DEI Spotlights

DEI Spotlights in the Upcoming Week (11/14 – 11/20) A GradSWE DEI Initiative

Submit a day that is important to you!

November 17th 

November 17th is a remembrance day in Greece for the events that occurred during the Polytechnic Uprising in Athens in 1973 which marked the beginning of the end of the Greek military dictatorship/junta that ruled from 1967-1974. In 1973, massive student demonstrations were organized in Athens including at the National Technical University of Athens also known as Athens Polytechnic. On November 14 1973, students at Athens Polytechnic went on strike and occupied the University demanding “Ψωμί-Παιδεία-Ελευθερία” (Bread-Education-Liberty). On November 17, the movement escalated when a military tank crashed into the Polytechnic’s gates. The official investigation that followed declared that there were no deaths. November 17th is a day dedicated to freedom and democracy and serves as a reminder to never take these two for granted.

November 19th 

On November 19th Puerto Rico celebrates “Discovery Day” which commemorates Christopher Columbus’ arrival to the island in 1493. The day is marked as a public holiday, celebrations include parades and other cultural events, and many buildings are adorned with the country’s flag and other memorabilia to honor the nation’s sovereignty and its indigenous roots.

November 20th 

November 20th, is known as Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR). TDoR is observed annually (from its inception in 1999) on November 20th as a day to remember those who have been murdered as a result of transphobia. The day was founded to draw attention to the continued violence endured by transgender people.

The Spectrum Center here at UM has many resources in support of our Trans, Gender Non-Conforming, and Intersex Communities.

DEI Spotlights

DEI Spotlights in the Upcoming Week (11/1 – 11/13) – A GradSWE DEI Initiative

Submit a day that is important to you!

Native American Heritage Month was first celebrated as “American Indian Day” in May of 1916 in New York and it didn’t become a month-long recognition of Native Americans until 1990 when President George H.W. Bush signed a joint congressional resolution designating this month as the National American Indian Heritage Month. Since then, it’s been expanded to celebrate the heritage, history, art, and traditions of American Indians and Alaska Natives.

Several events are happening on campus in honor of this month! 

November 1st-2nd

Día de los Muertos or the Day of the Dead! Día de los Muertos is a holiday traditionally celebrated on November 1st and 2nd with the creation of home altars and cooking traditional dishes. Family and friends gather to pay their respects and to remember members who have passed away. Celebrations include recalling funny moments and memories of their loved ones.

November 1st-9th

The Pushkar Camel Fair is celebrated in Pushkar, India at the beginning of the Hindu month of Kartik and this year it’s from November 1st-9th. The fair is one of the largest livestock fairs in India, celebrating and exchanging information as well as purchases of camels, horses, and cattle. In the Hindu calendar, the Kartik month is holy and a festival called Kartik Purnima is annually held in its honor (this year on November 8th). The Pushkar Camel Fair was set up as a way to attract tradesmen and cattle herders who attended that festival. Even though the fair’s original purpose was trade and commercial activities, it has now become one of the biggest tourist attractions in the state of Rajasthan.

November 3rd

November 3rd in Japan is an annual public holiday called Culture Day or 文化の日 (Bunka no Hi). Celebrations are meant to promote culture, academic endeavors, and the arts with parades and art exhibitions! The holiday was established in 1948 and November 3rd was chosen because it was the birthdate of the late Emperor Meiji who ruled from 1867 to 1912. In 1927, this day was declared a national holiday known as Meiji Setsu and was later changed to Culture Day.

November 5th

The Guy Fawkes Night is annually celebrated on November 5th primarily in Great Britain and it involves bonfires and fireworks displays. Its history began when in 1603, King James I took the throne in England and forbade Catholics from practicing their religion. The Gunpowder Conspirators were a group of Catholics who sought to take action against the king and plotted to blow up the British Houses of Parliament. Their plot was uncovered on November 5, 1605 when 36 barrels of gunpowder were found in the basement of Parliament. Guy Fawkes was the leader of the conspiracy and was arrested just as he was about to ignite the gunpowder.

November 7th – 9th

Starting on this day, November 7th, until November 9th, Cambodia is celebrating their Water Festival called Bon Om Touk (in Khmer: បុណ្យអុំទូក, Bŏn Om Tuk, lit. “Boat Racing Festival”). This festival is usually celebrated in late October or early November – with the date changing every year as it is often corresponding with the lunar Mid-Autumn Festival and it marks the end of the monsoon season. The festivities are accompanied by dragon boat races, similar to those seen in the Lao Boun Suang Huea festival.

November 7th – 9th

From November 7th to 9th, Dev Deepawali or Dev Diwali is celebrated in India and around the world. This festival takes place on the full-moon night of the Hindu month of Kartika. It takes place on November 7 this year. It’s a celebration that takes place 15 days after Diwali – the Hindu festival of lights. What makes Dev Deepawali different from Diwali? Diwali is for mere mortals; Dev Deepawali is the festival of the gods. It happens in Varanasi – one of the holiest cities in Hindu mythology.

November 8th

On November 8th, Guru Nanak Jayanti, also known as Gurpurab, is celebrated by the followers of the religion of Sikhism. It is celebrated to commemorate the birth anniversary of the first Sikh Guru, Guru Nanak Dev. The festival is celebrated on the day of Kartik Poornima, which is the fifteenth lunar day in the month of Kartik according to the Hindu calendar.

November 8th

November 8th is the day that Thailand celebrates Loy Krathong or Loi Krathong (ลอยกระทง), known as Thailand’s Festival of Lights, is one of the biggest festivals in Thailand. Loy Krathong Festival is an annual traditional Siamese festival celebrated by Thais to pay respect to the Goddess of Water and the Buddha. It is not a public holiday but is celebrated nationwide when people gather around lakes, rivers, and canals to release floating lanterns or Krathongs on waterways.

November 8th -9th

Yee Peng —also Yi Peng — is a northern Thai festival that is celebrated on the full moon of the twelfth month of the Thai lunar calendar — for the most part in November. This year, it falls on November 8 to 9. The ‘Celebration of Lights’ was adapted from Brahmin starting points and has strong ties to the ancient Lanna Kingdom. Yee Peng was once celebrated as a separate event to mark the end of the storm season and the beginning of the cool season; however, it is now celebrated in conjunction with Loy Krathong. 

November 12th, 2022 – February 20th, 2023 

From mid-November to mid-January, the Winter Festival of Lights is celebrated in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada which is Canada’s largest lights festival. It attracts over one million visitors annually. It features a beautifully decorated five-kilometer route along the Niagara Parkway, adjacent to Niagara Falls. The Winter Festival of Lights was founded in 1982 with the mandate of developing tourism in Niagara Falls during the winter months by the Niagara Falls Canada Visitor and Convention Bureau (now Niagara Falls Tourism), the City of Niagara Falls, The Niagara Parks Commission and numerous local businesses.

Our story > OPG Winter Festival of Lights illuminates Niagara Falls for  37th season - OPG

November 13th 

On November 13th, we celebrate World Kindness Day which is an international holiday first introduced in 1998 by the World Kindness Movement. The holiday is devoted to promoting kindness throughout the world, understanding the positive potential of large and small acts of kindness, and unifying together as human beings.

Alumni Spotlight

Alumni Spotlight – Zixuan Wang

Dr. Zixuan Wang graduated from Arizona State University in chemical engineering in 2016 and completed her Masters and Ph.D. at the University of Michigan in 2021. In that time, she also completed her Science, Technology, and Public Policy certificate. During her time at U of M, her research project involved developing catalysts that converts wastewater to useful chemicals such as ammonia, which helps to recycle excess anthropogenic nitrogen introduced into the environment. After completing her Ph.D., began work as a Science Policy Fellow with the New Jersey state legislature starting in July 2021.

During graduate school, Zixuan Wang’s advisors were very supportive of her career choices and provided her with the flexibility to explore other options outside of traditional academia and industry. She also had a strong network of friends and colleagues who were always there for her when she needed help both in research and her personal life. 

GradSWE was an important part of Zixuan’s graduate experience in that it helped her make life-long friends outside of her own department. In fact, one of the friends she made during orientation at GradSWE even flew up from LA to attend her PhD defense in person. In her first year at GradSWE, a group of friends and her went out and got lost in corn maze, which turned out to be a fun bonding experience finding their way out together. 

In her free time, she enjoys reading, writing, creative journaling, and practicing yoga.

Advice for future and current graduate students:

Regardless of what project you are on, it is ultimately your advisor that will decide on if you get a Ph.D. Find a good advisor and you have five years to learn about any topic! Also, it helps to establish an open and honest communication with your advisor at all times.

Alumni Spotlight

Alumni Spotlight – Allison VanderStoep

Allison VanderStoep completed her undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering at Hope College in Michigan where she competed on the Track and Field team and won the HOPEYS Role Player of the Year Award. Alli recently finished her Master’s degree in the Industrial and Operations Engineering (IOE) Program here at the University of Michigan and is following her interests in healthcare at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, MI. Sparrow Hospital feels like the right fit for her and she’s excited for this opportunity.

When asked why she decided to go to graduate school, she replied that initially she was turned off to a PhD program because of rigorous undergraduate research experiences. However, her desire to learn about a new field and to follow a more applied career carried her through her Master’s degree. Alli advised that connecting and getting involved with your community is important to her and to a graduate experience. GradSWE provided a means for Alli to feel connected to her community through outreach.

In her free time, Alli likes to stay active. She enjoys running, hiking and rock climbing. One of the moments she’s proudest of during graduate school is earning her lead climbing license. She is also training to run a half-marathon, which is a shift from her track sprints training to more long-distance running. Alli’s other fun hobbies include reading (currently Shadow and Bone), beach volleyball, and exploring new skills like quilting.

