Gateway PhD Program Celebrates 12th Graduate in 10 Years


Africa Hands

The twelfth graduate has completed the San José State Gateway PhD program, a partnership program between the San José State University School of Information and Queensland University of Technology.

Dr. Africa Hands’ dissertation, “LIS Doctoral Student Motivation: An Exploratory Study of Motivating Factors for Earning the PhD,” was “driven by personal interests in higher education and anecdotal accounts of the doctoral student experience – accounts both encouraging and disheartening,” she explained.

The study employed mixed methods using self-determination theory as the theoretical framework. First-year library and information science doctoral students were invited to complete the Academic Motivation Scale. Analysis of semi-structured interviews and personal admission statements indicated five emerging motivating factors for those pursuing a PhD: previous academic experiences, preparation for the future, appeal of the scholarly environment, encouragement from other, and research related interests.

“Investigating the experiences of LIS students, offered an opportunity to study a less examined area in the LIS field and contribute insight to prospective and current students, faculty, and program administrators,” Hands said.

Her faculty supervisor, Dr. Bill Fisher, explained that her flexibility as she gained insight into various research methods to acquire the data she needed made her dissertation much richer.

“Africa employed data gathering instruments not typically used with graduate students, so her work is important as it allows others to use these instruments in their work,” he said. “Additionally, by learning why students are drawn to doctoral studies, those programs can be more focused in their recruitment of new students and adapt their curriculum accordingly.”

Hands’ research findings have been published in the Journal of Education for Library and Information Science, and she is revising an article accepted for publication that reports the qualitative data in her dissertation.

“I also plan to submit articles to peer-reviewed journals on the quantitative findings and self-determination theory as a theoretical framework for LIS research. My dissemination plan includes LIS and higher education journals and conferences,” she said.

Hands was previously the academic coordinator at the University of Louisville, but she is currently enjoying a non-LIS position at a small non-profit.

“I’m fortunate that the Gateway program’s structure supports individuals working full-time; those skills and experiences can transfer to another position when the time comes. I plan to continue with my research – maybe in a follow-up study with more doctoral students or with a focus on first-generation doctoral students,” she said.

Hands earned her Master of Library and Information Science degree from the SJSU School of Information in 2008, the same year the San José Gateway PhD program began. She noted she maintained an interest in the doctoral program for years before deciding to apply for the 2014 cohort because she felt the structure worked for her needs. She appreciated the week-long annual residency at the San José State University campus working with faculty in both the United States and Australia, and students from all over the globe.

“The [Gateway] program was a great experience. The program is pretty fast-paced – students begin work on their research topic very early one with guidance, of course, from faculty. It’s a collegial environment where students receive ongoing feedback on their research, even from those who aren’t on their supervisory team. I’ve made some lasting friendships; people that I hope to partner with on other research and publications,” she said.

To read Hands’ doctoral dissertation, visit

The San José Gateway PhD program is currently closed to new applicants. Future students may fill out a form to request more information and stay informed of pending application deadlines.