Leadership Development Fellows

2019-2020 Fellows

Kanza Khan

Kanza Khan is a JD candidate in her second year at Michigan State University College of Law. She is part of the inaugural cohort of the Michigan Leadership Initiative which provides leadership training to those law students who have shown dedication to academic excellence, community service, and leadership roles before coming to the law school. Furthermore, because of her passion for diversity, equity, and inclusion, she is a Task Force member for DEI at the law school. Prior to coming to law school, she was involved with a social media startup focused on providing a platform for women of color to share their narratives in order to make a social impact. Kanza has been a Spartan since 2010 when she entered the James Madison College where she majored in International Relations and specialized in Muslim Studies. In the future, she hopes to combine her passion for diversity, equity, and inclusion with her interests in foreign policy, law, and technology to provide concrete solutions aimed at protecting vulnerable communities in this ever-changing world. In her downtime, you might spot her at a slam poetry event, cooking with opera music playing on blast, and or planning a trip to anywhere that has a beautiful view of a sunset on the beach.

Hunter Kopczynski

Hunter Kopczynski is a first-year Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA) student in wind conducting within the College of Music. At MSU, he is active in all aspects of the band and conducting programs in the College of Music. He has specific interests in developing repertoire and classroom and studio culture. Immediately prior to starting the DMA, Hunter completed a Master of Music degree in wind conducting, also at MSU. Previous to graduate study, Hunter taught middle school and high school music and band in the public schools of Virginia. As a teacher, he served on several committees in the areas of curriculum design and policy. Hunter graduated summa cum laude from Virginia Tech with a Bachelors degree in music and a Master of Arts degree in education (curriculum and instruction).

Courtney Bryant

Courtney Bryant is a 5th year Doctoral Candidate in the Organizational Psychology program within the College of Social Science. Her overall research program derives from the theme of authenticity in the workplace, including research on minority experiences and identity, diversity and discrimination, and coworker relationships in the workplace. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from Tuskegee University where she was motivated to take on leadership roles that improved student experiences such as chartering The National Society for Leadership and Success. That dedication has continued throughout her graduate school matriculation and extends to her career aspirations. She is currently employed at Ford Motor Company as a Diversity and Inclusion Associate but stays dutifully committed to the MSU community.

Tatiana Elisa Bustos

Tatiana Elisa Bustos (she/her/hers) is a 4th year PhD candidate in Ecological Community Psychology from Hialeah, FL. She is a University Enrichment Fellow (UEF) whose research broadly focuses on implementation science, health services, and community-based efforts. She is an AcademyHealth Committee student member, and active member of AGEP, Rueda Latin@, and Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (SPSSI). As a Leadership Fellow, she is interested in improving the experiences of minority students at MSU by fostering more connections to diversity and inclusion initiatives within the college of social science and across other colleges. She is working to create intentional spaces to raise issues related to diversity and inclusion and is collaborating with Courtney Bryant to use such spaces to improve faculty’s mentoring practices for historically underrepresented students.

Matthew Klein

Matthew Klein is a second year Master’s Student in Communications. His research interests include Virtual Reality, emotional competencies, and the workplace. He hopes to care better for others and use this research to help. He is from North Carolina, despises the cultural south for the most part, but still hates Michigan winters and says ya’ll. He spends his free time with electronics, his partner, his dog, and friends.

Hamid Karimi

Hamid Karimi is a fifth-year Ph.D. student of Computer Science at the Department of Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) at Michigan State University (MSU) and a member of the Data Science and Engineering (DSE) lab. His research interests are in machine learning, data mining, natural language processing, and social network analysis. Hamid has published several papers in the top conferences and journals on networking, social network analysis, big data, and machine learning. He was the College of Engineering graduate fellow for 2018-2019 facilitating undergrad research through EnSURE (Engineering Summer Undergraduate Research Experience) program. As a Graduate Leadership Fellow this year, he aims to assist graduate students to shape their future careers in a better fashion. In particular, he is interested in developing strategies that enhance the mentoring skills of graduate students, especially those in the College of Engineering. For more on Hamid's work in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering please click here.

Adrianna Crossing

Adrianna Crossing is a fourth year doctoral candidate in the School Psychology program in the College of Education. She is a research assistant in the Office of University Outreach and Engagement for Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation of Metro Lansing. Her racial and social justice aims also extend to her academic service and research pursuits. Adrianna is one of two Graduate School Leadership Development Fellows for the College of Education for the 2019-2020 academic year. This year, she will be working with her colleagues in the Graduate School and College of Education to increase graduate student representation across various College of Education decision-making bodies. Another goal for the year is to create and support spaces where graduate students can engage in dynamic, fruitful conversation around issues that directly impact graduate student success and wellness.

