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Victoria Elizondo Receives Prestigious Boren Award

Victoria Elizondo

Victoria Elizondo has been awarded a Boren Fellowship to study in Brazil during the 2021-2022 academic year.  Victoria is currently a master’s student in international studies.  Her Boren Fellowship will provide support to study Portuguese at the Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina (UFSC) in Florianópolis. Victoria is the fourth graduate student from Texas State University to receive a Boren Fellowship, the third from international studies, and the second to study Portuguese in Brazil.  

The David L. Boren Awards are sponsored by the National Security Education Program (NSEP), a federal initiative designed to build a broader and more qualified pool of U.S. citizens with foreign language and international skills. Boren Scholarships and Fellowships provide U.S. undergraduate and graduate students, respectively, with resources and encouragement to acquire language skills and experience in countries critical to the future security and stability of the United States. In exchange for funding, Boren recipients agree to work in the federal government for at least one year. 
 
This year the Boren Awards program received 334 applications from graduate students for Boren Fellowships — and only 124 were awarded. Selected Boren Scholars and Fellows intend to study 33 different languages in 37 countries throughout Africa, Asia, Eurasia, Latin America, and the Middle East.  Given the unprecedented global COVID-19 pandemic, Boren will work flexibly with 2021 awardees to ensure that as many as possible are able to proceed with their overseas language study when it is safe and feasible to do so. 

Victoria earned a Bachelor of Arts in international studies from Texas State in 2018. Her interest in international studies began in high school by participating in Model United Nations simulations, where she was introduced to the fields of diplomacy and international relations. Model UN combined her interests in history and political science and led her to the international studies degree program at Texas State. In addition to being a graduate student, Victoria is also the Program Coordinator for the Center for International Studies on campus, where she assists the director, Dr. Paul Hart, with providing student career and internship opportunities, supporting graduate students, mentoring student organizations, and coordinating multicultural programming through guest lectures, faculty/student panels, and informational sessions.

Victoria’s thesis research, supervised by Dr. Anadelia Romo, focuses on understanding the political and cultural factors driving migration and immigration in the context of migrant “securitization” — a phenomenon that emerged during the Trump administration, according to her research, and has continued to be a cause of polarization domestically. She hopes to explore the disconnect between political and cultural realities faced by migrants/immigrants in central and south America and the discourses employed by the United States, and other nations, that have created environments of radicalized xenophobia. This research is important to Victoria because international immigration – both legal and illegal – continues to be a pressing global issue as countries debate comprehensive immigration reform and the role national rhetoric plays in immigration policies. 

With a longstanding interest in federal service, Victoria’s career goals include working for the Department of State, gaining advanced regional expertise in Latin America, and ultimately moving to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) as a political or targeting analyst with language expertise in Portuguese and Spanish. As a Hispanic woman, Victoria hopes to increase the diversity of the federal service workforce in which most workers identify as male and only 8% of employees identify as Hispanic. A life in federal service will afford Victoria the opportunity to serve and represent Hispanic women in the U.S. government, who often find themselves the subject of diversity discourse but are not always active participants in the conversation.

“The Boren application process was far more work than I initially thought – which in hindsight has made selection so much more rewarding,” Victoria says about the process of applying for the Boren Fellowship. “I share this award with The Graduate College’s external funding coordinators and, more importantly, Dr. Brian Smith, who was extremely helpful in pushing me towards not only strengthening my writing but also advocating for myself and portraying my goals and aspirations on paper.” Victoria’s advice to future applicants is “to utilize campus resources! You are your biggest advocate. By that I mean – you know yourself better than anyone else and are the best equipped for answering those crucial essay questions in the Boren application.” 

Since 1994, over 7,000 students have received Boren Awards and contributed their vital skills to careers in support of the critical agency missions throughout the federal government. “To continue to play a leadership role in the world, it is vital that America's future leaders have a deep understanding of the rest of the world,” says former U.S. Senator David Boren, the principal author of the legislation that created NSEP. “As we seek to lead through partnerships, understanding of other cultures and languages is absolutely essential.”


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  • 2021

    • Isha Desai, a doctoral student in the Materials, Science, Engineering, and Commercialization program and a recipient of the 2020-2021 P.E.O. International Peace Scholarship (IPS), was recently featured in the funder’s publication, The P.E.O. Record, in which she describes her engagements with the P.E.O. Sisterhood during the 2020-2021 academic year and the impact the IPS award had on her personal and financial wellbeing during the pandemic. Read Isha’s feature story on page 22 of the July-August 2021 edition (page 24 of the publication PDF).

    • Fifteen graduate students at Texas State University have been awarded the Philanthropic Educational Organization (P.E.O.) International Peace Scholarship. This scholarship supports women from other countries who are studying at the graduate level in the United States and Canada. Learn more about their accomplishments in Texas State's Newsroom.

  • 2020

    • The Graduate College is delighted to announce that Josephine Reynes, master's student in mathematics, has received a Selected Professions Fellowship awarded by The American Association of University Women (AAUW)! Learn more about her accomplishment in Texas State's Newsroom.

    • Three applied anthropology doctoral students have been awarded the 2020 National Institute of Justice (NIJ) Graduate Research Fellowship. This year's students each received $150,000 awards. Learn more about Emilie Wiedenmeyer, Petra Banks, and Mariah Moe's accomplishments in Texas State's Newsroom.

    • Sixteen graduate students have been awarded P.E.O. International Peace Scholarships for the 2020-2021 academic year. The scholarship provides up to $12,500 of support for women pursuing graduate studies in the United States. Learn more about their accomplishments in Texas State's Newsroom.

    • Mael Le Noc

      The Graduate College proudly congratulates Maël Le Noc for receiving a 2020 Phi Kappa Phi Dissertation Fellowship. Maël is one of only ten recipients nationwide of this prestigious award and is Texas State University’s first-ever student to be selected as an awardee. The highly competitive $10,000 fellowship is awarded annually to active members of the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi who are doctoral candidates and are completing dissertations. The award provides financial support during the dissertation writing process to candidates whose projects demonstrate a high degree of originality and significant potential for advancing knowledge in the candidate’s discipline.

      Born in France, Maël has always been interested in geography and history because of their capacity to elucidate the world around us – through examining stories of lived experience and historical events in the context of the geographical places that contain them. He completed his undergraduate studies in his home country at the Université Rennes 2, where he pursued degrees in both geography and history, in part because he could not decide between the two. During his last year of undergraduate, he studied abroad as an exchange student at Texas State and decided to stay in Central Texas to pursue a Master of Science in Geography at Texas State. During his first semester of graduate studies he met Dr. Alberto Giordano, who studies the Holocaust and other genocides through a geographical framework, and whose work fascinated Maël, as it combined his preferred subjects of history and geography using contemporary digital humanities techniques. What began as a small project with Dr. Giordano turned into Maël’s master’s thesis, which investigated family separations during the Holocaust in Italy. Since then, Maël has continued to study the geography of the Holocaust as a PhD student at TXST, focusing on personal histories and historical events in Paris, France during and after the Second World War.

      Maël’s doctoral research, supervised by Dr. Giordano, investigates the effect of anti-Jewish persecution and the Holocaust on the spatial distribution, practices, and experiences of the Jewish population of two neighborhoods in Paris’s third arrondissement. Using both quantitative data (archival material produced by perpetrators and administrations) and qualitative data (written testimonies and audio recordings of the victims), he examines how experiences of persecution diffuse through the activities of daily life and map onto these neighborhoods, exploring how the aggregate spatial distribution of persecution can powerfully transform the perception, experience, and meaning of these places for the people who inhabit them. Although he studies historical occurrences of persecution, Maël’s research aims to broadly theorize the geographical complexion of oppression in a way that can be applied to contemporary instances as well. The goal is to better understand persecution and oppression – and how people respond to it – and to further our understanding of the ways violence and space interact.

      As a write-up fellowship, the financial support from this Phi Kappa Phi award has allowed Maël to defer his graduate assistantship to spring 2021 and fully dedicate his efforts to the time-consuming process of data analysis and completing his dissertation. This fellowship has also allowed Maël to extend his research timeline and analyze approximately 30 additional survivors’ testimonies from the collections at the USC Shoah Foundation Center for Advanced Genocide Research, where he completed a residency last fall as the Margee and Douglas Greenberg Research Fellowship awardee. He is currently evaluating his quantitative and qualitative findings in order to theorize “the geography of persecution.”

      Asked what advice he would give to future applicants, Maël states his primary recommendation is simply “to apply.” He also emphasizes the importance of timing, noting that one of the main lessons he learned from the application process was “to start working on the application early” and to allow time to polish it. “It may be time consuming, but you'll get some funding if you take the time to do it well [and] target relevant opportunities. Make lists of which opportunities you might apply to later, even if it is not yet the right year to apply.” Finally, he mentions that students should talk with their advisors, as well as with other students, and he strongly emphasizes that all applicants should work with The Graduate College external funding coordinators, Dr. Andrea Hilkovitz and Dr. Brian Smith.

    • Grace Van Dde Hoef

      The Graduate College is pleased to announce Grace Van de Hoef, master’s student in the College of Health Professions, as the 2020 recipient of the Texas Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation’s Sara Haynes Endowed Scholarship. This scholarship recognizes exemplary speech-language pathology graduate students enrolled in Texas programs accredited by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Recipients of this award demonstrate a commitment to clinical interventions for adults with neurogenic communication disorders. The scholarship provides support to attend workshops or seminars on neurogenic communication disorders, pursue an externship experience, or enroll in graduate courses in communication disorders. Grace is pursuing a master of science in communication disorders.

      What is your brief academic history?
      I attended Texas State University for my undergraduate studies, where I received a dual degree. I earned a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish with a minor in psychology and a Bachelor of Science in communication disorders.

      How did you become interested in your field?
      I have always had a driving desire to help others. I found my passion for speech-language pathology through volunteer work. Through these experiences, I observed others’ hard work and dedication—and frustration when they could not express themselves in the way that they would like. I have seen the looks of shame and defeat, and a longing to remember or perform the tasks that others can. Overall, the tenacity that many clients show is inspiring, and it motivates me to be a caring and well-informed speech-language pathologist—and an even better human being. 

      What is your current area of research and what do you hope to accomplish through your work?
      I am interested in seeing common speech disorders through the lens of bilingualism and analyzing how bilingualism affects clients’ diagnoses, therapy, and treatment. I hope to help others receive the best treatment possible by becoming a bilingual speech-language pathologist and advocating for more research and practice in bilingual therapy.  My dual degree in both Spanish and communication disorders is a way that I can give back to the community through speech-language pathology. Because of this, I am eager to link my passion for the Spanish language, language learning, and speech-language pathology. I will make sure that all patients, regardless of their linguistic background, can access and benefit from speech-language pathology services. 

      What advice would you give to future applicants?
      Always apply! Scholarships like this allow you to write about your experiences and future aspirations. It's an opportunity to let your personality shine through! 

      This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

    • Katie Curtiss

      The Graduate College is pleased to announce that Katie Curtiss, a student in the public administration master’s program, has been selected by Chapter IV Texas (New Braunfels) of the P.E.O. Sisterhood to receive a $1,200 grant through its Program for Continuing Education. P.E.O. stands for Philanthropic Educational Organization, and its mission is to support educational opportunities for women. The Program for Continuing Education provides need-based grants to women whose education has been interrupted and who return to school to complete a degree that improves their marketable skills for employment.
       
      Katie earned her bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of North Texas. Interested in the complexities and processes of human interaction, she describes herself as a “natural helper” and says she has always pursued supportive professional roles. After her undergraduate degree, she served for two years with AmeriCorps, working in public schools and state parks in partnership with disaster relief non-profits and local food banks in Sacramento, California. Her first year in the program grew from her goal to “take a purpose-driven gap year" after her bachelor’s, but she reapplied to continue for a second year because she loved the experience. In AmeriCorps, Katie discovered the profound benefits of helping people through built relationships—and the transformative power those relationships can have. After AmeriCorps, Katie worked for five years with The American Red Cross Texas Gulf Region, emphasizing, "Red Cross volunteers are amazing people!" Inspired by her Red Cross experience, Katie then moved to north Texas, where she conducted volunteer management, placing volunteers in activities and projects and building relationships with new communities. 

      Throughout her service experience, Katie observed the prevalence and importance of the Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree among volunteer managers and within leadership positions in her field, which motivated her to pursue her MPA at Texas State. Her Applied Research Project, a requirement of her degree program, examines the complexities of multigenerational workforces by analyzing the expectations, desires, and motivations of generational cohorts in the workplace environments of volunteer organizations. She hopes her work will contribute to nuanced leadership decision-making based on the heterogeneous lived experiences and needs of workforce communities—and will influence recruitment, retention, reward processes in workplace environments. 

      To all future applicants, Katie advises, “start early, build relationships, attend Shop Talks, and work with the external funding coordinators!”

    • Amy Biedermann

      The Graduate College is delighted to announce that Amy Biedermann, doctoral student in the adult, professional, and community education program, has received a 2020 Humanity in Action John Lewis Fellowship. This one-year experiential fellowship brings together cohorts of university students and recent graduates from Europe and the United States to explore histories of discrimination and resistance, as well as contemporary issues affecting minority groups. After a one-month residency, fellows develop and implement projects to address social justice issues in their own communities during the remainder of the fellowship year. While the John Lewis Fellowship residency typically takes place during the summer in Atlanta, Georgia, the program decided to conduct this year's residency virtually so that fellows could maintain necessary social distance during the current global pandemic, while still experiencing the social engagement and transformation that are integral to the Humanity in Action Fellowship.

      Amy is Texas State's first-ever recipient of this prestigious award. This fellowship recognizes her potential as a social justice leader and coalition-builder and the anticipated social impact of her future professional and activist work. Congratulations Amy!

      What is your brief academic history?
      I attended Texas State for my Bachelor of Arts in history (2007) and graduated summa cum laude with honors. I attended Tulane University for my Master of Science in international development (2013). I am now a fourth-year Ph.D. student at Texas State in the College of Education’s adult, professional, and community education (APCE) program.

      Who is your research advisor? 
      Dr. Michael O’Malley, dean of the College of Education

      How did you become interested in your field? 
      I lived and worked in New Orleans for five years before returning to San Marcos to begin my Ph.D. My experiences there working in nonprofits, supporting social justice projects, and facilitating cultural competency training for students and volunteers made the APCE program at Texas State a good fit for me. I love the program’s focus on nonformal education and the curricular emphasis on community development and critical pedagogy. The faculty in the program also have many active international research projects that I am able to support, which is how I became involved with the College of Education’s work in Chile.

      What is your current area of research, and what significance does it hold for your field and for society? 
      I have two lines of research.

      The first concerns my dissertation work in Chile. My research explores the ways in which Chilean women engage in social activism to challenge sexism and harassment in universities.  My study also explores counter-narratives that coexist within this movement that may be obscured by issues of power and privilege. This research is a part of a larger, decades-long story arc of democracy-building in Chile that provides the rest of the world an example of how progressive social change can be achieved.

      My other line of research focuses on mental illness advocacy as part of diversity and inclusion frameworks and trauma-informed approaches to teaching adults—applied work I have conducted in partnerships with local agencies and social service organizations. As a scholar-activist, my goal for this research is to affect change in the way we support adults who have experienced trauma by implementing trauma-informed support systems in classrooms, workplaces, and community settings.

      What intersections do you see between the HIA fellowship and your research? 
      Transnational allyship is the cornerstone of both Humanity in Action's work and my own work and research in Chile. I plan to use what I'm learning during my fellowship year about intersectional approaches to fighting injustice to shape how I engage with the women I talk to for my dissertation research and how I represent their stories.  Thinking critically about researcher positionality is central to my study, and working within my international John Lewis Fellowship cohort has helped me learn (and unlearn) important lessons about being an active ally and co-conspirator.