Alli’s advice to incoming and current graduate students:

It’s okay to ask for help. We all know that pride can get in the way, and it’s a skill to learn in graduate school to put that aside and go to office hours, make the GSIs work for their money, join a study or interest group, and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.

Favorite places to eat :

Frita Batidos and Chelas

Ann Arbor must:

Go walking and on bike rides! Ann Arbor is a very nature-y place.

Little bite of knowledge:

Enjoy the moment

Are you interested in being interviewed for the GradSWE Alumni Spotlight as well, or know anyone who you think should be highlighted here? If so, please fill out or forward this interest form!

Alumni Spotlight

Alumni Spotlight – Meghan Richey

Meghan Richey graduated from Santa Clara University with a degree in computer engineering, and finished her masters at U of M in 2015 in Robotics Engineering. During her masters, she focused on social robotics and human robot interaction. Her masters thesis looked at predicting human interest in conversation from speech patterns and body language. 

After finishing her masters, Meghan worked as a software engineer and technical lead at Soar Technology, which develops artificial intelligence solutions for Department of Defense funded efforts. Currently, she works as a machine learning specialist for the University of Michigan in ITS. Meghan consults with project teams that want to incorporate machine learning in their research but need help getting started or need long-term technical staff on a contract. Her specialties include natural language processing and graphical user interface development. 

In Meghan’s free time, she enjoys reading, playing golf and soccer, and spending time outside with her dog Gatsby and fiancé Brendan. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself. What did you study at U-M? When did you graduate?

I graduated from University of Michigan in 2015 with a degree in Robotics Engineering. I was in the first class of students to graduate from this program, and I was honored to be a part of developing the new degree. My masters work focused on speech processing and human robot interaction. I discovered I was especially interested in natural language processing, and I have been lucky enough to work on many projects in this area since then. 

What was your first job out of graduate school? Do you still work there? If not, where do you work now?

My first job out of graduate school was as a software engineer at Soar Technology, a Department of Defense contractor that develops artificial intelligence solutions for the military. After working there for four years, during which I became a technical lead on many projects, I took a new position at the University of Michigan as a machine learning specialist. I work on a small consulting team within Advanced Research Computing in ITS to help student teams incorporate machine learning into their work. 

What does your day look like? (E.g. what do you do at your job?)

My day typically consists of a few project team meetings mixed with development work and personal development time. My consulting team typically meets with project teams to go over updates and next steps. I also do programming work for many of the projects I am a part of, as well as answer help desk tickets submitted by ITS users looking for help on machine learning. I lead workshops to teach students and professors about machine learning topics as well. The rest of the time, I am able to focus on personal projects that contribute to our consulting team development, such as learning a new programming language or taking an online course in machine learning. 

What led you to that career/path?

I have always been interested in how humans and computers interact, and during grad school, I became especially interested in natural language processing. While at SoarTech, I was able to work on many projects that involved humans controlling machines with speech, and I found that I was passionate about creating processes to make interactions between humans and machines more streamlined. Machine learning was especially interesting to me because it compares how humans and machines work, and it ultimately involves creating machine capabilities to act in a way that is understandable to humans. 

What do you think was the most helpful to you during grad school which helped you along the way?

There is a lot of flexibility in grad school to explore your interests, so you should never feel limited by the work you’re currently involved in if it’s not interesting to you. I discovered my love for natural language processing during grad school, and I’m glad I had the flexibility to explore that interest. 

Has GradSWE helped you get there, and if so, how?

Yes, GradSWE connected me with an amazing network of female engineers and scientists that were all at a similar point in their careers. It was extremely valuable to me to learn about what other students were researching, and often we would get new ideas about our own research by talking to one another. I’m very grateful I was able to meet so many talented researchers through GradSWE. 

What’s your best GradSWE memory?

GradSWE gave me the opportunity to attend the national SWE conference in Nashville, TN in 2015. I also enjoyed attending the Region H conference with fellow GradSWE members that year. Both of these conferences allowed me to attend workshops and networking events to learn about other engineering opportunities. 

What advice do you have for current graduate students?

You can do a variety of things with a graduate degree, and they don’t all have to lead to teaching. Keep your options open, and don’t feel pressured to follow a certain career path that doesn’t feel right to you. 

What would you have liked to know when you started your graduate studies?

I would have liked to know about the flexibility in graduate programs. I entered a PhD program in Robotics, but I decided it wasn’t the right fit and graduated with a Masters instead. Before being in this situation, I never realized I had the flexibility to change my mind after trying the PhD out. 

What’s next for you?

Professionally, I’m looking forward to growing our consulting team and expanding our reach across the university as an access point for people to learn about machine learning. Personally, I’m excited about getting married this summer and enjoying all the summer activities Ann Arbor has to offer!

Alumni Spotlight

Alumni Spotlight – Abigail Azari

Dr. Abigail Azari is a planetary scientist and space physicist currently at the Space Sciences Laboratory at University of California, Berkeley. Most of her work focuses on understanding current and former planetary environments by studying newly available large datasets from planetary missions. In particular, she works to enable data-driven discovery for planetary science with techniques from geosciences, statistics, data visualization, and computer science. 

She attended Smith College for her undergraduate degree in physics and received her masters and doctorate degrees from the University of Michigan’s Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering department (CLaSP). While at Michigan, she was a co-director of GradSWE and worked to help develop the first instance of a data visualization and statistics course in CLaSP. Her teaching was recognized with a Richard & Eleanor Towner Prize Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor. 

She enjoys spending time outdoors, stargazing, and trying out new recipes in the kitchen.

Tell us a little bit about yourself. What did you study at U-M? When did you graduate?

I graduated from the Climate and Space department in 2020 with my PhD. My thesis focused mostly on understanding how plasma moves around Saturn and in incorporating physical information into machine learning.

What was your first job out of graduate school? Do you still work there? If not, where do you work now?

I’m currently a postdoctoral scholar at UC Berkeley’s Space Sciences Lab. I “hopped planets” between my PhD and my postdoc. I went from studying Saturn in my PhD, to studying Mars in my postdoc.

What does your day look like? (E.g. what do you do at your job?)

I started my post-doc during COVID-19 so I’ve never stepped into my official office at UC Berkeley. So much of science is done collaboratively, sometimes just by sharing ideas with your co-workers so it took me a while to adjust to learning how to pursue a new topic area and find a community while remotely working. After settling in, I’ve been enjoying working with my supervisor, my group, and the mission team. One major advantage of remote work has been the ability to collaborate and reach out to my international colleagues.

My day to day varies but I’ll likely be spending time working on data analyses from the MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution) mission, reading/reviewing/writing papers, learning new data science techniques, working with collaborators on research goals/sharing my results, and writing grant applications to name a few things.

What led you to that career/path?

I spent several years working in science policy before I entered my PhD program. While in science policy I was able to meet more planetary scientists and I was able to learn more about what the day to day life looks like as a scientist / engineer. I ultimately decided on my current postdoc appointment because of the flexibility in defining your research, your goals, and the interdisciplinary nature of planetary science.

Because of that flexibility, I’ve found ways to continue my policy interests as a postdoc. For example, the planetary community has been undergoing a 10 year review process, so some of my recent work has been to work with other planetary scientists to summarize the current state of machine learning in planetary science and recommend possible future paths for our field.

What do you think was the most helpful to you during grad school which helped you along the way?

The most useful thing for me was taking time to work between undergraduate and graduate school. This gave me time to see if I wanted to keep going and to find out more about what graduate school looked like and what it led to. 

While in graduate school one of the most useful things was to take planned breaks from courses and research. For me this included walking outside on campus or spending time with GradSWE and it allowed me to “reset” from PhD work.

Has GradSWE helped you get there, and if so, how?

PhD programs are long; GradSWE provided a community of fantastic female engineers on campus to share struggles and triumphs with during the process. 

What’s your best GradSWE memory?

I enjoyed working and hanging out with the community of officers and my fellow co-director, Dr. Stephanie Crocker Ross, when I was with GradSWE. It was fantastic to work with such an amazing group of talented and driven people.

What advice do you have for current graduate students?

PhD programs don’t all have to lead to the same career or end goal. There is more flexibility in PhD programs than often thought, so if you have another goal or are just curious about something, you should try and spend some time exploring that! 

Also, try to get out of the lab and the classroom, especially when you start thesis writing.

What would you have liked to know when you started your graduate studies?

Goals can and will change as you go through your graduate program and that’s ok.

Are you interested in being interviewed for the GradSWE Alumni Spotlight as well, or know anyone who you think should be highlighted here? If so, please fill out or forward this interest form!

Alumni Spotlight, General

Alumni Spotlight – Dr. Aeriel Murphy-Leonard


Dr. Aeriel Murphy-Leonard is originally from Alabama. She completed her undergraduate education at the University of Alabama where she earned a degree in Metallurgical and Materials Engineering. In 2013, she began her PhD journey at the University of Michigan in Materials Science and Engineering. Her research focused on using high energy x-ray techniques and microscopy to understand grain size and alloying effects on microstructural evolution and deformation in magnesium alloys. During her time at Michigan she led and worked on many teams aimed at increasing the number of underrepresented minorities in engineering including developing and implementing a leadership camp for female engineering students in Monrovia, Liberia. While at UofM, Aeriel was awarded the Richard and Eleanor Towner Prize for Distinguished Academic Achievement, the Marian Sarah Parker Prize, the Susan A. Lipschutz Award, the Distinguished Leadership Award, and the MLK Jr. Spirit Award. Aeriel earned her PhD in November 2018 and is currently a NRC Postdoctoral Fellow at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC. Aeriel enjoys baking, traveling, and reading. She also runs a lifestyle blog titled AerielViews aimed at young graduate and professional students.


