Doctoral Student Receives Grant for Dissertation Research

Shimikqua Ellis to use funds for Mississippi-focused education study

UM doctoral student Shimikqua Ellis plans to use her grant from the ALAN Foundation to study how high school English teachers in Mississippi use the novel ‘The Hate U Give’ to promote social justice in their classrooms. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – Shimikqua Ellis, a doctoral student at the University of Mississippi School of Education, recently received a $1,500 grant for her dissertation research from the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of NCTE Foundation in Baltimore. 

Ellis’s dissertation will study how high school English teachers in Mississippi will use the 2017 novel “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas, a fictional young adult novel about race relations in the United States, to promote social justice in their classrooms.

“I think it’s really important for students in Mississippi to be exposed to a contemporary Mississippi writer of color and a book that is relevant to young adults,” said Ellis, a St. Louis native. “I will be observing teachers’ different perspectives of teaching ‘The Hate U Give’ in Mississippi and how they’re using young adult literature to address issues of racial injustice and inequity.”

With the money from the grant, Ellis will provide classroom sets of the novel to five different high schools across the state. The teachers will be responsible for creating lesson plans around the book and documenting their experiences during the unit.

Focus groups will be conducted with teachers during study to examine how teachers use the book and their experiences using it in the classroom.

“I’ve been very inspired by Angie Thomas and the success that she’s had with this book,” Ellis said. “I wanted my dissertation to support teachers and communities in this state through literacy.”

As a part of the National Council of Teachers of English, the ALAN Foundation seeks to promote communication among individuals who have an interest in adolescent literature.

“The research Ms. Ellis is conducting provides relevant information to teachers about the impact such young adult literature may have on student engagement and awareness,” said Susan McClelland, UM chair of teacher education. “I am delighted that Ms. Ellis’s proposal was recognized at a national level which enabled her to be an ALAN grant recipient.” 

Ellis received her undergraduate degree in English from Clark Atlanta University and her master’s degree in education from Webster University. After completing her doctorate in English education at Ole Miss – hopefully next year – Ellis plans to continue to research literature and social justice.

“I am very grateful to receive this grant and I am thankful to my faculty mentors at UM,” Ellis said. “I’m very passionate about young adult literature and I’m hoping that through my research, districts will adopt young adult literature to their curriculum.” 

“I’ve seen the transformational power of kids finding a book they can connect with.”

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