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2017 Climate and Diversity Awards

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17 October 2018


On Friday, January 12, 2018, members of the Eberly College of Science community gathered to recognize three individuals who have displayed extraordinary commitment to enhancing the environment of mutual respect and diversity in the college over the past year. The college’s Climate and Diversity Awards, sponsored by its Climate and Diversity Committee, is an annual ceremony to celebrate achievements that improve the climate and diversity of the college.

Randi Neshteruk, Wendy Hanna-Rose, and Meridith Bartley Credit: David Blehi, Penn State.
Randi Neshteruk, Wendy Hanna-Rose, and Meridith Bartley Credit: David Blehi, Penn State.

This year, the Climate and Diversity Committee chose three winners from 18 total nominations: Wendy Hanna-Rose, Meridith Bartley, and Randi Neshteruk.

Hanna-Rose, interim department head of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (BMB) and associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, was nominated by Sarah Ades and Claire Thomas, both associate professors of biochemistry and molecular biology. Both Ades and Thomas praised Hanna-Rose’s commitment to improving the climate of the department during her tenure as interim department head rather than maintaining the status quo until a permanent head is named. In an email to the BMB community Hanna-Rose stated, “I care deeply about making BMB the best place to work.”

Hanna-Rose has met with many members of the department to discuss its strengths as well as areas of concern. She has fostered ongoing discussion about issues facing the department—such as improving climate and making the hiring process more inclusive—through a variety of forums, including an online discussion space, individual meetings, and special faculty meetings. She has encouraged broad participation to bring out different points of view.

“This simple action, listening to people, itself helps to improve the climate by giving members of the BMB community a voice that will be heard,” said Ades. Thomas added that, while initial meetings were quiet, recent meetings have yielded healthy discussion that Hanna-Rose is using to help identify concrete steps to improve climate and diversity in BMB.

Bartley, graduate student in statistics, was nominated by David Hunter, professor and department head of statistics. Bartley has organized countless events—from board game nights to journal clubs to yoga in the conference room—that stimulate positive energy and collegiality among graduate students in the statistics department. One such event, a weekly workshop, allows students to learn from their peers, who take turns presenting on useful topics. She also began an interactive reading and research website for graduate students that facilitates the transition from coursework to research.

“Many of the events or activities that Meridith has started have become woven into the standard way things happen now, and it seems likely that many of her unique contributions will outlast her time at Penn State,” said Hunter.

Bartley served as the first president of the Statistics Graduate Student Association, as an assembly delegate of the Graduate and Professional Student Association, and as a member of the department and college Climate & Diversity Committees. Through her dedication to producing a positive, inclusive, and productive environment, Bartley has encouraged others to become active participants in university, college, and department forums.

“Her skill at engendering a sense of students’ collective ownership of their academic environment is an intangible quality that provides a powerful example to the other students,” said Hunter.

Neshteruk, administrative assistant for the Institute for Gravitation and the Cosmos (IGC), was nominated by Sarah Shandera, assistant professor of physics. According to Shandera, Neshteruk helps generate and maintain a warm and welcoming community for all who pass through the IGC, including undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, faculty and staff, visitors, and their families. She acts as a resource, confidant, and even as family for many graduate students and postdocs and helps ensure that staff members are integrated into the community.

“Randi plays an important role as a link between the physics faculty in Whitmore and the broader department and staff that is mostly housed in Davey Lab,” said Shandera. She organizes social events to help bring together the IGC community as well as others tenants of Whitmore Lab. “For me, personally, Randi has been an absolutely critical source of support in navigating the role of new faculty member, especially when I was feeling a bit isolated from the rest of the department scattered in other buildings. She is absolutely indispensable for maintaining the respectful community that is the foundation for any attempts to further improve diversity and climate in the IGC.”

By Gail McCormick