This fall, the Institute is delighted to welcome Dr. Manuel González Canché to its faculty ranks. Dr. González Canché, our new assistant professor of higher education, is a 2012 graduate of the University of Arizona’s Ph.D. program in higher education. Earlier in his educational career, he earned a bachelor’s degree in educational research and a master’s degree in higher education and quantitative methods from esteemed universities in Mexico, his home country. In his subsequent doctoral work at the University of Arizona, he concentrated in statistics and took courses not only in higher education but also in math, geosciences, sociology, economics, and biostatistics. Thus, Prof. González Canché brings extraordinarily rich expertise to the Institute, to the benefit of our students, our research agenda, and our engagement in critical issues of policy and practice.
As a first-generation college student and graduate himself, Dr. González Canché has a special research interest in factors and policies enhancing underrepresented students’ opportunities for educational success. His thesis used sociological theory and econometric techniques to examine the effects of attending a community college on students’ educational and occupational outcomes. His findings challenge traditional ideas about the negative impacts of community-college enrollment on subsequent educational attainments. Currently, Prof. González Canché is gathering data at community colleges in Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina as part of a project investigating the alignment between students’ pre-college and college experiences and their subsequent career directions, with particular attention to factors associated with student success.
A second strand in Prof. González Canché’s research employs data-visualization methods, including geographical information systems (GIS), representation of real-world social networks, and text-mining techniques. As a consultant on a multisite, longitudinal Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant, he is employing econometric and network-analysis techniques to identify key actors in virtual student networks. In related work, he is using geospatial techniques to detect high geographical concentrations of users and nonusers of virtual student communities – this approach can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of policy initiatives and institutional programs designed to reach and support at-risk students in postsecondary settings. These techniques may also be employed for work on scientific research networks. With Dr. Hugo Horta of the Technical University of Portugal, Prof. González Canché is using text-mining and econometric techniques to improve understanding of scientific productivity, scientific network formation, and the dynamics of information exchange.
In employing methodological approaches developed in other fields, Prof. González Canché aims to help introduce innovative and useful tools to higher-education research. Already, he is receiving international recognition for these efforts. This past June, he was invited to teach the advanced session of a workshop in Social Networks Theory and Analysis at the International Centre for Higher Education Research at the University of Kassel, Germany.
Reflecting on his new position, Prof. González Canché says, “I am much honored to have the opportunity to be part of the Institute of Higher Education family. Even though the professional quality of faculty members and students was very attractive to me from the beginning, what in reality made my decision to join the Institute very easy was feeling that people here really cared about me and my research and that I would be nurtured by some of the most important researchers and authorities in the field of higher education.”