2019 Cross Scholars

About the Award
The K. Patricia Cross Future Leaders Award recognizes graduate students who show exemplary promise as future leaders of higher education; who demonstrate a commitment to developing academic and civic responsibility in themselves and others; and whose work reflects a strong emphasis on teaching and learning.

The awards honor the work of K. Patricia Cross, Professor Emerita of Higher Education at the University of California-Berkeley. 

AAC&U is pleased to introduce the recipients of the 2019 K. Patricia Cross Future Leaders Award.


PhD Student, Engineering Education, Purdue University

MS, Industrial & Systems Engineering, North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University
BS, Industrial & Systems Engineering, North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University

Brianna Benedict is a Graduate Research Assistant in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. She has mentored multiple undergraduate research assistants in the STRIDE research group. In 2018, Brianna and her colleagues were nominated as one of the American Society of Engineering Education Best Diversity Paper Finalist for their paper titled “Uncovering Latent Diversity: Steps Towards Understanding 'What Counts' and 'Who Belongs' in Engineering Culture.”  This research helps their team understand how students describe what counts in today’s engineering culture and how their work can begin to encourage educators to expand and include additional ways of knowing, thinking, and being an engineer. In addition to her assistantship, her research interests involve exploring 1) what influences students’ in their decision making to transition to an interdisciplinary engineering education program, 2) how interdisciplinary engineering programs serve as hybrid spaces, and 3) how hybrid spaces influence engineering identity development and belonging in engineering.

Brianna believes that an essential aspect of preparing a future professional who thinks critically involves providing an intellectual climate similar to her alma mater that prepares students how to think, not what to think. She has served as a Graduate Student Assistant Instructor for a Bridge to STEM program at Guilford Technical Community College. She has designed lectures to challenge students to view diversity and inclusion as more than a buzzword in today’s culture. She believes that diversity and inclusion are essential for providing equitable access to opportunities, as well as challenge students to work through differences, engineering designs, stakeholder analysis, and decision making.

In 2016, Brianna was awarded the Industrial & Systems Engineering Humanitarian Award which was designed to recognize students who have proven they have the ability to help, encourage, motivate, and support others. Brianna served as the 2017-2018 Social Justice and Inclusion chair for the Engineering Education Graduate Student Association (ENEGSA) where she hosted professional development sessions on implicit bias and intercultural competence. Now, she serves as the President of ENEGSA where she works with the committee chairs to ensure their community has access to professional development, networking, and mentoring.

In addition to supporting graduate students, her service activities are centered around youth academic and personal development. She has spent a substantial amount of time helping at-risk elementary students with their literacy and behavioral skills through programs such as Man-up Mentoring and a Lunch Buddy Program. While in North Carolina, she volunteered with a non-profit organization called Closing the Gaps, which aims to assist at-risk students with overcoming their limitations and food insecurities within the Triad area. Brianna is passionate about mentoring youth because it enables her to directly influence young men and women who do not have positive role models in their lives. Currently, she participates with a program called Heads Up in Lafayette, Indiana where she has tutored elementary students with their homework, facilitated activities and discussions for the young adult scholars where they explore topics such as entrepreneurship, conflict resolution, and communication skills.

Brianna is committed to excellence and serving others in her academic and local community because she sees value in investing in the lives of others.  


Naniette H. ColemanNANIETTE H. COLEMAN

PhD Candidate, Sociology, University of California, Berkeley

MPA, Public Administration, Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
MA, Economics, University at Buffalo, SUNY
BA, Communication, University at Buffalo, SUNY

Naniette H. Coleman is a PhD Candidate in Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley (UCB) and a 2018-2019 Fellow with the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University. Naniette’s work sits at the intersection of the sociology of culture and organizations and focuses on cybersecurity, surveillance, and privacy in the US context. Her research examines how organizations assess risk, make decisions, and respond to data breaches and organizational compliance with state, federal, and international privacy laws. 

A non-traditional student, Naniette’s prior professional experience includes local, state (New York), and federal government (Department of Commerce and the Office of the US Trade Representative) service, as well as for for two international organizations (the World Bank and the United Nations), and a university (Harvard).

Naniette is the Founder and Executive Director of the Interdisciplinary Research Group on Privacy (IRGP) at Berkeley. Now in its third year of operation, IRGP is a discovery-oriented undergraduate education program led by Naniette that tries to give students a small liberal arts college feel at a large public institution. The semester long research (and professional) skills training program focuses on the review, discussion, translation, and dissemination of privacy, surveillance, and cybersecurity knowledge to the public. In terms of the academic charge, the lab team seeks to increase the amount and quality of publicly available information on privacy, surveillance, and cybersecurity information available to the public with the goal of increasing data privacy literacy.