      Do you currently hold any assistantships or other positions related to your field of study?
      I hold a Doctoral Research Assistant position through which I serve as the Coordinator for Texas State's College of Education Programs in Chile. In this role, I conduct outreach to our educational partners in Chile and speak to Chilean students interested in studying at Texas State. The College of Education at Texas State has a long history of engagement in Chile, and I support initiatives like last fall’s 100,000 Strong in the America’s exchange program that brought 9 Chilean undergraduates to our campus to study alongside Texas State education majors.

      What did you learn about the process of applying for the HIA Fellowship program and what do you think contributed to your selection as an awardee?
      I learned that group interviews are an entirely different animal than traditional interviews!  My tips for anyone faced with a group interview scenario include keeping your responses brief (my number one piece of advice), taking notes of everyone’s names and responses so you can use these in your own answers to demonstrate active listening, engaging the other interviewees before the interview starts to model collegiality, and maintaining a sense of collegiality throughout the interview by smiling and listening intently to the other candidates. It’s important to not view them as competition—all of you might advance, after all—and demonstrate to the interviewers how well you can work with other people.

      I think I was selected because I spent a lot of time and energy on my application materials and was very prepared for the virtual group interview thanks to The Graduate College's external funding coordinators, Dr. Brian Smith and Dr. Andrea Hilkovitz!

      What advice would you give to future applicants?
      Start early! The application is intense, and the word limit for each prompt is really challenging. I spent several days editing my responses to meet the word limits, so beginning the application early is critical.

      It’s important to be genuine and self-reflective in the HIA application to acknowledge the challenges you might experience during the fellowship. It’s also important to cultivate a strong brand for yourself that connects your passions and communicates what you value. My experience in social justice work is broad; I’ve worked in affordable housing, public health, higher education, and national service, but the common thread among all these experiences is a focus on inclusive and equitable community development and women’s rights.  It was important to weave this narrative throughout my application to present a clear picture of myself as a potential fellow to the review committee.

      This interview has been edited for length and clarity.


      Learn more about her accomplishment in Texas State's Newsroom.

    • Alex Guzman

      The Graduate College is delighted to announce that Alex Guzman has been selected as an awardee in the 2020 National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) competition! The NSF GRFP recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in STEM and NSF-supported social science disciplines who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees. Fellows receive an annual stipend of $34,000 and full tuition and fees for up to three years.

      Alex applied for the GRFP while still an undergraduate at Texas State. He currently is pursuing a Master of Science in population and conservation biology under the supervision of Dr. Chris Nice. He completed his Bachelor of Science in biology from Texas State in August 2020 with a major in wildlife biology and a minor in business administration. An Undergraduate Research Fellowship (URF) recipient, Alex was a member of the 2019 STEM Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) program cohort and is a recipient of the TXST Department of Biology’s Francis Rose Undergraduate Research Award. He was also a member of a select group of diverse undergraduates invited to attend—with full funding—the 2019 Annual Conference to Increase Diversity in Mathematical Modeling and Public Health, hosted by the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. 

      Motivated by an interest in human biology, Alex began his undergraduate career with a pre-dental concentration, later switching his focus from the biology of human health to the biology of ecological health and conservation physiology to study the biological impact of human behavior on various organisms.  It was through Alex’s research for his SURE program project, “The Effects of Urbanization on Life-history traits in Gambusia affinis,” advised by Dr. Caitlin Gabor, that the process of conducting scientific research was introduced as a viable career path. 

      Currently, Alex’s research examines local water samples for endocrine disrupters—chemical compounds that can disrupt the body’s hormonal systems and cause numerous health problems—by analyzing the biological chemistry of Gambusia affinis, a small fish native to Texas, commonly known as the western mosquitofish. Gambusia acts as an indicator species, providing insights about the ecological health of local environments and the toxins present within it. Alex’s work highlights the importance of biological and ecological diversity, and he hopes it broadly demonstrates the need for funding eco-toxicology research.

      The GRFP application asks applicants to consider the ways receiving the fellowship would contribute to broad societal impacts, as individuals, and through the applicants’ research projects. Having been raised in a Hispanic household, Alex reflected on the importance of bringing “people from the margins” into the sciences during the process of applying for the GRFP— women, LGBTQiA individuals, and members from other underrepresented communities.  To anyone interested in this award, Alex enthusiastically and supportively declares, “don’t talk yourself out of applying!”


      Learn more about his accomplishment in Texas State's Newsroom.

    • Alexis Baide

      The Graduate College is pleased to announce that Alexis Baide has been selected as an awardee in the 2020 National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) competition! The NSF GRFP recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in STEM and NSF-supported social science disciplines who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees. Fellows receive an annual stipend of $34,000 and full tuition and fees for up to three years.

      Alexis is a second-year master’s student in the Department of Anthropology, majoring in biological anthropology. A frequent Dean’s List honoree during her undergraduate degree, she graduated with a Bachelor of Science in anthropology from Texas State in 2019. Alexis is currently a Graduate Instructional Assistant for ANTH 2414, Biological Anthropology, teaching the course’s accompanying laboratory component—a weekly hand-on session that introduces students to the primary tools and methods of the discipline. She enjoys teaching and watching students develop an understanding of new concepts. “My duty is to make sure that all students understand the course material. I feel good when my students do well.” 

      A first-generation college student who was raised by a single mom, Alexis grew up helping her mom raise her siblings and says that transitioning from the responsibilities of family life to the responsibilities of academia was difficult—but adds, “it’s important to have more diversity in academia.” Early in her life, a general interest in puzzles led Alexis to develop a specific interest in the science of criminology and a desire to become a homicide detective, but she recognized the psychological burden that would likely come with a career that requires bringing work home in the pursuit of time-sensitive answers to questions surrounding painful circumstances. She began her undergraduate studies at Baylor with an undecided major, where she took a required university seminar focused on career exploration that introduced her to the field of forensic anthropology. As part of the seminar, she interviewed a retired Texas Ranger who told her about the anthropology department at Texas State, which motivated her to transfer.  A summer internship at the Forensic Anthropology Center at Texas State (FACTS) helped her receive an Undergraduate Research Fellowship to study burial-related disturbances by analyzing soil chemistry, an experience that taught her the importance of methodology.  She gained additional research experience in TXST’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Sites program on the Caribbean island of Sint Eustatius, an 8-week NSF-funded summer internship, where she pursued anthropological and forensic archeology research projects. 

      In her current research, supervised by Dr. Nicholas Herrmann, Alexis analyzes isotopic oxygen ratios in human skeletal remains—molecular signatures resulting from solid and liquid dietary intake—to investigate the extent to which skeletal isotopes can indicate a body’s region of origin. One of her goals is to develop new isotopic analytical methods to detect a skeletal diabetic signature that could be used to identify the remains of someone with diabetes. This research significantly contributes to the richness and complexity of the biological profile associated with an individual’s remains and improves the process of identification, but it can also be used to illuminate the life history of historical remains, which informs researchers about the biological profile of contemporary populations.

      In preparing her GRFP application, Alexis says she learned more about the depth and details of her research because the application requires applicants to understand their research and speak knowledgeably about it, as emerging experts. She also learned about the importance of speaking directly through her writing and how to write more effectively, adding, “Dr. Hilkovitz helped me learn about some of the tendencies in my own writing.” Alexis encourages all applicants to ask for help, saying “I could not have done this without Dr. Hilkovitz,” and to meet regularly with their advisor to discuss their research and develop a strong working relationship. 

      The Graduate College congratulates Alexis for this remarkable achievement!


      Learn more about her accomplishment in Texas State's Newsroom.

    • Samantha Aziz

      The Graduate College is pleased to announce that Samantha Aziz has been selected as an awardee in the 2020 National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) competition! The NSF GRFP recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in STEM and NSF-supported social science disciplines who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees. Fellows receive an annual stipend of $34,000 and full tuition and fees for up to three years.

      What is your academic background?
      Prior to graduating high school, I earned an associate degree at El Paso Community College and spent some time at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). I came to Texas State University immediately after finishing high school, where I developed an interest in human-computer interaction (HCI) research. I graduated in May 2020 with a Bachelor of Science in computer science from Texas State, where I am now pursuing a Ph.D. in computer science.

      What is your current area of research and what significance does it hold?
      I am currently conducting research in the field of eye movement biometrics. Specifically, I am investigating the potential use of eye movement for user authentication in mobile computing devices. Using eye movement for authentication is arguably more secure than existing biometric methods because it is substantially more difficult to spoof eye movement than it is to replicate a person’s fingerprint or facial structure. Research in this area has significant implications for the future of cybersecurity; successfully deploying eye movement-based authentication in ubiquitous mobile devices can make consumers less vulnerable to cybercrime as they perform increasingly sensitive activities online.

      Who is your research advisor?
      Dr. Oleg Komogortsev, Professor in the Department of Computer Science.

      How did you become interested in your field?
      By happenstance! I experienced very little support for STEM career exploration before entering university. Computer science education requires technological resources that many underfunded schools—including mine—were simply not equipped to provide. I cultivated my initial interest in computer science by joining app design competitions and outreach programs hosted by nonprofit organizations, and then by declaring computer science as my major at Texas State. Once I began formal coursework through my major, I became deeply invested in the field, which drove me to start tutoring computer science classes through Texas State’s Supplemental Instruction program and subsequently begin research work under Dr. Komogortsev’s advisement.

      Have you received other honors and awards during your academic career?
      I have received a Doctoral Merit Fellowship from The Graduate College, an Undergraduate Academic Excellence Award from the Department of Computer Science, and a National Merit Scholarship.

      What did you learn about the process of applying for the GRFP and what do you think contributed to your selection as a finalist?
      Building a high-quality GRF application requires a surprising amount of self-reflection. By the time I was finished with the application process, I was able to appreciate the growth I experienced through my academic career. I think that my undergraduate research experience made the biggest contribution to my selection as a finalist. I am very lucky to be involved with research that I am deeply enthusiastic about, and I think that my investment in the topic and excellent research advisor gave me the drive and direction I needed to experience success early in my career.

      What advice would you give to future applicants?
      As you complete your application, it’s important to remember that every GRF applicant is presenting a carefully curated version of themselves! It is dangerously easy to become discouraged by the accomplishments of people who were previously awarded, especially when you start comparing your early personal statement drafts to their polished personal statements. Approaching these statements with the right frame of mind can help you maximize the benefit of reading them in the first place. I gained a lot of insight by focusing on what the authors were trying to convey about themselves through their accomplishments, rather than the accomplishments themselves. Once I started finding character traits with which I identified in other people’s personal statements, it became much easier to write my own personal statement in a meaningful way.

      Are there any other personal or scholastic attributes that you’d like to share?
      I would like to emphasize that I have benefitted tremendously from the strong support system that Texas State has in place for students like me. I can attribute my own success to the support I received through advising, professional development in tutoring/research, and especially through the stellar faculty/staff in the Department of Computer Science.

      This interview has been edited for length and clarity.


      Learn more about her accomplishment in Texas State's Newsroom.

    • Sophia Mavroudas

      The Graduate College is honored to announce Sophia Mavroudas as a 2020 P.E.O. Scholar Award recipient. Founded in 1869, the P.E.O. Sisterhood is a philanthropic and educational organization based in the United States and Canada interested in increasing higher education opportunities for women. The Scholar Award is P.E.O.’s most prestigious award ($15,000 in 2020 – and $20,000 starting in 2021), only 100 of which are awarded to doctoral students across the country each year. Priority is given to women who are well established in their programs, study, or research and will make significant contributions to their varied fields of endeavor. Texas State has now received every award offered at the graduate level from this women’s philanthropic organization: the Scholar Award (PSA), the International Peace Scholarship (IPS), and the Program for Continuing Education (PCE) grant. Sophia was one of three Texas State University doctoral students, along with Ann Marie Cotman (School Improvement) and Christina Lopez (Geography), to win this highly completive award during the 2019-2020 academic year. These three outstanding women are the university's first-ever recipients of the PSA. Congratulations! 

      Sophia is pursuing her Ph.D. in Texas State’s applied anthropology program. She earned a B.A. in anthropology and Hellenic studies cum laude from NYU, where she also earned an M.A. in anthropology. A recent recipient of the Ellis R. Kerley Forensic Sciences Foundation Scholarship, Sophia has also received the Forensic Science Foundation/CRC Press Student Travel Grant and Book Prize, the Top Doctoral Paper award at the 2018 Texas State International Research Conference for Graduate Students, and the Founder's Day Award at NYU for top-ranking graduates. Since 2011, Sophia has served as the Coordinator of the Forensic Anthropology Center at Texas State, where she is responsible for managing the willed body donation program, coordinating student volunteers and outreach efforts, running workshops for domestic and international medico-legal communities, and conducting forensic casework, including scene recoveries and skeletal analysis. She is also a mother of two boys and a stepmother to “a wonderful 9-year-old girl,” stating, “[m]y children and my husband are my greatest treasure. Being friends with other amazing women who are dedicated to making a difference through their work is the other bright spot in my life.”  

      Sophia’s interest in human osteology (the study of skeletal structures) began during her freshman year of college when she attended an archaeological field school in Ireland. What she expected to be an experience of uncovering material artifacts at a medieval church site was instead an experience spent in a trench excavating skeletons from the medieval cemetery associated with the church—and she loved it. Since then she has been chasing opportunities to analyze skeletal remains, whether archaeological or modern, to explore how human bones adapt over time and the ways in which a person's life can be read from the historical clues inscribed in their skeleton.  

      Sophia’s doctoral research, supervised by Dr. Nicholas P. Herrmann, studies human bone microstructures and investigates how those microstructures vary across geographically distinct populations. Exploring this geographic population variation could help anthropologists better understand how genetic and environmental factors affect bone microstructure and how human skeletons have adapted to selective environmental pressures. An element of her research includes investigating how microstructural changes correlate with chronological age. Through this work, she plans to develop a histological (microanatomy) ageing application that can be used by anthropologists across the world to improve age-at-death estimation methods for unidentified individuals in forensic contexts. 

      Despite having received numerous awards, applying for the P.E.O. Scholar Award was the first time Sophia ever had to interview with a committee as part of an award application process, which made her nervous. At the interview, however, she says the women from the local P.E.O. chapters made her feel at ease. Every PSA applicant is nominated by a local P.E.O. chapter, and Sophia was nominated by Chapter IW Texas (Horseshoe Bay). She attributes her success with this award in part to her extensive international academic experience, but adds, “I also think that it is easy for people to understand how my research can help society and positively affect change.” She credits the individuals who wrote letters of recommendation, contributed to her professional development, and supported her career, noting their efforts led to the accomplishments she was able to list in her application. She also thanks the external funding coordinators in The Graduate College, Dr. Andrea Hilkovitz and Dr. Brian Smith, adding, “[they] were critical in shaping my narratives to successfully convey what I do and how passionately I feel about my area of study and my research.” 

      Sophia encourages her fellow graduate students to pursue international collaboration and experiential travel opportunities. “Not only does it expand your viewpoint and research impact, but it is a fascinating and fulfilling hobby.” She also encourages graduate students to apply for small awards in addition to flagship award programs such as the PSA “because every small achievement snowballs into bigger awards.” Finally, she says, “Take chances on applications. You definitely won't get it if you don't try.”

      Recently, Sophia was featured in the funder’s publication, The P.E.O. Record, as one of 11 recipients of the P.E.O. Scholar Award whose news was shared on Twitter. Read Sophia's blurb on page 30 of the July/August 2020 edition (page 32 of the publication PDF).

    • Christina Lopez

      The Graduate College is honored to announce Christina Lopez as a 2020 P.E.O. Scholar Award recipient. Founded in 1869, the P.E.O. Sisterhood is a philanthropic and educational organization based in the United States and Canada interested in increasing higher education opportunities for women. The Scholar Award is P.E.O.’s most prestigious award ($15,000 in 2020– and $20,000 starting in 2021), only 100 of which are awarded to doctoral students across the country each year. Priority is given to women who are well established in their programs, study, or research and will make significant contributions to their varied fields of endeavor. Texas State has now received every award offered at the graduate level from this women’s philanthropic organization: the Scholar Award (PSA), the International Peace Scholarship (IPS), and the Program for Continuing Education (PCE) grant. Christina was one of three Texas State University doctoral students, along with Ann Marie Cotman (School Improvement) and Sophia Mavroudas (Applied Anthropology), to win this highly completive award during the 2019-2020 academic year. These three outstanding women are the university's first-ever recipients of the PSA. Congratulations!

