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Meet FIU’s first Bouchet Society inductees

Meet FIU’s first Bouchet Society inductees

Adrian Figueroa, Deidre A. Okeke and Ikechukwu Onwuka are the first FIU students to receive this recognition for academic excellence and leadership.

May 24, 2023 at 3:40pm

Three FIU students were inducted into the prestigious Edward Alexander Bouchet Graduate Honor Society (Bouchet Society) earlier this year. Adrian Figueroa, Deidre A. Okeke and Ikechukwu (Ike) Onwuka are the first FIU students to receive this recognition for academic excellence and leadership.

Named after Edward Alexander Bouchet — the first black American Ph.D. recipient in the United States — the Bouchet Society recognizes outstanding scholarly achievement and promotes diversity and excellence in doctoral education and the professoriate. 

With co-founding chapters at Yale University and Howard University, the society was established in 2005 to honor Bouchet’s life and academic contributions by recognizing individuals who have been traditionally underrepresented, are committed to lifelong education and show outstanding promise as scholars in the humanities, sciences and social sciences.

One of the nation’s top minority serving institutions, FIU became a Bouchet Society charter institution in 2021 — it is one of only 19 doctoral-granting institutions in the country to be invited and accepted into membership. FIU earned this distinction for its commitment to promoting diversity within graduate education and for the hands-on training opportunities offered to students who want to pursue careers in academia.  

Individual membership into the Bouchet Graduate Honor Society is by nomination only and requires approval by the society’s national steering committee. Doctoral student membership is exclusive to current Ph.D. students from a Bouchet Society charter institution. New members are inducted in a ceremony that takes place at the annual Yale Bouchet Conference on Diversity and Graduate Education. This year, the conference featured panel presentations and poster sessions from members of the honor society, including Onwuka who presented his research on the Everglades water column during the Science Technology and Policy session. 

Figueroa, Okeke and Onwuka are now part of a network of preeminent scholars who exemplify academic and personal excellence, foster environments of support, and serve as examples of scholarship, leadership, character, service and advocacy for students who have been traditionally underrepresented in the academy.

Meet the inductees

Adrian FigueroaAdrian Figueroa is a doctoral candidate in the earth systems science program in FIU’s College of Arts, Sciences & Education. While pursuing his undergraduate degree in environmental studies at FIU, Figueroa researched how tortoises affect Florida’s endangered pine rocklands around Zoo Miami. He found gopher tortoises eat the pineland croton, which is the only known shelter for two federally protected butterflies. This could inform conservation strategies for the gopher tortoise, the pine rocklands, the butterflies and the plant communities. Working alongside FIU conservation ecologist Hong Liu and earth and environment professor Joel Heinen, Figueroa is continuing the work he started as an undergrad. His dissertation investigates seasonality in fruit-eating behavior by the gopher tortoises and the variability among individual tortoises in their role as seed dispersers. His goal is to one day use gopher tortoise reintroductions as a tool for conservation to restore native gopher tortoise populations and help establish and maintain populations of rare plants that are under threat of extinction.

Deidre OkekeDeidre Okeke is a doctoral student of epidemiology at FIU’s Robert Stempel College of Public Health & Social Work. As a doctoral student, her research interest centers around understanding social media use and its connection to mental health. For her dissertation, she plans to examine the role of various indirect and direct effects of discrimination in social media on depressive symptoms experienced by Hispanic emerging adults within collegiate settings. She hopes that her work not only helps to steer the development of mental health interventions that are relevant and key for this target population, but that it paves the way for further research involving other vulnerable populations. With a background in health disparities, experience in teaching, and a passion for communication, Okeke’s long-term goal is to become a medical correspondent. 

Ike OnwukaIke Onwuka recently graduated with a Ph.D. in earth systems science from the College of Arts, Sciences & Education. In 2016, Onwuka enrolled at FIU as a Ph.D. student in the Department of Earth and Environment and later earned a Master of Science in Environmental Studies. Under Professor Leonard Scinto’s guidance, he developed cost-effective, long-term methods to provide high-resolution sediment and phosphorus estimates in canals to assess when water discharges can degrade Everglades wetlands. This work is important because it provides guidance for better water management strategies that focus on reducing pollution into the Everglades, Biscayne and Florida Bays, and other coastal systems. The significance of his work has been recognized by several organizations that have supported his work through fellowships including the Everglades Foundation as well as programs supported by the National Science Foundation including the Florida Coastal Everglades Long-term Ecological Research (FCE-LTER) and the Center for Research Excellence in Science and Technology. 

Nominations for Edward Alexander Bouchet Graduate Honor Society are processed through FIU’s University Graduate School. The deadline for nominations is typically in the fall semester. Visit FIU's Bouchet Society chapter page for the latest information on the application process.