Khaled Adjerid

Khaled Adjerid is a PhD student in Virginia Tech’s Engineering Mechanics graduate program. A home-grown Hokie, Khaled graduated from Virginia Tech with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering in 2009. Khaled, as part the Autonomous Aerial Vehicle Team (AAVT), received the Best Poster award during ME’s 2009 senior design team poster session, beating over 30 teams with the poster they presented. His passion for research and life-long learning led him to continue his education at Virginia Tech’s Center for Vehicle Systems and Safety (CVeSS), where he conducted a study and successfully defended a Master’s thesis entitled “A Study on the dynamic testing of a Magneto-Rheological Metal-Elastic Mount in Squeeze-Mode vibrations.” His thesis focused on the use of active engine mounts to reduce fatigue for commercial truck drivers. He is currently pursuing his doctorate in the Biomedical Engineering And Mechanics department at Virginia Tech, studying bio-inspired design. His research interests are in safety technologies and medical advancements that can be made on the micro- and nano-scales by learning from and applying designs in nature.

Outside of the office, Khaled enjoys traveling and staying fit by exercising and eating healthy. Traveling and meeting new people in much of the US and some parts of the world has opened his eyes to new experiences, different cultures and fresh perspectives. Being able to photograph his experiences is an added bonus. In addition to exercising his brain, Khaled likes to keep healthy and active by playing football, basketball, soccer, and other sports with his friends. He is also active in his local community, showing the more moderate side to American Muslims.

Ashish Agrawal

I am a PhD candidate in Engineering Education at Virginia Tech. I enjoy watching movies, playing and watching tennis, and reading books. I also enjoy cooking in my free time. I aspire to teach Math and engineering at college level in as many countries as possible once I finish my PhD.
Born in a small town called Dalsinghsarai in the eastern part of India, I completed my B-Tech in Electrical Engineering in 2010 from Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee. Post my undergraduate, I worked in various fields including education and policy until May 2012. After that, I completed a one year certificate course in Liberal Arts and leadership development through the prestigious Young India Fellowship in New Delhi, the capital of India. I started graduate school at Virginia Tech in Fall 2013. I finished my MS (Thesis) in Electrical Engineering at Virginia Tech in 2015. Since Fall 2014, I have been working on my PhD in Engineering Education.
Passionate about teaching, I try to incorporate critical and liberative pedagogies in the first year engineering classes that I teach at Virginia Tech. My research interests include understanding the experiences of foreign instructors and students, and the differences in academic cultures around the world. For my PhD research, I am trying to capture the experiences of international teaching assistants in engineering at Virginia Tech and how those experiences shape their teacher identities. As part of my service to the Virginia Tech community, I am actively involved with several LGBTQ groups on campus. I also co-founded AcrossBorders@VT, a group for international LGBTQ students, faculty, and staff at the university.

Marian G. Alicea

Marian Alicea is a fourth year Ph.D. student in the Charles E. Via, Jr. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. She earned a Master’s in Environmental Engineering from the same department in 2017. Her master’s research focused on the bioremediation of chlorinated solvents in groundwater resources. Her current research project is working with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to determine the human health risks of leaking underground storage tanks of home heating oil through vapor intrusion or contamination of private drinking water wells. Originally, from Puerto Rico, Marian hails to Virginia Tech form Atlanta, GA, a city she considers her second home. Her passions include the environment, environmental inequality, and increasing the representation of women and minorities in STEM advanced degrees. Marian enjoys traveling, meeting new people, learning of, and experiencing new cultures. On her spare time, she is planning her next trip, running her own business, or playing with her two pups. Marian is a doggy mom of two adorable Chihuahuas, Henry and Gracie.

Learning Outcomes

  1. Learn about the effectiveness of a no-cost university education and availability of resources for faculty and students.
  2. Can I live in Switzerland or Italy? Is it a seamless transition or are there barriers? Can a tourist become a resident and an integral part of the community in a foreign country?
  3. Learn about immigration policies from the perspective of an engineer. What are my job prospects?
  4. What is the perception of the USA from a professional or university standpoint? Do politics change this perception?

Katie Ayers

Katie Ayers is a 3rd year Sociology PhD student, with a focus toward Women’s and Gender Studies. Her interest lies primarily in gender embodiment, that is, how individuals understand and experience their gender on a daily basis. Her dissertation research hopes to focus on the experiences of “detransitioned women,” women who transitioned to men, lived for at least some time as transmen, then decided for various reasons to de- or retransition to women. Katie is also in leadership at Virginia Tech. She is the Sociology ambassador to VT’s graduate School, a member of the VT Graduate Academy of Teaching Excellence, and the president of the Recovery Community at Virginia Tech (RC@VT), a student organization dedicated to helping support students in recovery from alcohol and/or substance use. She has also helped organize the annual WGS conference at VT for the last 3 years.