Tell us a little bit about yourself. What did you study at U-M? When did you graduate?

I completed my PhD in Materials Science and Engineering in November 2018.


What was your first job out of graduate school? Do you still work there? If not, where do you work now?

I am currently a NRC Postdoctoral Fellow at the US Naval Research Laboratory. However, I will be starting a faculty position in the Materials Science and Engineering Department at the Ohio State University in Winter 2021.


What does your day look like? (E.g. what do you do at your job?)

My responsibility is to use advanced x-ray techniques such as micro computed tomography and synchrotron diffraction to understand deformation in additively manufactured materials during in-situ techniques.


What led you to that career/path?

My PhD work was in using synchrotron diffraction to understand deformation and microstructural evolution in magnesium alloys which led to my passion for in-situ characterization of materials during mechanical loading and processing. I knew early on in my graduate career that I wanted to pursue a career in academia but I needed a small break after graduate school to really zone-in on what my passions were and my post-doc has allowed me to do this. I come from a family of public educators and I am confident that public institutions should enable all students to be the best especially those from under-served populations. If you think about it, Professors help create the next generation of leading scientists and engineers which is something I want to be a part of.


What do you think was the most helpful to you during grad school which helped you along the way?

My relationship with my advisor was game-changing for me. He challenged me in ways that helped shape who I am today. Without his help and dedication I am certain I wouldn’t have had so many offers for faculty positions. There were times during the PhD process that were hard and he helped me through those rough patches with no judgement. Advisor-Student relationships are very important especially when you’re at the end of graduate school. My advice for all graduate students is to choose your advisor wisely.


Has GradSWE helped you get there, and if so, how?

GradSWE was great for providing a space for women to bond and support each other. Women face unique challenges in graduate school which can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness. Having a group of like-minded women definitely helped me through graduate school.


What’s your best GradSWE memory?

I was a part of the Liberia-SWE camp for three years and the trips to Liberia will always be my favorite GradSWE memory. Those trips were life-changing for me. It was one of the main reasons I decided to pursue a career in academia after graduate school.


What advice do you have for current graduate students?

My advice for all graduate students is to not compare your process to others. Everyone is on their own unique journey and no two journeys are the same. I know it is hard to see in the beginning, but you will become the expert in your area and no one will know more than you (not even your advisor). When it gets hard, believe in yourself and keep pushing forward!


What would you have liked to know when you started your graduate studies?

When I started I really struggled with Imposter Syndrome. I wish I would have sought the advice and support of older students because once I opened up I learned that a lot of graduate students go through the same thing. I spent too much time comparing myself to other students which exacerbated the problem.


What’s next for you?

After my post-doc is complete in the Fall, I will be starting a faculty position as an Assistant Professor in the Materials Science and Engineering Department at the Ohio State University.


Anything else you’d like to say?

Michigan is a great place to be. It is one of the few institutions that you can do anything you want to do from policy to education. Take advantage of all of the opportunities in front of you and take the time to build your network.


Are you interested in being interviewed for the GradSWE Alumni Spotlight as well, or know anyone who you think should be highlighted here? If so, please fill out or forward this interest form!

Alumni Spotlight, General

Alumni Spotlight – Dr. Rachel Schwind

Rachel Schwind

Dr. Rachel Schwind is originally from Cincinnati, OH and attended the University of Cincinnati for her undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering while also working on research and testing for automotive fluids and specialty chemicals. In her free time, she loves to stay active and has taken part in competitive boxing and powerlifting over the years.


Tell us a little bit about yourself. What did you study at U-M? When did you graduate? 

I got both my masters and PhD in Mechanical Engineering from UM. I received my masters in December of 2017 and my PhD in December of 2019. My focus areas for both were Thermal Sciences and Energy. My research focused on understanding the complex chemical kinetics of combustion systems, specifically those related to carbon neutral biogas applications and the production of specialty silica products. I completed this work under the guidance of Prof. Margaret Wooldridge and Dr. Robert Tranter (of Argonne National Laboratory).


What was your first job out of graduate school? Do you still work there? If not, where do you work now? 

My first job out of grad school (and my current position) is as a Postdoctoral Research Associate in Engineering at Brown University as a member of the Goldsmith Lab for Chemical Kinetics.


What does your day look like? (E.g. what do you do at your job?)

I am an experimental researcher on campus at Brown University working with a high pressure strand burner and assisting with our shocktube facility as well. I generally start my morning by checking in with the other experimentalist in my group to see what he may be running as well as taking care of administrative tasks before setting up to run experiments, work on data processing or reviewing literature as needed. I still maintain some work from my doctoral institutions so I am also periodically checking in with my colleagues at UM and Argonne National Laboratory about those projects. Additionally, much of my research to this point has been carried out at the lab of my collaborators at Montana State so I have spent time working on experiments there and continuing to guide on going research from my main location in Providence.


What led you to that career/path?

I decided to pursue a PhD during my senior year of my undergraduate studies after realizing that I was drawn to conducting high quality research while also mentoring other students and teaching. This made an academic career with an eventual faculty appointment at a strong institution very attractive.


What do you think was the most helpful to you during grad school which helped you along the way?

I owe a lot of credit to the incredible support I received from my lab mates and my advisor. I could not have asked for a better group of people to go on this journey with and will be forever thankful for the help over the years.


Has GradSWE helped you get there, and if so, how?

I was able to connect with other female engineering graduate students which are not as common in my major and especially not in my focus area.


What advice do you have for current graduate students?

Find something that you will do every day or week that is not your research. For me this was always fitness whether it be running, boxing or lifting, it was something almost every day. This helped me relieve my stress and also meet new people both within and outside of the graduate community.


What would you have liked to know when you started your graduate studies?

You may not answer every question you set out to and that is okay. Your research is still valuable and can show very different results which may prove to be more vital than you initially planned.


What’s next for you? 

I am currently applying to faculty positions with a focus on R1 institutions.


Are you interested in being interviewed for the GradSWE Alumni Spotlight as well, or know anyone who you think should be highlighted here? If so, please fill out or forward this interest form!

Alumni Spotlight, General

Alumni Spotlight – Dr. Shima Nazari


Dr. Shima Nazari graduated in May 2019 from the Powertrain Control Lab with her PhD in Mechanical Engineering. During her graduate studies, she won Best Paper awards for the 2018 Vehicular Power and Propulsion Conference and for Automotive and Transportation from the 2019 American Control Conference. After defending her thesis, she worked as a Research Fellow at the Energy Institute at U-M. She is currently a postdoc at University of California Berkeley. In Fall 2020, she will join University of California, Davis, as an assistant professor. In her free time, she enjoys watching movies and TV series, hanging out with friends and family, and trying new food. 


Tell us a little bit about yourself. What did you study at U-M? When did you graduate? 

I studied mechanical engineering and graduated in May 2019.


What was your first job out of graduate school? Do you still work there? If not, where do you work now? 

My first job was a Postdoc position at the University of Michigan Energy Institute. Now, I have a postdoc position in UC Berkeley.


What does your day look like? (E.g. what do you do at your job?)

My day starts with getting ready and taking the bus to work. I am working on automated vehicles. So, it involves a lot of coding, control design, and sometimes experiments. I usually have lunch with my friends. I participate in a few meetings during the day and talk to students about their progress in their work. 


What led you to that career/path?

Passion for learning and leadership.


What do you think was the most helpful to you during grad school which helped you along the way?

Being surrounded by amazing minds.


Has GradSWE helped you get there, and if so, how?

Yes. The workshops on faculty search process and academic jobs were really useful.


What advice do you have for current graduate students?

I think that you should put more time on networking and getting to know people.


What would you have liked to know when you started your graduate studies?

I wanted to decide on my future career path earlier.


What’s next for you? 

I just received a faculty position offer, which I am going to accept.


Are you interested in being interviewed for the GradSWE Alumni Spotlight as well, or know anyone who you think should be highlighted here? If so, please fill out or forward this interest form!


Alumni Spotlight, General

Alumni Spotlight – Katie Reichl, Ph.D.

Alumni Spotlight seeks to showcase graduated members of GradSWE. Hear more about their journey during and after Michigan, their favorite GradSWE activities, and their advice to current graduate students!

Wednesday 4/22/20

Katie Reichl, Ph.D.

Dr. Katie Reichl grew up outside of Minneapolis, MN. After graduating from high school, she got her undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin – Madison in Engineering Mechanics. Afterwards, she went to the University of Michigan and got her Master’s and Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering. The summer after defending her Ph.D., she gave birth to her son. During that summer, her family also moved from Ann Arbor to Milwaukee, WI and she started her job as an assistant professor when her son was 3 months old. During her free time, her family spends time exploring Milwaukee. This summer, they will be welcoming a baby girl into their family. 


Tell us a little bit about yourself. What did you study at U-M? When did you graduate?

I graduated from the University of Michigan in 2018. While I was there, I performed research looking at light-weight methods to reduce vibrations in aircraft using metastructures. The prototypes we constructed had complex geometry making 3D printing the optimal manufacturing method. My research also included methods for modeling 3D printed materials experiencing vibrations, so we could accurately model the prototypes we created.

What was your first job out of graduate school? Do you still work there? If not, where do you work now?

I graduated with my Ph.D. just under 2 years ago and since then I have been working as an Assistant Professor at the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) in the Mechanical Engineering department.

What does your day look like? (E.g. what do you do at your job?)

MSOE is a teaching-focused institution where I spend the majority of my day teaching, and working with students. MSOE is an undergraduate institution thus we do not have teaching assistants or graders; additionally, classes sizes are generally less than 30 students. This gives me a significant amount of contact with the students in my classes. My office hours are generally busy and grading homeworks and exams takes up a significant amount of my time.