      Christina is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Geography. She earned a Bachelor of Science in environmental geography from Sam Houston State University and a Master of Science in geography from Texas State University. She currently holds a Doctoral Instructional Assistantship in the Department of Geography, where she teaches GEO 2310, “Introduction to Environmental Geography.” A recipient of numerous awards, including the Phi Kappa Phi Love of Learning Award, the American Association of Geographers Student Paper Award, The Graduate College Celebrity Classic Scholarship, and the Hosteling International Explore the World Scholarship, Christina will use the Scholar Award toward the completion of her degree and graduate in May 2021.

      Long enamored by human-environment interactions, Christina has wondered how people live in and interact with their environments since she was child growing up on the beaches of the Texas coast. However, it was not until 2012, on a glass-bottom boat tour at the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment, that she discovered geography was a discipline that could be studied professionally—that the study of earth and human-environment interactions could be a career.

      As an environmental geographer, Christina focuses on the phenomenon of environmental stewardship, in which citizens volunteer on behalf of the environment. Through the practice of community geography, she partners with community and/or nonprofit environmental organizations to help them achieve their objectives by studying the stewardship motivations and practices of volunteers who engage in community-focused environmental projects, including cleaning up litter, removing invasive plant species, and citizen science activities such as water quality testing. The goal of her research, supervised by Dr. Russell Weaver, is to understand human-environment interactions and why people participate in environmental volunteerism. Practical in nature, community geography is a growing practice in the field of geography, owing to a nascent interest within universities and their surrounding communities to create reciprocal partnerships that improve the local environment through geographic information and spatial technologies. By focusing on environmental stewardship, Christina’s research directly benefits organizations that work within societies to improve environmental conditions.

      Every applicant to the Scholar Award program is sponsored by a local P.E.O. chapter, and Christina was sponsored by Chapter HW Texas (Marble Falls). Applying for the PSA challenged Christina to think deeply about several aspects of her career and personal background: how to connect and present seemingly disparate experiences that contribute to her identity; how to describe her research for a non-specialized audience without the use of any jargon (a common challenge in funding applications); and how to show that her work will positively impact society. She attributes her success not only to the help she received from The Graduate College external funding coordinators, who arranged the initial interview and read “MANY awful drafts,” but also to the recommendations of her advisor and dissertation committee members. Perhaps most importantly, she believes her sincere efforts to be honest and authentic in her application materials played a role in being selected as a PSA recipient, showing her journey in higher education “in its true light—off to a rocky, unsure start,” and, in addition to her accomplished academic record, “as someone who tries to improve themselves and help others along the way.”

      Christina recommends that all PSA applicants “set aside ample time” to complete the application, as it “requires reviewing your [entire] adult life,” and she encourages applicants to seek help from the external funding coordinators in The Graduate College. “They are here to help you—and they do a fantastic job!”

    • Ann Marie Cotman

      The Graduate College is honored to announce Ann Marie Cotman (Ph.D., School Improvement) as a 2020 P.E.O. Scholar Award recipient. Founded in 1869, the P.E.O. Sisterhood is a philanthropic and educational organization based in the United States and Canada interested in increasing higher education opportunities for women. The Scholar Award is P.E.O.’s most prestigious award ($15,000 in 2020– and $20,000 starting in 2021), only 100 of which are awarded to doctoral students across the country each year. Priority is given to women who are well established in their programs, study, or research and will make significant contributions to their varied fields of endeavor. Texas State has now received every award offered at the graduate level from this women’s philanthropic organization: the Scholar Award (PSA), the International Peace Scholarship (IPS), and the Program for Continuing Education (PCE) grant. Ann Marie was one of three Texas State University doctoral students, along with Christina Lopez (Geography) and Sophia Mavroudas (Applied Anthropology), to win this highly completive award during the 2019-2020 academic year. These three outstanding women are the university's first-ever recipients of the PSA. Congratulations!

      What is your current area of research and what significance does it hold for your field and for society?
      I am interested in school safety. My dissertation is a hermeneutical analysis of the School Resource Officer training text that is mandated by Texas for all school police officers. National events can put a laser focus on school safety concerns that school leaders must address. School shootings have resulted in deploying thousands of police officers into our educational environments on a full-time basis, but this change must be accompanied by careful consideration of the full range of impacts it has on our school communities, as well as the existing safety concerns that are blurred out of focus when we implement such a change.

      Who is your research advisor?
      Dr. Michael O’Malley, Dean of the College of Education

      What is your brief academic history, including the degrees you've earned and the institutions you've attended? 
      I earned a B.A. in history from Texas A&M and a M.A.T. from The College of New Jersey.

      How did you become interested in your field?
      I have been a teacher for 25 years. I see the valuable work that schools do and how important our education system is. I don’t just mean helping students prepare for a career and achieving – that seems to be a common idea of the role of schools – but how schools care for our children. Guardians and parents entrust the people in schools to keep our children safe and healthy for a big part of the day, and our schools are places where community is created and society is reinvented.

      Do you currently hold any assistantships or other positions related to your field of study?
      Currently, I work part-time as an instructional interventionist at Manor High School in Manor ISD. I see every working day the absolute importance of school safety.

      Have you received other honors or awards during your academic career?
      I was excited to be a National Merit Scholar and Presidential Scholar at Texas A&M, but I was even more excited to win the Outstanding Undergraduate Thesis award from the College of Liberal Arts for my original research – I think it gave me the research bug. As a master’s student, I won the college’s award for outstanding graduate student for my graduating year. And now, to earn the P.E.O. Scholar Award as a doctoral student…I’m very excited that others see value in my work.

      What did you learn about the process of applying for the P.E.O. Scholar Award, and what do you think contributed to your selection as a finalist?
      My favorite part of the process was getting to share my research with curious and intelligent women outside of the world of doctoral life. I am so gratified that others see the importance and urgency of this work.

      What advice would you give to future applicants?
      My advice is two-fold: 1. Reach out to The Graduate College for support with your application writing.  They have invaluable insight into this process. After all, while this may be your first time writing this type of application, they have been through the process countless times; and 2. Lean into the process as a great learning opportunity for yourself.  Writing the application helped me sharpen how I present my ideas and learn to toot my own horn, both skills I can see are important as I move forward in academia.

      Every applicant to the Scholar Award program is nominated by a local P.E.O. chapter. Ann Marie was nominated by Chapter HW Texas (Marble Falls).

      This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

    • Shanna High

      Shanna High has been selected as an alternate for a Boren Fellowship to study in Brazil during the 2020-2021 academic year. Shanna is currently a master’s student in the Department of Anthropology with a focus in biological anthropology. If promoted to awardee status, Shanna will study Portuguese in Florianopolis, Brazil, through the University Studies Abroad Consortium at the Federal University of Santa Catarina.

      The David L. Boren Fellowships are sponsored by the National Security Education Program (NSEP), a federal initiative designed to build a broader and more qualified pool of U.S. citizens with foreign language and international skills. The fellowships provide U.S. graduate students with resources to acquire language skills and experience in countries critical to the future security and stability of the United States. In exchange for funding, Boren award recipients agree to work in the federal government for a period of at least one year. “The National Security Education Program,” according to Dr. Michael A. Nugent, Director of the Defense Language and National Security Education Office (DLNSEO), “is helping change the U.S. higher education system and the way Americans approach the study of foreign languages and cultures.”  

      A lifelong career goal of Shanna’s is to work for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) as a forensic scientist or anthropologist. She hopes to use the skills of handling and analyzing humans remains she has gained through the Forensic Anthropology Center at Texas State (FACTS) and the center’s Operation Identification (OpID) program, where she works with migrant remains to identify, and ultimately repatriate, individuals whose bodies were discovered along the Texas-Mexico border. Driven by a passion to make the largest possible impact on the lives of immigrants, Shanna believes a career in federal service can help her provide the basic human rights immigrants deserve when trying to cross the border and will allow her to provide a path to closure for families who have lost a loved one – creating a safer country through forensics.

      This year, the Institute of International Education (IIE), which administers the awards on behalf of NSEP, received 784 applications from undergraduate students for the Boren Scholarships and awarded 217; 268 graduate students applied for the Boren Fellowships and 119 were awarded. The selected Boren Scholars and Fellows intend to study in 44 countries throughout Africa, Asia, Eurasia, Latin America, and the Middle East. They will study 46 different languages. The most popular languages include Mandarin, Arabic, Russian, Portuguese, Korean, French, Turkish, and Indonesian. Given the unprecedented global COVID-19 pandemic, IIE will work flexibly with 2020 awardees to ensure that as many as possible are able to proceed with their overseas language study when it is safe and feasible to do so.

    • Chris Pierce

      The Graduate College is pleased to announce that Chris Pierce, a PhD student in the Department of Geography, was selected as an alternate for the Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) and the Boren Fellowship. CLS is a fully-funded, intensive overseas language and cultural immersion program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. Boren Fellowships provide up to $24,000 for U.S. graduate students to study languages in world regions that are critical to U.S. interests and integral to the applicants’ professional goals. Chris applied to study Korean through CLS in the southern city of Gwangju or Busan, South Korea. His Boren application proposed to study Korean at Hanyang University’s campus in Ansan, South Korea, through an international exchange program with Texas State University.

      Chris graduated from the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) in 2012 with a Bachelor of Arts in communicative sciences & disorders and received a Master of Arts in geography from UNI in 2018. After graduating with his bachelor’s degree, he started learning Korean as an English teacher in the Korean government’s Teach and Learn in Korea (TaLK) Program – a Ministry of Education program that supports English education in the country’s rural regions. Based in Gangwon province, Chris began to learn the Korean alphabet, vocabulary, and essential phrases. When he returned to the United States, he continued studying the language independently, which he later supplemented with formal instruction at Austin Korean School when he moved to Central Texas to pursue his PhD in geography.

      Born in Iowa and raised without knowledge of the Korean side of his Korean-American cultural heritage, Chris is motivated to learn the Korean language not only by his research interests and professional goals but also by a desire to discover more about his family history and intersectional cultural identity. His doctoral research focuses on how emerging destinations, such as South Korea, are responding to international migration changes in the wake of U.S. policy decisions to reduce refugee resettlement admissions and institute travel bans from designated countries. He hopes to apply his knowledge of cartography and geographic information systems to illustrate the shifting transnational movements of migrants amidst this change and analyze the spatial relationships of resettlement, economic development, and intelligence activities. With a long-term interest in federal service – one of the preferred selection criteria of the Boren Fellowship – Chris is interested in a career with the Department of Homeland Security, specifically focusing on immigration issues with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Developing Korean language skills and cultural knowledge will prepare Chris to review government policies, interview organizational leaders, and conduct qualitative research with native speakers.

      With help from The Graduate College external funding coordinators, Dr. Andrea Hilkovitz and Dr. Brian Smith, as well as his advisor, Dr. Sarah Blue, Chris was able to submit strong applications for both awards. In addition to working with a team of advisors, Chris recommends that all applicants “start early” because competitive applications like CLS and Boren require time “to write the best possible essay responses.”

      Typically, applicants selected as alternates can be promoted to scholarship recipients if more funding becomes available. However, all 2020 CLS summer language programs were suspended in March in response to the Department of State’s Health Advisory that concerns the global impact of international travel on the spread of COVID-19. If selected as a Boren fellow, Chris’s fellowship program will begin in February 2021 but may be rescheduled pending global travel advisories from the U.S. Department of State.

    • Chisom Ogoke

      Chisom Ogoke
      M.F.A., Creative Writing (Fiction)
      Fulbright Program: English Teaching Assistant (ETA), Spain

      In 2019, first-generation Nigerian American Chisom Ogoke graduated from Texas State with honors, receiving her B.A. in both English and anthropology. Her interests in Spanish language and culture began when she started learning the language in middle school. After taking Spanish literature during her senior year of high school, Chisom found a passion reading the works of notable authors like Gabriel García Márquez, whose style of writing she infused into a creative undergraduate honors thesis that combined both her majors. If selected as a Fulbright ETA, she will work in primary, secondary, or university educational settings, assisting teaching staff and students for a full academic year. Her goals following the ETA program are to use what she learns and experiences abroad to enrich her classroom as a TA for the Texas State English Departmentand all her future classrooms as she pursues her dream career of teaching English in numerous countries abroad.

    • Mael Le Noc

      The Graduate College proudly congratulates Maël Le Noc for receiving a 2020 Phi Kappa Phi Dissertation Fellowship. Maël is one of only ten recipients nationwide of this prestigious award and is Texas State University’s first-ever student to be selected as an awardee. The highly competitive $10,000 fellowship is awarded annually to active members of the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi who are doctoral candidates and are completing dissertations. The award provides financial support during the dissertation writing process to candidates whose projects demonstrate a high degree of originality and significant potential for advancing knowledge in the candidate’s discipline.

      Born in France, Maël has always been interested in geography and history because of their capacity to elucidate the world around us – through examining stories of lived experience and historical events in the context of the geographical places that contain them. He completed his undergraduate studies in his home country at the Université Rennes 2, where he pursued degrees in both geography and history, in part because he could not decide between the two. During his last year of undergraduate, he studied abroad as an exchange student at Texas State and decided to stay in Central Texas to pursue a Master of Science in Geography at Texas State. During his first semester of graduate studies he met Dr. Alberto Giordano, who studies the Holocaust and other genocides through a geographical framework, and whose work fascinated Maël, as it combined his preferred subjects of history and geography using contemporary digital humanities techniques. What began as a small project with Dr. Giordano turned into Maël’s master’s thesis, which investigated family separations during the Holocaust in Italy. Since then, Maël has continued to study the geography of the Holocaust as a PhD student at TXST, focusing on personal histories and historical events in Paris, France during and after the Second World War.

      Maël’s doctoral research, supervised by Dr. Giordano, investigates the effect of anti-Jewish persecution and the Holocaust on the spatial distribution, practices, and experiences of the Jewish population of two neighborhoods in Paris’s third arrondissement. Using both quantitative data (archival material produced by perpetrators and administrations) and qualitative data (written testimonies and audio recordings of the victims), he examines how experiences of persecution diffuse through the activities of daily life and map onto these neighborhoods, exploring how the aggregate spatial distribution of persecution can powerfully transform the perception, experience, and meaning of these places for the people who inhabit them. Although he studies historical occurrences of persecution, Maël’s research aims to broadly theorize the geographical complexion of oppression in a way that can be applied to contemporary instances as well. The goal is to better understand persecution and oppression – and how people respond to it – and to further our understanding of the ways violence and space interact.

      As a write-up fellowship, the financial support from this Phi Kappa Phi award has allowed Maël to defer his graduate assistantship to spring 2021 and fully dedicate his efforts to the time-consuming process of data analysis and completing his dissertation. This fellowship has also allowed Maël to extend his research timeline and analyze approximately 30 additional survivors’ testimonies from the collections at the USC Shoah Foundation Center for Advanced Genocide Research, where he completed a residency last fall as the Margee and Douglas Greenberg Research Fellowship awardee. He is currently evaluating his quantitative and qualitative findings in order to theorize “the geography of persecution.”

      Asked what advice he would give to future applicants, Maël states his primary recommendation is simply “to apply.” He also emphasizes the importance of timing, noting that one of the main lessons he learned from the application process was “to start working on the application early” and to allow time to polish it. “It may be time consuming, but you'll get some funding if you take the time to do it well [and] target relevant opportunities. Make lists of which opportunities you might apply to later, even if it is not yet the right year to apply.” Finally, he mentions that students should talk with their advisors, as well as with other students, and he strongly emphasizes that all applicants should work with The Graduate College external funding coordinators, Dr. Andrea Hilkovitz and Dr. Brian Smith.