Katie has always had an interest in international travel, although this will be her first trip abroad. At 32, she finally got her first passport! She believes the Global Perspectives Program 2017 will allow her to network with international scholars and potential colleagues who are also invested in higher education. Her passion lies in teaching undergraduate students, so she will be curious to see what teaching preparation exists for higher education faculty members, if any, and how that training differs from what happens in the United States. She is also interested in learning how the roles of faculty members and students differ abroad from those in the US.

Alleyne Broomell

Alleyne is a third year Ph.D. student in the Psychology department studying developmental neuroscience. She completed her M.S. at Virginia Tech in 2016. She earned her Bachelors degree from Emory University in 2012 with a double major in Neuroscience and Biological Anthropology. Prior to coming to Virginia Tech for graduate school she spent two years working as a behavioral therapist in Austin, TX.

Alleyne’s research interests include how social cognition and executive functions develop in early childhood and are modulated by the brain. She works with typically developing and non-typically developing children and adults using EEG and fMRI to study neuroconnectivity and cognition.

After finishing at Virginia Tech, Alleyne plans to pursue a tenure track position to incorporate her love of research and pedagogy into a single career. In her free time, Alleyne enjoys yoga, cooking, and going on long walks with her husband and their dog.

Chad Clem

Chad Clem is finishing his M.A in English Literature at Tech. His research interests are 20th Century media, film, and literature, as well as the intersection of language and culture in the composition classroom. Originally from Buckhannon, West Virginia, Chad has previously worked in various fields including journalism, television production, theatre, and education.

Rachel Corell

Rachel Kinzer Corell is a MA student in English with a focus in rhetoric and writing, in addition to completing the Preparing the Future Professoriate certificate as a GPP fellow. A word nerd with an eye toward helping others find ways to communicate in context, she is very interested in the practical application of technical writing strategies to “real world” experiences. Rachel is currently Lead GTA for the Engineering Communications Program, where she provides in-house writing feedback and technical writing instruction to students in the Department of Materials Science & Engineering. (To date, her biggest challenge has been convincing MSE students of the reasons why they need the keen eye of an English grad student to help them communicate.) She also holds a MA in English from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where she focused on composition & rhetorical studies. Her research for her MA Capstone project at VT considers how professional writing consultants can use technical writing strategies through practical application, and how that writing instruction functions when it occurs outside its traditional home in English studies.

Prior to graduate school at Virginia Tech, Rachel worked in a number of administrative capacities both within and outside of higher education, although they all share a common thread with respect to professional communication. These experiences influenced her research interests regarding ways people use the means available to them to communicate more effectively, especially in professional contexts. In addition to teaching first-year composition as an adjunct faculty member for a community college and working as an online writing tutor, she has served as an office manager for a solo law practice, and worked in assessment and evaluation for a large, urban K-12 school system. She also has experience working as a communications assistant at a small art gallery, and as an administrative coordinator for an arts education nonprofit. When she isn’t helping humans with her various professional pursuits, she spends time with her classy canine companion, Agent Margaret Carter. Those of you in and around the Blacksburg area may know her better as Peggy; she’s become quite the Avengers fan since her rescue in May 2013. You may also know Rachel as “Peggy’s person.” In her dream universe, when she is not at work helping humans in their quests to be better communicators, Rachel would have all the time and resources in the world to help rescue and train dogs.

Abram Diaz-Strandberg

Abram Diaz-Strandberg is a PhD student in the mechanical engineering department at Virginia Tech, researching acoustic material design. His interests include art, music, and being outdoors, especially on a bicycle. Growing up, he played the trombone and conga drums and this passion for music is what drives him in his studies of acoustics.

Originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico, Abram began his college education at the University of New Mexico. After several semesters he decided to take a break from college and began working full time at a local pizzeria. After five years of working in the restaurant industry he decided to return to school part time at the Central New Mexico Community College (CNM). Having those years of work experience influenced him greatly, fostering a strong desire to pursue higher education, and after about a year of attending CNM he transferred to the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology (NMT), where he earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.

