The 2018 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 2018 K. Patricia Cross Future Leaders Award.

PhD candidate, Chemistry, California Institute of Technology

BS, Chemistry, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

Kelsey Boyle is a PhD candidate and NDSEG Fellow in Chemistry at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). Her doctoral thesis work involves the development, characterization, and biological studies of DNA-targeted inorganic drugs and their potential use as selective anti-cancer agents.

Kelsey is passionate about teaching, and is actively involved in many teaching endeavors on her campus. During her second year of graduate studies, Kelsey became a graduate co-director for the Caltech Project for Effective Teaching (CPET), a graduate student and postdoc group dedicated to improving teaching across campus through teaching-focused seminars, workshops, and other programming. As co-director, Kelsey worked to implement and revise a new teaching certificate program at Caltech, the CPET Certificate of Practice. This peer-led certificate offers both a framework for students to formally learn about educational pedagogy and best practices, but also support, guidance, and feedback when participants apply those skills in their own teaching experiences. Additionally, during her time as CPET co-director, Kelsey pioneered a teaching-focused journal club in which graduate students and postdocs could become acquainted with educational literature and best practices, such as active learning, inclusive classrooms, and teaching with technology, and discuss these practices with their peers. In addition to facilitating journal clubs, Kelsey has presented to her peers on topics such as teaching lab classes, fair grading and effective feedback, translating teaching pedagogies to mentoring, and collaborative teaching during Caltech’s annual teaching conferences, Caltech’s mentoring conference, and Caltech’s annual TeachWeek.

Kelsey also saw room to improve teaching within the chemistry division at Caltech—although many graduate students were teaching assistants, there were few opportunities for students and postdocs to generate and teach their own course materials. As such, Kelsey and another graduate student collaborated to develop, facilitate, and garner departmental approval for a new teaching opportunity within their division, Ch101: Chemistry Tutorials. In this program, graduate students and postdocs apply to teach a 10-week course focused on a special topic of their choosing in chemistry. Successful applicants are mentored by a faculty member in their field and Center for Teaching, Learning, and Outreach (CTLO) staff as they develop course materials and ultimately teach a course of their own design to Caltech undergraduates. The pilot year of this program (in which 11 graduate students and postdocs instructed or co-instructed 6 special topics courses to nearly 40 undergraduates) was met with enormous excitement and approval by the instructors, department faculty, and by the students. Kelsey is excited to continue developing and improving the Ch101 program as it progresses through its second year.


Arianna I. Celis LunaARIANNA I. CELIS LUNA
PhD candidate, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Montana State University

MS, Chemistry, California State University, Los Angeles
BS Chemistry, California State University, Bakersfield
AS, Math and Science, Riverside Community College

Arianna I. Celis Luna is a PhD candidate in the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department at Montana State University in Bozeman. Her research focuses on studying how pathogenic gram-positive bacteria, like Staphylococcus aureus, make the essential molecule heme. Arianna is specifically interested in figuring out how the enzyme responsible for the last step in this pathway, which was just recently discovered, performs its function and how it may be targeted as for antimicrobial treatment in the future.

Arianna’s work encompasses 6 published papers in journals like the Journal of the American Chemical Society, the Journal of Biological Chemistry, and ACS Biochemistry. She has presented her work in several conferences, including Gordon Research Conferences and the ASBMB Annual Meeting, and at Montana State University as part of the Kopriva Science Seminar Series after receiving the Kopriva Graduate Student Fellowship.

Arianna communicates and shares her love for science with her peers and to younger students by being an active member of her department and her community. As part of the Chemistry and Biochemistry Graduate Student Association, she helps raise funds for graduate student travel grants and organizes events geared towards developing graduate student professional and social skills. Her participation in the Montana Science Olympiad statewide competition, the Expanding Your Horizons program, and Earth Day at MSU separately, allows her to reach out to elementary, middle school and high-school students.  By creatively organizing activities that demonstrate the wonders of science and a career in science research, she hopes to inspire the future generation of scientists.

Arianna attributes her professional and personal success to having supportive, caring, and inspiring mentors. As such, her career goal is to be the person that not only transmits core science concepts to others, but also provides the tools and motivation for others to pursue and reach their goals.



PhD Candidate, Clinical Psychology, University of Notre Dame

MA, Clinical Psychology, University of Notre Dame
BA, Psychology, University of Notre Dame

Tony Cunningham is a Clinical Psychology PhD student at the University of Notre Dame and is currently completing his degree as a Clinical Intern at the VA Eastern Kansas Healthcare System in Leavenworth, KS. Tony’s research interests focus on the importance of sleep for memory and emotion regulation, and how disrupted sleep may impact mood and cognition symptoms in a variety of clinical populations.