Since the summer 2016, over 60 IRGP affiliated student editors have founded and edited privacy cybersecurity, surveillance, and whistleblower related Wikipedia pages and logged over 28 million views on those pages. The team has also written several dozen blogs, hosted two Wikipedia Edit-A-Thons with the Wikipedia Education Foundation and the National Cybersecurity Alliance focused on the creation of pages for scholars of color who study privacy), hosted twice yearly undergraduate research symposiums, and for 3-years helped undergraduate women, many who are women of color, find their voice in the classroom and their place at Berkeley. Our groups make-up and work are particularly important given that only 8% of those editing Wikipedia globally are women and even fewer are people of color. According to the Wiki-Education Foundation, the Interdisciplinary Research Group on Privacy that Naniette founded is the largest, most diverse, most consistent, and longest running group of women editing Wikipedia in the world. 

At our foundation IRGP works to promote greater privacy literacy by translating academic work to more general audiences.  IRGP creates access where there is none. IRGP has also worked to expand awareness surrounding issues of privacy, surveillance, and cybersecurity through events including Under the Radar: Research and Technology in an Age of Surveillance collaborating with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Northern California ACLU, the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society and Berkeley American Cultures Center, Center for Technology Society and Policy, and the Center for Long-term Cybersecurity.  IRGP will host a panel of notable authors of privacy books, moderated in by Naniette, in coordination with their partner Mozilla at their Monthly Privacy Lab in Spring 2019.  Held just prior to the 2019 Privacy Law Scholars Conference it will be simulcast around the world. 

Finally, Naniette’s is also proud to have founded Night Out / Night Off (NONO) at Berkeley and the Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) fund at the University at Buffalo, SUNY. NONO is an event held at Cal Performances twice yearly for Graduate Students of Color.  Founded in the fall of 2016, the initiative encompasses series of arts focused events held in both the fall and spring. NONO creates a space where there are no expectations of graduate students of color.  They arrive with no expectations of leadership, representation, lobbying, or mentoring. Students are invited to engage a treasured familiar art form or experience a brand-new genre while sharing in community.  Now in its third year of operation NONO attracts several hundred students and friends every semester.  RAK or the Random Acts of Kindness Fund founded by Naniette in 1997 at the University at Buffalo provides grants to students who encounter personal or familial difficulty while in college (death of a parent, personal illness, etc.).  It brings the support of the university with it so students can stay focused on school.  The endowed fund, now in its twenty-first year, funds more than thirty students per year.  The fund took on particular significance once Coleman lost her own parents when she was in her early twenties.  

An enthusiastic researcher, educator, mentor, and public servant, in her admissions essay to the Berkeley Sociology Department in 2013, she pledged that if admitted she would work to “help build a strong and inclusive community.” She has worked hard to do that at Berkeley, at the University at Buffalo and plans to carry that forward to the academic institutions where she begins her research and teaching career as an academic. 



PhD Candidate, Engineering Education, Purdue University

M.Eng. Civil Engineering, Texas A&M University
B.S. Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Tulane University

Andrew Katz is a doctoral candidate and National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. His research focuses on normative decision-making in engineering and engineering education, with a particular interest in environmental issues affecting air and water quality. Currently, Andrew's work focuses on ethics education, studying ways to understand and improve the state of engineering ethics education at (a) the level of individual faculty members in conjunction with (b) the level of organizations and institutions. The ultimate mission of his work is to help students and future professionals think more systemically and systematically about the potential societal impacts of their own work.

After finishing his master’s degree, concentrating on natural resource management and sustainable development, Andrew taught science for two years at a Jesuit high school in Dallas, TX. During this time in Dallas, as an outlet to maintain his passion for environmental sustainability, Andrew worked as a volunteer at the local natural history and science museum and as a water quality monitor for the Texas Stream Team, a group of citizen scientists monitoring non-point source pollution in Texas waterways. During his time teaching high school students, Andrew also helped coach the cross country team and mentor students in the engineering club. As a faculty member in a school with an explicit mission of developing young people who would serve others, Andrew believes that his time helping lead retreats and community service projects showed him ways that he could positively affect the lives of students who could then go on to transform their own communities in their own work. Andrew carried this outlook with him into his own doctoral studies.

Throughout his doctoral program, Andrew has partaken in several mentoring and teaching opportunities. These include: working as a mentor with the College of Engineering’s summer transition to engineering program for incoming first-year students; mentoring undergraduate students through the university’s graduate/undergraduate mentor program; mentoring first-year graduate students in his home department to help prepare them for their own research careers; and hosting guest students studying in the U.S. as part of the Mandela Washington Fellows program, helping them develop their ideas and projects to implement for when they finished with the U.S.-based portion of the program. Andrew also served as an ambassador for the department to help prospective students find and develop their own research interests in engineering education.