    • Mael Le Noc

      Geography doctoral candidate Maël Le Noc has been awarded residency fellowships from the University of Southern California’s Shoah Foundation Center for Advanced Genocide Research and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) to support his dissertation research on the geography of persecution during the Holocaust.

      The Shoah Foundation’s Margee and Douglas Greenberg Research Fellowship is awarded annually to a PhD candidate by a panel of USC faculty & researchers who vet proposals for their originality and potential to make advancements in the field of genocide research through the use of testimonies in the Center’s Visual History Archive, where fellows spend up to a month in residence. The Fred and Maria Devinki Memorial Fellowship, from the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, supports advanced (ABD) doctoral candidates whose dissertations address the Holocaust in order to develop a new generation of Holocaust scholars.

      Maël’s doctoral research, supervised by Dr. Alberto Giordano, investigates the effect of anti-Jewish persecution and the Holocaust on the spatial distribution, practices, and experiences of the Jewish population of two neighborhoods in Paris’s third arrondissement. Using both quantitative data (archival material produced by perpetrators and administrations) and qualitative data (written testimonies and audio recordings of the victims), Maël aims to generalize his findings in order “to theorize the way direct and structural violence combine at the local scale in the context of persecution and how persecution transforms the victims’ everyday lives and experiences, in particular in familiar places.” Although he studies historical occurrences of persecution, Maël’s research aims to broadly theorize the geographical complexion of oppression in a way that can be applied to contemporary instances as well. The goal is to better understand persecution and oppression – and the role of space in the evolution and escalation of violence.

      Maël spent a month in-residency during the fall 2019 semester at USC’s Shoah Foundation Center for Advanced Genocide Research, where he researched testimonies from two Parisian neighborhoods central to his dissertation project – the Arts-et-Métiers and the Enfants-Rouges – by accessing data in the foundation’s Visual History Archive (VHA). The testimonies from this collection provided Maël with qualitative data crucial to analyzing the impact of persecution on the lived experience in the day-to-day lives of the people who inhabited and traversed the public and private spaces nested in these neighborhoods. His residency culminated in an online guest lecture, hosted by the foundation, that was attended by an international audience from North America, Europe, and Australasia, in which he discussed his research and the data he collected from the VHA.

      Halfway through his residency at the Shoah Foundation, the USHMM notified Maël that he had been selected as an annual fellow at the museum’s Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies. Since both institutions possess the same testimony data in their collections, but not the same resources to access survivor information, Maël decided to spend the remainder of his USC residency compiling a database of testimonies whose qualitative elements he could research and analyze during his USHMM fellowship.

      Maël’s Mandel Center fellowship award covers a five-month consecutive residency period, beginning in September 2020, and includes a monthly stipend to offset the cost of housing and other living expenses, as well as a travel stipend for roundtrip transportation to Washington, D.C. During his USHMM residency, Maël will analyze recorded victim testimonies in an effort to spatially situate practices of persecution during the Holocaust. He will also spend time comparing qualitative testimonial data and quantitative archival data to investigate if and when they corroborate and/or contradict each other. During the residency, he will have access to the Museum’s extensive resources, which, according to the USHMM, includes approximately 102 million pages of Holocaust-related archival documentation; library resources in over 60 languages; hundreds of thousands of oral history, film, photo, art, artifacts, and memoir collections; a Holocaust survivors and victims database; plus over 200 million images from the International Tracing Service archive Digital Archive – a collection containing more than 200 million digital images of documentation on the victims of Nazism.

      Like many dissertation projects, Maël’s dissertation relies on historical and archival data housed in institutional repositories. One notable aspect of his doctoral research, however, is that he incorporated external funding opportunities into his dissertation research regimen to financially support both the research and writing aspects of his dissertation, resulting in funding awards from three separate funders – Shoah, USHMM, and the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi. Asked to comment on how other doctoral students might go about implementing this same strategy for their dissertation projects, Maël suggests, “apply to as many relevant opportunities as you can. The more you apply, the more you learn about applying, and the more you refine your project, and the better your applications become.” He strongly emphasized the importance of conveying relevance and significance of one’s research project and writing about it in a way that is suited for generalized audiences, so that reviewers from multiple disciplines can see a project’s broad potential, not just the applicant’s discipline. For help with this important aspect of applying for external funding, he suggests all applicants should seek advice from the external funding coordinators in The Graduate College.

    • Justin Gorney

      Justin Gorney
      M.A., Literature
      Fulbright Program: English Teaching Assistant (ETA), Germany 

      Justin Gorney completed his bachelor’s degree at the University of North Texas, majoring in rhetoric & writing and minoring in theatre. Born on an army base overseas, Justin was often told by his parents while growing up that they “brought the wrong kid home from Germany,” which incited his fascination in German language and culture, but it wasn’t until his undergraduate career that he was able to start learning and experiencing the language. If selected for the Fulbright ETA award, Justin will teach English to middle or high school students and perform American-style comedy in his local host community. Justin is looking forward to further developing his German language skills as well as exploring the full range of German culture. After the insights gained from this experience, Justin plans to enroll in law school and work in communities with close German ties.

  • 2019

    • Devora Gleiber

      The Graduate College is pleased to announce Devora Gleiber as an awardee of the 2019 National Institute of Justice (NIJ) Graduate Research Fellowship in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (GRF-STEM). The NIJ GRF-STEM supports outstanding doctoral students engaged in research in topic areas that are relevant to preventing and controlling crime and ensuring the fair and impartial administration of criminal justice in the United States. Fellows receive up to $50,000 per year, with up to three years of support, for a maximum total award of $150,000. Each award year includes a $35,000 stipend and up to $15,000 for tuition and fees and research-related expenses. NIJ received approximately 150 applications last year across both the STEM and Social and Behavioral Sciences (SBS) tracks and selected only 24 Graduate Research Fellows nationally. Of the 14 GRF-STEM awardees in 2019, two are from Texas State: Devora and Courtney Siegert. These students are also Texas State’s first Graduate Research Fellows.

      Devora is a doctoral student in applied anthropology with a focus on biological anthropology. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology from Brandeis University and a Master of Arts in anthropology from Texas State University. Devora currently holds a Doctoral Instructional Assistantship (DIA) and Doctoral Research Assistantship (DRA). Her DIA position is in the anthropology department, where she assists Dr. Deborah Cunningham with her undergraduate course “History of Evolutionary Thought.” As a DRA, Devora works with Dr. Daniel Wescott, Dr. Cunningham, and researchers at Johns Hopkins University on an NSF-funded grant project to investigate the effect of obesity on trabecular bone architecture (porous bone with a structural support function) across multiple elements and sites in the human skeleton. 

      Devora originally wanted to study marine biology. She grew up in laboratory environments, spending time in her father’s food and water testing laboratory. The tools and methods of science fascinated her, but early life experiences of traveling to classical archeological sites had also cultivated an interest in history. These dual interests of science and historical research would lead to a series of life-changing field school experiences. During her Dig-for-a-Day field school experience in Israel, Devora uncovered a love of archeology and decided to pursue both anthropology and biological sciences for her bachelor’s degree at Brandeis University, where, in a human osteology (skeletal structures) class, she became fascinated with forensic anthropology. During a summer field school experience in Spain, she began studying biblical archeology and paleoanthropology, which led to studying paleoanthropology abroad in Kenya and forensic anthropology in London during her junior year, but she could choose only one discipline to study for her master’s degree. While both fields, to an extent, engage in a living process of uncovering the past through the exploration of human remains, the experiential and concrete nature of forensic anthropology—as opposed to the more speculative nature of paleoanthropology—motived Devora’s choice to pursue her master’s degree in forensic anthropology at Texas State University. With Dr. Wescott as her adviser, Devora’s master’s thesis was the first thesis at TXST to use a new micro-CT high-resolution imaging system in the Grady Early Forensic Anthropology Laboratory acquired through an NSF grant. The scanner allows for nondestructive examination and virtual reconstruction of human remains.

      Devora’s dissertation research, supervised by Dr. Wescott, is a continuation of her master’s thesis. Using the micro-CT scanner, she examines trabecular bones of the lower extremities of mobility-impaired populations (amputees, paraplegics, and individuals with cerebral palsy) and compares the bone structures of these populations to those of non-mobility impaired populations to investigate how lack of mobility contributes to the formation of human skeletal structures. "Studying all the samples that people typically eliminate from their studies," Devora sifts through data of this understudied group to more confidently determine which structural skeletal changes are due to load-bearing mobility forces and which structural elements are innate, with a goal of establishing a set of biological baseline factors. Knowing more precisely how mobility affects bone structure could lead to specific mobility-impairment signatures that would allow forensic caseworkers to more accurately identify individuals from these vulnerable populations. Devora’s dissertation work also broadly examines baseline bone structures that are not due to mechanical factors, adding robustness to research on locomotive patterns of historical primate populations and their subsistence patterns, which have built-in assumptions of locomotion. These distinctions—all inferred from trabecular structure—are necessary to make inferences about present-day and archeological populations. 

      Asked what she learned about applying for the NIJ GRF award and what she thinks contributed to her selection as an awardee, Devora credits her advisor, Dr. Wescott, and Dr. Andrea Hilkovitz, one of the external funding coordinators in The Graduate College, with whom she worked on her GRF application.  Asked what advice she would give to future applicants, Devora says, "Don't doubt yourself. Trust that you've been guided in the right direction…and try your best. That's all you can do.”

    • Courtney Siegert

      The Graduate College is pleased to announce that Courtney Siegert was selected as an awardee in the 2019 National Institute of Justice (NIJ) Graduate Research Fellowship in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (GRF-STEM) program competition. The NIJ GRF-STEM supports outstanding doctoral students engaged in research in topic areas that are relevant to preventing and controlling crime and ensuring the fair and impartial administration of criminal justice in the United States. Fellows receive up to $50,000 per year, with up to three years of support, for a maximum total award of $150,000. Each award year includes a $35,000 stipend and up to $15,000 for tuition and fees and research-related expenses. NIJ received approximately 150 applications last year across both the STEM and Social and Behavioral Sciences (SBS) tracks and selected only 24 Graduate Research Fellows nationally. Of the 14 GRF-STEM awardees in 2019, two are from Texas State: Courtney and Devora Gleiber. These students are also Texas State’s first Graduate Research Fellows.

      Courtney is a doctoral student in applied anthropology with a focus on biological anthropology. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology from The University of Texas at Austin, with a focus in archaeology and a minor in history. She earned a Master of Arts from Texas State University in anthropology with a focus in biological anthropology. In addition to the NIJ award, Courtney was selected this year as the Outstanding Doctoral Student for the College of Liberal Arts, and she recently won a travel grant from the Forensic Science Foundation to support the cost of attendance at the 72nd annual meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. 

      Courtney’s academic career in anthropology began unexpectedly by fulfilling the humanities requirement for her undergraduate degree. Having started as a biology major – motivated by a then nascent interest in evolutionary theory – she enrolled in an introductory course in historical archaeology. One class session featured a guest speaker who discussed the excavation of La Salle's La Belle in Matagorda Bay, which inspired her to switch majors from biology to anthropology. In another course, “Anthropological Genetics and Human Variation,” Courtney discovered that the subdiscipline of biological anthropology incorporates evolutionary theory within an anthropological framework. Finding her two primary interests married in a single discipline, a clear path emerged. 

      Courtney’s dissertation research, supervised by Dr. Kate Spradley, aims to develop new analytical forensic tools to improve the identification of individuals considered to be Hispanic – a population with high rates of misclassification due to insufficient biological and physiological reference data. She is currently a Doctoral Research Assistant for the Operation Identification (OpID) service-learning project in the Forensic Anthropology Center at Texas State (FACTS). The project's mission is to facilitate the location, identification, and repatriation of unidentified migrants who die crossing the US-Mexico border in Texas. In addition to skeletal analysis and case management, she coordinates seasonal fieldwork and helps manage project mapping through GIS. Through this work, Courtney has discovered a deep significance in applying forensic science research to missing persons investigations, and she recognizes that this meaningful work is, at its heart, community service, providing closure and support to the bereaved. 

      The NIJ application process is complex, and Courtney solicited assistance from an expert team to navigate the requirements and prepare a competitive application. The team included her advisor, departmental faculty and colleagues, and Dr. Andrea Hilkovitz, external funding coordinator in The Graduate College. Dr. Hilkovitz not only helped advise Courtney’s application materials, she also served as a liaison with the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs (ORSP) during the drafting and submission process. Though the process was complex, Courtney reflects that the process helped her learn “grant proposal language. It was a really eye-opening experience. The writing process was a process of discovery for me.” 

      Courtney advises all applicants to start their applications early, adding “even though you are going to be stressed and sleep-deprived, you can only be awarded things that you actually apply for, and the stress is worth it!” However, she believes even unsuccessful funding applications are worthy endeavors, especially for graduate students, because the process of discovery inherent in the funding application process leads to improved dissertation/thesis research and future grant submissions. 

      Courtney emphasizes that this application would not have been successful without the continued support of her family, colleagues, and friends. The Graduate College congratulates Courtney for this remarkable accomplishment. 

    • The Graduate College is pleased to announce that five Texas State students received the Phi Kappa Phi Love of Learning Award in 2019. This $500 award helps active Phi Kappa Phi members fund post-baccalaureate professional development pertaining to their graduate studies, ranging from costs associated with doctoral dissertations, continuing education, career development, and travel expenses for teaching, research, and/or learning.

      The awardees include: 

      Laura Brackney – M.M. student in music with a concentration in composition

      Joshua Brian Hodge – Ph.D. student in geography

      Meagan Hoff – Ph.D. student in developmental education

      Amy Jiang – M.Ed. student in management of technical education

      Melody Martinez – M.S. student in aquatic resources

      Amy Jiang sought out assistance from The Graduate College's external funding advising services to prepare her application. She received her Bachelor of Engineering degree from the Beijing Institute of Technology in 2001 and a Postgraduate Diploma in Education and Developmental Psychology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in 2003. She had been searching for a master’s degree program to advance her education while working full time and raising a young child when the MEd program from the Department of Organization, Workforce, and Leadership Studies (OWLS) stood out because of its unique design for non-traditional students and its connections to her two primary fields—education and management. She graduated from the program in December and plans to advance to a leadership position at this stage of her career, in a role that allows her to facilitate positive organizational change. 

      An active life-long adult learner, Amy’s primary educational goal is to continue learning—a fitting goal for a Love of Learning Award recipient. She appreciates that the award recognizes her academic achievement, but, more importantly, she values its support of her commitment to helping others learn. Amy advises future applicants to believe in the uniqueness of their stories and to work with professionals such as the external funding coordinators in The Graduate College during the application process.

      Congratulations to all on earning this award!

    • Katie Tritsch

      The Graduate College is thrilled to recognize Katie Tritsch as a recipient in the 2019 Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SSARE) Graduate Student Grant competition cycle. Founded in 2000, the Southern SARE Graduate Student Grant program provides funding for master’s and Ph.D. students to conduct one-year or two-year sustainable agriculture research projects that address issues of current and potential importance to the Southern region and the nation. Grantees receive a maximum award amount of $16,500 for project materials and supplies, equipment, sampling and data analysis costs, labor, and travel. Katie is the first-ever Texas State University graduate student to receive this grant. 

      Katie is pursuing an M.S. in the integrated agricultural sciences program in the College of Applied Arts with a focus on agricultural policy and economics. She earned a bachelor’s degree in geography from Texas State in 2012. Her honors thesis reviewed permaculture practices in the U.S.—land stewardship practices focused on creating resilient landscapes of self-reinforcing and self-sustaining crop systems—and investigated the potential integration of permaculture initiatives with institutes of higher education, using TXST as a case study.  Katie also received an Undergraduate Research Fellowship (URF) in 2012 to attend a permaculture conference at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst to learn about permaculture initiatives she could bring to TXST. Receiving that award helped Katie discover she had an aptitude for grant writing. She is currently the Graduate Research Assistant and Program Contact for the Small Producer’s Initiative (SPI) at Texas State, a program with major funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, where she communicates with Texas farmers, organizes the annual "Farm & Food Leadership Conference" in partnership with nonprofits in the state of TX, and conducts workshops and webinars for historically underserved Texas small-scale producers. 