What led you to that career/path?

During my undergraduate years, I worked as a tutor and I really enjoyed working with students. This led me to explore the idea of becoming a professor. During undergrad and graduate school, I continued to seek out opportunities to tutor / teach other students and just always found lots of enjoyment working with students. This is why I sought out a job at a teaching-focused institution.

What do you think was the most helpful to you during grad school which helped you along the way?

Michigan has great resources to prepare you to become a faculty and to learn more about teaching. Through the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching (CRLT), I attended many seminars about teaching. I participated in the Preparing Future Faculty seminar and NextProf, which both focus on preparing graduate students for faculty careers. Additionally, I took Dr. Montegomery’s Teaching Engineering class which is a great introduction to teaching pedagogy. These opportunities gave me a solid foundation such that I felt prepared to teach my first class as a professor. 

Has GradSWE helped you get there, and if so, how?

GradSWE was a tremendous help along the way. It was a great way to stay connected with all the resources available on campus. I could always find another GradSWE member who had tried out a resource before me to get additional information.

What’s your best GradSWE memory?

I traveled with a handful of other GradSWE members to the national SWE conference in Philadelphia. It was fun bounding with the other GradSWE members and also a great opportunity to network with other students and professionals across all of SWE.

What advice do you have for current graduate students?

Michigan has a ton of great resources. Make use of those resources while you are there to help you determine what you want your career path to be and to prepare you for that career path.

What would you have liked to know when you started your graduate studies?

When I started my graduate studies, I didn’t realize all the different career options they were for Ph.D. graduates. I thought most people pursued their Ph.D. so they would become faculty. 

What’s next for you?

This summer, I will be having a baby girl so I will be learning how to be a mom of two!


Are you interested in being interviewed for the GradSWE Alumni Spotlight as well, or know anyone who you think should be highlighted here? If so, please fill out or forward this interest form!

General, Member Spotlight

Member Spotlight – Kathleen Chou

Friday 4/3/20

Kathleen Chou is a 4th year Ph.D. student in Materials Science and Engineering, advised under Prof. Emmanuelle Marquis. She received her B.S. in Materials Science and Engineering from the University of Michigan in 2013.


How would you explain your research to someone with a non-engineering background? 

My work focuses on developing improved titanium alloys for aerospace and biomedical implant applications. In these industries, structural metals are very important to the performance of the component, so I have been working on understanding how different elements, specifically small elements like oxygen, will change the material’s mechanical properties such as strength and stiffness. My research is mostly experimental, and I get to use many different kinds of microscopy and materials characterization techniques located at some of the research centers on campus.


What got you interested in your research?

I really enjoy being able to understand how a material’s structure on the micro- and nano-scale will affect the overall properties that we observe, so it’s exciting that I get to focus on these aspects in my research. Also, improvements in structural materials can have very important implications on allowing us to design new components or use parts in hotter or harsher environments. This can result in better fuel efficiency or other environmental impacts, so it’s really cool to work on research that can affect the broader society in these ways.


What made you choose Michigan for graduate school?

Michigan has the right combination of great opportunities for research, a supportive campus community, and programs that allow you to get experience in areas outside your department such as in the business or public policy schools, so it has many avenues for me to grow and develop. I also really like living in Ann Arbor, both for going downtown, checking out events or festivals, and doing outdoor activities like running or kayaking on the Huron River.


Running in the Detroit Thanksgiving Turkey Trot!


Kayaking in the summer!

Where do you spend most of your time?

I spend most of my time either in my office in the Dow building or at NCRC at the microscopy center for my research. Outside of grad school, I like to check out a lot of the local parks and restaurants.


What’s your favorite thing to do outside the lab?

During the warm months, I’ve been spending a lot of time gardening! We grew lots of different vegetables last year including tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and mini pumpkins, and I’m excited to try out some new plants this upcoming summer.

Growing lots of vegetables in our garden, and all the pumpkins we grew last year!

What kinds of challenges have you faced as a woman engineer?

It can be hard to feel confident in certain situations depending on the environment (it can be really intimidating to be the only woman in a room), so I try to remind myself to trust in my own abilities and speak up. Also, finding good mentors can be a challenge, so I try to seek out people who I feel I connect with and can ask for advice, especially when I am joining a new organization or in a new role.


If you could go back in time 5 years, what advice would you give to yourself?

Remember that you are a work in progress, so things may just need more time or practice to get better and give yourself a break. Also, time spent doing things you enjoy or with friends is time well spent!



Are you interested in being interviewed for the GradSWE Member Spotlight as well, or know anyone who you think should be highlighted here? If so, please fill out or forward this interest form!

General, Member Spotlight

Alumni Spotlight – Colleen Crouch PhD

Alumni Spotlight seeks to showcase graduated members of GradSWE. Hear more about their journey during and after Michigan, their favorite GradSWE activities, and their advice to current graduate students!

Friday 3/20/20

GradSwe pic - Colleen Crouch

Dr. Colleen Crouch graduated in 2019 with her PhD in Mechanical Engineering from U-M. She served as the Vice President of Rackham Graduate School for two years. Currently, she is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. In her free time, she likes to garden, read fiction novels, workout and run, travel, and try new foods.


Tell us a little bit about yourself. What did you study at U-M? When did you graduate? 

My name is Colleen, and I defended my thesis in January 2019. Originally from Tennessee, I moved to Ann Arbor from Atlanta after finishing my undergraduate degree in Polymer and Fiber Engineering. My PhD is in Mechanical Engineering, and I spent most of my time in a Biomedical Engineering lab using magnetic resonance imaging to study the cardiovascular system. 


What was your first job out of graduate school? Do you still work there? If not, where do you work now? 

I am currently at UT MD Anderson Cancer Center as a postdoctoral fellow in Interventional Radiology. I wanted to switch fields in my postdoctoral studies, so I am now at the best place for cancer research. I literally had to google everything about cancer biology on my first day here. 


What does your day look like? (E.g. what do you do at your job?)

Just like with graduate research, my day-to-day routine varies, and it is completely up to me to fill my time with the right stuff. I do benchtop work, animal treatment with CT imaging, mass spectrometry, and some histology work. On days when I am not actively running experiments or analyzing data, I read and write most of the day. One day a month I shadow an Interventional Radiologist for a 10-hour shift. It is on these days I get to see where my research can go, what problems are faced in the clinic and how we could improve them.  


What led you to that career/path?

I love medical research, but I thought I could better study it with an engineering approach. There is a huge difference between biology and engineering, and although it can be frustrating being on both sides, I think having fresh eyes on a problem can be very helpful. I also knew a postdoctoral position would help me to transition to a faculty position at a research university. 


What do you think was the most helpful to you during grad school which helped you along the way?

Besides the typical research skills, the most helpful part of graduate school was the project management and leadership skills I learned in extracurricular activities including RSG, EGS, CRLT-Engin, and ASEE. I served on RSG for four-years, and I spent the last two years serving as Vice President. I learned how to communicate to a wide audience, event planning (which is much like planning experiments), and so much more. 


Has GradSWE helped you get there, and if so, how?

GradSWE helped me build a community. I would not have graduated without my friends. 


What’s your best GradSWE memory?

I have so many good memories with friends: game night at Olivia’s, ice skating, and all the other events. The most memorable event was my first-year welcome dinner when we had an incredible speaker come. I still have her list of top 20 things to remember, and it is hung up in my bedroom. 


What advice do you have for current graduate students?

I’ve got lots but this one is something I still try and do:

Set a goal that’s not related to your research (run a marathon, travel to a new place, learn how to garden, read 30 fiction books a year, etc.)


What would you have liked to know when you started your graduate studies?

The one-hour meeting with a potential advisor is definitely not enough time to judge their characters and abilities to mentor. Ask the graduate students, postdocs, techs about a potential advisor. Do not be afraid to switch labs. 


What’s next for you? 

I will be applying to faculty positions in the fall. 



Are you interested in being interviewed for the GradSWE Alumni Spotlight as well, or know anyone who you think should be highlighted here? If so, please fill out or forward this interest form!


General, Member Spotlight

Member Spotlight – Erin Evke

Sunday 3/8/2020

Erin Evke is a fourth year PhD student in Materials Science and Engineering, advised under Prof. Max Shtein. She graduated with her B.S. in Materials Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Erin served as a GradSWE officer for 3 years, first as the Professional Development officer, then the Treasurer, and later the Co-director. In her free time, she likes running, playing soccer, and traveling.

Erin - portrait

How would you explain your research to someone with a non-engineering background?

I explore the use of kirigami to precisely tailor the properties of materials for a specific application. Similar to the more familiar art of origami, kirigami leverages cuts in a material instead of folds. This allows you to control how the material deforms and enables complex 2D to 3D transformations. This is unique because you can conform an initially flat (2D) sheet to any curved surface without buckling or wrinkling the material. As an added bonus, you can tune the mechanical, thermal, electrical and/or optical properties of a material without having to alter its chemistry. A few applications I’m currently applying this technique to include wearable electronics for monitoring the angular positions and complex motions of the body’s joints and muscles, shielding electronics from external interference, solar tracking for energy harvesting, and smart materials (that respond automatically to their environment, such as shape memory materials).

What got you interested in your research?

I was captivated by the intersection between art and engineering that allowed for a different perspective on solving engineering problems. I also appreciated its immediate applicability to so many industries.


Image Source

What made you choose Michigan for graduate school?

I could see myself enjoying the research in several labs at Michigan and grad students generally seemed happier here. I also really liked all the school spirit. I remember getting a tshirt after the visitation weekend and in the airport everyone started saying,”Go Blue!” After that, I started to see Michigan EVERYWHERE! It’s cool being a part of such a big network. Also, my cousins live in the area. 