In the classroom, Andrew combined his work on ethics and environmental issues by initiating, designing, and teaching a course on environmental engineering ethics and society in the School of Environmental and Ecological Engineering. Aside from satisfying his own interests, Andrew did this because he knows (through his own research and observations) that there is a need for more faculty members who can and will help engineering students think and learn about social responsibility, ethical decision-making, and the broader impacts of their future work as practicing engineers and researchers. A course on engineering ethics and society is one way to help make that happen. In a similar vein, Andrew has led other engineering classes as an invited guest speaker to facilitate single class sessions on engineering ethics and decision-making. He also served as a faculty apprentice to co-teach his department’s research methods course, once again helping to mentor younger graduate students to develop their own understandings of research paradigms and interesting, important research questions.

Throughout his work over recent years, regardless of the location or setting, Andrew has looked for ways to try and help make the world a little better by helping others make the world a little better through their own work. Research, teaching, and mentoring have provided him potent avenues for realizing this goal.



PhD candidate, Health Behavior, Indiana University (expected 2020)

MPH, Community-Oriented Primary Care, University of Nebraska Medical Center
BA, Cognitive Science, University of California-San Diego

Aurora Le is a Health Behavior PhD student in the Department of Applied Health Science at Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington. Aurora’s areas of research focus on health behaviors within occupational safety and health, as well as training and education levels in highly infectious disease mitigation and management among non-healthcare workers.

Aurora’s work thus far includes 14 peer-reviewed publications in journals such as the American Journal of Infection Control, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene, and Health Security. She has also presented her research at several national conferences, such as the American Public Health Association and American Industrial Hygiene Association. Aurora maintains a high level of productivity, even though she is working full-time as Project Coordinator of the Biosafety and Infectious Disease Training Initiative, a National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Worker Training Program, while pursuing her doctorate part-time. These generated publications and presentations are outside the requirements of her work, but she is passionate about sharing her research and its practical applications.

Aurora is not only an active citizen in the academic community, but also within the practice community. She previously supported the research activities of the Nebraska Biocontainment Unit after the treatment of three Ebola-confirmed patients in 2014-2015 and was part of the National Ebola Training and Education Center exercise design team. Through her employment, within the last two and a half years, she has trained over 1,600 workers nationwide. She is considered a cross-industrial expert due to her unique background in community health, worker safety, and industrial hygiene. As a result, she has consulted with the National Strategic Institute at the University of Nebraska to create an educational module and delivered trainings to over 3,000 National Disaster Medical System personnel at their 2018 summit. By actively participating in occupational safety and industrial hygiene activities, this allows Aurora to integrate her health behavior research lens into the field and increase the practicality of her research. She also hopes to inspire other young women to join and thrive in these male-dominated fields.

Aurora credits her success to having strong, supportive, and empowering female mentors during her adolescence, and inspiring, generous, and skilled mentors throughout her academic career. For this reason, her lifelong aspirations are not only to educate and energize people about the importance of health and safety in their workplace and community, but to also advocate for and provide resources to future generations so that they may freely pursue and achieve their goals. 



PhD Candidate, Philosophy and American Indian and Indigenous Studies, Michigan State University

BA Philosophy, English, Linguistics, New Mexico State University

Shelbi Nahwilet Meissner is a doctoral candidate in philosophy at Michigan State University with a graduate affiliation in American Indian and Indigenous Studies. Her areas of specialization are American Indian and Indigenous philosophy, feminist epistemology, and philosophy of language. Meissner’s primary research concerns Indigenous language revitalization and questions about the relationships between Indigenous languages, knowledge systems, and power. In addition to these foci, Meissner also works on and has presented projects concerning Indigenous issues in health care policy, data sovereignty, Indigenous feminisms and research methodologies, Indigenous conceptions of kinship and identity, and Indigenous pedagogies. Meissner recently published an article about attempted linguicide in the Journal of Global Ethics, an article about recommendations for more ethical epidemiologic research that centers Indigenous research methodologies in Synthese, and a co-authored chapter in the Routledge Companion to the Philosophy of Race (2018) with Kyle Powys Whyte, entitled “Theorizing Indigeneity, Gender, and Settler Colonialism.”  Meissner was recently selected to serve as part of the first cohort of the Engaged Philosophy Internship Program, and spent the summer of 2017 teaching, researching, and co-creating Indigenous language curricula and reclamation resources. An adjunct professor of Native American Studies, Meissner teaches courses relating to history, gender, globalization, and resistance movements at Saginaw Chippewa Tribal College. Meissner is of Luiseño (La Jolla) and Cupeño descent and an avid participant in the reclamation of 'atáaxum pomtéela, the Luiseño language.



