Since 1997, the Department of Educational Leadership and Cultural Foundations (ELC) has awarded annual funding through the SELF Fellowship to doctoral students in the Ed.D. in Educational Leadership and Ph.D. in Cultural Foundations programs. Historically, the Fellowship was funded by an annual gift from Mrs. Sara “Sally” Smith Self (in memory of her husband, Dr. Luther Winborne Self, a graduate of ELC and on behalf of herself and her son, Smith Winborne Self). It was designed to provide financial assistance to ELC doctoral students of outstanding promise at the final stages of their PhD work to help complete their doctoral programs.

This year’s SELF Fellows are Shareese Castillo, Yacine Kout, Stephanie Hudson, Maha Elobeid, Erica Brittany-Horhn, Krista Prince, Lauren Phillips, Shelley Sizemore, Caitlin Spencer, Oliver Thomas, and Christie Abernathy. The SELF Fellows are chosen by ELC’s Self Fellowship committee: Dr. Silvia Bettez, Dr. Leila Villaverde, and Dr. Rochelle Brock.

The SELF Fellows have been given opportunities to share their work with Mr. Smith Self, the son and patron of the Luther Winborne Self Fellowship. On September 6, 2018, the School of Education organized an afternoon tea with Mr. Smith Self and the SELF Fellows. This casual gathering gave Mr. Self a chance to get to know this year’s Fellows, learn about their accomplishments, and see first-hand how the LWSF award contributes to the work of each recipient. The event also allowed Mr. Self to see the painting that his mother donated to ELC — it now hangs in the ELC GA’s Office.

SELF Fellows Hi-Tea 9/6/18
Mr. Smith Self viewing, for the first time, the beautiful painting that his late mother donated to ELC.


Sally Self was a generous donor to the ELC department for many years. She, like her husband, deeply believed that our students could make a positive difference in the world. When she passed away in June 2008, Smith Self graciously agreed to continue the scholarship in honor of his parents, and the award now continues through funding from the Self Foundation.

Yacine Kout [seen on the far left in the photo above] is an ELC Senior Teaching Assistant (STA) who is studying how educators can teach critical thinking through video-gaming. This is his second year receiving the SELF Fellowship, which has allowed him to fully commit to finishing his dissertation this semester so that he can graduate in May 2019. He also teaches an undergraduate class (ELC 381: Cultural Foundations of Education), and each semester he has used the SELF Design Studio to enrich his students’ learning experience.

“I try to help them see that learning is more than just getting a grade,” Yacine says. “The SELF Design Studio is a great way for students to start seeing how they could also implement this philosophy of teaching in their future classrooms.”

The SELF Fellows are all encouraged to use the SELF Design Studio as a resource, and they share a workspace in the ELC GA’s Office. It’s a social space, and allows the fellows to talk about how their classes are going, their challenges and triumphs, conferences that they might attend, and sometimes just talk about how their weekends went.

“These things are essential for us to feel like a group,” Yacine says. “We get to meet a lot of people who are at different stages of their work, and we talk to one another to try to learn how things go and what’s expected of us.”

Yacine met Smith Self for the first time at a dinner event last year, where he and the Fellows were able to learn more about Mr. Self as a donor, as well as hear stories of his father and his connection to ELC.

“It was a great experience to see how meaningful this was to him,” Yacine says. “It made sense to talk about being a Fellow, and this idea of connection and sharing something. That resonated with me, that sense of community, and I know that’s a strong feeling within the department.”