Kansas State University


Graduate School

Helping a nation: doctoral student works to improve literacy in South Sudan

A Kansas State University graduate student is working to improve education for an entire nation.

Stephanie Pearson, doctoral student in curriculum and instruction, is working with the United Nations and the U.S. State Department on literacy and education in the Republic of South Sudan. She is investigating the various internal and external characteristics and factors that affect literacy education among students, teachers and citizens in South Sudan. Her findings are being used to develop a model that helps promote literacy in that nation and establishes a literacy curriculum for its citizens.

“Through my research I hope to bring awareness to the struggles the Sudanese citizens face,” Pearson said. “I hope to use my research to improve literacy education and access to literacy throughout the country. This goal is a lifelong goal that requires the collaboration of the United Nations and the Republic of South Sudan.”

Pearson’s research is impacting more than just South Sudan.

In early 2013, Pearson traveled to Geneva to present the education system model she and her team developed for South Sudan to the United Nations General Assembly. Officials from countries such as Russia, France, Germany and Italy showed interest in implementing a similar education system model in struggling areas of their own nations.

Due to the national and international impact of Pearson’s research, she was the first recipient of the newly established University Distinguished Professors Graduate Student Award. The $10,000 award recognizes doctoral students who have made exceptional achievements in scholarship.

Richard Marston, university distinguished professor of geography and president of the university distinguished professor group, was part of the selection committee that reviewed Pearson’s application.

“This is a doctoral student who is already having a national and international impact with her doctoral research,” said Marston, “but whose research will be helped in a significant way by this award.

Funds from the award will be used to provide literacy resources to the schools and children throughout South Sudan.

“For some children, this is the first time they will ever own a book of their own,” Pearson said.

The University Distinguished Professors Graduate Student Award is supported by the office of the vice president for research and contributions from individual university distinguished professors. These are professors who have received one of the university’s highest honors for their contributions to teaching, research and service, and who have made major contributions to their professions and communities.