Stephanie Aguilar-Smith

Stephanie Aguilar-Smith is a Ph.D. Candidate in Higher, Adult, and Lifelong Education, jointly pursuing a graduate certificate in Chicano/Latino Studies. Broadly, Stephanie's research focuses on the equity of federal policies for Hispanic-Serving Institutions. At Michigan State University, she is a Satellite Coordinator for the Writing Center, Executive Board Member of CHiLA, and active member of Rueda Latin@. Stephanie is the Leadership Development Fellow for the College of Education, working to build community-building resources on behalf of graduate students in her college. Throughout her tenure in this fellowship, she has worked to bolster graduate student representation on college-wide committees and participation in academic governance. Stephanie Aguilar-Smith is a Ph.D. Candidate in Higher, Adult, and Lifelong Education, jointly pursuing a graduate certificate in Chicano/Latino Studies. Broadly, Stephanie's research focuses on the equity of federal policies for Hispanic-Serving Institutions. At Michigan State University, she is a Satellite Coordinator for the Writing Center, Executive Board Member of CHiLA, and active member of Rueda Latin@. Stephanie is the Leadership Development Fellow for the College of Education, working to build community-building resources on behalf of graduate students in her college. Throughout her tenure in this fellowship, she has worked to bolster graduate student representation on college-wide committees and participation in academic governance.

Clara Graucob

Clara Graucob is a 2nd year PhD student in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife and the Environmental Science and Policy Program. Her research interests centre around social-ecological resilience as well as enabling factors and constraints to successful climate change adaptation in natural resource-dependent communities. She is the Connection Coordinator for the MSU Chapter of the Women in Nature Network. She is one of two Leadership Fellows in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Being an international student herself, she is passionate about helping other international students transition into graduate student life at MSU. In her role as a Leadership Fellow she therefore aims at improving that transition by making available and condensing resources and information especially for but not limited to international students.

Tracy Melvin

Tracy Melvin is a PhD candidate in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife working with Dr. Gary Roloff in the Applied Forest and Wildlife Ecology Laboratory. Her research focuses on biodiversity conservation in the Anthropocene specific to climate adaptation. Her work is global in scope, but focuses on the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska as a case study. After obtaining her degree, Tracy would like to teach at the collegiate level, focusing research on global conservation challenges and promoting a laboratory that emphasizes educational opportunities for students in developing countries, and work for global non-profits focused on integrating social-ecological systems. Tracy has co-created and co-taught the award winning and highly popular study abroad program “A Fragile Fiji: Integrating Ecology and Human Dimensions in the Face of Climate Change”, is a fellow for the United States Geological Survey, and a student trustee for The Nature Conservancy, Michigan Chapter. Tracy is serving the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources as a Leadership Development Fellow. Her fellow activities are mainly focused on all-college and university-wide community building through vulnerable storytelling, tailored around universal, shared human experiences that cultivates communal courage and resilience. When not thinking about existential crises, Tracy loves spending time canoeing, paddle-boarding, and wandering around appreciating nature with her husband.

Rachel Robinson

Rachel Robinson is a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate in Writing, Rhetoric, and American Culture (WRAC), with a graduate specialization in Women’s and Gender Studies. She is a graduate teaching assistant in WRAC, Writing Center @ MSU graduate coordinator for Strategies and Tools Across Fields (STAF), Assistant co-Chair of the Graduate Student Standing Group for the Conference on College Composition and Communication, and the Past-Chair of the International Writing Center Association-Graduate Organization. Rachel is currently in dissertation land, so many of her conversations revolve around how women’s bodies move in academia, emotions, and imposter syndrome. When not in academic-mode, you can usually find Rachel wandering local trails with her dog, Mandy, or hunkering down with Netflix and avoiding the Michigan winter.

Cameron Michael Chase

Cameron Michael Chase is a 2nd year MFA Acting Candidate in the Department of Theatre within the College of Arts and Letters. In addition to being a departmental graduate assistant, he has served as a graduate student representative on the Department of Theatre's hearing board, presented at the 2019 Creating Culture Through Change Collaboration Summit and is the faculty supervisor for the newest addition to Second Stage Theatre: Second State Musical Theatre. Cameron Michael has also been involved in research and data analysis for a book concerning the relationship between introversion and acting, which is in the publication process. As a Graduate Leadership Fellow, he is focused on demystifying mental health stigmas and fostering positivity and inclusivity within his college.

