In 1995 I started at the Graduate School of Education as a non-matriculated student hoping to find a permanent place in a master’s program. I took my first class, Statistics I, with Dr. Douglas Penfield. Now, 18 years later, he sits as a member on my dissertation committee. Dr. Penfield has provided me with invaluable guidance and support when I returned to Rutgers for my PhD in 2006 and throughout my entire doctoral program. I am honored that mine will be one of the last dissertations he reads as he retires from the University.
I would like to thank Dr. Aliza Belzer and Dr. Laura Hamilton, for agreeing to join my committee. It has been quite an honor to have two strong women to turn to for guidance during this endeavor. Their expertise and thoughtful comments on my work have been invaluable.
A thank you to the professors at the GSE for their help along this journey. Most notably, Dr. Lorraine McCune who recognized my leadership qualities and provided me with multiple opportunities to manage and teach classes. Special thanks to Dr. Drew Gitomer for giving me the opportunity to work on his research team which proved to be an invaluable experience.
I am grateful to my father, Dr. Francis Gardella, who set a shining example for me in many areas of life including academia. It has been my honor to follow in Dad’s academic footsteps as an undergraduate attending Fordham University and then pursing my doctoral work at Rutgers. And to my mother Gail who made sure I was independent, wise in the world, could stand on my own and accomplish anything I put my mind to. She is also the support behind my father’s success and deserves credit all around. To my brother Derek, sister-in-law Laura, and niece Paige, I am so grateful to have them in my life. Nothing is more important than the love of family and I am so blessed to have you surrounding me at this time in my life.
I would also like to thank my partner in parenting, John Wengler who has provided me with unconditional support during each step of my Ph.D. process since I had the idea to apply back in 2005.
To my friends at Rutgers University who were an unexpected and fantastic compliment to my academic program. Lynne and La Reina, the endless support and guidance we have provided to each other have been priceless.
The final push to complete this work came at a very unique time in my life and I was lucky beyond words to have so much support. Special thanks to Dannielle, Susan, Eric, Lori, Melissa, Helen, and Maria, for their friendship and positive energy. This final document was synthesized at the kitchen tables of my dear friends Susan and Maria, and I am grateful to have had such peaceful space to complete this work. And my friend Maria, when the housing department at Fordham assigned us to the same dormitory floor freshman year little did they know they were giving such a gift to me. She has always stood by my side, and placed great trust in my judgment. Last but not least, my dear friend Marcus, who knew just the type of encouragement I needed to get me through to the end. His check-ins and unwavering belief in me were invaluable and helped keep me focused and motivated.
And to my daughters, who are each a shining example of strong young woman I am honored to have in my life. Simply by your existence you inspire me daily. May you find your own happiness and great success in whatever path you choose to take and know that I support you as you chart your own course in life. And, as I promised you years ago when I started on my doctoral journey, yes, it’s finally time to get the puppy.