Outstanding Graduate Awards

2020 Award Winners

 

The College of Graduate Studies has created six new awards to recognize outstanding graduate assistants, graduate students, and graduate faculty. They include: Outstanding Teaching Assistant; Outstanding Research Assistant; Outstanding Master's Student; Outstanding Doctoral/MFA Student; Outstanding Master's Mentor Award; and Outstanding Doctoral/MFA Mentor Award. Winners in each category will receive a plaque and a travel award of $1000. Eligibility Criteria for students include: 3.75 GPA and >50% of all graduate program work taken at TAMUCC. Similarly to the Faculty Senate Awards, each college may submit one nomination for each of the six categories.

Dr. Jeffery Turner is a professor in the department of Marine Biology for the College of Science and Engineering. He has been selected as the 2020 Outstanding Doctoral Mentor Award winner.

Dr. Turner has been an exceptional mentor and the many students he has instructed. Described as a role model scientist and teacher, Dr. Turner keeps his students enthusiastic about research and learning, despite the stress associated with rigorous graduate work. His teaching methods inspire students in the fields of biology and microbiology, where he constantly relates curricula with real life, showing students the practical application of their knowledge.

Dr. Turner has previously been recognized as a remarkable mentor in the Honor's Program and the Texas Branch of the American Society for Microbiology for his guidance of authentic student research. His students say he has inspired the lives and careers of many students at A&M-Corpus Christi.

Besides his teaching, research and mentorship, Dr. Turner has worked to bridge the gap between community colleges and four-year institutions, evidenced by collaborative work with Del Mar College. Dr. Turner has worked tirelessly to provide a more seamless transition for students moving from community college to university.

He also initiated a multi-discipline art project involving TAMU-CC art and marine biology graduate students. The project was titled Coastal concerns: A collaboration between art and science students at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. The individual projects were displayed at the Texas State Aquarium for World Oceans Day in an effort to educate the public about the importance of conservation. He was also able to engage young middle and high school students in the STEM teen science cafe at the Texas State Aquarium by leading an interactive presentation about marine microbiology.

Doctoral student Lee Pinnell say Dr. Turner's leadership has “made me a considerably better scientist and has provided me with a great example of how to effectively lead.” Another student indicated that “Dr. Turner is a model and selfless educator who is always working towards the betterment of his students through pragmatic lessons and curricula. Through his teachings, he is preparing his students to be productive members in the workforce as well as experts in their fields.”

Dr. Turner was nominated by students Nicole Powers, Lee Pinnell, Paxton Bachand and Hailey Wallgren.

Nominator Isabella Ruggiero said, “When the call for nominations was received in an email, I was instantly compelled to nominate Dr. Sollitto.”

Dr. Michael Sollitto is an associate professor in the Department of Communications and Media in the College of Liberal Arts. He is the recipient of the 2020 Outstanding Master’s Mentor Award.

According to his nominators, Dr. Sollitto is one of the most accessible and approachable members of the Graduate Communication faculty. Dr. Sollitto’s efforts go beyond what is expected for a professor. He takes his professional responsibilities seriously, as demonstrated through his persistent support for students and impeccable work ethic. He fosters relationships with students, which helps them embrace their skills and unique selves.

Dr. Sollitto has been an active member of our campus community. He has been a featured speaker at several campus events and workshops, leading grant workshops and conflict management and negotiation sessions. Additionally, he serves as an IRB Vice Chair, Lambda Pi Eta Faculty Advisor, and internship coordinator.

Both inside and outside the classroom, Dr. Sollitto facilitates a positive climate that encourages students to grow as both learners and world citizens. He encourages students to reach their full potential by participating in research opportunities outside of their course assignments. He makes sure everyone’s voice is heard during discussions and facilitates class in a manner that ensures students can learn.

Dr. Sollitto’s assignments stress the importance of that subject to the discipline as well as the relevance to students’ everyday lives. Every single class session, Dr. Sollitto asks students to translate theory into practice to better connect the learning material to their lives.

