
Biddix Pioneers Innovative Educational Research
VALDOSTA -- For the past five years, Dr. J. Patrick Biddix has
been asking questions.
The inquisitive and energetic associate professor has sought to understand the role women play in contemporary college activism, the relationship between leadership and technology, and the various paths to becoming a Senior Student Affairs Officer (SSAO). His probing has resulted in nearly 20 peer-reviewed journal articles and a handful of major, ongoing research studies.
“My research agenda focuses on civic engagement outcomes, technology and implications, and career development. Linking each is research related to collegiate and professional women’s development,” said Biddix, who has grown the Higher Education Leadership program from eight to 40 students during his five years as program coordinator. “Like many people, I believe the world is changing -- certainly in the way we communicate and form relationships. I think how we work and play in college can have significant implications for how we work and play as future citizens.”
The Power of Technology
Civic engagement and campus activism are among his main research interests. The father of two is working on a book about student technology use and its relation to campus activism and future leadership endeavors.
“What I hope is that as educators (faculty, staff, advisors), we are helping students understand the need to reflect on what adopting technology means in a changing global landscape,” said Biddix, who was awarded the College of Education’s Faculty Excellence in Professional Service Award in 2009. “At the moment, I've seen women more in tuned with relational aspects of technology -- using it as a means to get and stay connected, rather than simply as a means to send mass messages. I think this perspective best positions them as effective leaders in a society increasingly more dependent on information communication technologies.”
Analyzing Career Paths
Biddix has spent the past several years interviewing SSAOs, particularly women and minorities, to engage in one of the most comprehensive studies to examine the possible paths to becoming an SSAO. So far, Biddix has determined that aspirants may expect an average of 20 years of field experience and six moves with job changes about every three years. Merging academic and student affairs experience proved beneficial for all career paths, from residential life to student activities.
“Until recently, 80 percent of the SSAOs have been men -- mostly white men. At the same time, since the 1980s, women have outnumbered men in college and people of color have made significant gains in college attendance. Unfortunately, our leadership hasn't mirrored this,” Biddix said. “I think anyone can be an effective educator, but having someone who looks like you really does make a difference. This research offers some guidance about career path choices where there was previously only speculation.”
Fraternity Leadership Outcomes
As editor for the Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors research journal, Oracle, Biddix has also been engaged in a ten-year study to determine individual outcomes of being a part of a fraternity central office leadership program. With aid from graduate assistant Rachel Underwood, Biddix found that 62 percent of attendees became active officers or volunteers and more than eight percent became donors later in life. Many attendees continued to live the organization’s principals as well as appreciate the associations made as a result of their participation.
Commitment to Collaboration
Biddix’s intense research load has not hindered his contributions to the university. Last year, the 32-year-old established a Student Affairs Track within the Higher Education Leadership Program, which resulted in the addition of a tenure-track position and 15 graduate assistantships deployed throughout the Division of Student Affairs. Biddix was appointed to the Mission and Statement Task Force as well as the Strategic Plan Subcommittee on Research and Scholarship. He is the vice chair of Valdosta State’s Institutional Review Board and has served on various faculty search committees.
He is known for seeking out collaborative opportunities with a variety of university offices and departments. Students in nearly all of his courses have conducted research or established ties with academic and student affairs realms. Graduate students in a recent research course conducted focus groups to assess the effectiveness of a variety of campus programs and services, from orientation to the Student Recreation Center. The relationships aided his students in honing their research skills, while providing departments with actionable data.