Graduate College announces launch of 2 presidential scholar programs

26 new scholars arrive at ASU as part of university's LIFT Initiative


October 26, 2021

This fall, ASU welcomed the inaugural cohort of Presidential Postdoctoral Fellows and Presidential Graduate Assistants for 2021–22. Selected by two review committees and spread over eight colleges, the 26 presidential scholars were welcomed to ASU at a recent reception hosted by the Graduate College.

Launched as part of the LIFT Initiative — ASU's commitment to Black students, faculty and staff, and other underrepresented groups and individuals — the Presidential Postdoctoral Fellowship and Graduate Assistantship programs, administered by the Graduate College, were created to diversify the ASU faculty, award graduate students from underrepresented communities research and teaching assistantships and support ASU’s ongoing efforts to develop and advance a culture of belonging and excellence.  LIFT Initiative - Presidential Scholars Welcome Professor Treavor Boyer (left), with the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, chats with doctoral student Gloria Appiah Nsiah at the Presidential Scholars Welcome Reception, sponsored by the Graduate College, on Sept. 22 in the Memorial Union on the Tempe campus. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News Download Full Image

An acronym for Listen, Invest, Facilitate and Teach, LIFT is elevating conversations around the importance and significance of this transformation for the lived experiences of ASU’s Black students, faculty and staff. 

“The Presidential Postdoctoral Fellowship and Presidential Graduate Assistantship programs help ASU accelerate meaningful change by bringing talented, diverse students and postdocs to the university,” said Elizabeth A. Wentz, vice provost and dean of the Graduate College. “Our new scholars are advancing research that will help ASU contribute to a national agenda for social justice, a goal of the LIFT Initiative.”

ASU established the Presidential Postdoctoral Fellowship Program to create a pathway to tenure-track positions at ASU for scholars from underrepresented communities. Four new fellows joined ASU this year. 

Dominic Bednar, who recently earned his PhD in environment and sustainability from the University of Michigan, is one of those four. His passion for energy and sustainability brought him to ASU.

“I decided on ASU just mainly because of the rich community of energy and environmental justice scholars, but also because of folks deeply involved in the work of global futures and sustainability,” Bednar said.

Bednar’s research looks at energy justice, which advocates for everyone's adequate access to affordable, sustainable household energy. More narrowly, he focuses on residential energy poverty, which refers to the lack of access to energy services. He hopes his research will raise awareness and recognition that people are experiencing energy poverty daily and it disproportionately affects Black and brown communities. 

Upon completion of the fellowship, Bednar plans to continue doing this work but, hopefully, as an assistant professor at ASU, where he hopes to bring graduate and undergraduate students as well as community members into his lab to envision what the energy future could and should be. He believes the Postdoctoral Fellowship Program will help him to do this.

“As a presidential postdoctoral scholar, I really have the time and space to think — to think about where my work is now, where I want it to go in the future, but also using this time to engage with community members and build up collaborations,” Bednar said.

Also established this year, the Presidential Graduate Assistant program is a merit-based award created to support the recruitment, professional development and faculty mentoring of doctoral students in all fields whose research, teaching and service will contribute to advancing the ASU Charter. There are 22 graduate students in the Presidential Graduate Assistant 2021–22 cohort.

One Presidential Graduate Assistant scholar, Kelsie Herzer, a doctoral student studying civil, environmental and sustainable engineering, is interested in the intersection of engineering and ethics.

“My goal is to change the curriculum at ASU. I would like to see a lot more incorporation of environmental justice and environmental racism themes incorporated into the engineering department,” Herzer said.

Her research looks at uranium remediation, and ultimately, she hopes to have some kind of technology or better understanding of where plants can be grown, what kinds of agricultural practices need to be carried out and how those can be managed to minimize the uranium taken in by the plants. 

Herzer, too, hopes to become a professor and continue doing research upon completion of her doctoral program. She believes the Presidential Graduate Assistant program will help her to attain these goals.

I think it's a really great opportunity that has opened many doors for me personally,” Herzer said.

DeAndre Augustus, also a Presidential Graduate Assistant scholar, is a doctoral student focused on justice studies. More specifically, he is researching the triangle effect of the U.S. Supreme Court, Black and other communities of color, and the police. He is looking at where the negative risk comes between minority communities and the police and says it can be traced back to Supreme Court rulings. He hopes his research will lead to a better vetting process when it comes to judicial selection committees. 

He is deeply passionate about his research, having both attended law school and worked in law enforcement. It was during his time in law school at St. Thomas University in Miami that Augustus actually heard about the justice studies graduate program at ASU because one of his professors, Donald Tibbs, graduated from the program years prior. The two have stayed in touch, and Tibbs introduced Augustus to several professors and researchers he knew.

