Kennesaw State University graduates first Ph.D. student during spring commencement

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Rebecca LeFebvre's successful dissertation defense clears way for Kennesaw State to award first Ph.D. in May

Former technology executive Rebecca LeFebvre will become the first recipient of a doctor of philosophy degree from Kennesaw State University, after successfully defending her dissertation to complete the requirements of the Ph.D. program in International Conflict Management.

 LeFebvre, who will receive her degree at graduation ceremonies in May, has accepted a full-time faculty position at Southern Polytechnic State University. 

A 2011  Clendenin Fellow, LeFebvre presented her defense before her faculty committee, professors, colleagues and program administrators and staff.   After presenting a final draft and making an oral presentation based on her dissertation, titled “Deciding to Fight: A Cross-Cultural Comparative Study of Decision-Making in Conflict Situations,” her committee recommended a “pass with distinction.”

 “I am extremely honored to be the first Ph.D. from KSU,” said LeFebvre, who completed the program in three years. “I have had such talented people to work with in my department, many of whom have interesting research of their own and also took the time to advise me on my own research.  I feel strongly that I will be only the first of many Ph.D. recipients to come from KSU, and that the university has a phenomenal future ahead of it in compelling and innovative research.”

 International Conflict Management became the Kennesaw State’s first Ph.D. program in 2010 and has grown to enroll 34 doctoral students from 19 different countries. The University also offers professional doctorates in education, nursing and business.

 As a member of the Ph.D. program’s first cohort, LeFebvre passed her comprehensive exams “with distinction” in summer 2012 and defended her dissertation proposal last August. She conducted survey-based research during a two-week field trip to Ghana.  Her dissertation research compares the effects of cultural variables on decision-making in conflict contexts among three samples of respondents in Ghana and the U.S.

“First and foremost, this is a fabulous achievement by Becky, one of our truly outstanding students,” said Robin Dorff, dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. “But this also is an historic moment for our new Ph.D. program in International Conflict Management, our College and Kennesaw State University. Becky’s dissertation and her defense were nothing short of outstanding.  She sets a gold standard for all who follow.”

 LeFebvre’s success in navigating the rigors of doctoral study can be attributed to the success she has experienced in her professional life and the many attributes she brought to the program, said Volker Franke, founding director of the Ph.D. program and chair of LeFebvre’s dissertation committee.

  Prior to joining the program, LeFebvre was vice president of product development for News Distribution Network in Atlanta, She also has served as vice president of program management for Digital Media Technology at Turner Broadcasting Systems and as a senior director of product operations for Energy Systems Group at Motorola Inc. in Atlanta.  She earned a master’s degree in computer science at National Technology Institute and a bachelor’s in electrical engineering from Rice University.

 “Athough Becky’s academic training in computer science and senior management experience within the technology side of the private sector seemingly show little relation to conflict management, her high level of leadership and achievement in her career has enriched the program and the classroom learning experience for students and teaching faculty alike,” Franke said.

 LeFebvre, who says she has a real passion and enthusiasm for the subject of international conflict management, plans to continue her research and hopes to take a full-time faculty position at an Atlanta-area university. She taught her first undergraduate course in international relations at Kennesaw State during her tenure in the Ph.D. program and currently teaches a course on African politics in the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs at Georgia Tech. 

 “I enjoy teaching as much as I do research, and I want to continue to contribute to the growth and, hopefully, the inspiration of students [of] international affairs and issues,” she said.

--  Sabbaye McGriff