Crow Spotlight: Nina Conrad

Crow Spotlight: Nina Conrad
Nina Conrad celebrates her graduation from the University of Arizona with fellow Crowbirds Hui Wang, Anh Dang, Shelley Staples, and Emily Palese.

Congratulations to Crow researcher Nina Conrad on her recent graduation from the University of Arizona with a PhD in Second Language Acquisition and Teaching (SLAT). Nina defended her dissertation, titled “How Students Seek and Use Writing Support: Exploring the Spectrum of Literacy Brokering Practices in Higher Education,” on Oct. 28, 2022, and officially received her doctoral degree in December.

Nina Conrad adorns graduation attire in a celebratory photo with fellow Crow team members.
Nina Conrad celebrates her graduation from the University of Arizona with fellow Crowbirds. From left to right: Hui Wang, Anh Dang, Nina Conrad, Shelley Staples, and Emily Palese.

Nina describes her path to obtaining a PhD as a winding road with numerous stops along the way. From journalism major, to high school social studies teacher, to senior editor at Papercheck, Nina’s wide range of experiences have shaped her current position as a UX researcher. More information on her current work can be found in her UXR portfolio and LinkedIn profile.

With her sights originally set on newspaper copyediting, Nina graduated with a BA in Journalism and Art History from the University of Arizona. Not long after graduation, she obtained a teaching certificate and began teaching high and middle school social studies in Tuscon, AZ.

After two years of teaching, Nina became a Senior Editor for Papercheck where she copy edited and provided feedback on manuscripts for academic and business clients. Because of Nina’s background in education, she took on leadership roles and was responsible for training new employees. Her experiences at Papercheck sparked her interest in how and why students, like those who utilize Papercheck for proofreading academic papers, obtain and use writing support services.

“I was interested in how we might provide better writing instruction, especially for folks in STEM fields, so that they wouldn’t need, necessarily, to look for these kinds of services away from campus,” Nina said. “Because it also raises a lot of issues of access and equity … that’s not very equitable for students that don’t have the finances to pay for those kinds of services.”

Nina decided to follow this interest and return to academia, obtaining her MA in Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) from the University of British Columbia. With the help of one of her TESL professors, Nina discovered a gap in education-focused research which she planned to fill. Nina’s masters’ thesis, titled “Exploring Postsecondary Students’ Use of Proofreading Services at a Canadian University,” explored students’ use of writing support services and the issues of equity that it raises.

Based on outside interest in her research, Nina continued her graduate studies at the University of Arizona. Her doctoral research looked more broadly at the ways in which students receive support for their academic writing, whether that be formally through proofreading services or informally through family and friends, and how that affects the development of both the academic texts themselves and the student’s sense of self as a scholar.

While working on her PhD at the University of Arizona in 2019, Nina joined the Crow team. Working with Dr. Shelley Staples, Nina took part in the CUES project where she assisted in developing evidence-based lessons and instructional materials for second language writing courses. After obtaining feedback from focus groups conducted with second language writing teachers, the CUES team created pedagogical materials utilizing elements of Crow’s corpus. Nina spearheaded evaluation of these tools’ effectiveness and usability through classroom observations, surveys, and interviews.

Nina’s experience with the CUES project has inspired her post-graduation plans. In Nina’s next stop on her winding journey, she hopes to continue work as a UX researcher, utilizing her diverse set of skills which includes editing, writing instruction, qualitative and mixed methods research, and UX design. To see Nina’s work, check out her UXR portfolio and LinkedIn profile.

Congratulations on this astounding accomplishment, Nina!