By Daniel Pimentel
Every year the University Graduate School celebrates FIU’s outstanding graduate students and faculty with the Provost Awards. Held on April 10, this year’s recognition reception – part of the annual Graduate Student Appreciation Week – recognized four graduate students and two faculty members with awards ranging from student mentorship and engagement to outstanding creative papers or projects.
Meet the 2015 Provost Award recipients:
Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant
Vinay Bhadwaj, Ph.D. student, biomedical engineering
Teaching in a newly opened BME lab equipped with a state-of-the-art 3D printer, Vinay Bhadwaj educates undergraduate seniors on biological systems, providing mentorship and fostering an engaging learning environment. Bhadwaj’s ability to inspire students to think beyond the confines of the laboratory has also allowed students to conceptualize real-world applications and solutions from their work. The atmosphere of enthusiasm and engagement Bhadwaj creates is fueled both by his encouragement of in-class discussions and his belief in the reciprocity of learning between teacher and student.
“Teaching and learning– they always go side by side,” Bhadwaj says.
While Bhadwaj lists the Provost Award as his favorite in his list of accomplishments, a close second is a pineapple cake – a surprise gift from his students in appreciation for his support and guidance.
Graduate Student Engagement
Charnele Michel, master’s student, mass communication
As a graduate assistant to Juliet Pinto in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Charnele Michel’s execution of an integrated social media campaign to raise awareness of sea level rise generated buzz and built awareness around a global issue.
Using social media and hashtag branding, Michel engaged the FIU and South Florida community during King Tide Day, interacting with a diverse digital audience through the hashtag #kingtidedayflorida.
Michel’s social influence and engagement is also evident in her entrepreneurial efforts. An active Miami fashion blogger collaborating within larger fashion networks, Michel uses online communities to engage a broader audience within a dynamic industry, ensuring that she will continue to create social movements beyond the realm of social activism.
“I’m empowered to take things to the next level,” Michel says. “It’s more than speaking about it. It’s creating campaigns built around getting others involved.”
Graduate Student Outstanding Paper or Project
Sarah Helseth, Ph.D. student, psychology
Sarah Helseth’s article “Effects of Behavioral and Pharmacological Therapies on Peer Reinforcement of Deviancy in Children with ADHD-Only, ADHD and Conduct Problems, and Controls,” published in 2014 in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, compared the unique and combined effects of evidence-based treatments for ADHD-stimulant medication and behavior modification on children’s rates of reinforcement for deviant peer behavior.
Overall, Helseth hopes her research will help improve social problem solving among disadvantaged kids from low-income neighborhoods. More specifically, her research aims to find ways to activate children as agents of change for other children.
Regarding her research Helseth says, “If we can find ways to activate an existing ‘workforce’ of kids and have them learn how to learn from each other in a positive and more structured way, it can open a lot of doors for kids who otherwise wouldn’t get services.”
Graduate Student Outstanding Creative Project
Dawn Davies, master’s student, creative writing
Dawn Davies is in her third and final year of the MFA Creative Writing Program. She is currently working as the assistant fiction editor of Gulf Stream Magazine, and graduate coordinator for the Writers on the Bay Reading Series, which offers literary readings to the Miami community.
Davies’ track record as a writer is extensive and includes notable achievements such as placing first in the 2013 FIU Student Literary Awards for nonfiction and winning the 2013 Kentucky Women Writers’ Conference Gabehart Prize for nonfiction.
After enrolling into the MFA in Creative Writing Program, Davies envisioned herself as a fiction writer. After meeting Assistant Professor Julie Wade and taking a creative nonfiction course, Dawn discovered her love for creative non-fiction and essays, leading to her most recent work: a collection of 13 personal essays, all stand-alone pieces, sharing common themes and integrating with one another.
Moving forward, Davies plans to write and continue to seek publication with her works.
Mentorship of Graduate Students
Elena Bastida, chair of the Department of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention
Elena Bastida’s holistic approach to mentorship is deeply rooted in her love for teaching – both inside and outside of the classroom. Throughout the department, graduate students seek Bastida for professional and personal guidance. Noting the influx of women entering higher education, Bastida leverages her personal experience to inform and empower her students on anything from starting a family to post-graduate career decisions.
As a mentor, Bastida emphasizes the importance of humility, being approachable and understanding the individual.
“I’m not mentoring you because this is who I want you to be, but given your qualities, this I how I think you’ll reach your full potential,” she says. “That’s important to me.”
Outstanding Graduate Program Director
Leslie Frazier, Graduate Program Director, Department of Psychology
Leslie Frazier is the director of Graduate Programs for the Psychology Department, where a climate of collaboration has empowered students and faculty to work toward a shared purpose.
Frazier’s stewardship has contributed to many recent milestones, including the launch of the Cognitive Neuroscience Doctoral Training Program. The new training program, which will facilitate cutting-edge research and see its first cohort next Fall, is attracting top students from all over the world.
Frazier hopes to continue to raise the visibility and caliber of the doctoral training programs, nationally and internationally.
She also hopes to create more professional development opportunities for students so they can enter the job market with an advantage and become the next generation of scholars in the field of psychology.
For more information about Graduate Student Appreciation Week, visit their website.