Kawthar Alrayyan

Kawthar Rayyan is a second-year Ph.D. student in Landscape architecture at Virginia Tech university. She is a Jordanian Architect where she earned her bachelor’s degree in architecture from the University of Jordan in 2008. Her interest in landscape architecture started while working in private architectural firms and offices, working on landscape-oriented projects that profoundly lacked the experience or scientific foundation to adapt to the Jordanian climate and context. Therefore, she pursued her master’s in landscape architecture from the University of Arizona in 2013 to understand arid land and desert landscape better. Followed that, seven years of teaching experience as a full-time lecturer at the German Jordanian University. During this, she managed to promote and advocate a better perspective for reading and designing Jordan’s landscape through her student projects, published articles, and community projects. She has collaborated with different universities in Germany, having cultural dialogue and innovation lab and workshop with German and Jordanian students. Besides, Kawthar has been working as a landscape consultant working on Sanaa masterplan in Yemen and Sulaymaniyah masterplan in Kurdistan, and many projects in Jordan. Her main research interests focus on the cultural landscape and the impact of policies and management strategies on shaping Jordan’s cultural landscape. 

Kawthar’s interest in the Global perspectives Program lies in her desire to obtain the resources, support, and knowledge from different and abroad perspectives to become a better educator. Kawthar believes that being exposed to European higher education approaches, especially in the women empowerment in education and international recruitment and diversity in their educational systems and graduate level, will give her a better perspective of inclusive pedagogy.

Allie Castaneda

Allie is a Ph.D. candidate in the Ni Lab studying neural circuits in fruit flies. She enjoys learning about genetics, behavior, and immunology. In the future, she aims to look for a teaching position at a college or university, and is working to improve her teaching philosophy through TAing and various other programs at Virginia Tech. For her learning objectives, she wants to learn and discuss more about the ways that undergraduate pedagogy in universities in Switzerland differ from that of American universities, as well as to broaden her worldview in general. In her free time, she enjoys relaxing with her dog as well as club activities with the Japanese Cultural Association.

Caitlin Cridland

Caitlin is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Biochemistry, with a research focus in energy- and nutrient- signaling pathways in plants. Caitlin obtained her bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from Winthrop University in 2017. In addition to her doctorate studies, Caitlin is a Graduate Teaching Scholar, working with Virginia Tech’s Research and Extension Experiential Learning (VT-REEL) program for the past 3 years. As part of the Global Perspectives Program, Caitlin hopes to learn about the mentoring in European institutions, and how they develop mentors for future generations of students through mentorship training.

Outside of lab, Caitlin enjoys spending time outside hiking, running and playing tennis, as well as baking and hanging out with her two pups, Jack and Charlie. 

Kathryn Lopez

Kathryn is a Ph.D. student in Civil and Environmental Engineering. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Chemical-Materials Engineering from Florida State University. Her doctoral studies are focused on the impact of freshwater salinization on drinking water quality and the corrosion of drinking water infrastructure. Ultimately, she aims to help protect valuable water resources and ensure quality drinking water is available to all. As Kathryn learned more about environmental regulations, she developed a passion for science policy and recently founded the Science Policy Education and Advocacy Club (SPEAC) at Virginia Tech to expose students to careers in science policy and show them how they can get involved in the policymaking process. She aspires to become a faculty member focusing on the intersection of engineering and policy, helping to develop the next generation of ethical and socially conscious engineers. Beyond drinking water quality and science policy, Kathryn cares deeply about expanding access to higher education. She supports graduate students by serving as Graduate Chair of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers chapter at Virginia Tech and as a mentor with the Virginia Tech Early Engineering Mentoring program. She is also a member of the Ford Fellow community, the mission of which is to increase diversity within academia and to support future faculty members who will use diversity as an educational resource in the classroom. Outside of work, she enjoys lifting weights, spending time outside with her dog, and reading about history and the human experience.