Where do you spend most of your time?

NCRC but recently I’ve had to jump back and forth a lot between NCRC and numerous buildings on North Campus. Let’s just say I have no problem getting above 10,000 steps a day. 

What’s your favorite thing to do outside the lab?

Run and play sports. I can’t wait for the summer because there are so many sports I can play outside and enjoy the warmth! 


Erin running in the Detroit Marathon! Picture taken at (S)mile 13.


Erin and her team winning the IM championships for co-rec ultimate frisbee!

What kinds of challenges have you faced as a woman engineer?

I have definitely been in situations where I felt like I had to “prove” myself more so than my male peers. I have also experienced instances where I expressed an idea to a group only to have a male colleague moments later parrot my contribution and the group recognize it as his own. This is something I realized a lot of women engineers have also faced and by sticking together and speaking up about it, we can overcome this. 

If you could go back in time 5 years, what advice would you give to yourself?

Focus on the positives and be patient. Cherish the happy moments along the way and don’t let the bad ones weigh on you too heavily.



If you want to learn more about Erin’s research, check out this video and read more about it here!

General, Member Spotlight

Alumni Spotlight – Elizabeth Dreyer PhD

Alumni Spotlight seeks to showcase graduated members of GradSWE. Hear more about their journey during and after Michigan, their favorite GradSWE activities, and their advice to current graduate students!

Thursday 2/20/20


Elizabeth Dreyer, PhD

Dr. Elizabeth Dreyer graduated from U-M with her PhD in Electrical Engineering from the Center for Dynamic Magneto-Optics. During grad school, she was the Graduate Member Coordinator for SWE, and was heavily involved in on-campus student organizations, such as GradSWE as the activities officer and later the co-director. She now works as a consultant in the Boston Consulting Group (BCG). In her leisure time, she enjoys playing board games with friends, kayaking, baking, and gardening.  


Tell us a little bit about yourself. What did you study at U-M? When did you graduate?

I did my PhD in Electrical Engineering, specifically studying Optics & Photonics. I graduated in April 2018.


What was your first job out of graduate school? Do you still work there? If not, where do you work now? 

Management Consultant at Boston Consulting Group. I still work here (:


What does your day look like? (E.g. what do you do at your job?)

Every day is different and depends on the client. Some days I am interviewing experts to understand a new industry. The next I might be running a workshop for the top 100 senior leaders of a Fortune 500 company. The next might be building a complicated Excel model to predict the future percentage of Electric Vehicles. In general, I like to say that I help businesses & other organizations solve problems.


What led you to that career/path?

I realized that the problems I am most interested in solving are not purely technical. I wanted to be on the interface of Science & Society, Business & Technology. I like wicked problems.


What do you think was the most helpful to you during grad school which helped you along the way?

Getting involved in things outside of my research. My involvement in SWE and my coursework in Science, Technology, and Public Policy were invaluable.


Has GradSWE helped you get there, and if so, how?

GradSWE taught me how to work with a diverse group of people and operate in a professional environment, e.g. running meetings, creating and executing plans, participating in conference calls, motivating volunteers, etc.


What’s your best GradSWE memory?

Traveling to Liberia to facilitate a 2-week residential Leadership Camp for female engineering students.


What advice do you have for current graduate students?

Get outside of the lab and find something that you are passionate for. Your research will get you your degree, but involvement in other things will help you get hired… plus have a lot more fun!


What would you have liked to know when you started your graduate studies?

Grad school is not a linear path… Each person makes their own way. That being said, if things get really hard – ask for help! Your department and the college are there to help. 


What’s next for you? 

I’m really enjoying what I’m doing at BCG.


Anything else you’d like to say?

Go Blue!



Are you interested in being interviewed for the GradSWE Alumni Spotlight as well, or know anyone who you think should be highlighted here? If so, please fill out or forward this interest form!

General, Member Spotlight

Alumni Spotlight – Olivia Palmer PhD

Alumni Spotlight seeks to showcase graduated members of GradSWE. Hear more about their journey during and after Michigan, their favorite GradSWE activities, and their advice to current graduate students!

Monday 1/27/20

Olivia Palmer

Olivia Palmer, PhD

Dr. Olivia Palmer recently graduated with her PhD in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Michigan, from the Greve Lab. She was highly involved in GradSWE throughout graduate school, taking on different officers roles such as Professional Development, Media, and Activities. She was also the co-chair for the 2018 Engineering Graduate Symposium. In her free time, she played the violin in the Life Science Orchestra. She is currently a technical lead at Becton Dickinson (BD) in their Technology Leadership Development Program (TLDP). 


Tell us a little bit about yourself. What did you study at U-M? When did you graduate? 

I came to UM from Gustavus Adolphus College, a small liberal arts college in Minnesota, to pursue a PhD in Biomedical Engineering. My graduate research focused on developing MRI methods to determine thrombus composition and better treat patients with deep vein thrombosis. I defended my PhD in March 2019 and transitioned to industry as a medical device R&D engineer.

What was your first job out of graduate school? 

I was fortunate to connect with fellow BME alum over homecoming weekend who told me about the Technology Leadership Development Program (TLDP) at BD, a leading global medical technology company. The TLDP is a rotational program for PhDs and thesis-based MS graduates consisting of three 18-24 month long rotations at different business units, designed to develop future technical leaders in R&D. I was really drawn to this program for the opportunity to gain broad exposure while exploring multiple career paths. I started my first rotation with BD Peripheral Intervention working on an exciting new product development project for a vascular device. As technical lead, I’m working on literature and field research, prototyping, physician interviews and pre-clinical studies.

What led you to that career/path?

My undergrad was in physics, and I was dead set on pursuing a master’s in applied physics. I knew I wanted to work on problems with tangible solutions that could help people, but I wasn’t sure exactly how, so I had applied to programs in a variety of fields. I was accepted to the BME PhD program at Michigan around the same time my grandfather passed away very suddenly from a blood clot in his leg, known as DVT. For me that was the tipping point to choose biomedical engineering, and I wound up studying DVT for my graduate work. From there I knew that I wanted to work in the medical device industry to continue working on ways to advance the world of health.

What do you think was the most helpful to you during grad school which helped you along the way?

From a professional standpoint, my position as a Technology Transfer Fellow at UM really helped prepare me for industry. In this role I learned skills to quickly evaluate technologies from completely different fields through a business lens – evaluating the IP landscape, market opportunity, and competition. On a personal level, the support of the GradSWE community and other groups I was part of were tremendously helpful in getting through the ambiguous and sometimes isolating aspects of graduate research. 

What’s your best GradSWE memory?

Kayaking or floating down the Huron River every summer. 

What advice do you have for current graduate students?

Prioritize your health, embrace failures, and remember that you are not your research. 


Are you interested in being interviewed for the GradSWE Alumni Spotlight as well, or know anyone who you think should be highlighted here? If so, please fill out or forward this interest form!


GradSWE Overseas, Liberia

The Final Day – LSWE Camp Day 8


Thursday 8/23/18

Courtney Wright, Mechanical Engineering, BSE ’18, SWE at UM

On Thursday morning, everyone arrived promptly at 9am for the LSWE Case Competition final presentations. Teams presented their solutions to the challenge posed by August Goanue from the Liberian Rural and Renewable Energy Agency—how to best overcome Liberia’s energy crisis by utilizing Liberia’s abundant supply of renewable energy. Judges for the final presentations included Augustus Moore—Dean of the University of Liberia College of Engineering, Dr. Aline Cotel— a Civil Engineering professor at the University of Michigan who helped start the partnership between UofM and UL through the US EHELD project in 2011, and Emily Aiken—a coordinator with the UofM International Programs In Engineering Office.

Our three judges – R2L: Dean Augustus S. Moore, Emily Aiken, Dr. Aline Cotel

The eight teams presented a wide range of innovative solutions incorporating solar, hydro, and biomass energy technology. Several teams analyzed how the construction of new hydropower plants, or the improvement of the existing Mt. Coffee hydropower plant through an added reservoir or reinforced transmission lines and substations, could expand Liberia’s energy capacity. Another team posed an action plan to collect unused fruit from rural farmers, and process this organic material to generate power for the grid. A few other teams explored the feasibility of off-grid solar panel systems for homes in rural areas, that could not otherwise be easily reached by transmission lines.

The audience was captivated by the speakers’ enthusiasm about their research, and eagerly answered each proposal with a barrage of questions. The judges were impressed by the work all of the students put into the presentations throughout the past week, and announced that the winners would be named at the final Networking Dinner on Monday night.

After lunch, Xiaohang gave a presentation about Civil Engineering and Ethics. Xiaohang is a Master’s student in Civil Engineering at UofM, and introduced the students to a range of famous engineering works, known either for their astounding success, or terrible failure.

Xiaohang presenting on Engineering Ethics

This last official day of camp was rounded out by a brief workshop about Goal Setting and Strategic Planning. Students discussed their personal and team SMART goals, and how they planned to achieve them. LSWE members also had an opportunity to review the National SWE and UofM Chapter Strategic Plans, and began drafting several strategic objectives for their own chapter.

LSWE SUCCESS Camp members in front of the University of Liberia’s Engineering Building

After dinner, some of the LSWE students challenged each other to a dance-off and invited several the UofM students to join. Celebrations that evening included the singing of several patriotic Liberian songs, since the following day was a national holiday—Flag Day.

GradSWE Overseas, Liberia

“Hands” On Engineering – LSWE Camp Day 7

Wednesday, 8/22/2018

Xiaohang Ji, Civil Engineering, MSE, GradSWE at UM

Start up with our morning with small sandwiches and boiled eggs, a brand new day comes!

