Awad Abdelhalim

Awad is a 4th year Ph.D. student in Transportation Systems Engineering at Virginia Tech. He earned his B.Sc. in Civil Engineering from the University of Khartoum, Sudan. His doctoral research focus is on intelligent transportation systems and applied AI in traffic safety, and has industry experience working in the private sector in and with the Department of Transportation in Washington, D.C. At Virginia Tech, Awad serves as an instructor in the College of Engineering, a senior team member in the university’s self-driving car team, and as the Chair of the Graduate Student Assembly’s Research Development Program.
Aside from his responsibilities as a doctoral student, he enjoys time out with friends, watching and playing sports (and will probably look to attend a Euro 2020 game or two this summer!), hiking, music, reading, traveling, and playing the piano.
Through participating in the Global Perspectives Program, Awad hopes to gain a better understanding of the similarities and differences in Academic career roles, responsibilities, trajectories, and research funding mechanisms in Europe compared to the U.S and his native Sudan. Being an international student in the U.S, he is also extremely interested in comparing the opportunities and support provided to international students and professionals in European Universities, especially during times of rising nationalism in Europe and around the globe.

Alexis Brieant

Alexis is a Ph.D. candidate in the department of Psychology at Virginia Tech. She is originally from upstate New York and earned Bachelor’s degrees in Psychology and French from the State University of New York at Geneseo. Her research investigates how stress and adversity affect brain development and psychopathology in children and adolescents. Following the completion of her Ph.D. this spring, Alexis will begin as a postdoctoral fellow in the department of Psychology at Yale University.

During the Global Perspectives Program, Alexis hopes to learn more about funding mechanisms and training models for doctoral students outside of the United States. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, camping/backpacking, and reading.

Meredith Bullard Martinez

Meredith is a third year Ph.D. student in Civil and Environmental Engineering. She is originally from Raleigh, North Carolina, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering at NC State University in 2017. Meredith is interested in water stewardship, groundwater dynamics and transport, managed aquifer recharge, and the use of innovative technologies to make our water resources sustainable. Her dissertation focuses on evaluating the impact of managed aquifer recharge on the Potomac Aquifer System in Eastern Virginia. In addition to her research, Meredith is also interested in effective learner-centered teaching and academic integrity. She enjoys mentoring new graduate students through the Virginia Tech Early Engineering Mentoring program. In her free time, she enjoys baking, playing Minecraft, reading, and spending time with her husband, Jake.

Meredith spent multiple summers in Prague, Czechia, taking classes and getting to know university students. This sparked her interest in international education, and the GPP is a perfect opportunity. Through the GPP, Meredith hopes to develop a broader understanding of higher education in Europe. Her research objective during the trip is to understand the means by which European universities create a culture of academic integrity.

Renata Carneiro

Renata Carneiro is a second-year PhD student in Food Science and Technology. She earned her bachelor’s degree in food engineering from the Federal University of Viçosa (UFV) in Brazil, her master’s degree in Life Sciences, Food Science and Technology from Virginia Tech, and her MBA in Project Management from the University of São Paulo (USP – ESALQ) in Brazil. 

Renata is affiliated with the Water INTERface Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Program (IGEP) at Virginia Tech and has a special interest in interdisciplinary teaching and research programs. During the GPP, she expects to learn more about the challenges to start and sustain interdisciplinary programs and discuss successful methods and tools that have been applied worldwide. 

Her leadership work at Virginia Tech has focused on advocating for underrepresented graduate students and making their voice stronger. She is the current president of LAIGSA (Latin American and Iberian Graduate Student Association) and member of the Brasil Club executive board. Renata has been engaged in important discussions relevant to the graduate community and other topics she would like to explore during the GPP include: work-life balance, mental and financial health, diversity, equity and inclusion. 

Outside of the university, Renata occasionally works as a volunteer at The Lyric Theater, enjoys adventuring as an amateur baker, practicing boxing, travelling, and spending quality time with friends.

Susan Chen

Susan Chen is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise. She also received both her master’s and bachelor’s degrees in Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise from Virginia Tech. Her research interests are sustainable food systems, community nutrition, and food waste. Susan’s dissertation research is on exploring the intersection between food waste and food insecurity. She has been a teaching assistant for a variety of nutrition classes, ranging from food preparation labs to a project-based community nutrition course. After graduation, Susan hopes to pursue a teaching and research career in academia. Through the Global Perspectives Program, Susan aims to understand European graduate and undergraduate student mentorship models and explore how European higher education systems encourage their students to become agents of change in their communities.  

