Winners of the 2018 Graduate Student Awards. Photo by Jeff Anderson.
Year-round and virtually on an everyday basis, the accomplishment and dedication of Drexel University graduate students shine in far-reaching corners of campus — in the classroom, in the lab and out in the community.
The annual Graduate Student Day celebration has become a key time to bring graduate students together to celebrate these accomplishments communally, and the 2018 celebration on May 31 was no different. At the awards ceremony that afternoon, over 100 students, faculty and professional staff took part in a program to award outstanding organizations, researchers, mentors and teaching assistants, and to welcome the new 2018–2019 Graduate Student Association (GSA) board.
Current GSA President Jerry John Nutor, a graduating PhD nursing student, kicked off the event by celebrating the work of the current board and thanking all graduate students for granting him the honor of serving as president for two consecutive years.
“I’m glad to say that the GSA paid attention to student needs and concerns, and organized events that grad students themselves had recommended,” he said to the crowd. “In our prominent role as the GSA, we advocate for graduate students and meet their needs and concerns by negotiating with the leadership and authorities at the University regarding important issues affecting graduate students. We have been able to resolve some of these issues, but I hope our successors who will take office tomorrow will continue from where we stopped.”
Then, Interim Vice Provost of Graduate Education Elisabeth Van Bockstaele, PhD, opened the awards portion by applauding the GSA, the awardees and the selection committee for their work in choosing the day’s honorees.
“This is really an afternoon to celebrate all of your accomplishments, the accomplishments of our GSA organizations, how much work happens within our communities and how civically engaged our graduate students are,” she said.
Graduate students, as well as select faculty and professional staff, were recognized either for peer-voted GSA awards or for Graduate College awards, which were reviewed and selected by the Awards and Fellowships Committee of the University Council on Graduate Affairs. This committee is chaired by Caroline Schauer, PhD, associate professor of material science and engineering in the College of Engineering.
In addition to those awarded for outstanding dissertations, research, civic engagement and mentorship, one graduate student each year is recognized by the Tech-Kah Lim Award, named for the former associate vice provost of Graduate Studies and physics professor emeritus. This year, Lim, PhD, bestowed the award on Dylan O’Donoghue — who is pursuing a master’s degree in legal studies in the Thomas R. Kline School of Law — for her anti-human trafficking and human rights research.
“I’m over-the-moon pleased to hand out the next award. Partly that’s because it’s named after me…” Lim said, receiving a laugh from the audience. “The second big reason why I’m so excited to be here this afternoon is that the award will recognize the promise that the students nurtured here have shown to affect the world around them in positive ways. This year’s awardee has met the stringent criteria of good citizenship and scintillating scholarship and other qualities the award committee was checking on.”
O’Donoghue said following the event that she was happy and humbled to receive the award, especially as a way to shed some light on the topic of her research.
“I feel like victims of human trafficking are a really overlooked population,” she said. “To have my work recognized and the subject recognized is really important to advancing our understanding on how to help victims.”
Recognition for hard work through events like Graduate Student Day is also very motivating and validating for students, O’Donoghue said.
“For those nominated and not awarded, it still feels like an accomplishment,” she said. “It helps foster a sense of community across the different colleges, schools and campuses and get a sense of what other people are doing.”
Sandra Golis Strang, communications and events manager for the Graduate College, agreed that annual events like this help foster an “interdisciplinary attitude” amongst graduate students, and opens the door for collaboration and discussion.
“It helps make us one University,” Golis Strang said.
To conclude the event, the diverse new GSA board for the 2018–2019 academic year was revealed. Michael Ryan, PhD, an assistant teaching professor in the College of Engineering and the director of graduate student organizations in the Graduate College, reported that this was likely the first time that the board represented students from seven different departments across the University.
Alexandria Will-Cole, a PhD candidate in materials science and engineering in the College of Engineering, was named president of the board, much to her own surprise.
“I am very excited to serve my fellow graduate students in this role. However, I am a little nervous too, but I am ready to accept this challenge,” she said following the event.
Will-Cole said that the aims for her presidency include new graduate student involvement, as well as placing a greater emphasis on graduate student mental health.
“I want to make more resources available to students to mitigate mental health issues as well as raise awareness at Drexel, even among faculty advisors and staff,” she said.
Additionally, Will-Cole said she believes the theme for the GSA this year is transparency and helping all graduate students understand and utilize the role of the GSA within the University.
“I want to have better communication and open conversations with students, thus ensuring our board can effectively broadcast their voice,” she said.
Click respectively to review the full list of 2018 award winners and the GSA executive board for 2018-2019.