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2018 Fredric M. Jablin Doctoral Dissertation Award

The 2018 Fredric M. Jablin Doctoral Dissertation Award was presented to Nicole Capriel Ferry at the International Leadership Association’s 20th Annual Global Conference. 

About Nicole Capriel Ferry

Nicole Ferry graduated with her doctorate in Cultural Studies and Social Thought in Education from Washington State University (WSU) in May 2018. Her research focuses on the areas of leadership, social justice, gender, and sexuality studies, with special interest in how the neoliberal context has shaped the purposes, practices, and discourses of leadership development in higher education. Nicole has presented aspects of her research at national and international conferences, and has been published in the journals of Leadership, Gender Issues, and Journal of Curriculum Theorizing for her work on leadership, gender and sexuality, and education. In 2017 Nicole received Washington State University Graduate School’s Dissertation Year Fellowship to complete her dissertation research. As an educator, Nicole has taught on social justice issues at WSU since 2013, including courses on Global Leadership, Women’s Studies, Academic Success, and Youth Cultures. In 2017 she won the Graduate and Professional Student Association’s Graduate Student Instructor of the Year Award—an award which goes to educators who were nominated for their effectiveness and creativity in the classroom. Beyond Nicole’s commitments to teaching and research, she is also a dedicated practitioner and collaborator on several projects that engage local schools and communities directly. As a co-founding and contributing member of the educational collaborative Allies to Advocates (A2A), she creates customized, interactive workshops for educators and administrators across the State of Washington who seek to examine diversity policy and practices within their schools.


Leadership development is a prominent focus of U.S. higher education in the 21st century. Overwhelmingly, contemporary theories of leadership suggest that everyone can be a leader given enough training, and leadership research has largely concentrated on identifying the specific traits or behaviors of leaders to improve leadership development efforts. In contrast, this dissertation research proposes a critical examination of the ‘everyone-can-be-a-leader’ model as an ostensibly inclusive approach and looks at how such meritocratic narratives may legitimate and normalize systemic inequality and inequities. Drawing on queer, feminist, and poststructural scholarship, this qualitative dissertation highlights how commonsensical ideas of leadership are constrained by discourses of race, gender, sexuality, and ability. As a result, this dissertation suggests that contemporary practices of leadership may discriminate against and exclude historically marginalized students, rather than politically mobilize all students toward the democratic, equitable, and socially just aims higher education seeks to cultivate.