Alex Wright

Alex Wright is a PhD candidate with the Department of Integrative Biology and the USGS Patuxent Research Center. He serves the College of Natural Science to optimize graduate student success. To this end, he engages stakeholders within the College to identify barriers to graduate student success, and potential solutions. Recently, he has focused on improving mentorship relationships within graduate education by developing: a Peer Mentor Program Guide, Departmental Guidelines for Best Practices in Mentorship, and Feedback Mechanisms to Assess and Improve Mentorship Relationships. He collaborates with the Graduate School's Mentoring Task Force and the Natural Science Graduate Directors Committee on these efforts.

Makena Neal

Makena Neal is a PhD candidate in the Higher, Adult, Lifelong Education (HALE) program. Her interests revolve around adult learning, community-based knowledge, and professional development. After working for four years in pre-college youth development as a leadership and civic engagement educator throughout the state of Michigan, Makena is excited to be serving as Coordinating Fellow for the Graduate School’s Leadership Institute for the second year. Her goals in this role include providing participant-driven development opportunities for the year-long graduate fellows; increasing intentional connections between Leadership Summit, Academy, and Fellows programming; and building foundational structures in the Institute that increase transparency, graduate student voice, and institutional buy-in. Because Makena is finishing her dissertation and will graduate at the end of this academic year, she is also dedicated to program sustainability and intentional succession planning.

Madeline (Maddie) Shellgren

Madeline (Maddie) Shellgren is the one with the batman and dinosaur tattoos. This year marking her third as a PhD student in Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures, Maddie spent six years prior at Michigan State as a PhD student in Linguistics. She devotes a lot of time to thinking about educator support, community building, institutional and organizational change, program development, critical pedagogies, graduate student (and early-career professionals) socialization, identity and embodiment within higher education (i.e. 'the higher ed experience'), educator and professional development, cultures of change within institutional contexts, and ways to move towards sustainable, equitable, and anti-oppressive ecologies within higher education. That said, Maddie also spends a lot of time trying to figure out which local stores sell the best donuts (extensive research and data collection still underway) and which parks provide the best dog-walking experiences. When not being a grad student, or working for MSU Athletics as an Assistant Varsity Women’s Rowing Coach, Maddie is serving her second year as a Coordinating Fellow for the Graduate School’s Leadership Institute. In this role, she seeks to deepen program connections with communities and units across MSU’s campus, build more sustainable and transparent structures for Leadership Institute programming and fellows, and help develop a program that contributes to impactful and positive change on campus.

2018-2019 Fellows

Jacob BradburnJacob Bradburn is a 4th year doctoral student in the Psychology department, within the College of Social Science. Jacob is an alum of MSU’s Leadership Academy and has been involved with the MSU Leadership Institute since Spring 2017. Jacob is from Grand Blanc, MI and attended the University of Michigan for undergraduate studies. His research interests focus on employee selection, individual differences, and research methodology.

David Hernández-EscobarDavid Hernández-Escobar is a third year PhD student in Material Science & Engineering working in Professor Carl Boehlert’s research group. He is studying the potential of high-pressure torsion for manufacturing a new generation of biodegradable Zn-Mg implants with tunable mechanical properties and degradation behavior in the human body. He received his B. S. in Materials Engineering with high honors from Polytechnical University of Madrid, Spain, in 2016. He served as a treasurer of the Chemical Engineering and Materials Science Graduate Student Association during 2017, where he focused on integrating new graduate students. As a Graduate Leadership Fellow, he aims to develop strategies that enhance work-life balance and wellness of graduate students, particularly those in the College of Engineering.

Stephanie Aguilar-SmithStephanie Aguilar-Smith is a third year Ph.D. student in Higher, Adult, and Lifelong Education, jointly pursuing a graduate certificate in Chicano/Latino Studies. She is a departmental graduate assistant, Executive Board Member of CHiLA, active member of Rueda Latin@, and a Writing Center consultant. Stephanie is the Graduate Student Life and Wellness Leadership Development Fellow for the College of Education, working to build community-building resources on behalf of graduate students in her college. This year, she is focused on bolstering graduate student representation of college-wide committees.

OliviaOlivia is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Chemistry within the College of Natural Science, where her focus is biocompatible materials synthesis. Olivia’s other research interests include improving graduate STEM education and professional and career development of early career scholars and professionals. As a Leadership Fellow, Olivia is addressing persistent gender inequities as they specifically manifest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics graduate programs and careers (STEM). Recent research shows that women and underrepresented groups persist in STEM fields when networks of peers and mentors exist, therefore she is addressing this from two different fronts: 1) by connecting existing communities of student scientists and 2) by establishing spaces and conversations where students can share their experiences and learn how to be an ally and advocate for themselves and others.