NMT is a small engineering university with roughly 2,000 students in total. The school is located in the small town of Socorro, New Mexico, which has a population of around 9,000 people. As an undergraduate student Abram was struck by the disparity between NMT and the local population in Socorro. Almost nobody that grows up in Socorro attends NMT, or any four-year college. Abram would like to draw from his experiences at NMT to develop outreach programs that promote postsecondary education in small, rural towns like Socorro. As the first person in his immediate family to earn a college degree, Abram has worked hard to set an example for his younger brothers to follow. He feels that he can relate to the students who do not come from traditional backgrounds because of his own non-traditional journey.

As part of the GPP program Abram hopes to broaden his worldview and discover how the countries that will be visited promote education, especially in impoverished communities. He is interested in what the economic diversity looks like in other higher education systems. He is also interested in immigration policies in other countries and how current US immigration policies are viewed from external perspectives. He would like to incorporate new ideas into his philosophy for promoting education and diversity as well as sharing his own ideas with foreign colleagues.

Finally, Abram would like to explore how students in other cultures measure their own success and define happiness. He is interested in learning what the long-term aspirations are of his foreign colleagues and also what they consider their social responsibilities to be.

Alexander Gröflin

Alexander Gröflin is currently in his final months as a Ph.D. candidate in Computer Science. Having successfully completed both an apprenticeship and a professional maturity with a federal certificate in Computer Science, Alexander took an unusual career path. After working for two years he went to the University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland (FHNW) yet to be going even further than fellow colleagues. He not only holds a Master’s degree in Business Information Systems from FHNW but also a Master degree in Computer Science from the University of Camerino (Marche, Italy). Additionally, he has been awarded a Master’s degree in Management of Information Systems and Innovation from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). He stands as a good example for penetrability of the Swiss Higher Educational landscape.

Alexander Jardon

Alex is a second year Ph.D. student in the Virginia Tech Counselor Education and Supervision program. Alex has always had an interest in multicultural awareness. Growing up in Montana, Alex was home schooled, so the flexible schedule allowed for travel to the far corners of the world including over 40 U.S. states and 50 countries. Alex earned two undergraduate degrees in Montana, an Associate of Arts degree from Helena College – University of Montana and Bachelor of Arts from Carroll College. His multicultural interests led to a Master of Arts degree in Counseling Psychology from the University of Hawaii at Hilo. He also worked as a mental health counselor on campus, which at the time had the most diverse student population of any four year public institution in the United States. At each of these educational stages, Alex saw how local culture, educational department culture, and university culture can vary so much from one place to another.

Alex wishes to take what he has learned about each university experience both in the U.S. and abroad to improve education at institutions he encounters in the future. He is a proponent of people experiencing diverse cultures and locations in order to learn and grow, and his teaching and research interests focus on how personal experiences of diversity can affect counselors in training. Being able to experience or understand how other people and cultures make meaning of the world is extremely vital to promoting social justice and helping advance the field of counselor education and higher education in general.

GPP Learning Objectives

  • Continue to experience diverse perspectives in higher education and learn about how local culture, educational department culture, and university culture can vary from one place to another.
  • eceive an immersive experience of diverse cultures and locations in order to increase my personal empathy, expand my cultural awareness, and advance my academic career as a counselor, educator, and activist.
  • To critically evaluate European educational systems in order to incorporate systemic changes, from a future professoriate or administrative platform, to improve students’ experiences of education in the U.S.

GPP Research Topic

For my research topic, I intend to learn more about how European universities define and foster inclusion and diversity.I am also interested to discover the emphasis placed on social justice, multiculturalism, and global literacy in the counseling field and higher education in general. How does the emphasis on multicultural education, social justice, inclusion, and diversity compare to the present emphasis that U.S. counselor education programs place on these values?

Minkyoung Lee

Minkyoung Lee is a PhD candidate in Developmental biology at Biozentrum, University of Basel as well as a fellow for the Siemens Excellence Fellowship Program. Her research interests are in angiogenesis and organogenesis. She is working with Zebrafish, a good model organism to study for developmental biology in the lab of Prof. Markus Affolter. Apart from her research, she serves as the vice president in the PhD Representatives which organizes various programs like PhD retreat and career talks for all PhD candidates at her institute. Originally from South Korea, she completed her B.S. at Sookmyung Women’s University with distinctions such as Dean’s List of 2013 graduation ceremony. From 2013 to 2015, Minkyoung studied the survival of C. elegans in anoxic condition at the University of Geneva, Switzerland for her M.S. After her PhD degree, she plans to continue her study in the United States where she can study in a new research environment and can broaden her scientific knowledge. Therefore, this GPP program is a good first step for her to get experiences in US higher education system.