Dr. Sollitto models ideal behavior for his students. He makes himself available to work with students, is thoroughly prepared, never misses or cancels class, and is energetic during class sessions. His dedication to student learning, his willingness to work with students, and his character demonstrates all the qualities that his nominators indicated make him worthy of his award selection.

Dr. Sollito was nominated by students Jessica Vermaelen, Isabella Ruggiero and Andrea Guerra. 

Lauren Rocha is the recipient of the 2020 Outstanding Doctoral Student Award. She is currently a doctoral student in the Department of Counseling and Educational Psychology.

Described by her nominators as an outstanding student and integral part of the department, several of her faculty instructors and mentors say Lauren is a brilliant student, a skilled researcher, and an enthusiastic and engaging teaching assistant. Lauren exhibits exceptional leadership skills and is always willing to help in the department with various committees, teaching, and research responsibilities. She has served as a teaching assistant for six different courses in the Department of Counseling and Educational Psychology, and in her second year as a doctoral student has one peer-reviewed publication in press with four other manuscripts submitted for review.

Lauren currently serves as a graduate assistant for the department's federally funded Tex-CHIP workforce development grant. In this role, she networks with community providers to secure training site placement for our students, recruits panelists for intensive specialized training on integrated care, and serves as a program liaison to the local mental health community. Lauren also maintains an active presence in several local, state, and national counseling organizations. She is an officer in the local Theta Alpha Mu chapter of Chi Sigma Iota (CSI) and serves as an editorial assistant for the Journal of Professional Counseling. A testament to her hard work and dedication to her chosen profession is her recent recognition as an Emerging Leader Fellow with the Texas Association of Humanistic Education and Development.

Before becoming an officer in our Chi Sigma Iota Counseling Honor Society, she helped organize a food drive to benefit Izzy's pantry. She participated in Texas Counseling Association Advocacy Day, where she traveled with other students to meet with state legislators on counseling-related issues. As a result of her work in advocacy, she has dedicated her research agenda to the construct of grit and how to foster grit in others. She is passionate about helping others and believes that through her research, she will facilitate the success of children, adolescents, and young adults.

Lauren Rocha was nominated by Dr. Jennifer Gerlach, Dr. Michelle Hollenbaugh, and Dr. Joshua Watson from the Department of Counseling and Educational Psychology.

Julia Leclair is a master’s student in the Department of Counseling and Educational Psychology and is the 2020 Outstanding Master’s Student Award Winner.

Described by her faculty nominator, Dr. Jennifer Gerlach, “Julia excels academically; enjoys learning for the sake of learning; and exudes warmth, compassion, and dedication to others – all important qualities in a future counselor.” She is considered a leader in the classroom and amongst her peers in the department. She organizes study groups outside of class, contributes thoughtful and supportive feedback to her peers in class, and lifts up those around her with her positive disposition. She is currently completing her second internship and will graduate in December with her degree in clinical mental health counseling.

Julia serves in multiple formal and informal leadership positions on campus. She is currently an officer in the Chi Sigma Iota counseling honor society, where she is actively involved in planning, organizing, and coordinating various events at TAMU-CC.

Julia also was a graduate assistant with the Suicide Awareness for Everyone (SAFE) grant in the College of Nursing and Health Sciences. As part of her work, Julia assisted the Mary and Jeff Bell Library coordinate the “Inspire an Islander” campaign, a public art project that helps end stigma and raise awareness for suicide prevention.

Julia is actively involved in her community and dedicates much of her time to serving others. Of emphasis is her dedication to veterans in our community. She was recently named the Vice Commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3904 in Rockport, Texas. As a retired military veteran and as an officer in the Student Veterans Organization (SVO), she strives to raise the profile of veterans and veterans’ issues both on campus and in the community. She is dedicated to service in both the university and the broader community.

Julia LeClair was nominated by Dr. Jennifer Gerlach, Assistant Professor in the Department of Counseling and Educational Psychology.

Paxton Bachand has been selected as the 2020 Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant. He is currently pursuing his master's degree in Marine Biology (MARB).

