Fourteen FSU graduate students join latest cohort of McKnight Fellows 

(L to R) Brianna Alston, Gabrielle Haggins, Emilio Luis Carrero, Charlisa Whyms, Joshlyn Thomas, Margaret Re’Shaun Blake, Johnnie Allen Jr., Rodney Ndum, Sediqua Bufford, Nikki Chappell, Tiffaney Tomlinson, Nicole Zampieri, Jhamieka Greenwood, Jasmine Smith.
(L to R) Brianna Alston, Gabrielle Haggins, Emilio Luis Carrero, Charlisa Whyms, Joshlyn Thomas, Margaret Re’Shaun Blake, Johnnie Allen Jr., Rodney Ndum, Sediqua Bufford, Nikki Chappell, Tiffaney Tomlinson, Nicole Zampieri, Jhamieka Greenwood, Jasmine Smith.

Fourteen Florida State University graduate students from underrepresented populations are part of the 2022-2023 cohort of McKnight Doctoral and Dissertation Fellows, funded by the Florida Education Fund, or FEF.

The FEF’s McKnight Doctoral and Dissertation Fellowship Programs are designed to address the underrepresentation of African American and Hispanic faculty at colleges and universities in Florida by increasing the pool of citizens whose doctoral degrees qualify them to teach at the college and university levels.

“The Florida Education Fund has a legacy of supporting the presence of Black and Hispanic scholars earning doctoral degrees in crucial disciplines through its McKnight Fellowship Program,” said Adrienne Stephenson, assistant dean of The Graduate School and director of FSU’s Office of Graduate Fellowships and Awards. “Their efforts to promote teaching and research and provide funding through their fellowship programs speak volumes about their long-standing commitment to diversify the professoriate.”

The Doctoral Fellowship provides $17,000 per year in tuition, fees and stipends for up to five years. The Dissertation Fellowship Program provides up to one year of support to individuals working to complete dissertations in STEM disciplines with a stipend of up to $12,000.

Members of the 2022-2023 cohort.
Current fellows pictured with recently graduated fellows (shown jacketed L-R) Jackson Powell, Ivanna Pengelley, Chelynn Randolph, and Joshlynn Thomas).

Students from Florida State have been awarded 308 of the coveted fellowships to date, with 42 fellows currently matriculating.

Current fellows attended the 37th annual McKnight Fellows’ Meeting in Tampa from Feb. 10-12. The conference is designed to address the needs of matriculating graduate students, research scholars and tenure-earning professors. It’s one of many opportunities available to fellows throughout the year that informs, trains and connects them with other fellows, recent graduates, established professionals and industry experts throughout the country.

Adrianne Jackson Weaver earned the McKnight Doctoral Fellowship in 2017 and graduated in 2022. She is currently employed by the U.S. Air Force in the Integrated Resilience Division as a Prevention Operations Program Manager, and she said the McKnight Fellowship helped fuel her desire to finish her doctoral degree.

“The McKnight Doctoral Fellowship allowed me to complete my Ph.D. without having to take out loans,” Jackson Weaver said. “It also provided me with a network of scholars and employers to collaborate with during and after my doctoral journey. The fellowship helped fuel my desire to finish the Ph.D. and mentor budding scholars along the way.”

Since its inception in 1984, the McKnight Doctoral Fellowship has awarded more than 1,500 scholarships and increased the number of African Americans and Hispanics who have earned doctoral degrees in disciplines where members of underrepresented groups have not historically enrolled and completed degree programs.

2022-2023 McKnight Doctoral Fellowship recipients:

Gabrielle Haggins, College of Education, Higher Education

The first in her family to attend college as well as the first to pursue a doctoral degree, Haggins researches the experiences of first-generation college students of color when studying abroad, as well as strategies to eliminate barriers which lead to low study abroad participation rates among this group. Her work aims to provide resources toward increasing opportunities for students of color to study abroad and experiencing its many benefits.

Sediqua Bufford, College of Medicine, Biomedical Sciences

Bufford’s research focuses on precision medicine and the advancement of medical science, centered around a goal of contributing toward more standard, efficient and affordable health care for all. Her aim is to discover biomarkers that can be used in translational research to provide interventions that address disproportional mortality rates among people of African ancestry. Following graduation, Bufford intends to continue focus on solutions to race-based disparities in health and access to health care.