Rebekah Martin

Rebekah Martin is a PhD student in the department of Civil and Environmental Engineering with an focus on Environmental and Water Resources Engineering. She earned her bachelor’s in Civil and Environmental Engineering at Bucknell University along with a semester abroad at the University of Nottingham, England. Her research experience at Bucknell included investigating the presence of disinfection byproduct precursors in surface waters, performing a spatial analysis of hydraulic fracturing waste transport routes, and comparing the nitrogen and phosphorus content of runoff from a green roof system. In graduate school, her interests in water quality have developed to focus on drinking water systems specifically focusing on the presence of opportunistic pathogen growth and persistence in plumbing systems. Opportunistic pathogens include bacteria such as Mycobacteria and Legionella (which causes Legionnaires’ Disease), both of which can affect the health of certain people who have specific risk factors and susceptibility to illness.

Rebekah is also a member of the Flint water study team at Virginia Tech. She has spent the last two years involved in the team’s efforts to provide the citizens the scientific information and support needed to present their issues to the agencies who have neglected to protect the health of the public. Beyond her research and traditional engineering coursework, Rebekah has completed the Preparing the Future Professoriate certificate which inspired her to explore the pedagogical methods and techniques used to teach engineering. After finishing her degree, she plans to pursue a faculty position at a university where she can apply the techniques she has learned in this program to better engage undergraduate engineering students alongside a global perspective built on her experiences and education in other countries.

Tanzila Mukhtar

– The Revelation

Tanzila is a ‘born rebel’, a small town girl with big dreams. She hails from the Valley of Kashmir. She is a Goldman Sachs Global Leader 2009-2010 and an HSBC-Chevening Scholar 2010-2011. She was granted the Swiss Government Excellence Scholarship (2013-2016) for her PhD in Switzerland. She is pursuing her PhD in Developmental neurobiology at the University of Basel and is currently investigating the development of the mammalian forebrain. She did her Master’s in England, in Stem cell and Regenerative medicine. Though a hardcore biologist, apart from science, she loves singing and writing poetry. She has also worked as a Star Correspondent in one of India’s leading newspaper agencies – the Times of India. Also been awarded the Times NIE Award (Newspaper in Education) in 2005. She is an honest ambassador of quality education, freedom of expression and compassion. She has lived at an intersection of myriad cultures. Having lived through the political conflict during her initial 16 years in Kashmir, she strongly believes in progress, education and freedom as being the pre-requisites for evolving above these differentiations. She is a patron of women empowerment and loves children. She wants to become an inspiration for many students who feel their restrictive social norms and financial background can limit their dreams.

Michael O’Leary

Academically, I am a PhD candidate in philosophy, a Doc.CH stipendiary of the Swiss National Science foundation with affiliation to the Philosophy Department and the eikones Graduate School for Iconic Criticism, both at the University of Basel in Switzerland. My research is in the empirically informed philosophy of mind and focuses on the boundary between human and nonhuman animal thought. I graduated at the University of Fribourg in Philosophy and English.

Veronika Ostapcuk

Veronika is finishing her PhD studies in Epigenetics at University of Basel, Switzerland. She was born in Ukraine but moved with her family to the Czech Republic where she attended Masaryk University studying Biochemistry. Veronika joined the GPP program out of curiosity hoping to learn more about the US higher education and research, but also because she wants to continue her scientific career by undertaking postdoctoral training in the US.


Karen Raymond

Karen Raymond, LPC, NCC, is a Ph.D. student in Counselor Education and Supervision. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor in North Carolina and a National Certified Counselor. Karen completed her undergraduate studies in psychology at Guilford College and also holds a master of science in Community Agency Counseling from North Carolina A&T State University. She has worked as a mental health professional counselor in outpatient agency settings, intensive in-home settings, in-patient hospital settings, psychiatric emergency crisis settings, and has also managed her own private practice in counseling in North Carolina. Karen brings an additional rich work history as a paralegal and an information technology analyst, which provides support to her research interests of further incorporating technology into both counseling and counselor education in unique and creative ways. As a future professor, she hopes to create a learning environment which makes everyone feel welcome to share their thoughts and ideas. Karen aims to provide educational opportunities from a strengths-based, relational-cultural theory with a focus of working towards encouraging students to reach their fullest potential. With a decade of various counseling experiences, Karen is committed to continue contributions to her profession by training, inspiring, and mentoring both the next generation of counselors and others within higher education.