Our breakfast of sandwiches and boiled eggs

In the morning, students continued to work on the FM Radio. There are a lot of additional information included in the FM Radio handout booklet. Students also put some time on reading the instructions and background knowledge. They tried their best to solder the elements on the circuit boards. After they finish soldering, most of the students wanted to keep them. Some of them from electrical engineering and related majors said that they had learned about the knowledge of the FM Radio, but they didn’t have access to do it by their own hands. Students pressured about the chance to make a FM Radio by themselves. As they were making on the FM Radio, they got a better understanding about the basic of the theories. As for the students from other different majors, they also felt this session was a good chance for them to learn about other engineering majors.

For lunch, we had chicken with potato leaves soup with rice and papaya, which provided our energy for the coming afternoon.

Our lunch of potato greens, rice, and papaya

Graduate School Application session began at the beginning of afternoon. This session started with two reflection questions: What do you know about graduate school? What have you heard about graduate school? After a warm discussion, Chris gave us an example by sharing what her academic career was. Based on her own experience, she showed the students how to write a good personal statement. As for other parts of graduate school application, Chris and Xiaohang gave tips of preparing letter of recommendation, CV, GRE and funding.

After the Graduate Program Application workshop, Lauren held her biomedical hand activity. Before everything starts, Lauren showed us a funny video of computer based walking pattern of different animals, which successfully draw the tensions of students. And then she explained to us how the nerves work in our hands, and then taught us how to make a hand model. Here’s the hands that students made.

Time flies. A day with a good combination of engineering activities and workshops ended. On our way back to dormitory, beautiful clouds showed up. What a fulfill and wonderful day!

GradSWE Overseas, Liberia

Reflections and Radios – LSWE Camp Day 6

Olivia Dotson, Sophomore in Chemical Engineering, SWE at UM

Today was the first day in a while that we didn’t wake up to rain. The sun was bright and shining!


The reflection question for the morning was “Have you thought about attending school outside of Liberia? What do you think would be different? What would be the same?”

Many of the girls had previously thought about attending undergraduate or graduate school outside of Liberia in order to pursue their major. Some commented on the difference in access to internet and others believed there would be similarities in the curriculum.

The discussion from this question was able to flow right into the presentation on “International Experiences” led by Xiaohang. Xiaohang lead the group through all of the stages of preparation to attend school in another country starting with physical and then mental. The group had a discussion on worries that they might have when going to another country. Many of the concerns were about food:

“In Liberia it is a tropical climate, so most of our food is fresh and spicy…food in other countries could become a health problem” – Quinnetta

“In china they eat with only chopsticks, so you wouldn’t know how to eat” – Boyonoh

Some were about social/cultural differences:

“In Liberia, we live really close. In other countries we may be alone and want to connect” – Yamah

“We have to greet or touch people we pass by in Liberia as a social norm” – Felicia

After this discussion, Xiaohang shared some advice on overcoming these struggles along with language barriers, making friends, homesickness, and culture shock.

She talked about challenges that may arise in academics, career plans, finances, health and wellness as an international student. Then, Xiaohang let some of the students who have had international experiences or interactions share their story:

“I attended a foreign exchange program and the people there had different perceptions of Liberians, I had to adjust myself” – Janneh

“For the US it is just the weather difference” – Janneh

“I went to the US with Littie and we stopped in Brussels. There I saw the biggest airport I’ve ever seen…we compared everything to Liberia” – Quinnetta

“Weather was different. I was like how is the sun shining and I’m still cold” – Quinnetta

“One cup of rice is so small. I ate all of Melinda’s rice in one day!” – Quinnetta

“Everything about is was funny because we couldn’t find our way easily” – Quinnetta

Then Xiaohang shared her experiences with going to the University of Michigan and how she has learned to accept all of the cultural differences and embrace them.

After this session, we had practice presentations for the case study. This gave each group a chance to practice presenting and get valuable feedback on their presentation as they continued to work on them. It was nice to see the creative ideas that each group came up with to solve the energy problem in Liberia. From the same problem, there were many different solutions ranging from hydroelectric power to fruit power.

Bonyonoh and Gilly practicing their case study presentation

Due to the length of presentations, we ate lunch an hour later than usual, so everyone was hungry for cassava greens.

After lunch, we set up the room for the engineering activity on making FM radios. Melinda led this workshop with careful instruction on how to solder and emphasizing the safety of using soldering irons. After a while, everyone seemed to get the hang of it.

In the evening, Lauren, Chris, Melinda, and Xiaohang then went around to all of the apartments to meet with teams, going over their presentations and make sure everyone was on track to present on Thursday morning. This got everyone working hard on their presentations late into the night. We all spent time and energy preparing for the final presentations to come on Thursday!

GradSWE Overseas, Liberia

Investigating Renewable Energy in Liberia – LSWE Camp Day 5

Monday, 8/20/2018

Xiaohang Ji, Civil Engineering, MSE, GradSWE at UM

The second week of the camp start with more of the same – continuous rain.

The morning session was given by Courtney, with a topic about a case study about renewable energy that she had done in University of New South Wales in Australia. She presented a proposal making use of wind energy in California, explaining a whole procedure including introduction, design, literature review, analysis and conclusions. Courtney’s proposal gave the students a really professional example of the structure, the content and how to give an excellent presentation. After Courtney’s presentation, students should have had a better vision of what they need to do for their own case study and how to present it. So it is the best time for them to continue work on the case study and their presentation.

After lunch, the highlight of today happened – the egg drop final competition! The six egg drop teams gathered at the corridor on the third floor of the dorm. We distributed one raw egg to each team. The competition had two parts. The first part was to drop the egg aircrafts one by one.

Our egg drop location – from the top balcony of our apartment building

The second part of the competition was to drop the egg aircrafts together. The winner will be the team with the longest flying time aircrafts – longer air time means a lighter landing, and hopefully a secured egg! With much laughter, frantic changes, and good spirited competition, the teams drop their aircrafts on the count of 3. Except for one team, all eggs remained in tact and first place went to the slowest aircraft to touch the ground.

The only failing team’s splattered egg

Everyone had planned to give the first presentations after dinner, but due to the interruption of power supply, we moved the first presentations to Tuesday morning. It might be a good news for the teams because the power interruption gave more time for them to prepare. Looking forward to their presentations tomorrow!


GradSWE Overseas, Liberia

Weekend Adventures – LSWE Camp 2018

Saturday & Sunday 8/18-19/2018

Courtney Wright, Mechanical Engineering BSE ’18, SWE at UM

We made the most of our first Saturday in Liberia, heading off early to explore downtown Monrovia. Our first stop was the Grand Royal Hotel for brunch, and to pick up a few SIM cards for our phones.

The team enjoying brunch at the Royal Grand Hotel in downtown Monrovia

After brunch, we stopped by a few of Melinda’s favorite stores—Mango Rags and Bosh Bosh—for colorful clothes, bags, and other gifts to bring home for friends and family. Melinda is the leader of our UM team and this is her 4th trip to Liberia with UM-SWE, so she of course did a wonderful job showing us around Monrovia. After a quick KeKe ride through town, we were soon back in the car winding our way up Ducor Hill.

When we reached the top of the Ducor Hill, a massive dilapidated building came into view. We made our way through the light drizzle of rain, to the front entrance of the Ducor Palace Hotel, and began climbing up the central staircase. As I made my way up to the top floor of the old building, I peered down long hallways through the skeletal framework of rooms, imagining how the hotel looked before it was destroyed during the Liberian Civil War. The luxurious five star hotel opened in 1960, and hosted many important meetings with leaders from all over Africa.

When we reached the top floor of the hotel, we were amazed by the spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean, as well as several urban districts of Monrovia. Graffiti scattered the Ducor walls, but the most notable piece was a quote on the top floor which artfully summed up the life of the hotel: “We are all fireworks, rising, shining, scattering, and eventually fading.”

As we exited the eerie ruins of the once great Ducor hotel, the rain started pouring down, so we rushed to the car and headed to our final stop of the day: the beach! We arrived at a restaurant called Golden Beach, and ordered a round of fresh coconuts before walking down to the water, to take in the fresh sea air and beautiful coastline.

On Sunday morning, we met the LSWE students at breakfast before heading to church. Quinn had invited us along with her to an Episcopalian service at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Paynesville, not too far from campus. This was one of the highlights of the trip for me, as my great grandfather came to Liberia about 60 years ago as an Architect for the Episcopalian Church. The sermon, hymns, interior and exterior design, and welcoming demeanor of the congregation reminded me of home, and it seemed unbelievable that I was in fact on the other side of the world.

After church we returned to campus, passing many people trekking through the flooded roads, selling everything from coke and fruit to shoes and flags in the crowded markets. For lunch we enjoyed chicken and fish in a palm butter sauce, with shortbread. Everyone spent the remainder of the rainy Sunday afternoon hanging out in the apartments, listening to music, reading, doing laundry, beginning work on the case study, prepping for sessions, and resting up for Week #2 of Camp!

Olivia doing her own laundry

GradSWE Overseas, Liberia

Putting Our Best Foot Forward – LSWE Camp Day 4

Friday August 17, 2018

Courtney Wright, Mechanical Engineering, BSE ‘18, SWE at UofM

On Friday morning we awoke to a driving rainstorm. With water streaming across the paths through campus, our morning run group was once again forced to settle for an abbreviated indoor workout. Braving the water in our fashionable ponchos, we arrived at the dining hall to the warm welcome of oatmeal, eggs, and coffee.

Our morning session had a minor rain delay, but after a quick human knot challenge to get us moving, and taking several moments to reflect on some interesting highlights from Augustus’ talk about the future of renewable energy in Liberia, everyone was ready for Day #4 of the LSWE SUCCESS camp to begin.

