Dr. Kateri Salk is an alumnus of an MSU graduate program. Now a visiting Assistant Professor of water resources at the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University, Dr. Salk graduated from MSU’s Integrative Biology, Environmental Science and Policy program. Though Kateri had been accepted into multiple graduate programs, she chose MSU because of multiple factors. Having grown up in the midwest, the opportunity to conduct state of the art research on aquatic systems using stable isotopes in the Great Lakes basin was one such factor. Another factor Kateri also mentioned that, “coming to MSU meant that I would receive mentoring that would encourage me to push myself to be the best scientist I could be, establish an international professional network, and integrate my science with teaching.”
One of the ways in which Kateri felt supported in those pursuits was her experience as a Future Academic Scholars in Teaching (FAST) Fellow. The primary goals of the FAST Fellowship Program are to provide opportunities for a diverse group of graduate students to have mentored teaching experiences and to gain familiarity with materials on teaching and assessment techniques. Dr. Salk describes her FAST fellow experiences as integrated into her current practice because she incorporates evidence-based pedagogy into her teaching. “I have noticed that I am more able to purposefully design learning experiences that target the concepts and skills I want my students to develop thanks to the FAST program. I am also able to communicate my ability to design coursework in interview settings, with other faculty in my department, and with my students.”
“At MSU, I found that opportunities for small amounts of funding made a huge impact on my development. Fellowships from the graduate school of few hundred or a few thousand dollars allowed me to partially or fully fund a variety of experiences, including professional development, travel to conferences, and entire research projects that became chapters of my dissertation.” One such opportunity that Dr. Salk mentioned was her selection for a National Science Foundation fellowship to conduct research in East Asia and Pacific countries. Because of her advisor and the mentorship provided through her varied MSU communities, Kateri was selected for the fellowship and the research she conducted was integrated into her dissertation. “Knowing that early career scientists, particularly women, tend to underestimate their potential and qualifications, the encouragement from my mentors made a huge difference in pursuing these goals,” she said.
“Graduate students come to MSU with fresh interests, a drive for their work to make a difference for future generations, and a commitment to contribute to the education of undergraduates through teaching and research mentoring,” says Salk. In regards to her own work and its impacts, Kateri hopes that the knowledge produced by her scholarship helps aid better decision making around conservation and restoration of aquatic ecosystems- and that through her course work she helps develop the future researchers, educators, and environmentalists of the world.