      Raised in the Houston suburbs, Katie was introduced to permaculture gardening during a land stewardship internship at the Aprovecho Sustainability Education Center in Cottage Grove, Oregon during her undergraduate degree, after which she founded the PERMIES initiative in the Department of Geography and began volunteering on local farms. She then spent several years managing diversified organic vegetable farms in both Texas and California. These experiences gave Katie hands-on insight into the benefits and challenges of sustainable agriculture, engendering a fondness for the tangibility of agricultural work and a deeper understanding of the intangible connections within food systems. They also taught her about the political-economic challenges of sustainable agriculture that motivate her current research. 

      Katie’s Southen SARE research project, “Roadblocks to Success: Needs assessment of small producers in Texas,” advised by Dr. Ken Mix, assesses the needs of small producers in Texas through participatory, mixed methods research. Her goal is to evaluate educational, financial, and policy needs to strengthen a crucial but marginalized sector of the Texas agricultural economy.

      Katie advises applicants to get help from The Graduate College external funding coordinators and strongly emphasizes the importance of formatting throughout external funding applications, as well as the need to be extremely precise on budgets and budget justifications—"especially for federal grants, even for experienced writers and grant applicants.” She also encourages graduate students to "just keep applying” because learning how to apply for funding takes practice.

    • Sophia Mavroudas

      The Graduate College is delighted to announce Sophia Mavroudas, doctoral student in applied anthropology, as a recipient of the Ellis R. Kerley Student Scholarship. Offered by The Ellis R. Kerley Forensic Sciences Foundation, the Kerley Scholarship recognizes students who demonstrate academic excellence and leadership in their communities and a capacity to make a difference in the field of forensic anthropology. The scholarship is awarded based on character, commitment, and merit demonstrated through leadership in school, civic and extracurricular activities academic achievement, and motivation to serve and succeed. Sophia is Texas State University’s first-ever graduate student to receive this award.

      Sophia is pursuing her Ph.D. in Texas State’s applied anthropology program. She earned a B.A. in anthropology and Hellenic studies from NYU, where she also earned an M.A. in anthropology. Her doctoral research, supervised by Dr. Nicholas P. Herrmann, studies human bone microstructures and investigates how those microstructures vary across geographically distinct populations.

      Congratulations, Sophia!

    • Amy OakesAmy Oakes
      M.A., International Studies
      Fulbright Program: English Teaching Assistant, Norway

      Amy received a bachelor’s degree in anthropology with a minor in Japanese from Texas State, since which she has had an interest in applying for a Fulbright grant. When she returned for her graduate degree in international studies, she found the English Teaching Assistant (ETA) Program to be a perfect fit for her. After completing her master’s degree, Amy plans to continue a career in academia as she pursues a Ph.D. to ultimately become a university professor.

    • Luann WilliamsLuann Williams
      M.A., Spanish
      Fulbright Program: English Teaching Assistant, Uruguay

      Luann received a bachelor’s degree in English with a minor in Spanish from Texas State and is currently a master’s student in Spanish. Her knowledge of Spanish has continuously broadened her interest in Latin America and its history; therefore, the opportunity to travel to Uruguay on a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) grant would allow her to immerse herself in a new culture, gain more teaching experience, and ultimately open more doors for her future. If selected, Luann will teach a variety of age groups, ranging from children to adults, as well as enroll in university courses. With a passion for music, she also hopes to explore the country’s music scene and collaborate with local musicians. In addition to continuing to travel, Luann plans to begin a career in teaching after completing her master’s degree, specifically as a Spanish teacher, and potentially become an interpreter one day.

    • Andrea Pinon

      The Graduate College is pleased to announce that Andrea (Andy) Pinon has been awarded the Critical Language Scholarship (CLS). CLS is a fully-funded, intensive overseas language and cultural immersion program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. Andy will be studying Swahili in Arusha, Tanzania, in summer 2019.

      More than 5,000 students apply for this distinguished scholarship each year, and only 10% are selected. Andy’s selection as a finalist also marks the second year in a row that a graduate student at Texas State has received this prestigious award.

      Andy received her M.S. in geography from Texas State University, and she is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in geography. She also completed her B.S. at Texas State, was a Terry Scholar, and graduated from the Honors College. As a first-generation college student, she credits study abroad with enhancing her childhood love of geography; traveling the world and experiencing different cultures, people, and landscapes have increased her awareness of the relationship humans have with the planet.

      Receiving the CLS scholarship is a professional milestone in Andy’s academic career because she will be able to study Swahili in preparation for future dissertation fieldwork in Swahili-speaking parts of central Africa. Specifically, Andy hopes to use her Swahili language skills to research the effects of gorillas on landscape erosion and sedimentation. 

      Andy attributes her success to her regular meetings with external funding coordinator and CLS graduate campus advisor Dr. Andrea Hilkovitz, specifically her insightful and honest comments on her essay drafts. She says, “I truly could not have done this without her!” The Graduate College is very proud of her accomplishment and wishes her the best as she embarks on this exciting opportunity!

    • AJ Singh

      The Graduate College is happy to congratulate Amrit (AJ) Singh, master’s student in communication disorders, on her American Association of University Women (AAUW) International Fellowship. This marks only the second time a Texas State student has received this award! The AAUW is the nation’s leading voice promoting equity and education for women and girls and provides a myriad of programs, including funding, to help support students. The International Fellowship supports full-time graduate and postgraduate study or research in the United States by women who are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents.

      Since only approximately 50 International Fellowships are awarded annually, AJ’s award is a true tribute to her passion for making a difference in the lives of women and her dedication to her studies in neuro, vocal, and swallowing disorders. AJ is from Malaysia, where there is a lack of speech-language pathologists. She became interested in studying communication disorders after her grandmother passed away due to a stroke. She hopes to use her education and training to help individuals like her grandmother.

      AJ believes that, while the application process was hard work, it reaffirmed her that one must put their mind and energy into making something happen. AJ would like to thank external funding coordinator Dr. Andrea Hilkovitz as well as all her recommenders and her family for all their support and for believing in her. 

    • McKensey Miller

      The Graduate College is pleased to announce that McKensey Miller has been selected as an awardee in the 2019 National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) competition! The NSF GRFP recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in STEM and NSF-supported social science disciplines who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees. Fellows receive an annual stipend of $34,000 and full tuition and fees for up to three years.

      McKensey is a first-year student in Texas State University’s master’s program in anthropology, with a focus in biological anthropology. Her research, under the supervision of Dr. Jill Pruetz, focuses on Senegal chimpanzees’ use of microclimates in a savanna-woodland environment as a means of thermoregulation, which has implications for species conservation, climate change, and human evolution. As an incoming master’s student, McKensey was awarded the Texas State Graduate Merit Fellowship.

      McKensey received her undergraduate degree in Zoology and Environmental Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. There, she was awarded the Academic Excellence Scholarship from the state of Wisconsin and a Foreign Language & Areas Studies (FLAS) Fellowship through the African Studies program for her study of Swahili.

      McKensey became interested in her area of study after frequent trips to the zoo as a young child. As an undergraduate she had the opportunity to work for a research facility that worked with primates. Her passion truly became apparent when McKensey worked in Panama at a rehabilitation center for howler and spider monkeys rescued from the pet trade.

      The advice McKensey has for fellow students that are thinking about applying is that, despite all the work, it will be worth it in the end. She encourages students to meet with Dr. Andrea Hilkovitz, external funding coordinator, as soon as possible. Her final piece of advice is “do not sell yourself short.”

      McKensey hopes to become a professor at a university to continue researching primates. She has been lucky enough to have professors that have inspired her and helped fuel her passion and she hopes to one day have the same effect on students. 

    • Megan Veltri

      The Graduate College is pleased to announce that Megan Veltri has been selected as an awardee in the 2019 National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) competition! The NSF GRFP recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in STEM and NSF-supported social science disciplines who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees. Fellows receive an annual stipend of $34,000 and full tuition and fees for up to three years.

      Megan is a first-year student in Texas State University’s master’s program in anthropology, with a focus in biological anthropology. Her research, under the guidance of Dr. Kate Spradley, focuses on using facial asymmetry to understand the biological implications of social race. Megan believes race issues are highly polarized in the United States today. By understanding developmental stress and facial asymmetry, she can assess if people of color are embodying their social race. She focuses on the way that the implications of someone's social race can affect their overall health and well-being in a negative way.

      Megan currently works as a graduate research assistant in the Department of Anthropology as a skeletal analyst, where she estimates the biological profile on human remains from a historic cemetery in Central Texas. During her first semester as a graduate student, she worked as a skeletal analyst and as an instructional assistant in the Department of Biology. She also volunteers with the Forensic Anthropology Center at Texas State (FACTS), where she assists the center with their willed-body donation program, documents donations for the longitudinal decomposition study, and assists the coordinator in courses and outreach through FACTS. Additionally, she volunteers for Operation Identification, a project that aims to identify undocumented migrants that perished while crossing the Mexican border into Texas.

      Megan received her bachelor’s degree from Texas State University, where she was the recipient of the 2015 Sallie Beretta Outstanding Senior Woman Award. As an undergraduate, she served as the President of the Forensic Anthropology Society. In this role, she planned and executed the 2nd Annual Forensic Anthropology Conference. Before returning to Texas State as a master’s student, she worked at Pape-Dawson Engineers, where she assisted the Department of Archaeology as a bioarchaeologist technician. She estimated the biological profile for over 250 human skeletons from another historic cemetery in Texas. Moreover, she aided the group in archaeological surveys and excavations for land development projects.

      Megan encourages prospective applicants to apply even if they think they are not qualified. While it was a great deal of work, she says, “You will meet some amazing people and write some wonderful and exciting research.”

    • Sony Kaur Sandhu

      The Graduate College is pleased to announce that Harpreet (Sony) Kaur Sandhu, master’s student in integrated agricultural sciences, has received the P.E.O. International Peace Scholarship (IPS). The International Peace Scholarship Fund provides scholarships of up to $12,500 for women from other countries to study at the graduate level in the United States and Canada. Members of P.E.O. believe that education is fundamental to world peace and understanding.

      Sony comes from a farming family in Punjab, India, where she completed her B.Sc. in agriculture. As an undergraduate student, Sony was granted a full-ride scholarship her sophomore year and was consistently in the top 5% of her class. Aside from her studies, Sony was a performing artist and acted in more than 50 shows about women and women’s rights.

      A member of the Phi Kappa Phi and Phi Alpha Xi honor societies, Sony is interested in researching agricultural methods, crop genetics, pest control, and economics. Her main focus is on the sweet potato crop, which has abundant possibilities of eradicating childhood malnutrition in developing countries. She says, “My dream is to make this crop successful in the continent of Africa, where the benefit can be maximized.” She hopes to improve the crop yields on sweet potato in countries like Ethiopia, Tanzania, Kenya, and Mozambique to address the increasing food demand. She believes this crop has the potential to not only meet local demand but also enable farmers to export the surplus production and improve national the economy.

      Sony’s advice for future applicants is to “be true to your story.” She plans to pursue a Ph.D. and hopes to be a part of an organization that will focus on world agriculture, allowing her to help where hunger and malnutrition are a problem. Being awarded this scholarship has given her the confidence to advise women in her home country of India by encouraging them to pursue higher studies and be independent. She says, “There is so much opportunity in the world.”
       

    • Shubha Malla

      The Graduate College is pleased to announce that Shubha Malla, doctoral student in the materials science, engineering, and commercialization (MSEC) program, has received the P.E.O. International Peace Scholarship (IPS). The IPS provides up to $12,500 for women from other countries to study at the graduate level in the United States and Canada. Members of P.E.O. believe that education is fundamental to world peace and understanding.
      Shubha is from Nepal, where she is the only woman from her village to pursue a graduate degree. She received her master’s degree from Texas State University in biochemistry and her bachelor’s degree from the University of Charleston, also in biochemistry. She received the People’s Choice Award in this year’s Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) competition at Texas State. She was also awarded the Robert M. Seese International Student Award for Outstanding Achievement in International Education in 2016 and the Graduate College Thesis Research Support Fellowship in 2015.

      Due to her family history of diabetes and cancer, Shubha was driven to learn about the human body and the biochemical mechanisms that regulate it. In addition, being aware of her family’s suffering from diabetes and cancer has motivated her to work towards discovering the solution to such complex diseases. Shubha’s goal is to develop new technologies and innovative techniques for treatment and preventative measures for life-threatening diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s.

      Receiving this award has given her more strength, encouragement, and confidence to continue her education, and she hopes to set an example by motivating young women and empowering their advancement in science and engineering. She says, “My dream is not limited to myself; I aim to make the world a better place.”

      After completing her Ph.D., Shubha’s career goal is to improve women’s health by establishing non-profit clinical health facilities in her home country of Nepal for women of low economic backgrounds. Shubha encourages students to seek help and follow the guidance offered by external funding coordinator, Dr. Andrea Hilkovitz. She says, “It is not only about winning the award; this entire application process has helped me greatly on my personal development.” 

    • Rafea Rea

      The Graduate College is pleased to announce that Rafea Rea, master’s student in integrated agricultural sciences, has received the P.E.O. International Peace Scholarship (IPS). The IPS provides up to $12,500 for women from other countries to study at the graduate level in the United States and Canada. Members of P.E.O. believe that education is fundamental to world peace and understanding.

      Rafea is from Bangladesh, where she completed her undergraduate degree in agriculture from Bangladesh Agriculture University in 2015. She was awarded the National Science and Technology Fellowship in 2015 from the Ministry of Science and Technology in Bangladesh. She was also awarded the Japan-Asian Youth Excellence Fellowship in 2016 from the Japan Science and Technology Agency.

      Her research interests are soil health and plant nutrition, and her current project focuses on the improvement of soil health using eco-friendly materials.

      Rafea says potential applicants should be tenacious in the application process and make a consistent and persuasive story in their essays. Receiving this scholarship has encouraged her to continue her higher education in the U.S. She also believes this will help her accomplish her long-term goal, which is to be an agro-based entrepreneur and work for women’s empowerment.”

    • Moumita Saha

      The Graduate College is pleased to announce that Moumita Saha, master’s student in industrial engineering, has received the P.E.O. International Peace Scholarship (IPS). The International Peace Scholarship Fund provides scholarships of up to $12,500 for women from other countries to study at the graduate level in the United States and Canada. Members of P.E.O. believe that education is fundamental to world peace and understanding.

      Moumita is from Bangladesh, where she earned her B.Sc. in industrial and production engineering from Khula University of Engineering and Technology (KUET). As an undergraduate, Moumita received the KUET student merit scholarship though four years of academic excellence from the Government of Bangladesh.

      Moumita is interested in improving the lives of women working in industrial factories in her home country by studying ergonomics. Her specific research interests are human factors and ergonomics, facility location, optimization and health care management.

      Moumita’s advice to prospective applicants is to “dream big” because one person’s dream can encourage more people to bring good in the world. Once she completes her master’s degree, she plans to pursue a Ph.D. in industrial engineering and apply that knowledge in the real world to bring good changes, especially for women.

    • AJ Singh

      The Graduate College is pleased to announce that Amrit (AJ) Singh, master’s student in communication disorders, has received the P.E.O. International Peace Scholarship. The International Peace Scholarship Fund provides scholarships of up to $12,500 for women from other countries to study at the graduate level in the United States and Canada. Members of P.E.O. believe that education is fundamental to world peace and understanding.

