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Association for Faculty Women 2013-2014 Recipients: Graduate Student Awards

2013-2014 AFW Awards for
Outstanding Women in Graduate Studies


The Association for Faculty Women announces its 2013-2014 award winners for outstanding women in graduate studies. These awards recognize superlative academic and scholarly accomplishments, as well as professional potential of women graduate students at WSU completing their degrees in the 2013-2014 academic year (graduation dates: December 2013, May 2014, August 2013).

  • The AFW Harriett B. Rigas Award is presented to a doctoral student.
  • The AFW Founders Award is presented to a master’s level student.

 AFW Founders Award 2013-2014

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The first place awardee is Jennifer Santos
Paul Allen School for Global Animal Health

Jennifer came to WSU in the fall of 2011 after graduating Magna Cum laude from the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus with a B.S. in Molecular Biology.

She is a graduate student in the Immunology and Infectious Disease program in the Paul Allen School for Global Animal Health and plans to graduate this May.

With her advisor Viveka Vadyvaloo, Jenni seeks to understand the environmental persistence of bubonic plague by studying the interactions between Yesenia pestis, the microbe that causes the plague, and the protozoan Acanthamoeba castellanii.   Viveka notes “she has impressively and single-handedly pioneered the development of a new protozoan host model in the laboratory.”

She is a co-author on a manuscript that was recently published in the top tier infectious disease journal, and is currently writing a manuscript on her masters research.

During her time at WSU, she has served as a peer mentor for minority students pursuing STEM majors and for pre-health majors through the Team Mentoring Program.

From one of her letters of support:

“This program is a partnership the Office of Multicultural Student Services and the colleges that offer STEM degrees and it is designed to increase the enrollment, retention, and success of underrepresented students in the STEM disciplines. As a Mentor in this program, Jennifer demonstrated numerous positive qualities. She has a welcoming personality, great sensitivity, is open minded, exhibits great ability to connect and works well with others. Her fellow mentors appreciated her as a leader, team player, and as a confident and poised colleague. She certainly shows to be a mature individual who professionally handles whatever task is at hand.”

In July Jennifer will join the Medical Laboratory Scientist program at Providence Sacred Heart Hospital in Spokane. She would also like to make significant contributions to the field of infectious disease research and help improve the quality of life around the world

Her long-term goals include becoming a teacher in a medical science program or a community college level and encourage younger minds to consider a career in science.


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Receiving second place is Amanda Vander Woude,
School of Music
College of Arts and Sciences

Amanda Vander Woude came to WSU with a BA in Vocal Music Education from Dordt College in Sioux Center Iowa.   She will grad in May with a master’s in vocal performance.

Under the direction of her mentor, Sheila Converse, Amanda is studying the causes and prevention of vocal injuries in modern professional singers. Dr. Converse ” Amanda’s thesis is a thoughtfully written, carefully researched project that she plans to distribute to studio voice teachers to help them understand and thus prevent vocal injuries in their singers of all genres.”

Amanda teaches master-class in vocal instruction to about 20 students weekly, and college-level group lessons to another 20. She is also a private vocal instructor, a DJ at Inland Northwest Broadcasting, and a creator of educational media. She performs as a soloist and with ensembles at WSU.

Her referees concur that “As a voice teacher…she is without a doubt the best grad student we have had in this position.  Her students absolutely love her, enjoy her consistent encouragement and the way she helps them overcome challenges and consistently improve from week to week.”

After graduation, Amanda plans to audition for professional performances as a singer and apply for doctoral programs in vocal performance and pedagogy.

 AFW Harriett B. Rigas Award 2013-2014

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Ellen Preece
School of the Environment

Ellen Preece came to WSU in fall of 2008.  In May, she will receive her PhD in Environmental and Natural Resource Sciences.

Ellen’s research addresses water and food safety issues that directly affect people’s lives.  She has worked collaboratively with WSU, state and federal agencies, farmers, non-profit organizations, Native American tribes and communities throughout Washington to protect and preserve aquatic resources across the state.  Her advisor, Barry Moore, writes that “”Ellen has already demonstrated great leadership, and I believe she will ultimately be a leading scientist who will make significant contributions in the nexus of agricultural, environmental, and human systems. Her research has major relevance to environmental, aquaculture, and economics concerns in WA and in similar systems worldwide. ”

Ellen has presented her work at 16 conferences and written numerous reports and papers in peer-reviewed journals. She recently was elected president of the Washington State Lake Protection Association.

Before coming to WSU, Ellen was a Farm Service Agency Intern, an Americorps Volunteer, a wildland firefighter.  In short, her work to date has impressive contributions in service, leadership, and research.  Currently, she is pursuing funding for a postdoctoral position to expand upon my graduate research and she plans to continue conducting research that links environmental issues to the protection of human health.

“Being a professor for a university or a scientist for a government or tribal entity will allow me to pursue research that I find fulfilling and that will help me meet my long term goals of improving the environment, health, and food safety.”



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Celia Faiola

Celia Faiola came to WSU in 2009 and will graduate in May with a PhD in Engineering Science. Although an undergraduate academic counselor advised her not to take science classes because they would be too challenging for her, this strengthened her resolve. She is the first woman in her family to pursue a graduate degree.

Celia is studying biosphere-atmosphere interactions with advisor Timothy VanReken. Dr. VanReken says, “Celia’s research project is one that is breaking new ground at the boundary of atmospheric chemistry and biogeochemistry. Her primary goal is to improve our understanding of how environmental stresses affect the emissions of trace gases from plants, and how those gases then contribute to air pollution and climate change.  Celia has done a fantastic job with an exceptionally challenging project and is one of the best students to come through our program in many years. She is smart, focused, and driven to do good in this world.

Celia has also been a graduate student leader throughout her time at WSU. She has been a senator with WSU’s GPSA, and was the president of the university’s Graduate women’s Alliance in Academia (GAIA). She also made significant contributions as the graduate student member of the Board on Atmospheric Bio-geosciences for the American Meteorological Association.

Her long-term goal is to work at a small public university where she can provide research opportunities to women and minorities who are under-represented in science and engineering research.


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Robin White
School of Animal Sciences

Robin earned her Bachelor’s degree in Animal Sciences from WSU in 2 years.  She will receive her PhD, also in Animal Sciences, in May 2014 under the supervision of Dr. Kristen Johnson.

Robin’s research focuses on developing mathematical models to explore how on-farm management strategies affect sustainability of beef production systems. Her work is some of the first integrating social acceptability metrics into economic and environmental livestock models.

Amazingly, her interdisciplinary research combines animal science, economics, statistics, and applied mathematics to examine management strategies that might be used in the beef industry to reduce land and water resources, and greenhouse gas emissions.

Her research will result in 5 peer-reviewed publications and 14 conference papers/posters. She has received 13 awards and scholarships including top honors in numerous research competitions and include 1st place for her presentation at the American Society of Dairy Science and the Pacific Northwest Nutrition Conference. She also received a travel award to attend the 5th Greenhouse Gas in Animal Agriculture Conference in Dublin, Ireland last spring.

Additionally, Robin exhibited leadership skills as president of her department’s graduate student association for 2 terms, designed weekend workshops for youth groups and served as a teaching assistant, an online course developer and a course instructor.

Robin would like to pursue a career that allows her to research methods to improve global food security.

I think we can all agree that as one of her nominators stated: “Robin is an excellent student, an aspiring teacher”.