Julio Roa

Julio Roa is a PhD candidate in the department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. He obtained a Master’s Degree in Civil Engineering from Virginia Tech in 2008 and worked as a project manager and later a vice president of engineering at a civil engineering company in the Dominican Republic for several years before returning to graduate school in 2015. While there he worked on projects ranging from transportation infrastructure construction to aggregates production and mining operations.

Julio is passionate about studying sustainability and resilience in infrastructure systems. His current research examines transportation engineering, including air transportation systems, wake turbulence separation, and airport capacity. Specifically, he is investigating dynamic factors that generate high/fatal wake vortex strength and how to effectively distance aircraft for this hazard in order to increase airport capacity and operations.

More recently, Julio taught computer applications in civil engineering and co-instructed the Construction Management course in Punta Cana during the 2017 winter semester. There he taught students the fundamental elements of planning and managing construction projects across borders. Julio has also completed the Preparing the Future Professoriate Certificate at Virginia Tech and hopes to pursue a faculty position after graduation where he can help students prepare to contribute as vibrant members of the engineering workforce as well as collaborating with faculty on research projects related to construction, transportation and engineering education. In his free time, Julio enjoys hiking, kayaking, and spending time with his family and colleagues. He is also working towards becoming a private pilot in the next two years.

Michelle Soledad

Michelle Soledad is a PhD student in Engineering Education at Virginia Tech. She has degrees in Electrical Engineering (BS, M Eng) from the Ateneo de Davao University (AdDU) in Davao City, Philippines, where she continues to be a faculty member of the Electrical Engineering Department. Michelle began teaching in 2008, initially handling Engineering Mathematics courses. Upon receiving her license as a Registered Electrical Engineer in 2009, she also taught professional Electrical Engineering courses. She eventually served as Department Chair of the Engineering Sciences and Mathematics department for one year and the Electrical Engineering Department for two years, and was a member of the University Research Council before pursuing doctoral studies. Prior to joining AdDU in 2008, Michelle was a Senior Team Lead for Accenture, where she worked for six years as a software engineer and project manager for systems maintenance and enhancement projects. At Virginia Tech, Michelle has taught the first year Foundations of Engineering course, and is currently a research assistant for the Department of Engineering Education. She is passionate about the role of educators in fostering student success, and her research interests include faculty development and data-informed reflective teaching practices.

Anthony Szczurek

I am a PhD candidate in the Alliance for Social, Political, Ethical, and Cultural Thought (ASPECT). I received my MA in International Affairs from the New School.

My work is generally centered in international relations theory, the politics of climate change, and non-western political theory. My current research focuses on how clashing temporalities and imaginations of history affect positions on state responsibility for climate change at the United Nations and other international forums.

Rabih Younes

Rabih Younes is a PhD candidate in Computer Engineering at the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Virginia Tech. He has earned his BE and MSE degrees in Computer Engineering at the Lebanese American University (LAU). Rabih has finished the requirements of the Future Professoriate Certificate Graduate Certificate, and he is one course away from getting certified in Engineering Education.

Besides his research, Rabih works as a Graduate Assistant at the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology (ICAT), an interdisciplinary research institute at Virginia Tech. There, he works at their Create Studio with 3D-printers, laser-cutters, PCB and soldering machines, and all kinds of maker equipment. He also gives workshops and teaches in camps for middle school students about electronics, 3D-printing, and motion capture.

Rabih is expected to graduate in the summer of 2017 and he is planning to become a professor afterwards. He loves teaching and interacting with students, and he has some experience teaching in colleges and universities, and tutoring. His research interests include wearable computing, machine learning, engineering education, and Middle Eastern politics.

Rabih is from Lebanon and he is fluent in English, French, and Arabic, while being a beginner in Spanish, Japanese, and American Sign Language. His hobbies include: skydiving, guitar, pool (8-ball), martial arts (Aikido), ping pong, traveling, karting, laser tag, paintball, outdoor activities (skiing, hiking, horseback riding, biking, kayaking, rock climbing, etc.), backgammon, and volleyball. For more information, feel free to check his personal website: (Links to an external site.).

GPP Learning Objectives:

  1. To learn about the different European higher education systems, their purpose, and efficiency compared to American higher education
  2. To explore assessment and motivation techniques used in various types of European higher education institutions, especially in engineering disciplines
  3. To gain a better understanding of European cultures