The Daily Gamecock

Graduate Student Association holds award ceremony to recognize graduate students

<p>People attending the award ceremony the Graduate Student Association held on April 16, 2021.</p>
People attending the award ceremony the Graduate Student Association held on April 16, 2021.

The Graduate Student Association (GSA) held its inaugural award ceremony recognizing graduate students on Friday afternoon.

The GSA gave out a total of 25 awards to graduate students. There were three awards in each of the eight categories and two awards given in the two categories of overall achievement.

Among the awards given out, the Overall Doctoral Student Achievement Award was given to Robin James and Jennifer Mandelbaum.

James is a Ph.D. candidate in the Mechanical Engineering and Computing Department. He was featured for his work creating more than 3,000 face shields using 3D printing technology.

The GSA highlighted Mandelbaum, a doctoral candidate in the Ph.D. in health promotion, education and behavior program, for her research in health disparities and early childhood diabetes.

The event, which took place virtually using Microsoft Teams, came together when members of the GSA realized there was a need for graduate students to be recognized.

“It was just a result of the fact that we realized there aren’t so many award systems for graduate students, just recognizing the contributions they are making to the school, and so, just something to recognize their efforts in that respect," said Maxwell Akonde, a graduate epidemiology student and the vice president of the GSA. 

The event idea was brought to the organization by one of its current members, Sowmya Raghu. Raghu is a graduate mechanical engineering student, and she was brought onto the executive board of the GSA to help plan the event. 

"I couldn't be more proud of my teammates who worked so hard to put this awards program together," Maggie Carson, the president of the GSA, said.

Members of the organization allowed graduate students to nominate themselves for awards, since most of the other awards given to graduate students must come from nominations by professors. The GSA received more than 238 applications and faculty recommendations.

“It was important to give graduate students a chance to acknowledge themselves, instead of just being nominated by faculty," said Christopher Eddy, a graduate political science student and treasurer of the GSA. 

University figures, including President Bob Caslen and interim dean of the graduate school Tracey Weldon-Stewart, attended the event.

"Graduate students are such an integral part of the success of the University of South Carolina, not only for what they contribute as students, but also for the many ways in which they enhance the teaching, research, and service mission of the university. The Graduate School is, therefore, thrilled to be able to be able to support the GSA’s Graduate Student Recognition Awards ceremony," Weldon-Stewart said in an email to the Daily Gamecock. 

Caslen announced some of the award winners during the ceremony and applauded the work that graduate students do for the university and for the Columbia community.

"It's great to be here to recognize our students. Graduate students are an integral part of the university in the research and teaching that they do," Caslen said.

Members of the organization said they hope the ceremony will become an annual event.

“I think this is probably the biggest and most important event that the Graduate Student Association has done in years. The scale of it is massive, and I think the impact that it’s going to have is going to be really important to graduate students, to have the opportunity to get this kind of recognition," Eddy said.

See the full list of winners below:

Overall Doctoral Student Achievement Award

Robin James

Jennifer Mandelbaum

Overall Masters Student Achievement Award

Luke Wilde

Radhika Ranganathan

Outstanding Graduate Student Researcher Award

Rajat Das Gupta

Jennifer Mandelbaum

Michael Royko

Outstanding Graduate Student Award for Entrepreneurship, Creativity, and Innovation

Laura Murdock

Tiffani Brooks Hagan

Michael Royko

Outstanding Graduate Student Teaching Assistant Award

Gareth George Rees-White

Annie Klyce

Karen Kai Yuan Yong

Exemplary Graduate Student Leadership Award

Esther McCartney

Jennifer Mandelbaum

Blake MacQueen

Exemplary Graduate Student Award for Service

Robin James

Rajat Das Gupta

Don S. Polite, Jr.

Outstanding International Graduate Student Award

Saad Kadham Oudah

Yiwen Shih

Sigfus Kristtinson

Outstanding Graduate Student Award for Excellence in Diversity

Wendy Chu

Kyungjin Hwang

Don S. Polite, Jr.


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