Paxton's research is in areas that impact environmental health, human health, and coastal economies. These research agendas are rigorous and, at times, very arduous as they require data collection outside of the laboratory. Additionally, He extends his knowledge in outreach efforts in low-socio-economic schools. Paxton has taken students in high school and college in the field – a life-altering experience for many who think that science is always done behind a laboratory bench.

He genuinely cares and teaches with high expectations and enthusiasm. His dedication to the department and his students is exemplary. In fact, he was cited as being a lead among the microbiology TAs.

As a TA, Paxton demonstrates his dedication and professionalism as he trains and mentors the next generation of scientists. Paxton's attributed outstanding performance is due to his genuine concern for his student' s learning experience, and both students and instructors have continuously given him high praise. He is ever punctual, prepared, responsible, and thoughtful. He is also the go-to person when plans go awry.

Described as the type of person who takes the bull by the horns and leads others to complete tasks that are sometimes arduous and often complicated, Paxton's passion for science is obvious. His work ethic is beyond reproach. And his heart is in science – all things related to science and science education.

Paxton Bachand was nominated by Dr. Gregory Buck, Dr. Jeffery Turner, and Dr. Cherie McCollough from the College of Science and Engineering.

Nora Maza has been selected as the 2020 Outstanding Research Assistant Award recipient. She is a doctoral student in the Department of Counseling and Educational Psychology.

Nora currently works as a Graduate Assistant with the counseling program at the Antonio E. Garcia Arts and Education Center. She has served as a Research Assistant for two studies in the Department of Counseling and Educational Psychology.

One of the projects that she has assisted with was a grant funded project entitled Enhancing Community Development through Vocational Empowerment and Leadership programming for Teenage Girls (VANTAGE), which was designed to enhance the community development potential of girls from historically underserved areas of Corpus Christi through social development programming. Nora played an integral role with this project, as she took the participants (i.e.,14 teenage girls from the Westside of Corpus Christi) through the VANTAGE program. Nora organized mentoring opportunities for the girls with women who are in leadership roles within diverse professions throughout the community. The experience was featured on KRIS6 news. Additionally, Nora facilitated team-based projects to promote community engagement and development.

Nora assisted with the data collection and data analysis for the project, presented the results at conferences across the U.S., and is currently working on the development of a manuscript for publication.

Nora was also instrumental on another study entitled Safety Compass: Child Abuse Prevention Program, which was developed for children and parents to learn child abuse prevention skills to help prevent child abuse before it occurs. Throughout this project, Nora assisted Dr. Kristina Nelson to implement the program, going above and beyond the requirements of her role as a Research Assistant. Together, they provided psychoeducation the participants regarding the topic areas (e.g., personal space, body safety, etc.), facilitated learning activities that provided opportunities for participants to practice learned skills associated with the program content, and facilitated follow-up group discussions to help participants process their experience and enhance the learning experience, thus encouraging skill acquisition.

In addition to her involvement with the implementation of the program, Nora served as the lead Research Assistant with this project, ,assisting with development of the curriculum, collaboration with community and university partners to organize project delivery, and collection and analysis of the data

According to her nominators, Nora serves as a role model for other students, going above and beyond to produce quality work. She continuously excels in her work in the community as well at the university. She is known throughout the department for her professionalism, strong work ethic, and passion for recognizing and addressing community needs through research initiatives as well as clinical practice.

Mora Maza was nominated by Dr. Kristina Nelson, Assistant Professor in the Department of Counseling and Educational Psychology.

Congratulations to all of our award winners! 

2020 Awardees

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Outstanding Doctoral Mentor Award

  Dr. Jeffery Turner – College of Science and Engineering

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Outstanding Master's Mentor Award

  Dr. Michael Sollitto –  College of Liberal Arts

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Outstanding Doctoral Student Award

  Lauren Rocha –  College of Education and Human Development

 

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Outstanding Master's Student Award

  Julia Leclair – College of Education and Human Development

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Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award

  Paxton Bachand –  College of Science and Engineering

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Outstanding Research Assistant Award

  Nora Maza – College of Education and Human Development

 