PhD Candidate, Environmental Infectious Diseases, University of Minnesota

MPH, Environmental Infectious Diseases, University of Minnesota
BS, Biology, University of St. Thomas
BA, Spanish, University of St. Thomas

Hannah Volkman is a PhD candidate at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. Her dissertation examines barriers to malaria prevention and chemoprophylaxis among US travelers who visit friends and relatives in malaria-endemic countries. Through her work on a broad range of pathogens including hepatitis C, tuberculosis, helminths, and malaria, Hannah examines the ways in which global infectious diseases impact local populations.

As an adjunct instructor for a senior-level undergraduate course on the Biology of Global Health, Hannah uses teaching approaches that encourage students to find passion in the content, take initiative in their learning, and continually evaluate topics at a metacognitive level. In her course, Hannah starts the semester with no planned topics. Rather, students are given the responsibility of debating, then assembling and prioritizing the twelve overarching and coalescing themes of global health that direct the course content for the full semester. The class is given the responsibility of selecting some of their own deadlines which has led to better assignment completion and quality. She also facilitates the development of students’ confidence in understanding and evaluating complex scientific literature through a series of student-led journal club discussions.

Hannah is developing a study abroad exchange collaborative for undergraduates studying public health. The course series is designed to create field-based experiences in which students from local and international institutions work shoulder-to-shoulder to learn study design and research a public health problem in each of their home communities.

Outside of the academic field, Hannah is the Executive Director and Co-Founder of TC Food Justice, a nonprofit organization that works to reduce food waste and hunger in the Twin Cities. TCFJ diverts extra produce and bread from grocers, markets, bakeries, and farms and delivers it to food insecure populations. The organization specializes in providing consistent, fresh food to organizations and individuals that experience barriers to food access and the existing hunger relief system. Hannah supervises an all-volunteer staff and applies her shared leadership classroom approach to guiding staff and promoting organizational growth.



PhD candidate, History, University of Arkansas

MA History, University of Tulsa
BA in History and Comprehensive Social Studies Education, University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Arley Ward grew up in rural Oklahoma, where he quickly realized the importance of community and its power to determine who belongs, who is valued, and who thrives. Without educated members, however, communities may also divide oppress and ostracize. As a doctoral candidate in history, his research, teaching, and service all highlight the importance of community, identity, and what he terms “radical inclusiveness.” His research interests examine how “outsiders” created community as a bulwark against exclusion and how that community-building laid the foundation for later incorporation into a shared national identity. Specifically, his dissertation centers on World War II, with an emphasis on the home front where women, African Americans, LGBT+ individuals, and many “others” utilized a time of national crisis to strengthen community, prove patriotism, and lay claim to American identity.

Radical inclusiveness depends upon engagement with others and involvement in with community groups, on campus and off. At the University of Arkansas, Ward embodies these aspects by being President of the Graduate and Professional Student Congress where he advocates on behalf of graduate students in areas such as food insecurity, graduate housing, childcare, and increased stipends for graduate assistants. He also serves on the university Academic Integrity Board to help ensure that students, especially first generation or those from socio-economically challenged backgrounds, benefit and learn from integrity initiatives. Additionally, he is a Campus Diversity Ambassador where he works to improve retention rates among marginalized students through inclusivity. Ward places “radical inclusion” and community engagement at the center of each course he teaches. In his classroom, students strive to incorporate those on the margins into the narrative of the United States. Most of the work is experiential based in which the class together grapples with the importance of protest to community and identity building, both locally and nationally. Ward and students, together, embody the learning community as they develop the curriculum and throw open the doors to include as many guest participants into the classroom as possible be they professors, former students, community members, or familial relations. All pedagogical approaches are geared toward inclusion and are outward facing as demonstrated by classroom voting drives, mentor relationships, and the development of LGBTQ+ course materials.

Ward’s current and future survey courses will be taught in a service-learning format. This development is the result of continually striving for a learning environment that extends “radical inclusiveness” and the development of American identity beyond the hermetic-ly sealed classroom and into the university and community. The courses are a collaboration between students, community members, and the Special Collections department. Each semester is dedicated to working with community partners to develop archival materials – including documents, images, and oral histories – to remedy historical silences and foster understanding. The spring of 2019 course, thanks to the Black Alumni Society, will focus on African American students at the University of Arkansas, a notoriously dark and deliberately forgotten period of campus history. Future courses will be devoted to the creation of archival materials for veterans, undocumented students, LGBTQ+ individuals, and the area homeless population.