The 2017-2018 Graduate School Diversity Scholars with Vice President and Dean for Graduate Education Karen DePauw
Amanda Halliburton, of Yorktown, Virginia, is a sixth-year Ph.D. candidate in the psychology department, with a concentration in clinical science. Her research focuses on adapting cognitive-behavioral interventions for developmentally appropriate use with youth, as well as investigating key mechanisms of change in these programs. Amanda has been recognized as a Founding Fellow in the Virginia Tech Academy for Graduate Teaching Excellence and a Bouchet Honor Society member, in addition to serving as a student representative on her departmental committee of diversity and inclusion and clinical science subcommittee for recruitment and diversity. Amanda infuses diversity and inclusion topics into her curricula, and her work as a therapist focuses on meeting the needs of underserved populations using evidence-based treatment. Ultimately, Amanda aspires to build a career that combines her love of teaching with her passion for community-based clinical work. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology, University of Mary Washington, 2011 and a Master of Science degree in Psychology, Virginia Tech, 2013.
Her Diversity Scholars project, “Home Away From Home,” is a gathering space for first-generation Appalachian undergraduate and graduate students at Virginia Tech. Its purpose is to provide a space to discuss issues that concern Appalachian students, allow opportunities for mentorship and social support, and increase awareness and appreciation of Appalachian culture at Virginia Tech and beyond.
Darren Maczka, of Leverett, Massachusetts, is a third year Ph.D. candidate in Engineering Education. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Systems Engineering from University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Committed to inclusion within engineering, he is interest in the ways technology used in engineering courses impacts students' sense of belonging to the field. He continues to co-facilitate an inclusive classroom Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) workshop he developed for his 2015 Diversity Scholars project with Martina Svyantek.
Diversity Scholar Project: Though the work that engineers do has political and social impact, the way we educate engineers has situated technical engineering work as a self-contained, objective body of knowledge. To make matters worse, rigorous content requirements make it difficult for engineering educators to integrate the social and political connections of engineering into their courses. For his project, Darren will facilitate a series of activities and discussions with people from diverse backgrounds to co-construct a resource that engineering educators might easily integrate into their teaching practices that would help students to think critically about how their profession is tightly coupled with society.
Elizabeth Leigh McKagen, of Riner, Virginia, is a second year Ph.D. student in the ASPECT (the Alliance for Social, Political, Ethical, and Cultural Thought) program. She received her Master of Arts degree in English and her Bachelor of Arts degree in English and History from Virginia Tech. Her research interests include cultural studies, media studies, critical theory, popular culture, and science fiction studies.
Diversity Scholars Project: Leigh plans to develop an event series that screens examples of popular science fiction television shows and create a space for discussion on diversity in popular culture and our academic environment. Issues of diversity are frequently present in popular television shows, although the representation is often problematic. This project creates a space for students to engage with issues of diversity and representation they frequently encounter outside of academia and explore what this media might be teaching us and how we can better understand the diversity presented in typical forms of mass media.
Emma Stamm is a writer and Ph.D. student in the ASPECT program. She was born and raised in New York's Hudson Valley and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Literature from Bard College and an Master of Science degree in Management from The New School. Her research deploys continental philosophy and media theory to critique emerging Internet technologies. In her free time, she likes to pet cats and play piano.
Her Diversity Scholars project brings attention to female and non-binary digital and electronic artists at Virginia Tech. Emma is organizing an art exhibition alongside a one-night panel and reception at which select students will have the opportunity to present, discuss, and build a conversation about their art, academic work and career trajectory.
Jameson Jones, of Tazewell, Virginia, is a middle school Spanish teacher by trade, earning a Ph.D. in Education Curriculum and Instruction. As a young boy, he developed a passion for his home region of Appalachia and its people. He is committed to community advocacy and development, as well as engaging in dialogue that bridges cross-cultural differences. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish from Roanoke College and his Master of Arts in Appalachian Studies from Appalachian State University.
His Diversity Project seeks to provide members of the Virginia Tech community a forum to share and learn from experiences related to Appalachian culture on campus and in our community. Through self-recorded videos, participants will discuss their Appalachian heritage and/or interactions with Appalachia, especially as it pertains to life on campus. Natives and non-natives of the region are invited to participate to provide a holistic glimpse into life on a campus located in Appalachia.
