Celebrating the Recipients of the GSG’s Excellence Awards

Written by Chris Pasion, graduate assistant to The Graduate School.

The Graduate Student Government Excellence Awards celebrate the work and achievements of outstanding members of the graduate student community. The Excellence Awards are given to those who exhibit exceptional scholarship, citizenship, and service. With these awards, the Graduate Student Government (GSG) recognizes the work that these Bearcats have put in and gives them a spotlight as they get ready to move on to what's next for them. While there’s no GSG Spring Ball this year, we want to take a moment to celebrate the awardees—albeit virtually, instead of on a dance floor. Here are a few words from some of the recipients:

A headshot portrait of Ayesha Catie Chetty.

Ayesha Casie Chetty, sociology PhD candidate

Outstanding International Graduate Student Award

My time at UC has been a wonderful and fulfilling experience. The last (almost) six years at UC have allowed me to grow as a person and provided opportunities for me to develop skills and contribute to the university community. This year has been especially tough for all students, but particularly international students who have fewer safety nets in this country. UC and the GSG have done such a fabulous job of providing—and in the case of the GSG advocating for—extra resources for graduate students. It has been my privilege to be a part of this community. 

I am honored to receive this award. It is especially meaningful to be recognized at a large regional university such as UC, where there is a sizeable graduate and international student population. That this award comes at a time of global turmoil and political upheaval where the ramifications of being foreign—and Asian—are not always positive, makes it all the more significant.”

Headshot portraits of the four executive board members of the CCM GSA, arranged in a collage.

The CCM GSA executive board. (Pictured: Top - Maria Seffrin, president; Matt Coffey, treasurer. Bottom - Muning Wang, secretary; Caitlan Truelove, vice president)

Maria Seffrin, music performance (clarinet) MA student

Graduate Student Association of the Year (College-Conservatory of Music) 

“For me, personally as president, [being recognized] is one of the biggest accomplishments of my graduate career at UC.  It sounds like it shouldn't be a big deal, but CCM GSA has honestly been like a third job for me. A lot of our initiatives are met with opposition and being a student leader is a difficult task. You are offering to be the voice for students who have valid concerns when it comes to using their own and are hesitant to represent their needs individually. We worked to exhaust any topic that was brought to us until we found a solution. 

I'm so happy to do the work and I know our whole board feels the same way, but that doesn't mean that it isn't a lot of work and that it isn't hard. I'm very grateful to be recognized, especially at a time when so many leaders are going above and beyond.  To understand that our work has had a positive impact on our students and our university just inspires me to keep going—after some much-needed rest, of course!”

2019 Cancer Cell Biology incoming students.

Ayusman Dash, biology PhD student

Graduate Student Award for Exemplary Scholarship (STEM)

“I came across an enzyme named PRPS1 critical for nucleotide biosynthesis and hence DNA, RNA, and energy production in cells. Surprisingly, with just a single point mutation at a previously unexplored region of PRPS1, I was able to significantly deplete this enzyme, cause cellular senescence (growth arrest), and disable mitochondrial function (energy powerhouse of cell). This discovery is of fundamental importance as one can now fine-tune this enzyme in cancer cells to target their addiction to cellular resources, leaving healthy cells unscathed.

It’s a huge honor for me to receive this award and is a great validation that my scientific work is of relevance to our community. This has been extremely beneficial and to be recognized by GSG for this research endeavor serves as a springboard to a promising career in academia. I have the privilege of working in a wonderful scientific environment with the best mentors, collaborators, and colleagues at UC whose help has been instrumental in bringing my work to fruition. GSG’s initiative to confer the Excellence Award makes it extra special and I feel proud to be a part of UC’s graduate school.”

A headshot portrait of Caitlan Truelove.

Caitlan Truelove, musicology PhD candidate

Graduate Student Award for Exemplary Scholarship (Fine Arts and Performing Arts)

This past year, I have presented my research on the music of The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945), Crazy Rich Asians (2018), Westworld (2016-present), and Galavant (2015-2016) at national conferences in my field, including the American Musicological Society and the Society for American Music. I will also be presenting my research on female vocality in Motherland: Fort Salem (2020-present) at the Music and the Moving Image 2021 conference next month. I achieved PhD candidacy and will be writing my dissertation on the twenty-first century television musical series and its musicalization of disability, mental health, emotional crises, and identity. 