Susan is from Blacksburg, Virginia. During her undergrad, she attended a traditional Chinese medicine study abroad program in Beijing, China; therefore, Susan is excited to have another opportunity to study abroad. Susan’s hobbies include all things food, such as cooking, gardening, and food preservation. She also enjoys spending time outside and plans to visit all of the U.S. National Parks one day.

Alex Combates

Alex Combates is a second-year graduate teaching assistant at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, where she is earning her M.A. in Material Culture and Public Humanities. Alex completed her B.A. in under three-years at West Virginia University in 2016, focusing on cultural anthropology and religious studies. Alex has a passion for projects that combine interdisciplinary research with objects of material culture.

 Her current research looks at how participatory contexts are used in settings of cultural institutions, as well as how these institutions collect and organize their objects of material culture. Her past research has looked at how objects of material culture have been regionalized despite having proliferated in global contexts. Alex’s future projects include creating online exhibitions and research that utilize digital humanities platforms. Using open access programs, Alex seeks to bring the worlds of material cultures, education, and research into the public sphere.

 When Alex is not completing her own research, she helps friends and family find institutions to donate un-wanted yet important items of material culture. Thus far, she has facilitated the donations of over one hundred objects, and you can easily find her digging through dusty boxes in garages, attics, and closets. Aside from her passions of material culture and interdisciplinary study, Alex enjoys hiking around the Blacksburg area and attending local music and art performances, and festivals.

Alex’s interest in the Global Perspectives Program lies in her desire to provide equal and equitable opportunities for access to research and resources, particularly in the humanities, as well as travel and discuss with international academics to broaden her perspective on humanities disciplines in a global context. While specifically focusing on interdisciplinary research processes and the coherence of relationships between European universities to their research tools and resources; Alex hopes to understand the role of the humanities in European higher education and how research processes have changed over time, through the GPP.

Some of her learning outcomes include understanding the pedagogical benefits of interdisciplinary-based research of the humanities in Europe and how reform has affected relationships between European universities and their research resources.

Stephanie Edwards Compton

Stephanie Edwards Compton is a second year PhD student in Cellular and Molecular Science in the department of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise at Virginia Tech. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Biology from Emory & Henry College and her master’s degree in Community Nutrition and Dietetics from Virginia Tech. Her current research combines her passions of biology and nutrition, investigating sphingolipids and metabolism in ovarian cancer. In addition to her research, Stephanie is an instructor at Virginia Tech, teaching future health professionals counseling skills and motivational interviewing. 

Stephanie works at Virginia Tech in the Accessible Technologies office as a braille transcriber, tactile graphics designer, alternative text creator, and video captioner. She is passionate about educating others about accessibility practices, using social media and in-person lectures to teach others how to make content, science, and education more accessible. From the Global Perspectives program, Stephanie hopes to gain an understanding of European approaches to accessibility and accommodations in academia, the public sphere, and healthcare. 

Outside of her roles as a student and instructor, Stephanie enjoys public speaking and outreach education, spending time with her husband and dog, and powerlifting. She also believes everyone is a scientist, and loves spending time on science communication. After completion of her PhD, Stephanie plans to pursue positions in research dietetics and teaching, as well as continue educating other health providers and professionals on accessibility and accommodations through courses and public education events.

Nayara de Olivera Faria

Nayara Faria is a Ph.D. student focusing on Cognitive Engineering in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering. She received her master’s degree in Human Factors and Ergonomics at Virginia Tech and her bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering at Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais, Brazil. Her research interests include novel displays’ impact on users, technology trust and acceptance, and the interaction of these areas in the industry 4.0. Nayara is currently working as a Graduate Research Assistant in a NSF-Funded project in which she investigates new methods to evaluate augmented-reality displays on drivers performance and distraction. For the summer of 2020, Nayara will be a visiting scholar at the University of Nottingham where she will mentor two undergraduate students through the NSF-funded International Research Experience for Students.

Upon graduation, Nayara hopes to pursue a teaching and research career within academia.  Through the Global Perspectives Program, she hopes to further explore how the European higher education system prepares the future professorate to foster inclusion and diversity within the classroom.

Robert Flahive

Robert Flahive is a PhD Candidate in the Alliance for Social, Political, Ethical, and Cultural Thought (ASPECT) and Instructor in the Department of History. His research explores the  preservation of architecture and spaces produced through 20th century colonialism in Casablanca, Tel Aviv, and Addis Ababa. He is interested in urbanism, architectural theory, history, and international politics. He holds an MA from American University of Beirut and a BA from Washington University in St. Louis. 
Robert is interested in learning about different institutional and pedagogical approaches to interdisciplinarity within higher education through GPP. This stems from an exploration of the types of departments or faculties in which he could fit within institutions of higher education. 