Karis Boyd-Sinkler, of Hampton, Virginia, is a first year Ph.D. student in Engineering Education. Her research interests includes outreach, recruitment, and retention efforts for underserved and underrepresented populations in STEM. In particular, she is interested in looking at formal and informal forms of engineering student support.
She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering Science with a concentration in Nanomedicine Engineering and minors in Biomedical Engineering and Materials Science Engineering from the University of Virginia in 2014.
Her Diversity Scholars project is to create a support group for female African-American engineering graduate students.
Manasia Sturdivant, of Greensboro, North Carolina is a second year Ph.D. student in the Industrial/Organizational Psychology program. She received Bachelor of Arts degrees in Psychology and Sociology at Wake Forest University in 2014. Her research interests are in discrimination and stigma in the workplace, diversity and its influence on motivation and productivity, as well as psychological testing and other forms of personnel selection. Through her work she hopes to increase others’ awareness and knowledge of diversity related matters in general, but especially in the workplace.
Her Diversity Scholars project involves analyzing internal data that was previously gathered at/about Virginia Tech. She will look into any outcomes that SAT scores have on performance once a student is admitted to the university. The purpose of the project is to make a case for deemphasizing SAT scores in the admittance process.
Meagan O’Neill, of Tonawanda, New York, is a fifth year Ph.D. candidate in the department of Psychology with a concentration in Biological Psychology. She earned a Master’s of Science degree from Virginia Tech, a Master’s of Arts degree from Medaille College, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. She is a member of the Psychology Diversity Committee. Her doctoral research focus is the neural comparison of false memory paradigms.
Her Diversity Scholar project involves follow-up on a Department Diversity Survey that has been conducted. Specifically, She will work with Andrew Valdespino and the Psychology Diversity Committee to create focus groups to better understand the diversity and inclusion needs of students, staff, and faculty.
Andrew Valdespino, of Miami, Florida, is a doctoral candidate in psychology, within the clinical science area. Andrew was raised in the United States, England, and Belgium. He has very much enjoyed learning from the diverse and wonderful people along the way. Andrew is very honored to be able to continue exploring, celebrating, and actively engaging diversity issues as a Diversity Scholar. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from Ekerd College in 2006, a Master’s degree in Philosophy from Virginia Tech in 2011, and a Master’s degree in Psychology, also from Virginia Tech, in 2014.
Andrew will be working in collaboration with fellow Diversity Scholar, Meagan O’Neill, to develop and implement a series of diversity focus groups within the psychology department community. These focus groups will explore diversity opinions and experiences, with the goal of improving and promoting diversity practices to reduce discrimination and prejudice, as well as to inform and improve instructorship, teaching mentorship, and curriculum development.
Melissa Faircloth, of Goldsboro, North Carolina, is a Ph.D. student in Sociology. She earned her bachelor’s degree in business and her master’s degree in sociology from East Carolina University before joining the Virginia Tech Community. Additionally she serves as co-advisor for Native at VT, a Native and Indigenous student organization. With the help of the student organization and many other campus constituents, she plans to bring the first Intertribal powwow to Tech’s campus.
Her Diversity Scholars project aims to organize a powwow on Tech’s campus to create visibility for underrepresented groups on campus, increase cultural education and competencies throughout campus and the greater Blacksburg community, and to provide a point of interest that might assist with indigenous student recruitment.
Michele Waters, a New York native, is a Ph.D. student in Biomedical Engineering and works in the Nanostructure Biopolymer Engineering Lab, Center for Injury Biomechanics. She attended State University of New York (SUNY) Stony Brook and City University of New York (CUNY) City College for her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Biomedical Engineering. She is investigating the role of inflammation (macrophage differentiation) in traumatic brain injury, and also evaluating the potential of human hair-derived keratin biomaterials to promote an anti-inflammatory environment, thereby improving clinical outcomes for patients.
Her Diversity Scholars project: Host program for underrepresented undergraduates to shadow graduate students in STEM labs.
