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Natural Science Leadership Fellows

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Natural Science Leadership Fellows

Natural Science Leadership Fellows

Leadership Fellows

  • 2017-2020: Alex Wright
  • 2020-2021: Acacia Ackles & Lindsay Williams
  • 2021-2022: Katie Westby & Samridhi Satija
  • 2021-2023: Daniel Puentes

Alex Wright (2017-2020)
Alex Wright leveraged his position as the first Natural Science Leadership Fellow to build lasting relationships within the college and inform guidelines and feedback mechanisms for peer-mentoring. Working closely with Dean Phillip M. Duxbury, Alex authored, promoted, and helped implement strategies from his Peer Mentoring Program Guide. Alex ended his three-year fellowship in 2020 by working with stakeholders within the College to develop feedback mechanisms to measure and improve faculty mentoring and departmental graduate program policies. His successes helped secure funding for an additional Natural Science Leadership Fellow the next year, and we were able to welcome Acacia Ackles and Lindsay Williams as Fellows for 2020-2021.


Acacia Ackles (2020-2021)
One of two 2020-2021 Natural Science Fellows, Acacia Ackles worked with a network of instructors across multiple institutions to draft an article on creating more equitable graduate admissions in the biological sciences. Their team drafted an article for submission to the American Naturalist’s call for special section papers on Nature, Data, and Power. Though the article was rejected, Acacia’s team is currently seeking a home for the proposal and the article itself. The proposal pulled together existing literature on equitable admissions, as well as expertise from faculty working across public, regional, and private institutions, from R1 to primarily teaching. The article aims to create a guide for Michigan State University and other biological science departments to assess and revise their admissions processes.

Lindsay Williams (2020-2021)
Lindsay Williams used her Fellowship to improve advertising and availability of career services and information on alternative careers for graduate students within the College of Natural Science. Lindsay began creating a guide for alternative career pathways for graduate students and working with Elizabeth Averkiadi, a Communication Arts and Sciences Ph.D. student, to create an undergraduate workshop titled “Ways of Researching” to introduce undergraduates to the research experience outside of academia.

Katie Westby (2021-2022)
Katie, drawing on over a decade of professional teaching experience, decided to address the unique accessibility needs within math education. Working closely with two faculty members in her department, Katie gained institutional support and funding to create a professional development workshop series for mathematics Graduate Teaching Assistants about compliance and inclusion from an anti-deficit, anti-ableist perspective. The goals of her workshops were to increase knowledge among GTAs about accommodations, understanding disability through a sociopolitical lens, and becoming comfortable creating a more inclusive learning environment.  The workshop also helped participants write diversity and teaching statements.  



Samridhi Satija (2021-2022)
Samridhi decided to focus on supporting graduate students who identify as women. She collaborated with Heather Shea, the director of the Women*s Student Services office, to host the SmartStart program, a program designed to help women with salary negotiations in professional settings. Salary negotiation skills are one way to address the wage gap that exists across genders. 

Daniel Puentes (2021-2023)
Daniel’s project focused on advocating for guaranteed transitional funding for graduate students who are forced to move to new labs or assistantships due to issues with their supervisor. Graduate students are financially vulnerable, especially when their funding is tied to a particular advisor or lab, and this funding would provide a safety net and financial security so students can prioritize their wellbeing. He created a survey to highlight the need for this type of emergency funding and in the process of submitting a proposal to the Graduate School based on benchmarking of similar programs at other institutions.

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Posted by:
Emma Dodd The MSU Graduate Leadership Institute
#graduate students #leadership #storytelling