Eight graduate students were recently inducted into the Virginia Tech chapter of the Edward A. Bouchet Graduate Honor Society during ceremonies at Yale University.

Doctoral students Adwoa Baah-Dwomoh, TeAirra Brown, Darren Maczka, Mary Ryan, Chantel Simpson, Michelle Soledad, Martina Svyantek, and Shelby Ward are the 2018 inductees.

“These graduate students embody the values of the Bouchet Society,” said Vice President and Dean for Graduate Education Karen P. DePauw. “They were chosen for their excellence in research, teaching, and outreach and because of the ways they work to improve conditions for historically underrepresented and underserved populations.”

In addition to the graduate students, Dannette Gomez Beane, former director of the Graduate School’s Office of Recruitment, Inclusion, and Diversity, was inducted in recognition of her work with the graduate school and the Virginia Tech Bouchet Society chapter. She currently is the director of recruitment and operations for Virginia Tech’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions

Established in 2005 by Yale and Howard universities, the society is named for the first African American to earn a doctoral degree in the United States. Edward Bouchet graduated from Yale College in 1874 and earned his doctoral degree in physics from Yale University in 1876. 

Virginia Tech is one of 16 university partners with Bouchet Society chapters. The society’s goal is to create a network of strong scholars and professionals who “serve as examples of scholarship, leadership, character, service, and advocacy for students who have been traditionally underrepresented in the academy,” according to its webpage.

“Induction into the Bouchet Society is a rare honor, and these students have earned their membership by making scholarship, leadership, character, service, and advocacy priorities during their doctoral studies and as lifelong commitments for the future of academia,” said Christian Matheis, director of the Graduate School’s Office of Recruitment, Diversity, and Inclusion.

The following students are the newest members of Virginia Tech’s Bouchet Graduate Honor Society:

Adwoa Baah-Dwomoh, of Blacksburg, is a Ph.D. candidate in materials science and engineering with a concentration in materials for medical applications and biomechanics. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Virginia Tech and a master’s degree from the University of Florida. Her research is on an interdisciplinary project to create a bioengineered scaffold. As a doctoral student, Baah-Dwomoh has been recognized as a National Science Foundation Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship MultiSTEPS Fellow, a Dr. Gary S. Clevinger Sr. Memorial Endowed Scholarship recipient, and a Diversity Scholar. She is an advocate for enhancing diversity, has served as student leader for the College of Engineering’s Diversity Graduate student network, and is part of the College of Engineering dean’s team.

TeAirra Brown, of Portsmouth, Virginia, is a Ph.D. candidate in industrial and systems engineering with a concentration in human factors of systems and product design. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Norfolk State University. Brown’s research interests include human-centered design, augmented reality, engineering education, and user interface design. She has received several fellowships and honors, including the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, the Gates Millennium Scholarship, the New Horizon Graduate Scholarship, the Bradley Electrical and Computer Engineering Department Fellowship, the GEM Consortium Fellowship, and the Graduate Achievement award from the Black Graduate Student Organization. She is involved in organizations with initiatives promoting hands-on STEM education.

Darren Maczka, of Leverett, Massachusetts, is a Ph.D. candidate in engineering education. His dissertation focuses on understanding how first-year engineering students experience MATLAB instruction and how MATLAB as an instructional tool shapes perceptions of programming work. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He is a Fellow of the Graduate Academy for Teaching Excellence at Virginia Tech and plays an active role in developing and facilitating events and workshops to support graduate teaching. Committed to inclusion within engineering, he is interested in the ways technology used in engineering courses impacts students’ sense of belonging to the field.

Mary K. Ryan, of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is a Ph.D. candidate in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences’ Alliance for Social, Political, Ethical, and Cultural Thought. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and her master’s degree from Marquette University. Her research concerns structural racism in the U.S. federal government, and she addresses areas of moral philosophy, governance, civics, critical race theory, and white supremacy studies in her dissertation. Ryan received a dissertation research grant from the Center for Peace Studies and Violence Prevention and has been recognized as a Graduate School Diversity Scholar.

Chantel Simpson, of Reidsville, North Carolina, is a Ph.D. student in the agricultural, leadership, and community education program. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from North Carolina A&T State University. Her research focuses on the impacts of student-faculty relationships on the professional identity development and retention of underrepresented students in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and agricultural degree programs. Simpson is a recipient of the Virginia Tech George Washington Carver Fellowship and is a Citizen Scholar. She serves as a volunteer math and science tutor for young people in her home community, and she volunteers with other outreach initiatives.

Michelle Soledad, of Davao City, Philippines, is a Ph.D. candidate in the engineering education program. Her dissertation focuses on understanding the learning experience in large foundational engineering courses by exploring faculty beliefs, aspirations, and needs for facilitating learning and leveraging institutional data to support reflective teaching practices. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Ateneo de Davao University in Davao City, Philippines. She worked as a software engineer for six years before making a career change to teaching and the academe. Soledad is a Fellow of the Virginia Tech Academy for Graduate Teaching Assistant Excellence and participated in the Graduate School’s Global Perspectives Program.

Martina V. Svyantek, of Auburn, Alabama, is a Ph.D. candidate in a self-designed and highly individualized interdisciplinary program exploring how disability identity is situated within higher education. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Auburn University and will earn her master’s degree at Virginia Tech in May 2018. Her research focuses on disability-related institutional policies and campus activism, including observations on the accessibility of digital and physical spaces created by campuses. She curates an ePortfolio detailing her varied experiences at martinasvyantek.com, and shares insights on Twitter as @svyantek. Svyantek aspires to continue working with the discipline-agnostic view of coursework, research, and service she has developed, weaving together connections and resources to strengthen community around disability identities within higher education.

Shelby Ward, of Christiansburg, Virginia, is a Ph.D. candidate in the Alliance for Social, Political, Ethical, and Cultural Thought (ASPECT). She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Virginia Tech. Her dissertation looks at the neocolonial productions and representations in Sri Lankan tourist maps. Ward is a transdisciplinary scholar and her research interests include critical and feminist theory, geocriticism, geopolitics, issues of development, poetics, postcolonialism, and theories of space, place, and mapping. She received the 2017 ASPECT Dissertation Research Fellowship, is an associate member of the Academy for Graduate Teaching Assistant Excellence, and is co-editor of SPECTRA, a peer-reviewed and open-access journal published by ASPECT. 

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