      AJ is from Malaysia and received her bachelor’s degree in communication disorders from the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO). She won the Miss Asian UCO scholarship pageant for the 2016-2017 academic year; utilizing this platform, AJ was able to spread awareness of unity through dance. As an undergraduate, she was the committee chair for the National Conference of Undergraduate Research 2018 Pre-Conference Workshop. She was also a recipient of the UCO Foundation scholarship and the Global and Zafar Farzaneh Scholarship. At Texas State, she has volunteered for Bobcat Babies, which is a program that aims to provide rehabilitation services to children with rare and undiagnosed conditions.

      AJ says she feels “truly honored” to be a recipient of this scholarship. This has encouraged her to help other women pursue an education and become successful. Not only will this scholarship allow her to complete her education, but it will also give her the opportunity to increase awareness of the need for speech-language pathology in her home country of Malaysia.

      AJ says to stick with the process until the end. The process may be rigorous, but she says, if it is done with the right attitude and intention, you may learn a lot about your own strengths and capabilities. She also says to “put in the work, believe in your story, and watch the magic happen.”

    • Chisom Ogoke

      The Graduate College is pleased to announce that Chisom Ogoke has been selected as the recipient of the Phi Kappa Phi Fellowship in a highly competitive national competition.The fellowship in the amount of $8,500 is awarded to members entering their first year of graduate or professional study and who demonstrate outstanding academic achievements and substantial service and leadership experience. Chisom is Texas State's first ever recipient of this highly prestigious fellowship!

      Growing up as a first-generation Nigerian American in North Texas, Chisom graduated from the Honors College with a B.A. in English and anthropology from Texas State. She will begin graduate studies in the creative writing program this Fall. The Graduate College is very proud of her accomplishment and wishes her the best as she embarks on her graduate career!

    • Elyse Greenamyre

      The Graduate College is pleased to announce that Elyse Greenamyre has been selected to receive the 2019-2020 Kenneth H. Ashworth Fellowship. Learn more about her accomplishment in Texas State's Newsroom.

    • Melissa BellThe Graduate College is pleased to announce that Melissa Bell, a student in the public administration master’s program, has been selected by Chapter JI Texas (Austin) of the P.E.O. Sisterhood to receive a $1,000 grant through its Program for Continuing Education. P.E.O. stands for Philanthropic Educational Organization, and its mission is to support educational opportunities for women. The Program for Continuing Education provides need-based grants to women whose education has been interrupted and who return to school to complete a degree that improves their marketable skills for employment.

      Melissa earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in 1998 followed by an associate’s degree in the Interpreter Training Program at Collin County Community College. She currently works for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission’s Office of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services as a program specialist. Before her current position, Melissa worked ten years for a non-profit organization as an advocate for equal access and equal opportunity for persons who are deaf or hard of hearing. She is now pursuing an advanced degree to be able to maximize her contribution to the people her agency serves.

      Melissa appreciates the support of her family and also Dr. Andrea Hilkovitz, who connected her with a P.E.O. chapter. To future P.E.O. applicants, she recommends taking time to follow through with all the steps involved in the grant process from beginning to end.

  • 2018

    • The Graduate College is pleased to announce that seven Texas State students have received the Phi Kappa Phi Love of Learning Award in 2018 Session B. This brings the total number of 2018 awardees from Texas State to eleven—the most of any university!

      The awardees include: Adeniji Adetayo, Ph.D. student in Materials Science, Engineering, and CommercializationUpendra Bahadur Bom, Ph.D. student in GeographyMcKenna Bristow, M.S. student in Population and Conservation BiologyKevin P. Collins, Ph.D. student in Adult, Professional, and Community EducationBrittany M. Davis, Ph.D. student in Adult, Professional, and Community EducationWalter Furness, Ph.D. student in GeographyMegan Krou, Ph.D. student in Developmental EducationShadi Maleki, Ph.D. student in Geographic Information ScienceDamilola Runsewe, international Ph.D. student in Materials Science, Engineering, and CommercializationMahima Sajan Varghese, M.S. student in Engineering; and Sara Weaver, Ph.D. student in Aquatic Resources.

      This $500 award helps active Phi Kappa Phi members fund post-baccalaureate professional development pertaining to their graduate studies, ranging from costs associated with doctoral dissertations, continuing education, career development, and travel expenses for teaching, research and/or learning. Dr. Andrea Hilkovitz, external funding coordinator in The Graduate College, says that Texas State students have continued success in securing the Love of Learning Award. “For the fourth year in a row, Texas State students have been selected as recipients of this award. I encourage all Phi Kappa Phi members to apply for the Love of Learning Award because it can be used to fund many different activities, including travel and research-related expenses.”

      Dr. Hilkovitz also advises prospective applicants to utilize the resources on the Phi Kappa Phi website, such as the sample applications, as well as to request a funding consultation with her if needed for additional assistance. Congratulations to all on earning this award!

    • Jane Heffelfinger

      The Graduate College is pleased to announce that Jane Heffelfinger, currently in the history program, has been selected by Chapter IW (Horseshoe Bay) of the P.E.O. Sisterhood to receive a $1,500 grant through its Program for Continuing Education. P.E.O. stands for Philanthropic Educational Organization, and its mission is to support educational opportunities for women. The Program for Continuing Education provides need-based grants to women whose education has been interrupted and who return to school to complete a degree that improves their marketable skills for employment. This is the first time students from Texas State have applied for and received these grants. 

      Jane was the first in her family to attend college at the age of 49. Now 56, she is currently examining the African-American experience in Texas during the late 19th century through the mid-20th century as it relates to the lost and forgotten histories of African-American military servicemen interred in a local cemetery. Jane learned of this opportunity through our Shop Talks professional development series (and recommends these workshops to all grad students!) and applied shortly thereafter. She’ll be using the grant to visit museums and archives, purchase a new computer and other supplies, and attend two conferences. Congrats, Jane!

    • Dana Minney

      The Graduate College is pleased to announce that Dana Minney, currently in the family and child studies graduate program, has been selected by Chapter IW (Horseshoe Bay) of the P.E.O. Sisterhood to receive a $1,500 grant through its Program for Continuing Education. P.E.O. stands for Philanthropic Educational Organization, and its mission is to support educational opportunities for women. The Program for Continuing Education provides need-based grants to women whose education has been interrupted and who return to school to complete a degree that improves their marketable skills for employment. This is the first time students from Texas State have applied for and received these grants. 

      Dana is currently working as an evaluator for social-emotional learning in a local after-school childcare program as part of her practicum. She heard about the award through The Graduate College’s external funding coordinator, Dr. Andrea Hilkovitz, reaching out to her shortly after she started her graduate program. Though she is grateful that she will be able to upgrade her computer with her grant money, the award means more to Dana than financial support: it also means she is part of a sisterhood of successful, wise women who are working on and unified by the idea of helping women improve their career and life possibilities. Congrats, Dana!

    • Monica Swift

      The Graduate College is pleased to announce that Monica Swift, currently in the interdisciplinary studies with a concentration in occupational, workforce, and leadership studies graduate program, has been selected by Chapter IW (Horseshoe Bay) of the P.E.O. Sisterhood to receive a $1,500 grant through its Program for Continuing Education. P.E.O. stands for Philanthropic Educational Organization, and its mission is to support educational opportunities for women. The Program for Continuing Education provides need-based grants to women whose education has been interrupted and who return to school to complete a degree that improves their marketable skills for employment. This is the first time students from Texas State have applied for and received these grants. 

      Monica, a current employee at Texas State as well, is studying the contract capabilities in research and sponsored programs at Texas State University for her applied interdisciplinary research. She appreciates the support of the Texas State community, especially Dr. Hilkovitz, who guided her through the application process, and the late Dr. Matthew Eichler, who encouraged her to attend graduate school and nominated her for the Graduate Merit Fellowship. To future P.E.O. applicants, she recommends completing the application quickly as applications are reviewed as they are received. Congrats, Monica!

    • Samantha AguirreSamantha Aguirre
      M.S.C.J., Criminal Justice
      Fulbright Program: English Teaching Assistant, Czech Republic
      Texas State Faculty Member: Dr. Donna Vandiver

      Samantha graduated with a B.A. in psychology and criminal justice from The University of Texas at El Paso in 2011. In addition to her selection as a Fulbright semi-finalist, she was also chosen to be one of 40 people in the country to take part in the United Nations Young Professional Programme (YPP) exams. With a background in teaching — she taught math for two years in Title I schools in Austin, TX — she looks forward to teaching abroad at schools where she can gain a global perspective to pedagogical practices. As for her future plans, she will continue to study criminal justice as a doctoral student at Texas State. She is thankful for the Fulbright campus committee members, Dr. Valentina Glajar and Dr. Andrea Hilkovitz, for helping her rework her application to showcase the experiences and qualities that make her a competitive Fulbright applicant. Special thanks to Dr. Donna Vandiver, Samantha’s study abroad professor who supports her love of travel, for her continued encouragement and recommendation to the program. 

    • Patrick FunderburgPatrick Funderburg
      M.F.A., Creative Writing
      Fulbright Program: English Teaching Assistant, France
      Texas State Faculty Member: Drs. Peter Golato and Carole Martin from Modern Languages and Mr. Jason Coates and Dr. Kathryn Ledbetter from English

      Patrick, a former Marine and veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, overhead a conversation in French while deployed and, captivated by its cadence, decided to pursue French academically, eventually graduating with a B.A. in English and French from Texas State. Now, as a first-year student in the M.F.A. program, he's searching between the lines for the minds behind them: his Fulbright Statement of Grant Purpose proposes to develop novel opportunities for English-language learners to read, comprehend, and analyze Southwestern short stories and other American fictions that share common images and themes in French and American culture. Additionally, he would like to emphasize writing not only as a means of building their capacity with the written English word but also as an opportunity to discover a Texan or American perspective through the creative exploration of character, setting, and theme. He plans to infuse his thesis narrative with the experiences and perspectives gained by time in France should he receive the Fulbright award.

    • Meagan HoffMeagan Hoff
      Ph.D., Developmental Education
      Fulbright Program: Fulbright Research Grant, Rwanda
      Texas State Faculty Members: Drs. Lori Assaf, Jodi Holschuh, Sonya Armstrong, and Emily Summers

      Meagan graduated with a B.A. in languages, literatures, and cultures from Colorado State University. She served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Benin from 2007–2009, after which she earned her M.A. in cross-cultural and international education at Bowling Green State University as a Coverdell Fellow. Meagan’s goal is to develop college readiness indicators for a college preparatory program in a refugee camp in Rwanda. Her research project will explore students’ understandings of literacy and education, as well as the skills and strategies —often acquired outside of formal schooling— that serve them in the degree program. After completing her Ph.D. program, Meagan hopes to continue researching education for international refugee populations. Meagan is appreciative of the support provided by Texas State, which ranges from helping with countless rounds of application revisions to offering encouragement and guidance.

    • Rafael Perez in the PT clinicWe are excited to announce that that Rafael Perez has been awarded the Stars Scholarship! The Stars Scholarship Fund awards scholarships to academically talented and highly motivated students who intend to pursue full-time undergraduate, graduate or doctoral degrees the accredited college or university of their choosing.

      Rafael, a first-generation college student from the Rio Grande Valley, is currently finishing up his undergraduate degree in Exercise Science at Texas State and will be continuing on with the doctor of physical therapy program in June. As an undergrad, he was awarded the Henrietta Avent Endowment and worked as a supplemental instructor with SLAC (Student Leaning Assistance Center) and as instructor assistant (IA) position in a lab. He has also been actively involved in the physical therapy community as Vice President and Secretary of the Pre-Physical Therapy Organization, a student worker position for the Texas State PT Clinic, and a volunteer at numerous clinics in central Texas and in the Rio Grande Valley. Eventually, Rafael would like to open his own clinic where he plans on doing pro bono work with patients who are not able to afford physical therapy treatments.

      After having applied for this award every year since high school, Rafael is thrilled to have received it because it lessens the financial burden on his parents and keeps his educational and professional dreams alive. Rafael also has a few tips for future applicants: be timely with your paperwork, take the time to stand out with your professors by getting to know them, and make connections whenever possible!

    • Texas State Students stand in front of a Net Impact posterCongratulations to this year's Texas State Net Impact team on winning first place in the Future of Energy Challenge! The team includes Nikita Demidov (undergraduate in finance), Cedrik Chavez (undergraduate in digital media and innovation), Milad Korde (doctoral student in geographic information science), Muhammad Abdullah (graduate student in mechanical engineering at the University of Michigan). Read the university's official press release for additional details. 

    • Naina Adhikari stands outsideCongrats are in order for Naina Adhikari, a first-generation college student from Nepal, who was recently awarded a scholarship from the American Association of University Women (AAUW) to attend the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders (NCCSWL).

      Naina earned her B.S.W. from Salem State University in 2016. It was there that she first heard about NCCSWL and AAUW. She applied for the AAUW scholarship to attend the 2016 NCCSWL and was delighted to receive a full scholarship. The conference experience left her energized and inspired and gave her a new network of amazing women with whom she is still in touch today. Having such a positive experience two years ago, Naina decided to apply as a graduate student in the international studies program, again securing the scholarship. She is also getting additional funds through The Graduate College’s Graduate Student Travel Funds program. Once she returns, she and a fellow graduate student are planning to open an AAUW student organization at Texas State so other women can benefit from the same support, empowerment, and opportunity that she has received over the years.

      She especially wants to thank Dr. Sandy Rao for writing an amazing recommendation letter for the conference scholarship. Naina is looking forward to her second trip as she feels it will further enhance her networking, people, and leadership skills.

    • Audrey Webb with runner-up of the Judith Barlow Prize Hannah Manikowski in the lobby of Cherry Lane Theatre, New YorkCongratulations to Audrey Webb (pictured left), winner of the Judith Barlow Prize! The prize, offered by the non-profit organization History Matters/Back to the Future, consists of $2,500 cash award plus a public reading at the legendary Cherry Lane Theatre in New York City.

      Audrey, a M.F.A. student in the theatre program for dramatic writing, started her career at Texas State as a publications writer for the Office of University Marketing. She decided to take advantage of the educational opportunities on campus and earned her B.A. in English in 2014. A radio play she wrote for a playwriting course was eventually produced by Shoestring Radio Theatre in San Francisco. She began her graduate studies in literature, but switched gears to pursue her true passion — playwrighting. Over the course of her studies, she has had short plays produced in New York City and in Houston and was named a semi-finalist in the prestigious Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Conference for one of her full-length plays (Imagine That, which will be produced by the Department of Theatre and Dance in October 2018).

      Certainly, one of the biggest highlights of her academic and writing career has been receiving the Judith Barlow Prize. As part of her application, Audrey wrote a one-act play in response to a script written by an historic female playwright, inspired by Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun. Her play, The Only Hills We’ve Ever Had, focuses on the dreams of a mother for her college-bound boy and her attempts to help him escape the snares of the housing project in which they live.

      She is tremendously grateful to the organizers of the Judith Barlow Prize for this chance to have her voice heard and to be introduced to the theatrical community there. Her goal after graduation is to write as much as possible, whether for stage, television, or film — which she feels well-prepared for given the rigorous education she’s received in her master’s program.

      Congratulations, Audrey — we can’t wait to see what’s next!

    • Nakia EdmondThe Graduate College is pleased to announce that Nakia Edmond has received the Critical Language Scholarship. She is the first-ever graduate-level awardee at Texas State University. The CLS is a fully-funded, intensive overseas language and cultural immersion program under the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. She will be studying Mandarin this summer in Changchun, China.

      Nakia began studying Chinese as an undergraduate student at Prairie View A&M University. In the summer of 2016, her Chinese professor encouraged her to study abroad in China. She was the first student to study abroad in Shanghai, China, through CEA Study Abroad. She later became an ambassador for CEA to advocate for other students to invest in study abroad and to learn a new language. After graduating with her BSCJ in 2017, she started her graduate studies in the international studies program at Texas State. She plans on getting her Ed.D. in international education with an ultimate goal of becoming an education abroad director for a university. In this role, she hopes to create partnerships with foreign universities that will increase opportunities to study abroad for both undergraduate and graduate students and to inspire college students to travel the world to gain a global perspective. 