Dominik NeumannDominik Neumann is currently a PhD student in the College of Communication Arts and Sciences. After receiving his Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in “Management and Economics” at Ruhr University Bochum, Germany, he moved to the United States in 2016. His research focuses on "fear of missing out" and its possible substantial impact on our digital social behavior and personal well-being. He considers himself an enthusiastic traveler, likes to make new and unique experiences, coffee, red wine, and spending time with family and friends. As a leadership fellow he is working on building community within his college by implementing a peer-mentoring program.

Elijah SimmonsElijah Simmons (he/him/his) is a University Distinguished Fellow and Arts & Letter's Leadership Fellow, PhD student in Writing and Cultural Rhetorics. He held a McNair Fellowship at Miami University in Ohio where he completed his Master’s thesis on the embodied experience of Black bodies in college writing centers. He was awarded the Scholar for the Dream award from National Council of Teachers of English as well the Presidential award from International Writing Center Association and the Research award from Black Community Association. His current projects include: 2024 Strategic Plan for MSU Graduate School, Writing enhancement with the Rising Black Men, Development with Black males in the Rochester City School District and Advocacy for Black folk in health. Lastly, his research is centered in Critical Race Theory and Fictive Kinship with the purpose of loving on Blackness. His goal as a fellow in Art & Letters is to build a community that’s inclusive to diverse ideas, develop fictive kinship and push advancement for all in the college.

Tracy MelvinTracy Melvin is a 3rd year doctoral student in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife working with Dr. Gary Roloff in the Applied Forest and Wildlife Ecology Laboratory. Her research focuses on biodiversity conservation in the Anthropocene specific to climate adaptation. Her work is global in scope, but focuses on the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska as a case study. After obtaining her degree Tracy would like to teach at the collegiate level, focusing research on global conservation challenges and promoting a laboratory that emphasizes educational opportunities for students in developing countries, and refugees of foreign war. Tracy has co-created and co-taught the award winning and highly popular study abroad program “A Fragile Fiji: Integrating Ecology and Human Dimensions in the Face of Climate Change”. Tracy is serving the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources as a Leadership Development Fellow. Her fellow activities are an eclectic mix of 1. Determining the health, wellness, and needs assessment of the graduate students in her college through a unique survey 2. Creating an-all college website for graduate students to learn about self-care and resiliency, and 3. Creating opportunity for all-college community building through graduate student focal activities meant to build resilience, including physical fitness, personal finances, meditation, and faculty-student communication.

Alex WrightAlex Wright is a PhD student with the Department of Integrative Biology and USGS Patuxent Research Center. He is serving the College of Natural Science as a Leadership Development Fellow for the 2nd year in a row, and his main focus throughout this time period has been to optimize graduate student success. That goal has led to the previous development of the Peer Mentor Program Guide (insert hyperlink), and he is currently working to continue to engage stakeholders within the College, promote and help implement the Peer Mentor Program Guide, and to develop feedback mechanisms to measure and improve faculty mentoring and departmental graduate program policies.

Makena NealMakena Neal is a PhD candidate in the Higher, Adult, Lifelong Education (HALE) program. Her interests revolve around adult learning, community-based knowledge, and professional development. After working for four years in pre-college youth development as a leadership and civic engagement educator throughout the state of Michigan, Makena is excited to be serving in her first year as Coordinating Fellow for the Graduate School’s Leadership Institute. Her goals in this role include providing participant-driven development opportunities for the year-long graduate fellows; increasing intentional connections between Leadership Summit, Academy, and Fellows programming; and building foundational structures in the Institute that increase transparency, graduate student voice, and institutional buy-in.

Maddie ShellgrenMadeline (Maddie) Shellgren is the one with the batman and dinosaur tattoos. This year marking her second as a PhD student in Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures, Maddie spent six years prior at Michigan State as a PhD student in Linguistics. She devotes a lot of time to thinking about educator support, community building, institutional and organizational change, program development, critical pedagogies, graduate student (and early-career professionals) socialization, identity and embodiment within higher education (i.e. 'the higher ed experience'), educator and professional development, cultures of change within institutional contexts, and ways to move towards sustainable, equitable, and anti-oppressive ecologies within higher education. That said, Maddie also spends a lot of time trying to figure out which local stores sell the best donuts (extensive research and data collection still underway) and which parks provide the best dog-walking experiences. When not teaching, being a grad student, or working for either Michigan State University's College of Arts and Letters or the Graduate School, you can find her working as a Standardized Patient for the College of Human Medicine or eating cannolis at Roma Bakery. As a first time Coordinating Fellow for the Graduate School’s Leadership Institute, Maddie seeks to deepen program connections with communities and units across MSU’s campus, build more sustainable and transparent structures for Leadership Institute programming and fellows, and help develop a program that contributes to impactful and positive change on campus.