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Dr. Bell receives the 2013 AERA Early Career Award for Quantitative Methods and Statistical Theory

Her classes are packed. Students hang on her every word. The rapid interaction of inquiry and response is electric. One can almost feel the synapses firing as these brilliant minds discuss and torque the equations and theories being discussed.

Bell is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational Studies within the Educational Psychology, Research, and Foundation program. She specializes in applied statistics and analysis of education and public health and education. In particular, she primarily conducts methodological research focused on statistical issues associated with complex sample data and the functioning of hierarchical linear and non-linear models under a variety of conditions.

The perspicacity of Dr. Bethany Bell's keen ability to visualize, execute and convey the meaning of her applied and methodological multilevel model research is impressive. So much so, that Dr. Bell was presented the 2013 Early Career Award for AERA (American Educational Research Association) Division D, Section 2 – Quantitative Methods and Statistical Theory at the AERA Conference Award Luncheon on April 29th. "I am jazzed" says Bell "to have won this award, especially since it is only offered for the Quantitative Methods folks once every 3 years! Plus, it is a nice recognition of the work I have done these past 4.5 years."

The AERA Division D Early Career Award Committee said they noted Bell's contributions to the multilevel modeling literature in terms of informing how they might address problems such as cross-classified samples, small sample size, and missing data. "Bell's commitment to bridging the gap between theory and application" says Marilyn Thompson, 2013 Division D Early Career Award Committee Chair, "should also serve to advance the use of quantitative methods within health and education research. The high level of Bell's involvement in AERA, including Division D and several methodology SIGS, is noteworthy and appreciated, as is her commitment to teaching and mentoring."

AERA's Awards Program is one of the most prominent ways for education researchers to recognize and honor the outstanding scholarship and service of their peers. Bell has 43 publications, given 64 conference presentations, has 8 manuscripts in progress, and 3 more manuscripts under review. Of her work, Bell says that her aim is to "inform practice so as to inform policy." In her methodological research, she focuses on understanding the intricacies and nuances of "real world" data conditions in an effort to help social and behavioral science researchers conduct more robust analyses. Her substantive research is focused on how schools, neighborhoods, and policies influence a variety education and health outcomes, including educational attainment and obesity. As evidenced by her prolific work, Bell is doing just that individually and through collaborative efforts.

Bell is concurrently working on seven multi-year funded projects totaling $6,780,616 as either a statistician or a co-investigator. "This recognition" says Bell, "is a validation of 12 years of active research with my mentors, advisors and students. Over this time span, we have often swapped roles as primary or secondary researchers. Whether it is a contributing role or a collaborative effort, the ultimate goal is to define, quantify and qualify results that will have a positive impact." Bell also has five more pending projects that could begin later this year extending through 2018 – bringing her potential total research funding to $11,479,170.

In the nomination letter sent by Dr. Jeffery D. Kromrey, College of Education professor within University of South Florida's Department of Educational Measurement & Research, he stated that Bell's most important works (from his perspective) are her studies of sample size and model specification effects in multilevel research. "By far the most common question I am asked" says Kromrey, "in my collaborative and consulting work is 'How large should my sample be?' Dr. Bell's work seeks to provide evidence-based answers to such a question."

"Her work" Kromrey continues, "has clearly indicated that sample size recommendations require a substantially more nuanced perspective than that afforded by the commonly cited '30-30' rule. The variety of factors that Dr. Bell has investigated includes model complexity, the potential for model misspecification, the nature of predictor variables and concomitant prevalence of binary predictors, and patterns of sparseness in clusters… Dr. Bell's work emphasizes differential sample size effects across model components, providing gradations and distinctions that are often overlooked in methodological research."

After the award luncheon, Bell and two of her students Whitney Smiley and Mihaela Ene were recognized by SAS® (Statistical Analysis System) at their Global Forum (SGF). Bell received a SAS® Global Forum Faculty Scholarship , Smiley as a 2013 SAS® Student Ambassador and Ene as a 2013 SAS® Student Ambassador Honorable Mention. The SAS® Student Ambassador Program recognizes top student researchers around the world who are using SAS® programs in innovative ways to benefit their fields of study. Together, they presented their research on "A Multilevel Model Primer Using SAS® PROC MIXED." In addition, at SGF, they gave a second presentation entitled "MIXED FIT: A SAS Macro to Assess Model Fit and Adequacy for Two-Level Linear Models". Back at AERA, Smiley and Bell also presented a paper together entitled "Examining Reading and Mathematics Growth in Early Education."

As a mentor, Bell derives even greater pleasure recognizing the successes of her students as opposed to focusing on her own. Dr. Bell's first doctoral student Jason A. Schoeneberger, Ph.D. was recognized this year as being one of USC's Distinguished Graduate Scholars – a university initiative that recognizes students who have demonstrated research and scholarly excellence by successfully obtaining research fellowships or awards, presenting at national conferences, or publishing papers or book chapters. At the AERA Annual Meeting this year, Schoeneberger and Bell, along with four other USC doctoral students, including Smiley and Ene, jointly presented their work on the "Estimation of Two-Level Linear Models with Binary Predictor Predictors: Impact of Prevalence and Sample Size."

Bell has consistently been involved with AERA presenting every year since 2006. Her AERA leadership roles include reviewing conference proposals for Division D, the Educational Statistician SIG, the Longitudinal Studies SIG, and the Multilevel Modeling SIG; serving as the treasurer for the Longitudinal Studies SIG, and the Multilevel Modeling SIG; and serving as the secretary/treasurer for the Educational Statistician SIG.

Professor John Ferron from the College of Education within University of South Florida's Department of Educational Measurement and Research summed up Bell's active involvement within her field of study and with AERA. In his nomination statement, Ferron said "Her research, both what she as presented at AERA and what she has published, is appropriately balanced between methodological work and substantive research projects. The substantive research projects have been and continue to serve as the motivation for her methodological research, which focuses on practical issues that are encountered when statistically modeling "real world" data…The methodological contributions include studies that address multilevel and cross-classified models, missing data, and complex sample surveys. In addition, she has contributed multiple SAS® macros that help make complex analyses more accessible to applied researchers. Bethany's productivity in the area of research flows from her expertise, her energy and passion for conducting methodological research that helps the applied researcher."

AERA distinguished Dr. Bell with a certificate and a $1,000 award for her work and service.

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