Graduate College student services specialist Kristin Terrill earns doctorate from Iowa State

June 26, 2023 - by Sarah Igram

Kristin Terrill


Dr. Kristin Terrill recently achieved a significant milestone in her academic journey by earning her doctorate in Applied Linguistics and Technology from Iowa State in the spring of 2023. As a student services specialist for the Graduate College’s Center for Communication Excellence (CCE), Terrill worked full-time while pursuing her degree, helping graduate students prepare to submit their theses and dissertations.

Writing her own dissertation while balancing a full-time job was challenging, as she often needs to respond quickly to the requests she receives from students. However, her colleagues, friends, and family were supportive and offered advice that helped her along the way.

“The advice that made the biggest impact on me was to wake up early and work on your thesis or dissertation for a minimum of 30 minutes a day. Every day, keep track in a spreadsheet of what you have done and need to do,” she said. “Join a peer review group. Lean on your support system—this is the time to ask for help with all those little things pulling you away from your research.”

For her doctoral research, Terrill examined the writing quality in doctoral dissertations and the impacts of peer tutoring on doctoral students’ writing revisions.

“The Center for Communication Excellence has pioneered an innovative peer mentoring program that applies emergent research in academic writing to graduate student communication skill development,” Terrill said. “My research focuses on students’ experiences, uptake, learning, and realization of skills addressed in mentoring sessions at the CCE.”

Terrill created a detailed description of the practices of the CCE’s peer mentors, who meet with fellow graduate students for personalized writing consultations. She then traced the impacts of these practices through the progress in graduate students’ learning and writing.

“My study helped me understand how some mentoring practices can be highly effective for student writers, and I hope that this finding can inform future professional development materials at the CCE,” Terrill said. “I also hope to apply my skills as a researcher and writer to ongoing initiatives in the CCE.”

Terrill also earned both a Teaching Excellence Award and a Research Excellence Award as a graduate student, and she feels honored to have been recognized for her work.

“Completing a Ph.D. has been a lifelong goal for me. It has not been a smooth journey, by any means. During my Ph.D. I also started a family, dealt with health problems, and lived through a global pandemic. To have all of this culminate in a successful dissertation defense has been almost overwhelming at times,” she said. “I also know that this reflects the hard work and talents of my mentors who have supported my growth. Most of all, I am excited to be at the beginning of the next phase of my life and career.”

Tags: center for communication excellence, dissertation, applied linguistics and technology