      In applying for the CLS, she has learned the importance of teamwork, revisions, and honest self-appraisal. Nakia advises other students interested in applying for funding to get personal with essays, use all resources available on campus for guidance during the application process (even if it means multiple revisions), and, finally, to send it off with hopes and prayers!

    • Aarthy PalaniThe Graduate College is pleased to announce that Aarthy Palani, master’s student in the healthcare administration program, has received the Philanthropic Educational Organization (P.E.O.) International Peace Scholarship (IPS). The IPS provides up to $12,500 for women from other countries to study at the graduate level in the United States and Canada. Members of P.E.O. believe that education is fundamental to world peace and understanding.

      Aarthy is from Chennai, a city in southern India. She received her Bachelor of Dental Surgery from Tamil Nadu Dr MGR Medical University. Part of her goal after her studies was to spread awareness about cancer prevention and healthy habits, especially among women in rural, underserved parts of the country. While participating in CAN-STOP, a cancer support program in India, she realized how critical the leadership role is — especially for women — in making an impact in the community. With her M.H.A., she hopes to ascend the ranks in healthcare leadership as her clinical background and administration skills will help in developing strategies for providing quality healthcare at affordable prices and spreading awareness about oral cancer and prevention methods.


      Being the first girl in her family to pursue higher education abroad, she hopes to be a role model for other women by encouraging them to break any stigmas that prevent them from taking the steps needed to achieve their own goals; however, as an international graduate student, Aarthy faces financial limitations. Initially learning about the IPS through The Graduate College’s GradBulletin, she received encouragement to apply from Jonathan Tyner (coordinator in the Office of International Affairs) and application guidance from Dr. Andrea Hilkovitz (external funding coordinator in The Graduate College). Receiving the International Peace Scholarship has boosted Aarthy’s confidence and reinforced her goals of not only reshaping the healthcare landscape but inspiring other women like her to advance their own careers.

    • Alisa HartsellCongratulations are in order for Alisa Hartsell, doctoral student in geography, who recently received the prestigious Boren Fellowship! A Boren Fellowship provides up to $24,000 for U.S. graduate students to study less commonly taught languages in world regions critical to U.S. interests and underrepresented in study abroad. She plans to study Mandarin at Shanghai International Studies University in Shanghai, China, during the 2019 calendar year. 

      Alisa received her B.A. and M.A. in history at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Her doctoral research, conducted under the guidance of Dr. Sarah Blue, focuses on Chinese migration through Latin America across the United States-Mexico border. Her Boren study plan focuses on intensive language study of Mandarin in order to communicate and connect more effectively with migrant interviewees. Further, the opportunity to study and to live in Shanghai bears significant weight for two reasons: it is the city through which many migrants from China leave the country, and it is located near migrant-sending communities. Upon completion of her doctoral program, Alisa intends to apply her language skills, research background, and knowledge about U.S. immigration policies and practices to real-world problems by working for the federal government in the national security arena.

      Alisa heard about the Boren Fellowship through one of The Graduate College’s Shop Talks hosted by Dr. Andrea Hilkovitz, external funding coordinator. Alisa recommends taking advantage of the amazing resources provided by The Graduate College, including Dr. Hilkovitz, who Alisa calls a “powerful asset” in formulating plans and budgets for external funding.

    • Dillon LohrWe are pleased to announce that Dillon Lohr has been selected as an awardee in the 2018 National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) competition! The NSF GRFP recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees. This year, NSF received over 12,000 applications, and Dillon’s selection as one of only 2,000 awardees is a testament to his extraordinary academic achievements, promising research capabilities, and exceptional academic goals and aspirations.

      Dillon, who will be starting his graduate studies this fall in Texas State University’s computer science doctoral program, has been interested in computers from a young age, teaching himself the basics of C++ and creating his own computer games at age 10. He attended Texas State for his undergraduate degree in Computer Science. As an undergraduate, he received the Terry Foundation Scholarship, received multiple university awards, published papers, and presented his research at multiple conferences and events. He even worked as a research assistant on a Google-sponsored project under Dr. Oleg Komogortsev, an associate professor in the Department of Computer Science and Dillon’s future advisor. (A tip from Dillon: ask your favorite professors what they are researching. Not only can research help improve your resume for such awards as the NSF GRFP, but it also provides a fun and rewarding way to get involved in the cutting edge of our collective knowledge.)

      During his doctoral studies, Dillon wants to make a significant contribution to the scientific world by developing his research in eye movement biometrics in virtual reality. After receiving his Ph.D., he plans on continuing his career in academia so he can pay forward the mentorship he received at Texas State. From adding to the scholarship of the human visual system to inspiring future generations to become involved in STEM fields to mentoring future students as a professor—his dreams are closer to becoming a reality thanks to the NSF GRFP.

    • Rosa Perez VallejosThe Graduate College is pleased to announce that Rosa Perez Vallejos, master’s student in the communication disorders program, has received the Philanthropic Educational Organization (P.E.O.) International Peace Scholarship (IPS). The IPS provides up to $12,500 for women from other countries to study at the graduate level in the United States and Canada. Members of P.E.O. believe that education is fundamental to world peace and understanding.

      Rosa, born and raised in Cochabamba, Bolivia, became interested in the study of communication disorders after learning about it from an American missionary. The practice is not wide-spread in Bolivia; in fact, there is no equivalent of “speech language pathologist” in Spanish. The exposure led her to realize that close members of her community, like neighbors and friends, were suffering from challenges caused by loss of hearing, birth defects, post-stroke issues and other disorders.

      She decided to pursue the field, earning her undergraduate degree at Harding University. Throughout her studies, she has not only been a stellar student, making the Dean’s list, joining honor societies, and earning scholarships, but she has also been an exemplary member of her community by continually dedicating herself to service. She decided that she wanted to open the first Speech Language Hearing Clinic in Bolivia to provide a much-needed service to her city and country. By working with children and adults who are defined by their limitations, she hopes to empower them by providing them and their families with the therapies and resources they need to live up to their fullest potential and have a brighter life. 

      Rosa chose Texas State University to pursue her master’s degree because of its status as a Hispanic-Serving Institution and the opportunities to obtain clinical experience with Hispanic patients in a variety of settings such as hospitals, nursing homes, and pediatric clinics. Having heard about the scholarship in a Graduate College Shop Talk, she recommends that all eligible international students apply. She is hopeful that by having the second year of her studies funded by the IPS, she will be able to open her clinic immediately upon returning home to Cochabamba.

    • Texas State Department of Geography LogoCongratulations to the students in the Department of Geography on their accomplishments throughout the 2017–18 academic year!

      • Ph.D. student Alisa Hartsell (advisor: Dr. Blue) has been selected for the 2018 Boren Fellowship. Alisa plans to use the fellowship to study in China during the 2019 calendar year.
      • Ph.D. student Upendra Bom (advisor: Dr. Tiefenbacher) was awarded the Euro-Asian Specialty Group Field Research Travel Award and the Regional Development and Planning Best Proposal Award at the AAG Meeting in New Orleans.
      • Ph.D. student Joshua Hodge (advisor: Dr. Dixon) was awarded a 2018 Summer Research Scholarship by SWAAG for the project “Geographic Patterns of the Hurricane Ike Storm Surge Sediment Deposit on Southeast Texas Gulf Coast Marshes.”
      • Ph.D. students David Mills, Guixing Wei, Niaz Morshed and Shadi Maleki were awarded a grant by Texas State University’s Environmental Services Committee (ESC) for their Bobcat Clean Air Project. Geography’s representative in ESC is Dr. Carter.
      • Ph.D. student Jennifer Villa (advisor: Dr. Butler) received a travel grant from the Rocky Mountain Section of the Geological Society of America to attend the society’s regional meeting in Flagstaff, AZ.
      • Ph.D. student Paepin Goff (advisor: Dr. Butler) was awarded a grant from the University of Wyoming - National Park Service to support her dissertation research.
      • Ph.D. student John Ponstingel (advisor: Dr. Weaver) was admitted to the 2018 George Washington University’s CIBER Summer Doctoral Institute, to be held from May 30 to July 25, 2018. Dr. Elizabeth Chacko, Professor of Geography and International Affairs at GWU, will serve as SDI faculty collaborator. Admission includes a stipend, travel expenses, and free housing in Washington, DC.
      • Dr. Jinhee Lee, a recent graduate of the Geographic Education Ph.D. program (advisor: Dr. Jo) was selected as a 2018 recipient of the Salvatore J. Natoli Dissertation Award from the National Council for Geographic Education. Jinhee will be formally recognized at the annual meeting of the NCGE at the Quebec City, Canada in August.
    • Jennifer WoodCongratulations to Haleigh Straube, recipient of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) (Hill Country Branch) Graduate Study Scholarship! The scholarship provides funding for women in Kerr, Bandera, Gillespie, Kendall or Kimble counties who are pursuing graduate-level education so they can give back to their communities.

      Haleigh is a current M.S. student in communication disorders at Texas State, having received her B.S. in communication disorders in 2017. During her time at Texas State, she has been awarded multiple scholarships and has actively participated in organizations within her field. After graduation, she intends to become a certified speech-language pathologist because, as she states, she is “passionate about assisting people in the community who are working towards improving their lifestyles by overcoming injuries like strokes, traumatic brain injuries, or premature births.” She specifically would like to focus on feeding and swallowing at the pediatric level, while also providing support and counseling to the guardians of premature babies in neonatal intensive care units. With the assistance of this scholarship, her dream of helping these patients is becoming a reality.

      Haleigh notes that the scholarship process differs from her previous applications due to the interview requirement. She advises other students to not let this deter or intimidate them, but instead to use it as an opportunity to be honest about your career goals.

      Congrats again, Haleigh!

    • Vivian LeeCongratulations are in order for Vivian Lee, awardee of the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) Minority Fellowship Program-Youth! Lee will receive $8,000 for funding and training to support her education and facilitate her service to underserved minority populations, with a specific focus on transition-age youth (ages 16–25).

      With an undergraduate degree in economics and management science from MIT and work experience anchored in the business sector, Vivian decided to make a career change. She’s currently pursuing a M.A. in professional counseling with a concentration in clinical mental health. Based on her own experience working her way through her studies, Vivian aims to advocate for increased awareness of the stressors affecting low socioeconomic status students, in addition to developing prevention-level initiatives to help stave off crises before they start.

      After graduating, she hopes to continue her studies in a doctoral program in clinical psychology. Her career goal is to work with eating disorders using an integrative, holistic approach. In fact, she recently received the David Barlow Early Career Award for Research Excellence for her poster "What I wish my therapist knew: Cultural considerations in the treatment of eating disorders" to be presented at the 2018 Renfrew Center Foundation Conference on Eating Disorders.

      Her biggest tip to other students when completing an application: know your why. She explains, “preparing my application inspired me to think more deeply about the “why” behind my career: who were the populations that I wanted to work with, why did I believe in advocating for their needs, and what could I do — as just one person in a huge system — to create the biggest impact.”

      Congratulations once again!

    • Aubri JensonCongratulations to Aubri Jenson who was recently awarded a Graduate Student Research Grant from the Geological Society of America (GSA). The primary role of the GSA research grants program is to provide partial support of master's and doctoral thesis research in the geological sciences.

      Aubri obtained a B.S. in geology from Bucknell University in Pennsylvania. She is currently working toward a Ph.D. in aquatic resources and plans to apply her degree to inform responsible urban development in karst regions. Her dissertation is a hydrogeologic characterization of a karst aquifer in Quintana Roo, Mexico, an area with groundwater resources strained by rapid population growth and economic development. Her work describes the structure, history, and modern hydrodynamics of a groundwater basin drained by Sistema Jaguar, a recently mapped cave system containing nearly 40km of passage.

      The funds provided by GSA will support two weeks of fieldwork in the region. The results of this research will ultimately be used to inform scientific and numerical groundwater models that may be applied to water resource management in the Yucatan peninsula and other coastal karst regions.

      Aubri has applied for GSA grants every year since 2015, and this is the first one that has been accepted. Her advice to other students is to keep applying. Be as specific and realistic as possible with your timeline and budget and use feedback from previous grants (whether rejected or accepted) to refine the next one.

      Congrats once again on this accomplishment, Aubri!

    • Christina LopezCongratulations to Christina Lopez on winning the Young Women’s Alliance Foundation Higher Ed Empowerment Scholarship! This scholarship is awarded to women who show commitment to education, leadership, and community service in their personal time. The $2,000 award will provide tuition assistance to the recipients while they serve their community.

      Christina, a doctoral student in the geography program, focuses her research on human-environment interactions, specifically issues of sustainability surrounding diversity, equity, and justice. After graduation, she plans on entering academia within the subfield of community geography, which aims to affect positive change in underserved local communities. As part of the application process, she was able to describe how her professional objectives align with past (and future!) contributions to her community.

      She isn’t stopping there—she has also discovered “Power Chats”, a YWA volunteer program that pairs young girls with professional young women in hopes of building a mentorship between the two. She plans on participating after learning about the impact it has had on so many young girls. A young mother herself, Christina understands how integral these programs are in helping shape the lives of young people when they are just starting out.

      Congratulations once again, Christina!

    • We are pleased to announce that seven Texas State students have received the Phi Kappa Phi Love of Learning Award in 2018 Session B. This brings the total number of 2018 awardees from Texas State to eleven—the most of any university!


      This $500 award helps active Phi Kappa Phi members fund post-baccalaureate professional development pertaining to their graduate studies, ranging from costs associated with doctoral dissertations, continuing education, career development, and travel expenses for teaching, research and/or learning.

      Dr. Andrea Hilkovitz, external funding coordinator in The Graduate College, says that Texas State students have continued success in securing the Love of Learning Award. “This is the fourth year in a row that Texas State students have received this award. The Love of Learning Award is a great external funding opportunity because it can be used to fund many different activities and has a relatively straightforward application process.”

      Dr. Hilkovitz also advises prospective applicants to utilize the resources on the Phi Kappa Phi website, such as the sample applications, as well as to request a funding consultation with her if needed for additional assistance. Applications for the 2019 awards will open on December 15 and are due June 30.

      Congratulations to all on earning this award!

    • Camilla Jamal

      Congratulations are in order for international studies master’s student Fartun “Camilla” Jamal, who has been awarded a grant from the P.E.O. Program for Continuing Education for spring 2019! This program, established in 1973, provides one-time financial assistance to women whose education has been interrupted and who find it necessary to return to school to complete a degree or certification that improves their marketable skills for employment to support themselves and/or their families.

      Camilla, born in Somalia, came to the U.S. after living in Kenya and Malaysia and visiting other countries.  After receiving her B.A. in global studies in 2013 from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, she began working with the African/Asian communities, particularly refugee/asylee single mothers and children from and female survivors of domestic abuse, in Fargo, North Dakota. She then moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where she served as the community liaison between the Somali refugee community at Lyndale Neighborhood Association/Whittier Alliance organizations and the Minneapolis Police Department at the Fifth Precinct in order to break the communication barriers. During this time, she helped the women of this community secure job placement, gain access to education, and develop leadership skills.

      Despite the emotional toll that this work can take, Camilla is determined to give back. As part of her master’s program, she hopes to intern (and eventually get a job) with the United Nations, UNESCO, or other international organizations, for more experience at the global level. Her post-graduation goal is to help women, particularly single mothers and orphan children, gain access to the education that she feels lucky to receive. With this work, she will also be honoring her beloved mother, who shaped Camilla’s view on education before her death. Her last message was: “education is a powerful tool that will open more doors for you than you can imagine. I was not given any educational opportunity when I was young. Therefore, never ever take it for granted.”

      Over the years, Camilla has also learned how determination and support from others, including Dr. Andrea Hilkovitz in The Graduate College, can play a huge role in her success. After a few setbacks, she persevered in securing a sponsorship with P.E.O. Chapter IV, New Braunfels, in fall 2018. Not only did she successfully receive the grant, but Camilla also opened doors for future Texas State students in San Marcos applying for this award by creating a relationship with the New Braunfels chapter.

