FSU graduate students as successful as they are diverse

They come from a variety of disciplines and are at differing stages in their academic careers. But an impressive number of Florida State University graduate students do have at least one thing in common: They are recipients of some of the nation’s most prestigious fellowships and awards.

With assistance from FSU faculty and, in many cases, the university’s Office of Graduate Fellowships and Awards, these students are now receiving national recognition for their accomplishments, as well as support (financial and otherwise) for their efforts to make significant contributions to their fields.

“I am particularly struck by the diversity of disciplines represented by the students who are receiving these prestigious national fellowships and awards,” said Nancy Marcus, dean of The Graduate School at FSU. “It points to a wonderful breadth of excellence at Florida State University.”

The Office of Graduate Fellowships and Awards provides assistance to students who are interested in national awards and coordinates information about awardees for a campus-wide perspective of graduate excellence.

“National sponsors, from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to the National Science Foundation, are recognizing the high caliber of our graduate students and investing in them as future leaders in their fields,” said Anne Marie West, director of Florida State’s Office of Graduate Fellowships and Awards. “I am impressed by the academic excellence and vision of these students and honored to be part of the FSU community that can help support them and inform other students about these opportunities.”

Here is just a small sampling of the many success stories that can be found among the university’s graduate student population:

Three of the students receiving national fellowships are still early in their graduate studies. One of them — Akinobu Watanabe, who is pursuing a master’s degree in FSU’s Department of Biological Science — just found out that he is the recipient of a Graduate Research Fellowship awarded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). With the award, he will receive a stipend of $30,000 per year for three years, as well as up to $10,500 per year to be applied toward costs associated with his education.

Watanabe’s master’s research project is titled “The Effect of Ontogeny on Phylogenetic Inference: A Case Study Using Extant and Fossil Crocodylie.”

“My study will investigate how growth in crocodilians can help assess and improve our current understanding of their evolutionary relationships,” he explained. “The results from this study will be used to examine this issue in dinosaurs.”

In addition to Watanabe, two other master’s students — Alexander Garcia and Marie Scheetz, both of the Department of Urban and Regional Planning — recently received word that they are the recipients of Dwight David Eisenhower Transportation Fellowships provided by the U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Highway Administration. Garcia is studying transportation planning, while Scheetz specializes in transportation planning as well as growth management and comprehensive planning.

The Eisenhower fellowships, which vary in funding levels, are awarded to qualifying students pursuing master’s or doctoral degrees in transportation-related disciplines; approximately 70 to 80 are given out nationally each year. (Click here to read more about both.)

Five other FSU graduate students have received major national and international awards to support dissertation research and training. They are:

  • Meaghan Brown of the Department of English, who was awarded a Mellon Fellowship for Dissertation Research in Original Sources by the Council on Library and Information Resources. Brown, who will receive up to $25,000, is one of about 15 students worldwide to receive the prestigious award. With it, she plans to spend a year conducting research on rare books in England’s libraries and archives. There, she will study the 16th-century technologies with which printers preserved and transmitted the products of human culture — books, maps, engravings and musical scores, for example — that both reflected and shaped early modern English identity. Brown will then share her findings in a dissertation, “A Good Report of England: Shaping the Nation in Early Modern Print.” (Read more about her here.)
  • Corey Thompson of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, who just learned that he is one of only 20 doctoral students from throughout the nation to be selected this year for a Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship awarded by the National Research Council. Ford fellowships are intended to increase understanding about ethnic and racial diversity in the nation’s college and university faculties; they provide a year of support for individuals working to complete a dissertation leading to a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) or Doctor of Science (Sc.D.) degree. Thompson’s dissertation is titled “The Study of Magnetostructural Correlations in Rare-Earth Cobalt Phosphides and Arsenides.”
  • Karlyn Griffith of the Department of Art History, who was awarded a Mellon Pre-Dissertation Fellowship in the Humanities by the Institute of Historical Research — one of only seven awarded. This summer research grant, valued at $5,000, provides for innovative research in primary sources, to take place in the United Kingdom. With it, Griffith will conduct research for her dissertation, “The Apocalypse and Antichrist in an Illustrated Eschatological Manuscript Compilation.”
  • K. Russell Shekha of the Department of Sociology, who was awarded an NSF Dissertation Research Improvement Grant. Funds from the grant provide for project expenses related to transformative dissertation research that has broader impacts on society. Shekha’s dissertation is titled “Determinants of Welfare State Spending.”
  • Elizabeth Clendinning of the College of Music, who won a highly competitive Critical Language Scholarship from the U.S. Department of State. The scholarship is designed to enable students who are committed to international studies to conduct intensive summer language training in a host country. Clendinning, whose specialization is ethnomusicology with a focus on Indonesian music, will use hers to receive Indonesian language training in that country. (Click here to read more about her.)

The academic awards kept coming this past spring as yet another Florida State doctoral student received one of the nation’s most renowned fellowships. Shannon Dunn of the Department of Religion, who is completing her doctoral dissertation, received not one but two major awards.

First, Dunn was named one of just 21 doctoral candidates nationwide to receive a Charlotte W. Newcombe Dissertation Fellowship awarded by the Woodrow Wilson Foundation. With the fellowship, she will receive $25,000 for the 2011-2012 academic year. The Newcombe fellowship supports dissertation completion for students focusing on ethical or religious issues.

Dunn was also awarded a dissertation completion fellowship valued at $20,000 from the American Association of University Women. However, she had to decline because of rules restricting the acceptance of concurrent national fellowships.

Dunn’s dissertation is titled “Gender Justice in a Post-Secular Age? Domestic Violence, Islamic Sharia, and the Liberal Legal Paradigm.” (Read more about her here.)

Next up, two advanced doctoral students were notified that they are the recipients of prestigious P.E.O. Scholar Awards awarded by the P.E.O. Sisterhood, a philanthropic educational organization with a primary focus on providing opportunities for female students worldwide. Jennifer Misuraca of the Department of Physics and April Smith of the Department of Psychology both received $15,000 awards to continue their studies and conduct research.

Misuraca’s field of research involves a type of nanotechnology known as spin-based electronics, or spintronics — an emerging field that could one day lead to the production of more stable and energy-efficient technological devices to replace today’s electric-charge-based computer bits. A key element of Smith’s research, meanwhile, relates to developing a better understanding of eating disorders in minority populations. (Read more about Misuraca and Smith here.)

Finally, two FSU graduate students were recently named finalists in the extremely competitive Presidential Management Fellows Program, which provides exclusive employment opportunities and leadership training to finalists who secure placement at federal agencies and are dedicated to careers in public service. David Albright is currently pursuing his doctorate in social work and a master’s degree in measurement and statistics; Matthew Allman is a law student specializing in environmental and international law.

Sponsored by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the Presidential Management Fellows Program is a leadership development program at the entry level for advanced-degree candidates. While a specific dollar amount isn’t assigned to the two-year fellowship, fellows receive a number of important benefits, including 160 hours of formal classroom training on leadership, management and other topics; challenging work assignments; feedback on their work; and the potential for accelerated promotions.