Outstanding Doctoral Mentor Award

  Dr. Bethanie Pletcher College of Education and Human Development

Outstanding Master's Mentor Award

  Professor Leticia Bajuyo –  College of Liberal Arts

Outstanding Doctoral Student

  Ye (Agnes) Luo –  College of Education and Human Development

Outstanding Doctoral Student

  Melissa Rohal –  College of Science and Engineering

Outstanding Master's Student Award

  Alicia Soto – College of Liberal Arts

Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award

  Kimberlee Mincey –  College of Education and Human Development

Outstanding Research Assistant Award

  Meghan Martinez College of Science and Engineering

 

Three Minute Thesis Competition Winners

  1st place

      Christian Cunningham –  Marine Biology

  2nd place

      Hongming Yao – Coastal and Marine System Science

  3rd place

      Jeb Struder –  Kinesiology

Outstanding Doctoral Mentor Award

Dr. Xinping Hu – College of Science and Engineering

Outstanding Master's Mentor Award

Dr. Benjamin Walther –  College of Science and Engineering

Outstanding Doctoral Student

Olubanke Babalola – College of Nursing and Health Sciences

Outstanding Master's Student Award

Juliana Aguilar – College of Liberal Arts

Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award

Melissa McCutcheon –  College of Science and Engineering

Outstanding Research Assistant Award

Audrey Douglas – College of Science and Engineering

1st place Doctoral 3MT Thesis Competition Winner

Adriana Dyurich –  College of Education and Human Development

2nd place Doctoral 3MT Thesis Competition Winner

Akash Ashapure – College of Science and Engineering 

3rd 3MT Thesis Competition Winner

Stephanie Medina –  College of Education and Human Development

Outstanding Doctoral Mentor Award

Dr. Randall Bowden  College of Education and Human Development

Outstanding Master's Mentor Award

Dr. Robert Wooster  College of Liberal Arts

Outstanding Doctoral Student

Avery Scherer  College of Science and Engineering

Outstanding Master's Student Award

Haylee Roy  College of Education and Human Development

Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award

Natasha Beaux  College of Science and Engineering 

Outstanding Research Assistant Award

Hongjie Wang  College of Science and Engineering

1st place Doctoral 3MT Thesis Competition Winner

Melissa Rohal  College of Science and Engineering

2nd place Doctoral 3MT Thesis Competition Winner

Domonic Swift  College of Science and Engineering 

3rd 3MT Thesis Competition Winner

Jaime McQueen –  College of Education and Human Development

Outstanding Doctoral Mentor Award

Dr. Joshua Watson – College of Education and Human Development

Outstanding Master's Mentor Award

Dr. Amy Houlihan – College of Liberal Arts

Outstanding Doctoral Student

Brittany Blomberg – College of Science and Engineering

Outstanding Master's Student Award

Cristina Rhodes – College of Liberal Arts

Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award

Jeannette Gomez – College of Education and Human Development

Outstanding Research Assistant Award

Emily Cira – College of Science and Engineering

1st place Doctoral 3MT Thesis Competition Winner

Avery Scherer – College of Science and Engineering

2nd place Doctoral 3MT Thesis Competition Winner

Laurie Beveridge – College of Education and Human Development

People's Choice 3MT Thesis Competition Winner

I-Shuo Huang – College of Science and Engineering

Outstanding Doctoral/ MFA Mentor

Dr. Kamiar Kouzekanani- College of Education

Outstanding Master's Mentor

Dr. Lee Smee- College of Science & Engineering

Outstanding Doctoral/ MFA Student 

Luke Tornabene- College of Science & Engineering

Outstanding Master's Student 

Kathryn Mendehall- College of Science & Engineering

Outstanding Teaching Assistant 

Tiana McCoy Pierce- College of Education

Outstanding Master's Mentor

Dr. Miguel Moreno- College of Liberal Arts

Outstanding Doctoral/ MFA Student 

Jessica Lunt- College of Science & Engineering

Julia Curran- College of Liberal Arts

Outstanding Master's Student 

Steven Iezzi- College of Business

Outstanding Teaching Assistant 

Kaitlyn Schroeder- College of Science & Engineering

Outstanding Research Assistant 

Wannigar Ratanavivan- College of Education