This board contributes to the graduate student community at Illinois by providing varied perspectives that enhance the academic, professional, and social experience of graduate students at the university. They collaborate with Graduate College staff on projects related to programs, initiatives, or the broader goals of the college.
Allison Rzepka is a third-year PhD student in the Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering. Her research combines thermochemistry, computer science, and materials science to model the response of thermal protection systems during hypersonic flight. She is excited to help the Graduate College create a welcoming space where everyone has the support to build well-being and success. In her free time, Allison enjoys hanging with friends, playing sports, and trying new foods.
Azlan Smith is a writer, art research facilitator, and career educator. Their research interests center on storytelling's participation in culture, genre fiction as modern mythology, and Public Humanities projects which use narrative for community building and activism. They like to think about writing as a place where we can meet. They're currently a PhD Candidate in Writing Studies.
Claire Baytas is a PhD candidate in the Program in Comparative and World Literature. She grew up in Montclair, New Jersey and got her BA in Comparative Literature at Oberlin College. Her research focuses on how historic instances of state violence are represented in literature and cinema in French, Turkish, and English.
Danielle Gapinski is pursuing a master's in Agriculture, Leadership, Education and Communications. She is interested in youth development and programming and looks forward to advancing her career through the U of I Extension 4-H program. In her spare time, Danielle enjoys spending time with her husband and son, craft projects, kayaking, and baseball games.
Darrien Watson is a third-year PhD student at the University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign in the Recreation, Sports, and Tourism Department. His research interest is leisure among race and ethnic groups in society. His interest also involves the influence of culture in African American leisure and the navigation of barriers for diverse ethnic families. Upon gaining his doctorate, Mr. Watson plans to be a professor at a research university. Mr. Watson aspires to utilize his research to be an advocate for recreational opportunities for underserved populations and contribute to increasing diversity in higher education.
Ellie Bacon is a second-year PhD neuroscience student. Her research focuses on the role of the protein aromatase in temporal lobe epilepsy. She looks forward to working with fellow graduate students across a wide variety of fields. Her hobbies include reading, playing board games with friends, and exploring new places..
Elizabeth Coder is currently a third-year PhD student in Education Policy, Organization, and Leadership, concentrating in both Higher Education and Global Studies in Education. She is also concurrently pursuing a Master's of Science in Journalism. Her role as a Teaching Assistant for both graduate and undergraduate courses, as well as her role as a Graduate Affiliate in the Center for Innovation in Teaching & Learning, well complement her research interests, which center on undergraduate teaching and learning at international branch campuses. She received her Master's in Higher and Postsecondary Education from Teachers College, Columbia University and her Bachelor's in Psychology from Auburn University. Elizabeth is an avid traveler, having visited 86 countries on 6 continents and all 50 states. She also likes exploring the outdoors here in Illinois, both on kayak and on foot.
Grisel Lopez-Alvarez is a PhD student in the School of Labor and Employment Relations. As a researcher, she seeks to understand the experiences of underrepresented women in the workplace and is currently involved with on-campus programs that aim to support underrepresented students both at the undergraduate and graduate-level. In her spare time, she enjoys trying new international cuisines, exploring the Marvel Cinematic Universe, camping, kayaking, and traveling with her family and their two dogs.
H.M. Kuneyl (she/her) is a doctoral student in the Department of Education Policy, Organization & Leadership, with concentrations in higher education and history of education in the College of Education. She is a first-generation college student and community college graduate who has served as a college-access advisor, academic advisor, student-success program coordinator, and college instructor. Her research interests center around the experiences of racially minoritized students and the use of community colleges as a pathway to a four-year degree. Kuneyl enjoys photography, reading historical fiction, and playing with her dog, Legend and her cat, Pi.
Irina Valenzuela is a PhD candidate in Economics. She is working on research topics related to teacher accountability and student performance, political corruption and interpersonal trust, and gender-based violence and protest. She has a strong interest in data science and causal inference. Irina likes to attend events, listen to Peruvian music, read graphic novels, and travel in her free time.
Jane Yeahin Pyo is a PhD Candidate at the Institute of Communications Research. Her research topic sits at the intersection of digital journalism, online trolling, and platform studies. It is her fifth year in Urbana Champaign, and she's especially sad that her favorite restaurant recently closed down. In her free time, she likes to work out, run, and swim.
Joe Bowie is a second-year MFA Candidate in the Dance Department. His current and ongoing creative research resides at the intersection of Dance, Blackness, Queerness, Maleness, Black joy, and Black Frolicking and investigates "Laini" (the Swahili word for soft). In his dance-making, he seeks to foreground softness, tenderness, and gentleness among Black, male-identifying, queer moving bodies in dance spaces. In his free time, Joe uses his professional baking chops to bake delicious, whole-grain goodies for his hubby and his cohort.
