New Cohort of Two Dozen University Fellows Named

A wide range of disciplines are represented by students have been named to the UA Graduate College University Fellows program's 2016-2017 cohort.
Sept. 2, 2016
Ryan Endsley
Ryan Endsley
Junmo Ahn
Junmo Ahn
Pam Yabeny
Pam Yabeny
Juan Mejia
Juan Mejia

A South Korean researcher who intends to improve sustainability efforts in the mining industry, an ecologist studying how species change behaviors due to shifts in the environment, and a psychologist working to improve the conditions of cancer patients and survivors are new members of the University Fellows program.

Twenty-four master's and doctoral students have been named 2016-2017 cohort members in the University of Arizona program, with more than 20 percent coming from underrepresented minority groups. Also, seven international fellows have arrived from four continents.

The University Fellows program, an initiative of the Graduate College and the flagship program of the UA's Graduate Center, was launched in 2014 to recruit highly competitive graduate students, providing them with a multi-tiered level of support to ensure that they are academically and professionally successful.

Ryan Endsley, another newly named University Fellow, is a doctoral student in the UA Department of Astronomy and is working toward improving our understanding of the universe in its youth.

Prior to the UA, Endsley participated in a fellowship at one of the Max Planck Institutes in Europe. He is interested in communicating astrophysics to the public and exploring ways to create novel astrophysics methods to explore the cosmos.

With the James Webb Space Telescope poised to launch during the fall of 2018, Endsley plan to use data from its Near Infrared Camera, or NIRCam, for his research in collaboration with Daniel Stark, a UA assistant professor of astronomy. UA Regents' Professor of Astronomy Marcia Rieke is principal investigator for the NIRCam. The UA, in partnership with Lockheed Martin Space Systems Advanced Technology Center, designed and built the NIRCam, the primary imager for the telescope.

"I was extremely excited by the opportunity to become a University Fellow. The professional development resources that the fellowship provides will help me become the best leader in my field that I can be," said Endsley, who is working toward a faculty position.

Having studied philosophy earlier, he also noted that the fellowship's encouragement of interdisciplinary research directly aligns with his personal interests. Working with NIRCam data will enable him to "answer old questions and start asking new ones as well."

A full list of the new cohort members is available online, and it includes:

  • Junmo Ahn, from South Korea, a doctoral student of mining and geological engineering. Ahn intends to use biotechnology advancements to improve the sustainability of mining while also extracting valuable resources from waste. Ahn previously earned a master's degree in environmental engineering.
  • Utah native Dylan Okechukwu Barton, a doctoral student in school psychology who has prior experience studying resilience among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth. Barton's previous education includes counseling and delinquency, with an emphasis in criminal justice emphasis.
  • Kathryn Chenard, a doctoral student studying ecology and evolutionary biology, whose work involves deepening understandings of how species respond to environmental changes, both through behavior and through ecological and biological factors. Chenard earned her undergraduate degree in wildlife ecology from the University of Maine.
  • Khaled Jarrar, a Master of Fine Arts student with a focus in art. Jarrar is an international student from Palestine and a renowned artist with a strong professional portfolio that spans more than 10 years. He is interested in doing socially engaged art, wants to teach, and looks forward to making community connections in Tucson and the broader United States.
  • Tanya Jeffries, a doctoral student in computer sciences, who is a data visualization specialist intent on researching ways to improve the effective communication of data. Jeffries studied at the University of New Mexico, earning an undergraduate degree in economics and a master's in computer science.
  • South Korea native Juli Kim, a doctoral student studying Hispanic linguistics, who is investigating the syntactic and sociolinguistic differences and similarities of Spanish and Portuguese.
  • Sarah Price, a student in the doctoral program in clinical psychology, who has contributed to various clinical trials at the Perelman School of Medicine. Price, who has worked to improve the quality of life for cancer patients and survivors, is interested in developing interventions to help individuals cope with serious medical diagnoses and to facilitate health behavior change in clinical populations.

Pam Yabeny, a doctoral student in American Indian studies, and Mikayla Chronister, a doctoral student in English literature whose research focus is Gothic literature, also were named as University Fellows.

Yabeny's research centers on American Indian higher-education attainment and support. A member of the Navajo Nation who grew up in Cove, Arizona, Yabeny has extensive experience interacting with American Indian communities, including the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, Gila River Indian Community and Ak-Chin Indian Community.

"There is a need for additional research in academia as it pertains to American Indian students and the various experiences and issues they encounter and experience. I look forward to contributing additional insight," said Yabeny, who earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Notre Dame and a master's degree from Arizona State University. 

"I am humbled and honored to be a University Fellow. I appreciate the opportunity," she said. "I look forward to the experience and additional insight I will be receiving as a recipient, and I am appreciative of the support towards my growth both as a student and as a professional."

Prior to the UA, Chronister earned an undergraduate degree in literature from Seattle Pacific University and taught and mentored children at a group home in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Today, her research considers how gender, race, class, culture and other factors inform the ways in which people evaluate literature.

"Receiving the fellowship and being part of a University Fellows cohort puts my work in literature into a multidisciplinary context, so I'm looking forward to opportunities to collaborate with other fellows in fields that I ordinarily wouldn't interact with much, like anthropology or the arts," Chronister said. "It also gives me a unique and exciting opportunity for mentoring — this is a passion of mine."

Another fellow, Juan Mejia, is a cellist whose focus is in performance. Mejia has studied at the renowned San Francisco Conservatory of Music and is known for his musicality as well as his community outreach work advocating programs similar to the El Sistema program in Brazil, which addressed poverty through music education.

"It is a great honor and luxury to have such generous support for the arts from the University," said Mejia, a doctoral student in the UA Fred Fox School of Music. "I will be able to extend my knowledge and experience not only as a cellist but also as an individual. The fellowship will be a door-opening opportunity for a future career as a professional musician."