I am honored to know that my research is appreciated by the Graduate Student Government. I would also like to acknowledge the College-Conservatory of Music faculty who I have worked with on my research, including Stephen Meyer, Shelina Brown, Scott Linford, and Jonathan Kregor, as well as the Composition, Musicology, and Theory graduate student cohort—support in any form from both one’s colleagues and peers, even if virtual, is vitally important to one’s success. 

A headshot portrait of Peter Stiver

Peter Stiver, political science MA student

Excellence Awards Graduate Student Award for Exemplary Service

Service is important to me because through service, we as a community become more connected, healthier, and more resilient to meet the challenges of life. By synergizing our passions and talents though service, we as a university community can really make a difference for our fellow graduate students and larger community. 

I feel very fortunate to be honored by my colleagues for my efforts to my department, the graduate students, and the university community. This recognition by the GSG means a lot to me as recognition reminds me that people do notice when I go the extra mile for the department and for my fellow grads. More importantly, this recognition reminds me that my time and actions are helping people and making a difference which ultimately is a wonderful feeling.   

A headshot portrait of Alicia Boards.

Alicia Boards, educational studies PhD student

Award for Advancement of Diversity and Inclusion in Academia

My doctoral journey has been full of both hardships and successes. During this journey, I have had to juggle raising two school-aged girls as a single mom, grieve the loss of my mother, maintain quality doctoral academic work, and research, and serve as a mentor and advocate for other students and faculty of color. Because I have extremely supportive faculty and mentors at UC,  I have been able to stay steadfast and center inclusion, innovation, and access in my educational and research trajectories. I have had ample opportunities to serve on committees and facilitate dialogue on issues regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion that motivates me to work even harder to help create more inclusive spaces and evoke critical dialogue to address inequities. 

While I do not seek recognition for any of the work that I do, I am truly grateful and appreciative to be recognized for this award. Being recognized for this award is one way to highlight the importance of surrounding yourself with supportive faculty and mentors that will believe in you when you often do not believe in yourself. Sharing this award with my two daughters will show them that hard work does not go unrecognized, and hopefully they will have a greater appreciation for all the times they had to share their "mommy" with others and diversity work in academia. My greatest hope is to instill in future generations the importance of working toward creating more inclusive and equitable spaces in the world for them to live and thrive. With or without recognition, I plan to continue to cultivate and sustain authentic interactions with others as a way to play a small role in reimagining educational access, inclusion, and success for underrepresented students and communities.

A headshot portrait of Christin Godale.

Christin Godale, neuroscience PhD candidate

Graduate Student Award for Exemplary Initiative

“I have two different projects that I am proud of accomplishing, especially during the pandemic. The first project was to form a student-run science policy group at the University of Cincinnati. I know quite a few students have shown interest in this career path; however, there were no campus resources. My colleague, Jennifer Patritti-Cram, and I founded the Science Policy Ambassadors in Spring 2020. My second project was more community-based. I am an epilepsy researcher, but I am also an advocate for epilepsy research and patient education in the Greater Cincinnati Area. I am passionate about this neurological disorder because I have lived with it my entire life. Since 2018, I have worked with UC Health and UC Foundation to host fundraisers for our Epilepsy Center. It took a lot of work, but I am proud that we could run a virtual epilepsy fundraiser in November, Epilepsy Awareness Month, during a pandemic.

My student leadership journey began with the Health Sciences Graduate Association in 2016, the semester that I joined UC to pursue my Ph.D. in Neuroscience. I've served on various committees and have been associated with many different student organizations. I eventually became more involved with the Graduate Student Government when the Governor of Ohio appointed me to serve as the Graduate Student Trustee on the UC Board of Trustees. I have five consecutive years of graduate student leadership at UC, and there is a reason why I continue to be incredibly involved—our graduate students. To be recognized by the GSG is an incredible honor because our graduate student community has shaped me into the person that I am today. I am thankful for all that they have done for me.”

To learn more about each of the Graduate Student Excellence Awards, visit the Excellence Awards webpage.