An Unexpected Affordance of Program Design for Dissertation Writing During COVID-19: The Embedded Dissertation

  • Sarah Capello Judson University
  • Mellissa Gyimah-Concepcion Judson University
  • Victoria Vandover Billimack Judson University
Keywords: education doctorate, dissertation writing, program design, COVID-19


Purpose: This paper describes how an embedded dissertation program design feature supported two cohorts of EdD dissertators and helped them make consistent progress toward and eventually complete their dissertation milestones during the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, we detail the work, challenges, and results of EdD students’ efforts toward their milestones and offer perspectives on the same topics for EdD faculty who are teaching dissertation writing courses or supporting dissertators during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Conceptual Argument: This paper argues that an existing program design feature, the embedded dissertation, provided unexpected affordances for EdD dissertators during the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, it acted as a scaffold for dissertators to make small but consistent steps forward on their dissertation milestones despite the significant challenges they faced both as practitioners and as students during the pandemic.

Implications for Research: In sharing these experiences, we hope to: (a) offer a contribution to the literature on the intersection of program design and dissertation writing, (b) proffer a program design structure that was successful in moving dissertators forward during COVID-19, and (c) document the lived experiences of EdD dissertators and faculty in this unprecedented, historical moment.

Author Biographies

Sarah Capello, Judson University

Assistant Professor

Division of Education


Mellissa Gyimah-Concepcion, Judson University
Assistant Professor of Literacy
Victoria Vandover Billimack, Judson University

Adjunct Professor of Literacy

Division of Education


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How to Cite
Capello, S., Gyimah-Concepcion, M., & Billimack, V. V. (2021). An Unexpected Affordance of Program Design for Dissertation Writing During COVID-19: The Embedded Dissertation. Impacting Education: Journal on Transforming Professional Practice, 6(2), 16–20.