“I'm not from Arizona, had never been here before I came to ASU, so with that, a community already based simply because of knowing an alum has been just greatly impactful,” Augustus said. 

In the future, he hopes to be on judicial selection committees and teach law. 

The Graduate College is preparing the call for proposals to go out to ASU academic units for the 2022–23 presidential postdoctoral fellowships and graduate assistantships.

Presidential Graduate Assistants

Gloria Appiah Nsiah
Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

DeAndre Augustus
The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Theodore Beatty
Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts

Kevin Brown
Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College

Jamie Casseus
The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Vidya Chandrasekhar Krishnan
Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

Xavier Celaya
The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Brittany Doss
College of Integrative Arts and Sciences

ASU The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Logo

Miracle Freckleton
The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Kelsie Herzer
Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

ASU The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Logo 

Ashlee Lambert
The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Kenneth Mims
Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College

Miguel Monzon
Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts

Aurora Munoz Casarrubias
The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Pauline Nalumansi
College of Global Futures

Eucharia Nwabichie
Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation

Diego Olivo
The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Alejandro Olvera
The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts

Crestcencia Ortiz-Barnett
Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts

Antonia Primus
Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation

ASU The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Logo

Talia Saeid
The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Isaiah Woodson
Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

 

Presidential Postdoctoral Fellows

Dominic Bednar
College of Global Futures

Emmanuel Salifu
Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

Juwan Bennett
Watts College of Public Service
and Community Solutions

Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions 

Krystlelynn Caraballo
Watts College of Public Service
and Community Solutions

 Written by Jenna Nabors

Guadalupe COVID-19 Community Response Team receives university, town honors

The team provides case investigations, contact tracing and other public health services


October 26, 2021

An Arizona State University epidemiologist and her team have earned university and municipal honors for their work helping the town of Guadalupe respond to COVID-19.

The Guadalupe COVID-19 Community Response Team, formed in June 2020, brings together ASU faculty, staff, students and community partners to lessen the impact of COVID-19 in Guadalupe. The team provides a wide range of services designed to slow the spread of the virus and serve those in need. During the team’s time working in the community, rates of new cases in Guadalupe have declined from 5.5 times higher than the Maricopa County average to being in line with the rest of the county. Megan Jehn at a Guadalupe food drive in August 2020 Associate Professor Megan Jehn helps distribute food at a community food drive in Guadalupe on Aug. 4, 2020. The weekly event is part of the Guadalupe COVID-19 Community Response Team's work supporting community health in the town. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News Download Full Image

The response team is a collaborative effort between ASU, the Maricopa County Department of Public Health, the town of Guadalupe, the Pascua Yaqui Tribe and Native Health. Megan Jehn — an epidemiologist, associate professor in ASU’s School of Human Evolution and Social Change, and affiliate of the Center for Global Health — leads the university’s contributions to the project.

“Working on the Guadalupe Community Response Team has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my professional career,” Jehn said. “COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted Native American and Hispanic communities here in Arizona, and there was an urgent need to provide public health resources to slow the spread of the virus.”

A field epidemiology group of more than 250 ASU students, staff and volunteers conducts case investigations and contact tracing seven days per week in Maricopa County. Jehn’s Student Outbreak Response Team, which has operated as a hands-on training program for global health students for the past six years, quickly pivoted and expanded to a large rapid-response team during the initial surge in COVID-19 cases. The team deployed to Guadalupe and has completed hundreds of case interviews there.

The Community Response Team also provides at-home testing; vaccination events; support for those isolating; culturally, linguistically and geographically appropriate health education; and a weekly community food drive. The team has supported more than 300 households through home isolation, conducted door-to-door case investigations and contact tracing, and engaged students and community volunteers to provide a surge public health workforce.

RELATED: ASU employees honored with President's Awards at ceremony

Other key ASU members of the team include Program Managers Jasmine Truong, Laura Meyer, Tim Dennehy and Kim Prete, and Field Supervisors Jennifer Jackman and Gloria Karirirwe.

The project received the ASU President’s Medal for Social Embeddedness this week, an award recognizing teams that help embed the university into the social and cultural fabric of the surrounding communities.

“At the end of the day the reason that people in public health have stepped up is because we care, it’s our life’s work and we want to use our knowledge and expertise to help communities get through this pandemic with the minimal amount of suffering,” Jehn said.

Over the summer, the town of Guadalupe also designated the team an official community partner. The Community Partners Program recognizes organizations that provide services or special events in Guadalupe. The Town Council formally approved the designation.

“To earn the trust and partnership of a community means the world to me, especially in the field of global health,” Jehn said. “This recognition and acknowledgement by the town means more to me personally than any academic accolade.”

Brian Schraum

Manager, Communications and Events, School of Human Evolution and Social Change

480-965-5538