Undergraduate Academic Affairs

Debbie McGhee

Debbie McGhee’s tenure in the Office of Educational Assessment (OEA) lasted more than 20 years. Her career began in 1998 as a graduate research associate, after which she was hired on as research scientist, the role in which she served from 2001 until her passing in 2019. As a researcher, she was integral in providing high quality research support and services for a wide array of complex assessment projects ranging from large-scale, campus-wide surveys to smaller departmental projects. Her work involved consulting with and assisting university clients at every stage of the research process, including research design, instrument (questionnaire) development, project management, data analysis, and report writing. She was also the primary researcher responsible for ensuring the validity and soundness of various test offered in the UW Testing Center, as well as the items for OEA’s IASystem course evaluations. Debbie’s expertise in survey research and quantitative data analysis was invaluable to OEA, UAA, and the broader University community for more than two decades. This is one of Debbie’s lasting impacts, as it would be impossible to quantify the countless number of people who were affected by Debbie’s assessment work over the years.

Debbie’s service extended beyond research to leadership that impacted OEA and UAA. When OEA’s long-time director retired in 2016, Debbie stepped in to successfully lead the OEA team. In this interim role, Debbie was given the opportunity to demonstrate her strong leadership skills, and she worked tirelessly to ensure that OEA’s work seamlessly continued while also leading the search for OEA’s next director. The strength of relationships that greeted the new director were a strong testament to Debbie’s leadership during the transition.

Debbie was a gifted academic. She attended the prestigious Columbus School for Girls in Columbus, OH, prior to earning her BA with honors in psychology from the Ohio State University in 1987. Her graduate studies included clinical and social psychology at the UW, in which she played an integral role in early development of the Implicit Association Test with Dr. Anthony Greenwald. Their 1998 article, “Measuring Individual Differences in Implicit Cognition: The Implicit Association Test,” has been cited more than 12,000 times as of January 2020, which is a testament to the lasting legacy of Debbie’s contribution to social psychology research. She also received a Washington Educational Research Association Award for her work on the relationship between 10th grade Washington Assessment of Student Learning scores and university performance.

Those who interacted with Debbie quickly noticed her keen wit, warm sense of humor, strong attention to detail, and commitment to professionalism. Those who had the opportunity to collaborate with her were thankful for these qualities, as they helped them to produce high quality research and service while experiencing more enjoyment from their work. The impact of Debbie’s work over the years truly reaches beyond the boundaries of a single office, and OEA, UAA, and UW are better because of Debbie’s service to them.