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Student Panelists

From 3 to 4 p.m. on October 30, join a panel of graduate students who attended HBCUs before coming to Virginia Tech and listen to their insights, advice, and experiences. The session will be moderated by Justin Grimes, Ph.D. 

We will post a recording of the session after the HBCU Research Summit concludes.

Photo of Katrina Colucci-Chang

Katrina is a fourth year Ph.D. student in the Biomedical Engineering program at VT.  She is currently sponsored by NAVY-NAVARI, where she will be working as a civil servant after graduation. Her Ph.D. work focuses on how electrical signals start and propagate through heart tissues based on the space between cells and the ion channels in the cell membrane and how that correlates to the treatment and prevention of arrythmias.  She was born and raised in Puerto Rico, and earned her undergraduate degree at George Mason University.  At George Mason she earned a bachelor's degree in Bioengineering and a minor in Dance. A fun fact about her is that she has been dancing for 15+ years.

One piece of advice for a prospective student thinking about pursuing a graduate degree at a PWI?    

Keep an open mind. Try new things, you never know what you might like. Also, keep an open mind with people. Some people might say things that don’t sound correct. Educate and correct them. People are here to learn and you can learn from them too.  

Photo of Kordell Dixon

Kordell Dixon (he/his)

Kordell Dixon completed his bachelor's degree at Howard University in 2019 and is currently pursuing a master's degree at Virginia Tech in philosophy. He also a first-generation undergraduate and graduate student. His specialty is the philosophy of race, ethics, and the metaphysics of race.

One piece of advice for a prospective student thinking about pursuing a graduate degree at a PWI?

My advice is to try to achieve balance, not just between academics and personal life, but with your social interactions as well. Coming from an HBCU to a PWI is tough and you should have a support system that can relate to the particular experience as a Black person. Therefore, balancing your social interaction is imperative for mental health.

Photo of Wendell Grinton smiling

Wendell is a graduate from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in 2018 with a bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering. He received his master's degree in May 2020 from Virginia Tech and currently is a first year Civil Engineering Ph.D. student in the Vecellio Construction Engineering and Management Program. Additionally, his research investigates how existing message design theories, people’s perceptions of civil infrastructure messages such as energy feedback, traffic safety, and disaster resilience, along with a neuroimaging instrument (fNIRS), which measures brain activity via changes in blood flow patterns, can be utilized to optimize quality of life within the built environment

One piece of advice for a prospective student thinking about pursuing a graduate degree at a PWI?    

Make connections and grow your network!

Photo of Taylor McFadden smiling

Taylor is a third-year Animal and Poultry Science (APSC) doctoral student. She currently hold a bachelor's degree  from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. Her research interests broadly include the neurological effects of diet-induced obesity, aging and memory, and sex-dependent changes within an obese population.

One piece of advice for a prospective student thinking about pursuing a graduate degree at a PWI?

I would strongly advise that prospective students rotate through various labs and keep an open mind when encountering faculty and staff in each lab. It's best to look at the lab as a whole instead of solely focusing on research interest. 

Photo of Cheryl Montgomery, taken with cell phone

A 2x HBCU alum, Cheryl earned a bachelor's degree from Hampton University and a master's degree from Morgan State University. Currently, she is a doctoral candidate in the Planning Governance and Globalization Program within the School of Public and International Affairs. Cheryl's research utilizes critical race spatial analysis to document the ways in which Southern black women’s practices of community are shaping, giving meaning to, and transforming the conditions of black communities at large. Demonstrating the fluid and historical relationship between race, gender and space, the questions that this project addresses seek to uncover an active archive to imagine community otherwise.  To that end, her research is both theoretical and historical; contributing to scholarship examining practices of agency, justice, and community building among Southern black women.  

 One piece of advice for a prospective student thinking about pursuing a graduate degree at a PWI?   

Find your people.  Grad school is too hard to take this journey alone.  Surround yourself with folks who will affirm you and lift you up.  Check on your people.  Pour into them, and allow them to pour into you.  Be intentional about making time for your folks.  Replenish each other.  Consistently.