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New Faculty Member, Jonathan Turk, Ph.D., Committed to Equity and Access in Higher Education


Earlier this semester, Saint Louis University welcomed Jonathan Turk, Ph.D., a new assistant professor of higher education administration in the School of Education. Turk, who is teaching a graduate-level research methodology class this fall, is excited to be learning with students while pursuing research aimed at advancing community colleges, supporting community college students, and eliminating equity gaps in higher education. 

Jonathan Turk, Ph.D.
Jonathan Turk, Ph.D.

Turk’s interest in community colleges stems from his own educational and career experiences. Before earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Iowa State University and his Ph.D. from the University of Georgia, Turk began his postsecondary education at the same institution both of his parents began theirs: Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) in Ankeny, Iowa. He later became an academic advisor at DMACC and saw firsthand the magic of community colleges. “I just have such admiration for community colleges. They meet students where they are and ensure anyone interested in a postsecondary education has that opportunity,” Turk said. His time at DMACC inspired his interest in pursuing research focused on community college student persistence and success, transfer and articulation, developmental education, and career and technical education. One of his active research projects in this space is a study examining the role of the associate’s degree in bachelor’s degree completion rates and early labor-market returns.

As an undergraduate, Turk served as student body president at Iowa State University and in that role, he developed connections with university leaders, members of the Board of Regents, and Iowa state legislators. These were just some of the experiences that helped spark his interest in higher education policy and how policy can support (or hinder) college access, transfer, and student success. In fact, these interests would ultimately lead him to become the Director of Research at the American Council on Education in Washington, D.C., where he served in different roles for seven years prior to coming to Saint Louis University.

Currently, in the higher education policy space, Turk is beginning a study with colleagues at Saint Louis University to examine transfer patterns and transfer credit loss in Missouri. This study will also explore early evidence of the impact of CORE 42, a state-wide framework to promote seamless transfer of general education credits among all Missouri community colleges and public four-year colleges and universities. Turk’s commitment to researching issues relevant to underserved communities is a great fit for Saint Louis University’s higher education program, which places social justice at the heart of the graduate education experience. Molly 
Schaller, Associate Dean of the School of Education said, “Dr. Turk’s scholarly focus and that of his practice has been on access to higher education. Our students will gain from his vast experience as a researcher and as an active member in the national conversation about providing opportunities for students from all backgrounds.”

Turk is looking forward to becoming better acquainted with graduate students in the School of Education and hopes to publish research with doctoral students in the higher education administration program. He is most passionate about conducting research to solve real and practical programs facing colleges and universities and their students. In his experience, doctoral students tend to be nervous about starting their research agenda, but he enjoys helping students draw from their own experiences and interests to articulate important questions and design studies that will help yield important insights for institutional practice and policy. He also enjoys getting the opportunity to learn from graduate students. “I view doctoral students as colleagues,” Turk said, “I benefit from their expertise and enjoy learning from them as much as I enjoy sharing my own expertise. I’m looking forward to opportunities to collaborate with students because it enhances the learning we can all do.” Molly Schaller agrees, saying, “As we’ve gotten started this year, Jon has been a voice of insight and renewal as we contemplate how best to prepare our students for scholarship and leadership in higher education.” Turk believes graduate school provides a unique opportunity to ask big questions and encourages students to think about issues they want to address through research. “Where do you want to make a difference? That’s where you should look for research ideas,” Turk said. When faculty and students work together, new researchers soon learn that research does not have to be scary or overwhelming. Turk enjoys watching graduate students realize how their research contributions can positively impact colleges and universities and the students they serve. To learn more about Turk’s past and present research, visit his website at or contact him at