Inaugural Graduate Leadership Anchor Awards honor graduate student leaders

With nearly 40 nominations, five winners were selected by a panel of seven faculty members.

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Rachael Perrotta

Screenshot taken of the Graduate Leadership Anchor Award announcement on June 24, 2021. (Hustler Staff/Rachael Perrotta)

Ryder Li, Staff Writer

The Graduate Leadership Anchor Awards (GLAAs) were created this year by the Graduate Student Council (GSC) as a way to honor the work and leadership of Vanderbilt graduate students. The inaugural winners were announced on June 23, 2021.

According to GSC President Joshua Passantino, the GSC wanted to acknowledge graduate student leaders on a broad scale to supplement other graduate awards, which are either department-specific or research-focused. Per a myVU article, the GLAAs will encompass more award categories in the coming years to acknowledge the diverse work of graduate students.

“This year, the awards were focused on the graduate student leaders that have been our anchors and helped us weather the COVID-19 pandemic,” Passantino said in an email to The Hustler. “With nearly 40 nominations received, five of the nominees stood out as being exceptional leaders and leaving a positive impact on their peers.” 

While any graduate student could have been nominated for the GLAAs, all five of this year’s awardees are women. 

“There was no particular focus on highlighting women’s achievements, but I am happy to see females represented as some of the top leaders in the graduate community,” Passantino said. 

The award winners were chosen by a board of seven Vanderbilt faculty members from various schools. Terrah Akard, director of Ph.D. in Nursing Science Program), Dominique Béhague (associate professor of Medicine, Health and Society), Katherine Friedman (associate professor and vice chair of biological sciences), Carlos Lopez (associate professor of biochemistry), Bianca Manago (assistant professor of sociology), Stacey Satchell (academic life coach) and Irene Wallrich (assistant director of the Graduate Leadership Institute) comprised the panel. 

“The leadership demonstrated by Vanderbilt graduate students is inspiring,” Akard said in an email to The Hustler. “What stood out to me was how this group of awardees went above and beyond and took initiative. Their service helped the Vanderbilt community weather the COVID-19 pandemic and will have lasting benefits to peers, faculty, and staff.”

Most of the judges are females, but Passantino said the original panel showed a more balanced women-to-men ratio.

There were additional judges chosen that included more male panelists, but they were unable to provide their evaluations back by the time the winners were selected due to unexpected conflicts that arose,” Passantino said.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the novelty of the awards, Passantino said there will not be an award ceremony for the GLAAs this year. 

“We hope to have ceremonies for future GLAAs,” Passantino said. 

2021 GLAA Winners

Kelsea Best, Earth and Environmental Science 

Francis Cambronero, Neuroscience 

Thao Le, Molecular Physiology and Biophysics

Katy Riojas, Mechanical Engineering

Kavya Sharman, Chemical and Physical Biology