Graduate School Dinner Showcases Student and University Leaders

Alex Kendall, Assitan Sylla Traore, and Amanda Bednarz presented their research at the leadership dinner.

On Wednesday, November 7, the Graduate School hosted its fall university dinner, this year with the simple theme of “leadership”. This annual event provides an opportunity for graduate student leaders and high-level university administrators to discuss important issues related to graduate education at the University of Oregon.

Among the leaders present this year were several campus leaders fairly new to their roles: the vice president for equity and inclusion, Yvette Alex-Assensoh, the vice president for finance and administration, Jamie Moffitt, the senior vice provost for academic affairs, Doug Blandy, and the director of the Career Center, Daniel Pascoe Aguilar. Student leaders representing a number of student groups--  the Alliance of Graduate Students for Diversity, the Graduate School Student Advisory Board, and the UO Women in Graduate Science-- also participated.

To kick off the evening the research of three accomplished graduate students, leaders in their own right, was showcased. The students were Alex Kendall, Assitan Sylla Traore, and Amanda Bednarz.

  • Alex Kendall, a doctoral student in chemistry and winner of a prestigious graduate research fellowship from the National Science Foundation, presented his research focusing on redesigning the current ammonia (fertilizer) production process so the energy demands and greenhouse gas emissions for ammonia production can be drastically diminished.
  • Assitan Sylla Traore, a master’s student in International Studies and Fulbright Scholar from Mali, outlined her research on the impact of plastic bags on livelihoods and environments in Mali as well as how pollution relates to women. Assa was awarded the UO Public Impact Fellowship in recognition of research that has the potential to have a significant impact on society.
  • Amanda Bednarz, a master’s student in landscape architecture, shared her experience traveling to Lake Victoria, Kenya, to build an aquaponics (integrated fish and vegetable growing) system  for Organic Health Initiative, an organization striving to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS through a holistic community based approach. Amanda was awarded an OUS-Sylff Fellowship for International Research which rewards students, in part, for their potential as leaders in international contexts.


Over dinner, participants took part in lively discussions on such topics as how campus leaders ensure that graduate education at the UO is excellent, inclusive, and innovative, and how they obtain input from graduate students on issues that require or could benefit from student voices.

2012 marks the fourth year the Graduate School has hosted the leadership dinner. Previous themes have included student affairs, development, and research. The event was first held in response to graduate students’ request for more interaction with academic and administrative leaders. The dinner provided university leaders with direct access to graduate students, who make up over 15% of the UO student population, and with the opportunity to learn first-hand about some of the innovative and high-quality research being done by our graduate students.

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