Natali Huggins

Natali Huggins is a doctoral student and graduate research assistant in the Engineering Education department at Virginia Tech. She holds a master’s in public administration from the National Experimental University of Táchira and a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Catholic University of Táchira in Venezuela. She has several years of experience in higher education administration and internal audit in her home country Venezuela. 

Natali research interests include diversity and inclusion in graduate education, particularly international and Latinx graduate students’ persistence and development. She is interested in supporting students in their transition, adaptability and socialization to higher education in the United States.

Her learning objective for GPP is to explore the context and motivation for inclusion and diversity alternatives in the higher education system in Europe, specifically for international students. Also, she is interested in exploring the support system for international students at the graduate education level.

Heather Kissel

Heather Kissel is a third-year doctoral student in the Biological Psychology training area working in Dr. Bruce Friedman’s Mind-Body Lab. She completed pre-medical coursework along with receiving her B.A. in Psychology from Bellarmine University in 2017. Heather is a Louisville, Kentucky native who has always been passionate about making connections between various disciplines. She is currently working on a research project examining communication of emotion via touch. Past research has demonstrated that people are able to decipher emotions communicated in this way, but Heather wants to discover the potential mechanism (physiological linkage?) for possible therapeutic applications. 

During her undergraduate education, Heather was a student program coordinator and lead tutor for the Student Success Center at Bellarmine. In this role she discovered her passion for teaching. Her career goal is to return to a small liberal arts school, where she will develop a strong undergraduate research program. 

As part of the Global Perspectives Program, she wants to explore how tutoring centers and Student Success Centers are run abroad and/or how tutoring services are viewed and implemented. In learning about these services and their perception, she hopes to work with the centers at her future university to improve their services and make them more appealing for students of all backgrounds.

Kevin Krost

Kevin Krost is a Ph. D. Candidate in Educational Research and Evaluation at Virginia Tech, focusing on psychometrics and minimizing achievement gaps on assessments. He has lectured about decolonizing methodologies, test evaluation, quantitative research methods, and achievement gaps.

Kevin’s previous research has focused on mitigating gender-identity, language-, and nationality-based gaps on assessments, careers, and social outcomes. He became interested in these topics during his master’s degree where he evaluated item bias against students with disabilities and English language learners on a statewide math assessment. Since then, Kevin has been researching student achievement gaps and the individual and environmental factors which explain, or elucidate, them.

Kevin aspires to pursue a non-teaching or industry position directly after graduating to gain further applied or research experience before teaching at the collegiate level. This will benefit him as a teacher by giving him a better understanding of assessment outside of academia, providing more contacts in the industry, and giving him more experience to inform his students.

By attending the Global Perspectives Program, Kevin will broaden his knowledge about higher education outside of the USA. He is very interested in exploring the research topic of representation of demographics among both students and faculty, including gender-identity, language, disability status, and nationality. Kevin will learn about how these groups are included in European universities, how their inclusion is different from universities in the USA, and what new and positive steps can be taken to increase their inclusion.

Outside of school, Kevin loves to travel places and eat delicious food with his partner Dan Li, stay at home with their dog Pillow, and cat Major Tom, learn Mandarin, and enjoy the outdoors.

Todd Shuba

Todd Shuba is a New Horizon Graduate Scholar (NHGS) in the College of Engineering, as well as a Graduate Research and Teaching Assistant in the Department of Engineering Education, at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.  His research interests are transfer of learning (or knowledge transfer), as well as conceptual change and understanding, both fostered by collaborative learning in the domain of undergraduate engineering programs.  Interest in transfer of learning as a phenomenon relevant to the co-construction of knowledge is motivated by the significant role it plays in formal education.  That is, “[t]ransfer of learning is universally accepted as the ultimate aim of teaching” (McKeough, Lupart, & Marini, 1995, p. vii) and “widely considered to be a fundamental goal of education” (Marini & Genereux, 1995, p. 1).  Explained, Tuomi-Grohn, Engestrom, and Young (2003) argue that “[s]chools are not able to teach students everything they will need to know for the rest of their lives; they must equip students with the ability to transfer – to use what they have learned to solve new problems successfully or to learn quickly in new situations” (p. 1).  All of the above are explored under the direction of his advisor Dr. Nicole Pitterson, Assistant Professor of Engineering Education.