Soo Jeong Jo is a second-year Ph.D. student in Architecture and Design Research program, and her hometown is Seoul, South Korea. She received her Bachelor of Science in Architecture from Ewha Womans University, Master of Architecture from Ecole d'Architecture de Paris La Villette. After her professional experiences in Paris, New York City and Seoul, she returned to Master of Science program at Georgia Institute of Technology and Ph.D. program at Virginia Tech to extend her background in building science.
Her Diversity Scholar project is organizing international cooking classes for graduate students. Those classes are led by student instructors providing opportunities to introduce the culture of their own countries by the students, also to connect international students and local students.
Thomas Murray, of Chicago, Illinois, is a second year M.F.A. candidate in Directing and Public Dialogue in the School of Performing Arts. Prior to coming to Virginia Tech, he served five years as founding artistic director of Waltzing Mechanics, where he created and directed seven original documentary plays. Thomas is currently writing The Right of Way, a docudrama about the conflict between motorists and bicyclists on shared city streets. The play will workshop this spring with arts partners in Atlanta, Georgia and Washington, D.C. before premiering at Virginia Tech in 2018. Thomas is a member of the Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab and a recipient of the Outstanding Young Alumnus Award from Ball State University, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theatre Production.
For his Diversity Scholars project, he will partner with Alpha Psi Omega, the undergraduate theatre honorary society, to lead a forum on queer and gender-based theatre. Workshop topics will include dramatic literature, representation in season planning, community engagement, and casting issues.
Tara Reel, of Virginia Beach, Virginia, is a master’s degree student in both the urban and regional planning (MURP) and public administration (MPA) in the School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA). A native of West Virginia, Reel received an undergraduate degree in Political Science from Davis and Elkins College. Prior to attending Virginia Tech, she worked in local government for the City of Virginia Beach, serving as the assistant to the legislative liaison for intergovernmental relations working with government at the local, state and federal levels. At Virginia Tech, she has served as vice president of the Graduate Student Assembly (GSA), president and founder of the Virginia Tech student chapter of Women in Transportation Seminar (WTS) International, a field reporter for the award-winning “Save Our Towns” video series, and a research assistant at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI).
Diversity Scholar project: (with Sreyoshi Bhaduri and Teneil Sivells) Develop a brief history of diversity milestones at Virginia Tech to be converted into a curriculum for a Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) workshop. The hope is to create meaningful dialogue with students regarding diversity and inclusion in all fields of study.
Sreyoshi Bhaduri, of Pune, Maharashtra, India, is a Ph.D. candidate in Engineering Education. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Mechatronics Engineering from Manipal Institute of Technology, India and a Diploma in Human Rights from the Indian Institute of Human Rights, New Delhi, India. She earned her Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Virginia Tech. For her doctoral dissertation, she is exploring ways in which machine learning algorithms can be used by instructors in engineering classrooms. She believes that access is an important step in promoting critical thinking and diversity, and that technology may be effective if used as a tool to increase access of resources for more individuals. Sreyoshi is an advocate for Open Education and Open Access, and was selected to represent Virginia Tech for OpenCon 2015. She is a Fellow of the Virginia Tech Academy for Graduate Teaching Excellence and a Global Perspectives Programs scholar. She has previously served as the Chair of the Council for Minority Engineering Organization (CAMEO) in the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech, and has been the Graduate Student Liaison for the Society of Women Engineering (SWE) at Tech.
Diversity Scholar project: (with Tara Reel and Teneil Sivells) Incorporate the history of Virginia Tech into the classrooms, and make it part of conversations at dorms, corridors, and dining centers. Our Diversity Scholars team is interested in working with Dr. Peter Wallenstein in the History department at Tech, and tell his tale about Virginia Tech through conversations about stories regarding the buildings and the people, and introduce these to current students, teachers, researchers and faculty across campus.
Teneil Sivells, a native of Prince George’s County, Maryland, is pursuing a Master of Science degree in Biological Systems Engineering. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Biological Engineering with a concentration in Natural Resources, along with a certificate in Waste Management from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.
Diversity Scholars project: (with Sreyoshi Bhaduri and Tara Reel) The group aims to develop an interactive platform that encourages dialogue amongst the Hokie community in relation to the unique history of Virginia Tech. The project emphasizes the integral role of the university’s history to understand the historical legacy of diversity and inclusion and its impacts on the current campus climate.