Emilio Luis Carrero, English Department, Creative Writing

Carrero’s research focuses on decolonial archival practices to restore lost history and culture. More specifically, he uses creative methodologies such as poetry and nonfiction to imagine the histories and lives of marginalized communities that are often neglected or erased by public archives.

Johnnie Allen Jr., College of Education, Higher Education

Allen’s research is focused on leadership experiences and development of students of color in higher education, specifically Black college men and their participation in leadership learning, education and mentorship programs. Allen’s objective is to promote asset-based approaches to research about and deconstruct deficit-framed research and perceptions about Black college men.

Jhamieka Greenwood, Computational Science, Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Institute

Greenwood’s research focuses on atmosphere-fire interactions within fire-induced flows to study variables that contribute to wildfire spread. Her research aims to further our understanding of how wildfires behave, increase predictability and mitigate wildfire risks.

Charlisa Whyms, College of Arts and Sciences, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

A first-generation doctoral student, Whyms’ research focuses on investigating the structure and function of Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR)-Cas proteins. CRISPR proteins are utilized for revolutionary biotechnology and applied in genetic engineering and diagnostics. Through her doctoral program, Whyms strives to characterize a novel CRISPR protein.

Jasmine Smith, College of Communication and Information, Communication Science and Disorders

Smith is part of the Florida Interdisciplinary Research Fellows, or FIREFLIES, through the Florida Center for Reading Research and is focused on researching children’s language and literacy development. She hopes to use her research contributions to support effective instructional, intervention and assessment practices within education and the community to improve student outcomes.

Rodney Ndum, College of Business, Finance

Ndum’s research focuses on corporate fraud and malfeasance, the way in which corporations pilfer value from other stakeholders and the community at large. He’s held multiple leadership positions, including vice president of the Finance and Economic Doctoral Student Association within the Ph.D. Project, a nonprofit organization created to increase the diversity of business school faculty. Ndum hopes to someday drive policy discussion in Washington through advisory and testimonies.

Brianna Alston, College of Arts and Sciences, Statistics

Alston is earning a degree in biostatistics, the branch of statistics that focuses on data relating to living organisms. She’s interested in using statistical methods to improve medical imaging, which can lead to earlier detection of diseases like cancer or Alzheimer’s, and her ultimate career goal is to become a professor.

Margaret Re’Shaun Blake, College of Education, Curriculum and Instruction

Blake, a FIREFLIES fellow through the Florida Center for Reading Research, focuses on finding ways to increase reading confidence and competence early in children’s lives. As a former teacher, Blake always had the desire to expand her impact, and pursuing a Ph.D. at FSU has put her in a position to do that.


2022-2023 McKnight Dissertation Fellowship recipients:

Joshlyn Thomas, College of Education, Higher Education

Thomas researches Black women in senior-level leadership roles at universities, including Historically Black Colleges and Universities. She examines how these leaders obtain and navigate their positions within those institutions. Thomas graduated from FSU this past fall.

Nikki Chappell, College of Business, Accounting

The first in her family to pursue a doctoral degree, Chappell’s research focuses on the effects of financial accounting standards and regulations on institutions’ financial and regulatory reporting and operations. She is a licensed CPA with over 20 years of work experience and is currently studying the effects a recent accounting rule change had on banks’ lending to racial minorities.

Nicole Zampieri, College of Social Sciences and Public Policy, Geography

A first-generation American and college student of Nicaraguan descent, Zampieri’s research explores the patterns and drivers of structure, function and diversity within longleaf pine ecosystems. These ecosystems are important reservoirs of biodiversity and ecosystem services and are some of the most endangered ecosystems in North America. The longleaf pine tree species is globally endangered. Zampieri’s research centers on furthering our understanding of how to best manage and restore these ecosystems, to preserve their functioning and provisioning of services.

Tiffaney Tomlinson, College of Criminology and Criminal Justice

Tomlinson’s research examines occupation-specific social capital and its effects on prison personnel. Her work aims to contribute toward scholarship by advancing literature on the experiences of people in prisons along with those individuals tasked with caring for them to inform policy and practice directed toward contemporary prisons and the social orders that lie within them.

To learn more about ways for graduate students to fund their academic interests, visit FSU’s Office of Graduate Fellowships and Awards at

For more information about the McKnight Doctoral and Dissertation Fellowship programs, visit