      She appreciates deeply and gives credit to Dr. Hilkovitz in part for earning this award: “Andrea was incredibly supportive and kept pushing me to apply for this grant. She even reached out to the organization on my behalf to clarify a discrepancy and move my application forward.” Dr. Hilkovitz in turn credits Camilla’s perseverance in the pursuit of funding for her eventual award: “Many students would have become discouraged or given up their search for funding in the face of the setbacks she encountered. Camilla’s ability to push forward and maintain a positive attitude are remarkable and, hopefully, can inspire other students to ‘stick with it’ in their own funding searches.”

      Congratulations once again to Camilla on her achievement!

  • 2017

    • Sarah J. ZappitelloCongratulations are in order for Sarah J. (Saj) Zappitello, M.S. '16 in aquatic resources, who was recently selected as a finalist for the Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) Program! Her commitment to service and science made her a perfect candidate for the PMF Program, a flagship leadership development program run by the U.S. government that recently broadened its inclusion of STEM participants. The Program, designed to develop a cadre of potential government leaders by providing sustenance during the first years of employment and by encouraging leadership capabilities, instills the spirit of public service, ultimately leading to a career in the government.

      As a water scientist, Saj believes that the most important task in this field is communicating relevant research and information to the public, land managers, and policy makers. Her master’s research is already helping to shape policy: through her delineation of aquifer sources of the Pedernales River in central Texas, groundwater regulating authorities and policy makers are able to inform management strategies for water usage during drought conditions. In participating in the PMF Program, she hopes to attain a position in the federal government where she can work as a technical expert to apply current research to real-world situations — much like she did at Texas State.

    • master's student Jared CoplinWe are pleased to announce that Jared Coplin has been selected as an awardee in the 2017 National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) competition! The NSF GRFP recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees. This year, NSF received over 13,000 applications and Jared’s selection as one of only 2,000 awardees is a testament to his extraordinary academic achievements, promising research capabilities, and exceptional academic goals and aspirations.

      Jared, a current master’s student in the computer science program, has already made substantial contributions to ongoing research by co-authoring two book chapters and four scientific papers, which he has presented at professional and academic conferences. Further, he has won numerous scholarships as well as academic and research awards, including the title of Computing Research Association’s (CRA) 2016 Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher.

      His current research, conducted under the guidance of Dr. Martin Burtscher, professor of computer science, focuses on developing general strategies for increasing the energy efficiency on modern processors by studying hardware features, code transformations, and algorithmic implementations that maximize performance per watt. Even a small increase in performance per watt will greatly reduce the fiscal and environmental cost of computing.

      A veteran of the Army, his excellence in military service demonstrates his ability for problem-solving, critical thinking, self-motivation, and perseverance in the face of strong adversity. As a veteran and nontraditional student, he aspires to add to the diversity of his graduate program as well as the ranks of faculty researchers.

    • DPT student Lina PadegimaiteThe Graduate College is pleased to announce that Lina Padegimaite, doctoral student in the physical therapy program, has received the Philanthropic Educational Organization (PEO) International Peace Scholarship. The International Peace Scholarship Fund provides scholarships of up to $12,500 for women from other countries to study at the graduate level in the United States and Canada. Members of P.E.O. believe that education is fundamental to world peace and understanding.

      Lina comes from Kaunas, Lithuania. She has been in the US since 2011 when she began undergraduate course work in exercise science and played tennis (she was even a member of the Lithuanian national tennis team at the 2011 Fed Cup!) at the University of Texas at Austin. With her clinical courses still ahead, Lina is not certain which specialization she will choose, though she is leaning towards sports, orthopedics and women’s health specialties.

      One thing Lina is certain of, however, is that she can fulfill the mission of P.E.O and be a role model for her community by empowering women to take care of their bodies and helping them stay healthy throughout their lifespan. This scholarship is a tremendous resource for her (especially as an international student with limited access to funding opportunities) to achieve her goals and make a difference in her home country. She aims to inspire a generation of confident and educated women to stand up for themselves and use their energy to create peaceful, equal communities.

    • kathryn burnsCongratulations are in order for Kathryn Burns, master’s student in international studies! Kathryn was recently awarded the highly coveted Boren Fellowship. A Boren Fellowship provides up to $30,000 for U.S. graduate students to study less commonly taught languages in world regions critical to U.S. interests and underrepresented in study abroad. The award gives students the opportunity to have an experience that they otherwise would not.

      Kathryn graduated from Howard Payne University with a double major in psychology and political science and was a member of the Guy D. Newman Honors Academy. An avid traveler, she decided to study Arabic in Jordan because of past experiences studying in Amman with the Consortium for Global Education and the Kelsey Arabic School. While abroad, she will continue her graduate studies online. She hopes to work for the State Department in the Middle East once she graduates.

    • master's student Brittany (Mari) LandgrebeThe Graduate College is happy to congratulate Brittany (Mari) Landgrebe, master’s student in business administration, on her American Association of University Women (AAUW) Selected Professions Fellowship. This marks the first time a Texas State student has received this award! The AAUW is the nation’s leading voice promoting equity and education for women and girls and provides a myriad of programs, including funding, to help support students. The Selected Professions Fellowship provides up to $18,000 for women in fields where their participation has traditionally been low – and for M.B.A. programs, AAUW supports women of color only.

      Since only 24 Selected Professions Fellowships are awarded annually, Mari’s award is a true tribute to her passion, creativity and dedication to her studies: fostering entrepreneurship among women and minorities in the video games industry. Throughout her undergraduate studies at Texas State University, Mari consistently found ways to apply her course work to video games or the industry, eventually culminating in her honors thesis, “Collaborative Game Design: An Interdisciplinary Video Game Production Team.” Acting as a producer for the honors project team, she realized that she had a natural aptitude for the business elements of the project and decided to pursue her M.B.A. She is especially passionate about diversifying the video games industry by fostering entrepreneurship among women and minorities as reflected in her current research.

      After graduation, Mari intends to continue her career in game development, focusing on strategic planning for independent game studios and publisher/studio relations.

    • master's student Alfredo RamirezThe Graduate College is excited to announce that Alfredo Ramirez, master’s student in international studies, has received the prestigious Boren Fellowship! A Boren Fellowship provides up to $30,000 for U.S. graduate students to study less commonly taught languages in world regions critical to U.S. interests and underrepresented in study abroad. The fellowship also provides students with an opportunity and experience they otherwise would not have. Alfredo will study Portuguese at the University of Chicago in summer 2017 and at the Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina in Florianópolis, Brazil, during the 2017-18 academic year. 

      Alfredo earned his B.A. in Spanish from Texas State, and, as part of his program, studied in Spain for a semester. During this trip, Alfredo recognized his deep interest in international relations and decided to explore this field further by pursuing it at the graduate level. Receiving the Boren Fellowship will allow him to supplement his master’s degree program with long-term experience abroad. His goal is to return from Brazil functionally trilingual in all major Western hemisphere languages — Spanish, English, and Portuguese — in order to work in federal bureaus where his language proficiencies, IT skills, and academic expertise can intersect.

    • The Graduate College is pleased to announce that several Texas State graduate students have recently been awarded highly competitive external fellowships.

      For the first time in the university’s history, two Texas State graduate students received the prestigious Boren Fellowship. The fellowships, which provide funding opportunities to study less commonly taught languages in world regions critical to U.S. interests and underrepresented in study abroad, were awarded to Kathryn Burns, master’s student in international studies, to study in Arabic in Jordan and to Alfredo Ramirez IV, master’s student in international studies, to study Portuguese in Brazil.

      Jared Coplin, master’s student in computer science, was awarded a highly competitive fellowship from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP). The GRFP provides three years of support for the graduate education of individuals who have demonstrated their potential for significant research achievements in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), STEM education, and NSF-supported social sciences.

      Brittany (Mari) Landgrebe, master’s student in business administration, received an American Association of University Women (AAUW) Selected Professions Fellowship, which supports women in underrepresented fields. In MBA programs, only women of color are eligible. Mari’s award marks the first time a graduate student from Texas State has received a Selected Professions Fellowship.

      Lina Padegimaite, doctoral student in physical therapy, was awarded the Philanthropic Educational Organization (PEO) International Peace Scholarship, which provides funding for women from other countries pursuing graduate-level study in the U.S. or Canada. Lina is from Lithuania.

      Dr. Andrea Hilkovitz, external funding coordinator in The Graduate College, has worked closely with these students, recruiting them to apply and advising them throughout the submission process. In the past year and half, Dr. Hilkovitz has helped Texas State graduate students apply for more than $2 million in external funding.

      "We are very excited that these exceptional students have been awarded highly competitive and prestigious fellowships. These awards have a significant impact on the students’ careers by allowing them to pursue their educational goals and research interests," explains Dr. Andrea Golato, dean of The Graduate College. "They also serve to strengthen Texas State’s reputation for outstanding academic performance and contribute to the university’s goal of achieving Tier One status as a research university.”

      Congratulations to these students on the academic achievements that merited these awards!

    • christina lopezWe are pleased to announce that Christian Lopez, M.S. ’16, has been named a National Wildlife Foundation EcoLeaders Labor Economist Research Fellow. The fellowship lasts for 4–6 months and comes with a $3,000 stipend, professional development assistance and networking opportunities, and the possibility of academic credit for successful completion of the project. Christina’s fellowship will focus on researching green job trends in large metropolitan areas, and she plans on completing it by January 2018.

      Christina, who graduated from Texas State with her master’s in geography, researched how eco-villages in Texas contribute to sustainability. During her studies, she taught physical geology labs and created a field trip for her students to visit McKinney Falls State Park. She also served as a volunteer environmental educator and eco-event organizer for the Colorado River Alliance. She is currently a research assistant at the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment studying water conservation potential in Texas. Christina is starting a doctoral program in geography at Texas State this fall and plans to continue researching conservation and sustainability through human-environment interactions.

      Congratulations on this accomplishment, Christina!

    •  shijun chen, master's student in music, plays the violinWe are thrilled to announce that Shijun Chen, master’s student in instrumental conducting, has been awarded the Phi Kappa Phi Love of Learning Award. The $500 award helps active Phi Kappa Phi members fund post-baccalaureate professional development pertaining to their graduate studies, doctoral dissertations, continuing education, career development, and travel related to teaching, research and/or learning. 

      Shijun, who has already received a master’s in music in violin performance from Texas State, has received multiple awards and scholarships for his work. He has a robust performance background, playing in solo, ensemble, and orchestral environments not only in Central Texas but also in Budapest, Vienna, and Prague. Now honing his skills as a conductor, he served as the concertmaster of the Texas State Symphony Orchestra for the Fall 2016 and Spring 2017 terms.  

      Because Shijun plans on continuing his education in conducting after graduating from Texas State, his award will help defray the cost of future application fees. We wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors!

    • Mary Swearinger analzying skeletal remainsCongratulations to Mary Swearinger, master’s student in the anthropology program, on receiving the Golden Key Graduate Scholar Award! The Golden Key Graduate Scholar Award is offered by the Golden Key International Honour Society, whose mission focuses on enabling members to realize their potential through the advancement of academics, leadership, and service. The organization strives to harness the power of their membership make a significant difference in their communities through a variety of means, one of which is to fund students in advancing their knowledge through foundation-backed research.

      Mary’s current work certainly exemplifies all three pillars of the Golden Key Honour Society — her research aims to aid in the identification of border crossers who died during their migration across the U.S.-Mexico border in examining various methods used to estimate age-at-death in U.S.-Mexico unidentified Latin American migrants. Short-term, Mary hopes to complete missions in post-conflict regions to identify the victims of genocide, eventually completing her Ph.D. and working on human rights investigations in Peru and Somalia.

      Despite winning several other awards throughout her academic career, she says that “receiving the Golden Key Graduate Scholar Award is one of the most remarkable things to have happened to me. There are truly no words to express the joy and motivation I have received following the news of receiving this award.” She also encourages other students interested in funding opportunities to “look up scholarships and grants every chance you get and give yourself plenty of time to research what the organization is looking for, so you can market yourself to them. It all pays off in the end!”

      Congratulations once again to Mary on her accomplishment!

    • We are pleased to announce that four Texas State students have received Phi Kappa Phi’s Love of Learning Award in the 2017 Session B competition!

      This $500 award helps active Phi Kappa Phi members fund post-baccalaureate professional development pertaining to their graduate studies, ranging from costs associated with doctoral dissertations, continuing education, and career development to travel expenses for teaching, research and/or learning. Texas State students took advantage of the flexibility in the award criteria: Khan applied for the research category and will use the funds to help build a cyber-security testbed in which he can implement the results of his work, whereas Joslyn will be using her funds to help defray the cost of her dissertation transcription fees.

      Dr. Andrea Hilkovitz, external funding coordinator in The Graduate College, says that Texas State students have continued success in securing the Love of Learning Award. “This is the third year in a row that Texas State students have received this award. The Love of Learning Award is a great external funding opportunity because it can be used to fund many different activities and has a relatively straightforward application process.”

      Khan also comments on the ease of applying. “The application process is very simple. To apply, you must be a member of …Phi Kappa Phi…members log in to the website, and follow some simple instruction to apply for this award.”

      Despite the straightforward application process, Tajudeen advises prospective applicants “[to pay attention to] the timeline and the eligibility criteria, and – most importantly – format your resume in a professional manner.” Joslyn mentions that she created a document to help keep track of the application components. Christina recommends to “be specific with your action plan [as] funds will not usually be offered if the research/travel plan is not fully developed. Demonstrate the significance, explain what you (and others!) gain from receiving this support.” Dr. Hilkovitz also advises prospective applicants to utilize the resources on the Phi Kappa Phi website, such as the sample applications, as well as to make an advising appointment with her if needed for additional assistance.

      Congratulations to all on earning this award!

  • 2016

    • Mariana OcampoWe are pleased to announce that Mariana Ocampo, doctoral student in the materials science, engineering, and commercializationprogram, has been awarded an NSF-funded travel grant to attend the ASSIST Early-Career Faculty Development Symposium at the 2016 Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Awards Conference (HENAAC). The travel grant, awarded by Great Minds in Science (GMiS), in partnership with Latinos in Science and Engineering (MAES), will cover expenses incurred traveling to and attending the symposium and conference, up to $2,000. The symposium, held for traditionally under-served early-career and aspiring faculty in engineering, has a tremendous line-up of engaging seminars and networking opportunities intent on increasing the diversification of the engineering professoriate by helping attendees navigate the academic hiring and tenure and promotion pathways. 

      You may already know of Mariana as the first-place winner in Texas State’s 3MT® Competition in April 2016. A first-generation college student (and the first to go into a STEM discipline as well as pursue a Ph.D.), she is passionate about organic chemistry, sustainability, and renewable energy and hopes to discover environmental solutions through chemistry and engineering. One of her aspirations is to become a faculty member in the predominantly male-dominated science and engineering field. We wish Mariana an informative, beneficial time spent at HENAAC and continued success in her doctoral studies and beyond! 

    • The Graduate College is pleased to announce that Thomas (Thom) Marshall, graduate student in the population and conservation biology program, has been awarded a fellowship from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP). The GRFP provides three years of support for the graduate education of individuals who have demonstrated their potential for significant research achievements in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and STEM education. With almost 17,000 students applying for this prestigious fellowship, Thom’s selection as one of only 2,000 awardees is a testament to his excellent academic achievements and his promising research capabilities.

      Thom, working with advisor Dr. David Rodriguez, is investigating a species of chytrid fungus, Batrochochytrium dendrobatidis, that infects amphibians worldwide. Because the results of the infections are varied – some areas have high mortality rates while infections are completely benign in others – he is working toward isolating and examining strains in the state of Texas, a region where no amphibian mortalities have been reported. Through genotyping and genome sequencing, he hopes to understand the evolutionary history of this strain and its recent emergent virulence.