Graduate Peer Mentor Awards 2016

The annual Peer Mentor Award is co-sponsored by the Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Funding, and the Office of Professional Development and Communications in the Graduate School. This award recognizes graduate students who have made positive impacts on their research-mates, advisors, program staff, undergraduates, and many others with whom they interact.

Meet the 2016 Awardees –

Dantrell Cotton

Masters candidate, Environment and Resources

Over the past year, I have served as the New York STEM Posse 5 Mentor through the Posse Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It has been an extreme pleasure and honor to work with the brightest scholars in the world, assisting them as they not only discover their passions and interests, but excel and achieve academically.

—Dantrell Cotton

Dantrell Cotton is a Southside Chicago native and second-year Environment and Resources Masters candidate in the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies. He also completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, double-majoring in Community and Environmental Sociology, and Environmental Studies. Under the mentorship and leadership of his advisor, Dr. Monica White, Dantrell’s research interests include food justice, urban ethnography, and methodological approaches to addressing food access issues. Currently, Dantrell serves as the Health Equity Project Intern on a Ford Sustainability grant, in collaboration with University Health Services (UHS), Slow Food UW South Madison, Growing Power and community partners, to research and increase food access in South Madison. He is also the New York 5 STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Mentor with the Posse Program, located in the Red Gym. Dantrell also serves as the empowerment coach and director of the Madison Inspiration Community Choir through the Nehemiah Foundation, working with youth throughout the city to spread the message of hope, strength and the power to overcome.

Fatemah Panahi

Ph.D. candidate, Computer Sciences

I have had many mentors through my life and education and I would love the opportunity to recognize their impact on my life. Through participating in diversity and mentoring programs, I have found that mentoring other students requires empathy and commitment, and is at the same time very rewarding.

—Fatemah Panahi

Fatemah Panahi is a Ph.D. candidate in the computer sciences department focusing on databases. Fatemah’s research goal is to make it easier for users, both those without much technical knowledge and analysts, to work with data. She also holds a Master of Science from both computer sciences and industrial engineering departments and completed her bachelor’s degree in computer sciences at UW-Madison as well.

Fatemah is an active member of the UW-Madison’s chapter of ACM’s Women in Computing (WACM). The group is dedicated to fostering an environment in the computer sciences department where women can thrive. Chapter members encourage and mentor undergraduate female students to give them the confidence they need to excel in computer sciences.

Leona Yi-Fan Su

Ph.D. candidate, Life Sciences Communication

I believe it is important for students to be ambitious about their futures, in order to want more and become more. I have been dedicating most of my time to research, teaching, and services to set good examples—sharing trial-and-error experiences as well as successful ones.

—Leona Yi-Fan Su

Leona Yi-Fan Su is a Ph.D. candidate at the Department of Life Sciences Communication and holds a MPA from the La Follette School of Public Affairs from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She is also the recipient of a Top-Up Fellowship from the Robert F. and Jean E. Holtz Center for Science & Technology Studies. Leona served as an instructor of Data Analysis in the Communications Research course and is currently the teaching assistant for the Public Information Campaigns course. Her research and professional experience have focused on science and environmental communication, particularly in the context of online media and public opinion formation. Part of her research examines the impact of communication contexts and news consumption patterns on the public understanding of science. Her research also involves examining media discourse to help answer a wide variety of research questions in science and environmental communication. Her research findings have been published in peer-reviewed journals and presented at international and national conferences.

Valyncia Raphael

Ph.D. candidate, Educational Leadership Policy Analysis

Through my Wisconsin Experience, I have had the privilege to learn through my degree programs to receive knowledge about myself and the world. Through intercollegiate sports, creating and participating in clubs, and shared governance, I have learned how law, inequity, and advocacy can impact one’s ability to navigate and act upon, or “do,” their dreams.

—Valyncia Raphael

Valyncia Raphael is a Distinguished Virginia Horne Henry Fellow and a dissertator in the University of Wisconsin School of Education. Her research interests are social identity development and civil rights equity law in higher education. She will graduate with her Ph.D. in the Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis program May 2016 with her dissertation title, Expanding the Single Story. Valyncia is also a 2013 graduate of the UW-Madison Law School, and is licensed to practice law in Wisconsin. She currently works as a conduct coordinator in the UW-Madison Office of the Student Conduct and Community Standards at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Angie Umaña

Ph.D. candidate, Microbiology Training Program

Being a mentor is much like being a great leader. There is a great amount of responsibility in helping others achieve their goals and navigate through the unknown.

—Angie Umaña

Angie Umaña is a Ph.D. candidate in the Microbiology Training Program. She works on human cytomegalovirus, the leading viral cause of birth defects, studying the role of one of its proteins. This viral protein of interest is targeted by a drug currently on clinical trials and is known to alter a major cellular tumor suppressor protein. Angie hopes to complete her Ph.D. in the next year and move on to work as a research scientist in a major biotechnology company and provide scientific consulting. To complete her research Angie was awarded two fellowships the Biotechnology Training Program and the Science and Medicine Graduate Research Scholars Program (SciMed GRS) awards. It is through SciMed GRS that she participates in the Peer Mentoring Program as co-chair and continues to be involved in science outreach. When she is not on campus, she is at home with her one year old learning a whole new mentoring style.

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