He is an active member of several professional research organizations, including the American Educational Research Association (AERA), the American Psychological Association (APA), the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), and the European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction (EARLI), and represents the Department of Engineering Education as a Delegate to the Virginia Tech Graduate Student Assembly.  He is also a member, with honors, of the National Speech and Debate Association (formerly known as the National Forensic League).

He holds a Bachelor of Science in Engineering with a concentration in the area of Environmental and Ecological Engineering and a minor in Mechanical Engineering, as well as a Master of Science in Education with a concentration in the area of Educational Psychology and Research Methodology, from Purdue University-West Lafayette.  While a graduate student in the College of Education, he held both a Ross-Andrews Fellowship in the Department of Educational Studies and a Graduate Research Assistantship with the Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS) Program.  He also completed a summer study abroad program in intercultural teamwork across the People’s Republic of China (Beijing, Harbin, Ningbo, and Shanghai) as an undergraduate student.

Johnny C. Woods, Jr.

Johnny C. Woods, Jr is a second-year PhD student in the Higher Education Department and is concurrently pursuing a MS in Science and Technology Studies at Virginia Tech (VT). He has a MEd in Educational Foundations from Makerere University, Uganda and a BA in Sociology from the African Methodist Episcopal Zion University, Liberia. Johnny also holds several graduate and advance certificates, including Internal Quality Assurance (IQA) in Higher Education, Monitoring and Evaluation, Procurement, and Public Sector Management. He currently serves as the Research Group Coordinator for a team of researchers in the Engineering Competencies, Learning, and Inclusive Practices for Success (ECLIPS) Lab in the Department of Engineering Education at VT where he is also a Graduate Research Assistant. His dissertation focuses on factors influencing the pursuit of STEM career choice among African-born immigrants in the United States; and his Advisor is Dr. Homero Murzi. Prior to Virginia Tech, Johnny served at Tubman University-TU (Liberia) for approximately 11 years in several administrative capacities, including his last position as Chief of Staff to the University President and Liaison to the University Board of Trustees.

Johnny is a member of several professional associations including the: American College Personnel Association (ACPA); American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE); and the West African Anglophone Quality Assurance Network (WAAQAN). At VT, his service includes membership with the Graduate Honor System (GHS) and the VT Academy for Graduate Teaching Assistant Excellence ((VTGrATE). He is a Diversity Scholar for the VT Diversity Scholar Program (2020) and a Graduate Fellow of the Global Academy for Engineering. Johnny is also a proud recipient of TU Pioneer Administrator Award. He has co-authored few research papers in the proceedings of ASEE and the European Society for Engineering Education (SEFI). He has few more conference papers and journal articles currently under review. His general areas of research include: STEM education, immigrants/migrants issues in higher education, international education/students, and Quality Assurance. Given his administrative and research experience, Johnny intends to serve as a Graduate Teaching Assistant/Apprentice beginning the Academic Year 2020-2021 to gain college teaching experience so as to boost his capacity to ably function in academia. In his spare time, Johnny enjoys spending time and having intellectual conversations with his Partner, Randell Zuleka Dauda, a fellow doctoral student in the VT’s Planning, Governance, and Globalization program. 

During the GPP experience, Johnny’ research objective is to gain insights into the different Quality Assurance frameworks at the visiting universities in Europe. His specific learning objectives include: Understanding Internal Quality Assurance (IQA) mechanism/systems. How are the systems of IQA structured? Specifically, who has the responsibility for IQA and what role do lecturers/professors play in that process? What is the link or collaboration between IQA and External Quality Assurance frameworks? What are the critical indicators to demonstrate “fitness of purpose”? As part of the Quality Assurance framework, Johnny also intends to understand the system of higher education administration/institutional governance and how are lecturers and/or professors involved with the process of shared-governance. This will also include the framework for hiring and dismissing lecturers/professors.

Grace Wusk

Grace Wusk is a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics at Virginia Tech. She received her bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Virginia with a minor in Engineering Business and is proud to be both a Hokie and a Hoo. Before graduate school, Grace interned at NASA Langley Research Center and NASA Johnson Space Center. Now, through a NASA Space Technology and Research Fellowship, Grace is developing a model to predict cognitive state for astronauts during spacewalks using physiological measures like heart rate, breathing rate, and brain activity. Grace loves traveling and exploring the great outdoors. She enjoys connecting her experiences on the trail and interests in wearable technologies to future visions of explorers navigating the Moon and Mars. She is passionate about living a healthy life and sharing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) with everyone. Grace has always been interested in education and looks forward to the opportunity to gain a global perspective on higher education.