Renewable Energy Case Study Competition

I led the morning seminar about Professional Development and Business Etiquette. Everyone rehearsed elevator pitches with partners and several students jumped up to present to the group. All participants were eager—in this activity, as in every other—to give and receive candid feedback. This straightforward form of communication has been a noticeable characteristic of the LSWE team, ever since I met several representatives from their leadership team at the 2016 SWE National Conference in Philadelphia. The LSWE members have been open to sharing their expectations for the camp and stories about how their individual LSWE experiences have enhanced their STEM education, professional career, and personal lives.

Chris and Quinnetta getting to know each other better

The LSWE students have also expressed their interest in our lives back in the United States, both at school in Ann Arbor, and of our respective homes in China, Florida, Tennessee, New Mexico, California, and Michigan. These conversations with the LSWE students have inspired many conversations between the UofM team, as we have shared our academic and extracurricular experiences, as well as our aspirations to change the world in fields such as solar energy, autonomous vehicles, biomedical devices, drug discovery, structural engineering, and athletic product development.   It has been interesting to learn from so many Geology and Mining Engineering students in LSWE, two disciplines which are not offered at the University of Michigan.

Image from iOS
Some of the LSWE team bonding

Courtney leading a professonal development workshop

Other topics explored in Friday’s morning session included the composition of an effective email and tips to successfully navigate a networking event. Students critiqued a few sample emails as a group; then several of the UofM students performed a skit comparing the good and bad behavior of job candidates at a networking event, and a few of the LSWE students jumped in to join the skit.  Afterward, everyone had a chance to share their personal stories and experiences while practicing interview questions. We wrapped up the morning with a brief discussion about how maintaining a professional social media presence can be a powerful tool for networking. (And had some fun taking new headshots)

A group photo taken while waiting on headshots

A student’s design for their team’s aircraft – Egg Drop Challenge

After lunch, we began constructing aircrafts for the egg drop challenge. With an arsenal of trash bags, cups, pipe-cleaners, straws, cotton balls, and more at our disposal, we were determined to protect the eggs from the plunge off the clock tower. While watching the test drops from the second level of classrooms; all of the air crafts looked promising, and should be fierce competitors at the official competition on Monday (Our money is on Team Scrambled Eggs though).

We wrapped up our Friday evening with a lively dinner accompanied by a continuous loop of Rihanna + Drake’s Work music video.  To celebrate a successful first week of camp, we then headed to downtown Monrovia, where several LSWE members showed us around several of their favorite spots!

The evening view from our apartment window.

GradSWE Overseas, Liberia

Don’t Rain on my Presentation – LSWE Camp Day 3

Thursday 08/16/18

Gillian Minnehan, Sophomore Engineering Student, SWE at UM

A rainy Monrovian morning

Today we woke to the pitter patter of rain against the roof of our apartment: the first Liberian rainstorm of the trip. Courtney, Olivia, and I did our morning core exercises (nobody wanted to go for a run in the rain) before showering and making our way to the dining hall for a light breakfast of hard boiled eggs and cinnamon rolls.

We began the third day of camp with Lauren’s presentation on resumes and how to present using PowerPoint. Lauren is by far the most animated person of the UM students, and she did not disappoint today during her presentation. She happily demonstrated poor examples of presenting with a level of hilarity that rarely seen during dreaded PowerPoint presentations. The students were laughing and enjoying themselves despite a long morning of slides.

Noon rolled around, and we ambled to the dining hall to fill up on Charlotte’s (our caterer) staple: piles of rice and well-seasoned, fried chicken and fish. We ate quickly and headed back earlier than usual so that we could prep the room and charge our computers in anticipation of our afternoon guest speaker. Many of the students showed up early, as we requested, so our speaker wouldn’t be waiting on us. Turns out he didn’t come right at 1:30pm so in the meantime, we participated in a team building activity. We broke into teams of 4-5 people and gathered our supplies: 20 pieces of spaghetti, a yard of tape, a yard of string, and one marshmallow. The goal: create the tallest free-standing structure that can support a marshmallow with the given supplies. I have done this activity back home  a few times, as have the other UM students, but the Liberian students were in for a new experience. Somehow, all the groups ended up producing the same teepee-like structure. Arguments and laughter filled the air, and increased as Chris called out the passing minutes. My team practically gave up part-way through when we realized we needed a base for our structure, but we didn’t have enough spaghetti or time left to fix our mistake. Before we knew it – time was up! A chaotic round of yells and laughter immediately followed; all the teams except one had failed to keep the marshmallow aloft.

While we were working on our marshmallow activity, our guest speaker, Augustus Gonanue, the Executive Director of the Rural and Renewable Energy Agency (RREA), arrived. As soon as we finished cleaning up the smushed marshmallows and broken spaghetti, all eyes turned to the gentleman on stage. Augustus introduced himself and immediately thanked Melinda for inviting him back to his alma mater. Soon enough, he jumped into the main topic of his speech: the role that renewable energy has and will have in Liberia.

Augustus Gonanue – the Executive Director at the Rural and Renewable Energy Agency

Hearing from someone currently in the middle of the struggle towards addressing Liberia’s energy concerns was an incredible opportunity for the students considering that the renewable energy case study that will make up the majority of camp time next week. I am really excited to see what the teams come up with between now and our final presentations next Thursday. Energy is a major problem in Liberia, like many countries, including the US. If these young, motivated, bright female engineers recognize and understand the energy problem in Liberia, and additionally research and develop a solution to it, they will already be forward-thinkers in their field. It is one thing to look around and identify a problem in your community and country; it is a whole other thing to take the time and energy (pun intended) to identify a solution. The students asked tons of thoughtful questions once Augustus finished his talk. After the last student was satisfied with his response to her question, Augustus bid us goodbye.

A Liberian sunset

In the evening sunset was beautiful – brilliant oranges and pinks shining behind some straggling rain clouds. The night ended with a collaborative effort by the entire UM team to prep materials and ideas for the next day’s activities.

GradSWE Overseas, Liberia

Membership, Solar Cells, and Plantains – oh my! – LSWE Camp Day 2

Wednesday 8/15/2018

Melinda Kothbauer, Computer Engineering, BSE ‘18, SWE at UM

Christian Greenhill, Materials Science & Engineering, Ph.D., GradSWE at UM

The second day of camp began with remembering everyone’s names. Each person was responsible for stating everyone’s name that had gone before them before introducing themselves again and saying their own name. It became increasingly difficult, but made for healthy amounts of repetition leading to better name retention! Of course the room was filled with a lot of laughter at the slightest hesitation indicating a forgotten name.

After brief introductions, the LSWE students spent the morning thinking about their organization: “How do you generate interest in LSWE?”, “How do you utilize members to their fullest potential?”, and “How do you retain membership over time?”. Gillian Minnehan, sophomore in Computer Science led this workshop by breaking students into groups to discuss each of the different questions. The students then shared their ideas for implementable ideas in each of the categories. The LSWE camp hosts both current and new members to the organization, so the ideas generated came from diverse perspectives.

Have you ever made solar cells from berry juice? Probably not yet, but that’s exactly what we did this afternoon at the LSWE camp! There’s a molecule in raspberries, blackberries, and cherries, called anthocyanin, that absorbs light very well. We built a device that extracts electrons from the illuminated anthocyanin in the berries to create current or electricity. But you won’t find many fresh anthocyanin-rich berries in tropical places like Liberia. You’ll mostly find juicy pineapples and sweet plantains like the ones we had at  breakfast and lunch. Christian Greenhill, Ph.D. student in materials science and electrical engineering, managed to smuggle frozen blackberries wrapped in aluminum foil in an insulated lunch box with two ice packs into the tropics. We learned about renewable energy, solar technology and everyone built their own solar cells. We had fun measuring the voltages. Our highest voltage indoors (not in direct sunlight) was 358 mV from a 2x2cm cell – pretty impressive.

After a long day of organization development and hands-on engineering, all the students – UM and LSWE alike – retreated to the dining hall for a scrumptious ending to the day including sauteed chicken or fish with vegetables and fried plantains. The UM team spent the evening all together prepping for the next day at camp – packing supplies, finalizing presentations, and discussing our progress so far! We are excited to see what’s in store next.


DEI Spotlights in the Upcoming Week (12/26 – 01/08) A GradSWE DEI Initiative

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December 26th – January 1st

Kwanzaa is an African-American holiday celebrating black heritage. It was created by Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966 based on African harvest festival traditions in hope to educate people about African-American struggles and their rich cultural heritage as well as give them the opportunity to celebrate themselves and their history. The holiday lasts for seven days beginning on December 26th and each day concentrates on one of these principles: unity, self determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, faith. Families and friends gather at meal time and the unity cup is passed from person to person with each saying something positive about the African-American community, the candles of the kinara are lit, and the principles of Kwanzaa are recited.

December 26th

Boxing day is a public holiday celebrated in Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and other Commonwealth countries. Though it originated as a holiday to give gifts to the poor, today Boxing Day is primarily known as a shopping holiday. In other parts of the world, such as Germany, Hungary, Sweden, Ireland, etc. December 26th is Saint Stephen’s Day, who was one of the first Christian martyrs. This day is considered the second day of Christmas. In the Eastern Orthodox Christian churches, Saint Stephen’s Day is celebrated on December 27th.

January 1

Happy New Year!

January 6

In Christianity, January 6 is the official end of the Christmas season. For Western Christians, it is called Epiphany and it primarily commemorates the coming of the Magi, the three kings, to Bethlehem where they presented their gifts to the newborn Jesus. For Eastern Christians, it is called Theophany and it is a celebration of the Baptism of Christ in the Jordan. There are many different traditions in different parts of the world for this day.