Karina Garcia is a second-year master's student in the Information Sciences program. Her coursework focuses mostly on finding ways to enable easy access to literacy growth opportunities. She focuses the majority of her coursework in literacy in minority groups and the under-represented in order to learn how to best combat the imbalance of opportunities amongst race, class, gender, and et cetera. She plans to pursue law school once she is finished with her degree in the Spring of 2023. Her hobbies include listening to the Crime Junkie podcast, reading books of all genres, and spending time with her three fur babies and husband.
Kevin Jose Cheng is a PhD Candidate in the Biophysics and Quantitative Biology program. His research utilizes physics-based simulations to understand how an antifungal drug interacts with sterols in order to design safer derivatives for human consumption. As a first-generation American and college student, he is passionate about making higher education more accessible for people of all backgrounds. Outside of research, he enjoys reading, watching foreign films, learning international politics, and trying out different sour beers.
Kuldeep Namdeo is currently pursuing a master's in Aerospace Engineering. His research focuses on developing novel experimental setup for wind tunnel, force measurement and movement generation. He actively tries to be involved with the community and contribute his share. As a result along with SAGE, he is also member of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion committee for Department of Aerospace Engineering and a Student Representative for Senate, UIUC. In his free time he likes to try new things and have developed several hobbies like scuba diving, playing guitar, trekking, reading greek mythologies and sketching.
Leah Marie Becker is a 6th-year PhD candidate in the English Department. She is originally from the Pacific Northwest and received her B.A. from the University of Portland in Portland, Oregon, and her M.A. from NYU in New York City. She is a 19th-Century American Literature scholar, and her research focuses on the intersection of the environmental humanities, domesticity, and femininity. In her spare time, Leah loves baking, gardening, and spending time with her husband, Ryan, and her Scottish terrier, MacDougal in their Chicago home.
Michelle Farley is currently a PhD Candidate in the Anthropology Department. She received her B.S. in Anthropology/Archaeology from Mercyhurst University and her M.A. in Anthropology from the University of Chicago. Her current research focuses on topics of early hominin evolution, bipedalism, foot morphology, and ecomorphological interactions. She is also pursuing a Graduate Minor in Museum Studies and is interested in the accessibility to informal education for disabled and marginalized communities. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, kayaking, gardening, and snuggling with her dogs.
Nicholas Haight is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Religion. He is interested in Japanese Buddhism, and hopes to earn a PhD and become a professor of East Asian religions. His interests are in 13th-14th century Japanese Buddhist architecture, and he is an avid reader, podcast-listener, and tattoo enthusiast.
Pradeep Kumar is a seventh-year PhD candidate in the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology. For his graduate work, he is studying how the organization of genome in the nucleus affects gene expression. Being a first-generation college graduate, he is passionate about teaching and hopes to increase scientific curiosity in others. When not in the lab, Pradeep enjoys running and training for marathons, watching movies, and spending time with friends.
Samantha Iwinski is a fourth-year PhD student in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies. Her research focuses on executive function, parent-child relationships, and promoting healthy development for families and children. She also works on various projects involving program evaluation and encouraging people to go outdoors. Sam likes to go hiking with her dog and partner in her free time, listen to podcasts, and cook food.
Sari Alkhatib is a PhD candidate in the Socio-Technical Risk Analysis (SoTeRiA) Research Laboratory at the Department of Nuclear, Plasma, and Radiological Engineering (NPRE). His research focuses on the screening processes in Probabilistic Risk Assessment (PRA). By incorporating the science of underlying accident causation into risk scenarios and enhancing the decision-making process behind it. He hopes to assist Nuclear Power Plants (NPPs) in achieving efficient and sustainable safe operations. In addition to working with SAGE, he is serving as a member of the NPRE Graduate Student Advisory Committee (GSAC) and Illinois Scholars at Risk (iSAR) committee. In his free time, Sari likes to cook, run, and bike. He is also interested in learning new languages whenever he has the opportunity.
Shelby Keye is a fourth-year PhD student in Kinesiology. Her research interests are on physical activity and exercise in children and its impact on their body composition as well as cognitive and motor functions. In her free time, Shelby likes eating, working out, spending time with friends and family, and watching reality TV.
Shelby Martell is a second-year PhD student in the Neuroscience Program. She received her B.S. in Neuroscience from Eastern Illinois University. Her research focuses on how different nutrients effect visual and cognitive health in persons with Multiple Sclerosis. In her free time, Shelby enjoys coaching and playing softball, cooking, and embroidery.
Vikram Kumar is a second-year PhD student in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department. His research focuses on the reaction chemistry of alternative materials for applications in cementitious environments. Outside of research, Vikram enjoys statistical graphics, table tennis, badminton, running, and interacting with fellow graduate students.
Zhaneille Green is a second-year MS Library & Information Science student and a graduate assistant at the Main Library. Her interest lies in information accessibility and digital equity. For her, this looks like designing programs and services that serve a common good and that someone, somewhere, needs and will actually use. Outside academia, she likes reading, writing unfinished novellas, and drinking copious amounts of bubble tea.