Dr. Shireen LallaWednesday, Dec 01, 2021
Dr. Shireen Lalla is the Associate Director of Broward Testing & Evaluation and leads the initiative that makes the Broward Student Research Symposium possible each year. She has been with Florida Atlantic University for over 20 years. "I am a quadruple graduate of FAU," Dr. Lalla said. "I received my Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology in May 2000 and my Master of Arts degree in Women’s Studies in August 2003 (Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters), my Masters of Education in May 2009, and my Ph.D in Higher Education Leadership in May 2019. (College of Education)"
Dr. Lalla was born and raised in San Fernando, Trinidad and embraces her West Indian identity. Her dissertation, West Indian Immigrant Women: The Higher Education Lived Experiences of Undergraduate and Graduate Students at Florida Atlantic University, explored the perceptions and lived experiences of female West Indian immigrant students as they academically and socially acculturated while attending FAU.
Dr. Lalla said she was drawn to pursue a career in higher education by her experience as a student who worked on campus. "I started as a work study student in the library in 1998. I wanted the convenience of studying where I worked," Dr. Lalla said. "I soon discovered that I loved the energy of working on campus. Working in the library afforded me the opportunity to develop my administrative skills, my love of research, and an enthusiasm of helping students. Higher education is a stimulating field to work in, it is constantly evolving, under the influence of state policies, global relations, changes in funding and new ideas and technologies. I was drawn to the idea that I could meaningfully influence students at a pivotal time in their lives."
Dr. Lalla said that among her favorite experiences at FAU was able to meet one of her personal heroes, Dr. Angela Davis, when she was invited to speak before FAU several years ago. "Waiting in line to meet her after her presentation, I was able to convey how much her work has meant to me and father. My father taught me to read in my home country of Trinidad using her autobiography that was published in 1974 and to this day we still reread her book. It was a highlight getting to articulate that to her and the global impact of her voice."
Another favorite memory of Dr. Lalla was about an incoming student she met at Orientation one Fall. He was an accounting major and asked her during the what could he do to finish his degree faster. "I told him about CLEP and DSST which are exams that the testing center offers where you can get college credit once you pass them. He came to the testing center and took a few exams and was able to graduate two semesters early." After graduation, he returned with his parents and told Dr. Lala that her concern for his success and well-being was paramount to his graduation.
What is the the most unusual expertise Dr. Lalla has developed in her 13 years of working in a testing center? She has become an expert on high tech test cheating strategies, a topic which she has developed into a highly entertaining and popular PowerPoint lecture that she presents to faculty and other testing administrators locally and nationwide.
"Many are unaware of how widespread cheating is among university students, it has become almost as traditional as homecoming. When I do my high-tech cheating presentation, I hear audible gasps from faculty and other audience members. Technology has transformed cheating and it is important for educators and administrators to be aware of high-tech portable devices,’ Dr. Lalla said. "Much of the research comes from searching social media and YouTube, there is a plethora of instructional videos that explain how to disguise your cell phone as a calculator, use a Bluetooth pen, wear invisible earpieces, spy clothing, and so much more."
Dr. Lalla said that cheating using a spy-style digital camera, cell phone camera or standard/manual camera (embedded in clothing, glasses, pens, watches, etc.) is very prevalent. These cameras can store video and then transmit the entire content of exams using the USB plugin. "Unfortunately, cheating gadgets is a growing market and very easily accessible. With the constant impact of emerging technologies, faculty and testing centers must stay abreast of them as they pose a threat to the security and validity of the exams that they administer," she said.
Dr. Lalla, who lives in Davie, said that during her free time she enjoys travel and reading. "Travel is my number one passion, but outside of that I love to read. I belong to a couple book clubs and it has been a rewarding experience discussing the wider themes and character arcs of a story. Book clubs have given me a new perspective on reading and allowed me to gain more out of books than I did before," she said.