For example, in Puerto Rico they celebrate Dia de los Reyes where children receive presents if they have left grass for the three kings’ camels.

In Greece, a cross is thrown in the sea, lakes, or rivers to cleanse the waters and to keep away the evil. Many defy the cold and dive in the waters to retrieve the cross and receive blessings as well.


DEI Spotlights in the Upcoming Week (12/19 – 12/25) A GradSWE DEI Initiative

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December 21st

Yule has been celebrated since the 4th century. This midwinter festival lasts for twelve days, beginning on the Winter Solstice (usually December 21). Yule has been linked to the Old Norse word jól. The word may have originally meant “magic” or “feast of entreaty.” It’s also perhaps the root of the English word “jolly.” The term Yuletide first cropped up around 1475. Yule customs and traditions include having bonfires to light up the night and hanging mistletoe, considered a sacred and mystical plant by the Druids. Many Yule customs are now part of Christmas celebrations.

December 25th

Christmas is celebrated all over the world and in many different ways. Christmas originated as Christes Maesse, a religious festival to celebrate the birth of Jesus held on the Bethlehem plains. However, a date to celebrate this illustrious occasion wasn’t ordained until 350 CE. Although some believe it’s been celebrated since 98 CE. Julius I, Bishop of Rome, chose December 25 to commemorate the occasion.


DEI Spotlights in the Upcoming Week (12/12 – 12/18)A GradSWE DEI Initiative

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December 13th

St. Lucia’s Day, festival of lights celebrated in Sweden, Norway, and the Swedish-speaking areas of Finland on December 13 in honor of St. Lucia (St. Lucy). One of the earliest Christian martyrs, St. Lucia was killed by the Romans in 304 CE because of her religious beliefs. St. Lucia’s Day is observed on Tuesday, December 13, 2022.

December 18th

The eight-day Jewish celebration known as Hanukkah or Chanukah commemorates the rededication during the second century B.C. of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, where according to legend Jews had risen up against their Greek-Syrian oppressors in the Maccabean Revolt. Hanukkah, which means “dedication” in Hebrew, begins on the 25th of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar and usually falls in November or December. Hanukkah 2022 begins on the evening of Sunday, December 18 and ends on the evening of Monday, December 26. Often called the Festival of Lights, the holiday is celebrated with the lighting of the menorah, traditional foods, games and gifts.


DEI Spotlights in the Upcoming Week (12/5 – 12/11) A GradSWE DEI Initiative

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December 5th-6th

St. Nicholas Day is December 6th, but celebrations start the day before, St. Nicholas Eve. Celebrated throughout Europe, these days honor St. Nicholas, patron saint of Christmas, gift giving, and children.

In Belgium, children put their shoes near the hearth on St. Nicholas Eve in hopes that Sinterklaas will leave toys and trinkets in them as he rides by. In the Netherlands, Sinterklaas Day is celebrated with children putting their shoes by the bed the night before St. Nicholas Day (called Sinterklaasavond or Pakjesavond) hoping that Sinterklaas, a jolly old elf, will fill them with presents and candy. Traditional Sinterklaas treats include hot chocolate, mandarin oranges, pepernoten, speculaas, Dutch letters (letter-shaped pastries filled with almond paste or a chocolate), chocolate coins, and marzipan figures. Saint Nicholas’ Day is observed on December 6th in Western Christian countries, December 5th in the Netherlands, and December 19th in Eastern Christian countries.

December 8th

Bodhi Day is celebrated on December 8th in Japan. The Chinese version is called the Laba Festival and is held on the eighth day of the twelfth lunar month of the Chinese calendar (December or January, but usually January). This day honors the enlightenment of Siddhartha Gautama. According to tradition, Siddhartha had recently forsaken years of extreme ascetic practices and resolved to sit under a peepal tree and simply meditate until he found the root of suffering, and how to liberate oneself from it. People celebrate this day by meditating, studying the Dharma, chanting Buddhist texts, and/or performing kind acts towards others. Some Buddhists celebrate with a traditional meal of tea and cake.

December 10th

Human Rights Day is observed every year on December 10th— the day the United Nations General Assembly adopted, in 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The UDHR is a milestone document, which proclaims the inalienable rights that everyone is entitled to as a human being – regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Available in more than 500 languages, it is the most translated document in the world. The theme for 2022 is Dignity, Freedom, and Justice for All. However, the promise of the UDHR, of dignity and equality in rights, has been under a sustained assault in recent years. As the world faces challenges new and ongoing – pandemics, conflicts, exploding inequalities, morally bankrupt global financial system, racism, climate change – the values, and rights enshrined in the UDHR provide guideposts for our collective actions that do not leave anyone behind.



DEI Spotlights in the Upcoming Week (11/28 – 12/4)A GradSWE DEI Initiative

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November 30

On this day, people in Romania celebrate Saint Andrew or Sfântul Andrei who, since 1997, is the patron saint of Romania! There are numerous very old traditions (like carols) related to Saint Andrew. In Dobruja (a historical region in the Balkans divided between Bulgaria and Romania), a cave where he supposedly preached, is called “Saint Andrew’s Cave” and, in 1943, a monastery was built around it. St. Andrew’s Cave is considered to be the first church in Romania and in 2012, November 30th became a public national holiday.

On this day as well, the holiday season begins with the annual tree lighting in the heart of New York City at the Rockefeller Center. For more than eight decades, the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree has stood as a holiday beacon for New Yorkers and visitors alike. The tradition began in December of 1931 when workers at Rockefeller Center pooled their money together to buy a Christmas tree and decorated it with handmade garlands made by their families. The photo below depicts the men, on Christmas Eve, lined up to receive their wages. In December of 1933, the Rockefeller Center decided to make the Christmas Tree an annual tradition, and held the very first tree lighting ceremony.

December 1st

On this day, some states celebrate Rosa Parks Day in honor of the civil rights leader Rosa Parks. Ohio, Oregon, and Texas celebrate it on December 1st – the day she was arrested – and California and Missouri celebrate it on February 4th – her birthday. There are growing calls for this day to be added to the list of federal holidays.
But who is Rosa Parks? She was an American civil rights activist and is best known for her pivotal role in the Montgomery bus boycott. On December 1, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, Parks rejected the bus driver’s order to vacate a row of four seats in the “colored” section in favor of a White passenger, once the “White” section was filled. She helped inspire the Black community to boycott the Montgomery buses for over a year. The federal Montgomery bus lawsuit resulted in a decision that bus segregation is unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The United States Congress has honored her as “the first lady of civil rights” and “the mother of the freedom movement”.

December 2nd

Since 1996, December 2nd has been celebrated in Assam (a state in northeastern India) as the Sukaphaa Divox, or Axom Divox (Assam Day), to commemorate the arrival of the first king of the Ahom kingdom in Assam after his journey over the Patkai Hills. Sukaphaa, also known as Siu-Ka-Pha, was the first Ahom king in medieval Assam and the founder of the Ahom kingdom. A prince of the Su/Tsu (Tiger) clan of the Mao-Shan sub-tribe (originally from present-day Mong Mao, Yunnan Province, China), the kingdom he established in 1228 existed for nearly six hundred years and in the process unified the various ethnic groups of the region that left a deep impact.


DEI Spotlights in the Upcoming Week (11/22 – 11/25) A GradSWE DEI Initiative

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November 22-23 

Sigd Day is on the 29th of the Hebrew month of Cheshvan — this usually falls in late October or November every year and is an official state holiday in Israel. This year, it takes place on November 22. The world may know about Hanukkah — one of the most significant Jewish holidays. The holiday has been around for centuries but until recently, celebrations took place quietly in the homes of Ethiopian Jews. Most people (even Jewish families) live by singular narratives of Judaism, from cultural practices to notions of how Jews behave or look. Celebrating Sigd Day strengthens the identity and diversity of the Jewish experience. The holiday shines a light on a minority community living in Ethiopia since the time of King Solomon. Jews who have co-existed among Christians and Arabs. Many still dream of their eventual return home to Jerusalem.

November 22-26 

New Zealand Flowers Week is a special celebration that takes place during a decided week in November. It takes place from November 22 to 26 this year. It aims to promote the domestic flower industry and the production and selling of cut flowers.

  1. Support local:If you’re in New Zealand, the best way to celebrate New Zealand Flowers Week is to support the local florists and flower retailers.
  2. Give flowers to your loved ones: Do we really need a special day to give flowers to someone? You can use New Zealand Flowers Week as an excuse to give flowers to your friends and family.
  3. Visit a local garden: You can go exploring and touring your neighborhood garden or florist.

November 23

Fibonacci Day falls on November 23rd! It is also known as Leonardo of Pisa and Leonardo Fibonacci. Leonardo Bonacci invented a pattern of counting that continues to influence math and technology today. The pattern is made up of numbers that sum the previous two numbers before them — 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13 — and so on. The sequence is used in computing, stock trading, and architecture and design. Once we discovered the sequence, it started showing up everywhere. Nature is full of Fibonacci patterns, from DNA to hurricanes, leading some to dub the Fibonacci sequence “nature’s secret code.

November 24

Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday in the United States, and Thanksgiving 2022 occurs on Thursday, November 24. In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and the Wampanoag shared an autumn harvest feast that is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies. For more than two centuries, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies and states. It wasn’t until 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November.

November 25 

On November 25th, we celebrate Native American Heritage Day! President George W. Bush signed into law legislation introduced by Congressman Joe Baca (D-Calif.), to designate the Friday after Thanksgiving as Native American Heritage Day. The Native American Heritage Day Bill was supported by the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) and 184 federally recognized tribes, and designates Friday, November 28, 2008, as a day to pay tribute to Native Americans for their many contributions to the United States.