Kathryn is looking forward to the GPP program and the opportunity to learn about the structure of the higher education system abroad; build professional relationships; see how community outreach is supported; and examine how diversity, equity, and inclusions initiatives are incorporated into the higher education system.

Chandani Shrestha

Chandani Shrestha is a Ph.D candidate in the Computer Science (CS) Department at Virginia Tech. She completed her undergraduate degree in CS from Benedict College, SC. Chandani has been a graduate teaching assistant (GTA) for various CS courses, and currently serves as a GTA for Graduate Training Workshop offered by Graduate School. For her research, Chandani works on the ThoughtSwap project; a discussion tool designed to promote conscientious discourse in classrooms. She has implemented ThoughtSwap in multiple courses across various disciplines and continues to work on it. She is interested in pedagogy that supports student-centered learning, enabled by teaching with discourse.

As a participant of the Global Perspectives Program, Chandani hopes to learn about the academic culture in the European institutions. She specifically is interested in exploring how is the instructors’ classroom authority exercised by them and perceived by students, and how it defines instructor-students relationship in classrooms in those settings. She is also looking forward to meeting people with different experiences and exposing herself to new culture through this program. 

When not working on her research, work and classes, she enjoys cooking, finding and trying new food places, hiking, meditating, reading books (currently biographies), listening to philosophical podcasts, playing board games and spending time with her two nephews. Overarchingly, Chandani hopes to contribute in creating and maintaining an inclusive, equitable and respectful space for all through her work in both her professional as well as her personal life.

Nicholas Wege Dias

Amilia Evans


Returning Members of the 2020 Cohort

Due to the unfortunate impacts of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, the 2020 cohort was not able to engage in the travel abroad portion of the Virginia Tech Global Perspectives Program. The following members of the 2020 cohort are continuing as members of the 2021 cohort

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.

Meredith Martinez

Meredith is a fourth 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, problem-based learning, 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 video games, reading (her Goodreads reading goal is 100 books for 2021!), 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 PhD candidate 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) 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 research centers in Europe, the challenges to start and sustain interdisciplinary programs, and discuss successful methods and tools that have been applied worldwide. 

Throughout her doctoral program, Renata has been an active student leader at Virginia Tech. She currently serves as graduate student representative for the Diversity and Inclusion Committee of the Department of Food Science and Technology and is the president of two student organizations: LAIGSA, the Latin American and Iberian Graduate Students Association, and the Virginia Tech chapter of Phi Tau Sigma, the Honor Society of Food Science and Technology. In the GPP, she also would like to explore relevant topics to the graduate community, such as 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.

Stephanie Edwards Compton

Stephanie Edwards Compton is a third year PhD candidate 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, adipose tissue, 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 has worked 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, especially in response to the COVID-19 global pandemic.

Outside of her roles as a student and instructor, Stephanie enjoys public speaking and outreach education, spending time with her husband and dog, powerlifting, and running. 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 continuing public outreach through her private practice.

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 fourth-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, particularly biology, chemistry, and psychology. She is currently completing her preliminary exam, conducting a content analysis examining the reporting and use of demographic variables in articles published in a flagship biopsychology journal, Psychophysiology, from 2010-2020. In summer 2020 she successfully defended her Master’s thesis, which reported the results of a research project examining communication of emotion via touch and physiological linkage’s role.

At Virginia Tech, Heather serves as a Biological Psychology Graduate Representative to the Psychology Department and as a delegate for the Psychology Department to the Graduate Student Assembly. She additionally acts a panelist for the Graduate Honor System and member of the Virginia Tech Graduate Academy for Teaching Excellence (VTGrATE). She is currently an instructor of record for Intro Neuroscience of Behavior. 

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 university, 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 fifth-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. Her research interests have also led to teaching a new, project-based, online course at Virginia Tech in Wearable Bioinstrumentation, combining the skills and concepts needed for projects in self-tracking and biofeedback. 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. With GPP 2021, Grace will explore diversity, equity, and inclusion in STEM outreach and methods of taking hands-on activities online.