Tony’s passion for enhancing liberal education within his university and research communities intensified during his graduate tenure at Notre Dame. Having also completed his undergraduate degree at Notre Dame, Tony was inspired to work to provide his peers with many of the same positive experiences he previously experienced, while also striving for enhancements where possible.  Tony made it a goal to learn and teach others about many of the complexities that are part of science, culture, and society, with a focus on diversity, inclusiveness, and mental health issues. Tony became involved with his Graduate Student Union (GSU) and utilized many relationships and resources that he had previous experience with to enhance the quality of life for his fellow graduate students. Some of his projects included organizing and hosting an annual Faith Fair for three consecutive years, bringing representatives from over 50 different faith organizations to campus in an effort to assist graduate and professional students in finding local resources in line with their individual preferences. Tony also took this opportunity to learn from the diverse graduate population and champion for the foundation of the Graduate LGBTQ and Ally Student Society at Notre Dame (GlassND) through the GSU and was the co-founder and first president of the Graduate Student, Spouse, and Significant-Other Network (GSN). A core component of the establishment of both groups was to communicate with university administration about the needs of the unique populations that they represent and serve, as well as to act as a support and social network for student members.

Tony also utilized a variety of resources and funding opportunities at Notre Dame to support his efforts, including winning four grants from the University of Notre Dame Graduate Student Life department to support various programming. In addition to receiving funding for both groups highlighted above, Tony hosted a workshop series for graduate students providing contemporary empirical evidence on a variety of mental health concerns, as well as funding for a series of cognitive neuroscience journal clubs that annually hosted at least one guest lecturer from another college or university. Three of these four projects (GSN, GlassND, journal club) found homes within the university and continue to function today, even after Tony’s recent departure to Kansas City. One of Tony’s crowning achievements was being a recipient of the Sister Jean Lenz, O.S.F. Leadership Award at Notre Dame for these efforts, recognizing his leadership in promoting a more diverse, inclusive campus community for students

In addition to quality of life programming, Tony also utilized several of his community connections as a means of developing scientific outreach, giving multiple lectures on the importance of sleep to the broader Notre Dame and South Bend communities. He strived to bring this same enthusiasm to the lab and classroom to benefit his students. Each year, he assisted in managing 20-30 undergraduate research students, many of whom have completed senior theses and won a number of prestigious awards of their own. In the classroom, he did his best to provide experiential learning opportunities for his students, and was selected to receive an Excellence in Graduate Student Teaching Award on two occasions.

After developing confidence with successes at his university, Tony shifted focus to national and international leadership opportunities. Tony was elected as the Vice President of the Cognitive Neuroscience Society Trainee Association (CNSTA). In partnership with the CNSTA President, Tony helped to develop additional programming beyond the typical peer social opportunities and established an annual Professional Development panel at the CNS meeting, providing all trainees with the opportunity to learn from and network with both early-career and established professionals in the field. Tony also was selected to be the 2017 Trainee Member-at-Large for the Sleep Research Society (SRS). In this role, he helped to develop and host the 2017 Trainee Symposia Series (a series of lectures exclusively for Trainees from prominent figures in the sleep field) at the annual SLEEP conference. He also served as the Trainee representative on the board of directors for one year, representing the interests of all members at the Trainee level. During this year, he again set diversity issues as his top goal, and helped to establish an international trainee match program at the annual program (matching domestic and international trainees to facilitate networking and communication), and a trainee exchange program with the Australasian Sleep Association (ASA) set to launch in 2019. After completing his role as Trainee Member-at-Large in June, Tony continued his work with the SRS by being selected to serve as a full voting member of the SRS Membership Committee, and looks forward to continue to strive for diversity and inclusiveness in positions throughout his career.



PhD candidate, Mechanical Engineering, University of Delaware

BS, Biomedical Engineering, University of California-Davis

Anahid Ebrahimi is a PhD Candidate in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Delaware (UD), a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow, and a UD Mechanical Engineering Helwig Fellow. She specializes in the field of biomechanics, where she studies the energetics of human gait, particularly to assist individuals with lower limb impairments in walking more effectively. She has a passion for research, teaching, and service activities that advocate for the field of biomechanics and encourage young women to pursue careers in STEM.

Anahid is enthusiastic about obtaining pedagogical training and supporting this training for her fellow graduate students. She has taken courses in student learning and pedagogy and reached the Practitioner’s Level of Accomplishment as part of UD’s Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning (CIRTL) chapter. She is also a member of the student leadership board for UD CIRTL, where she helps provide resources to graduate students aiming to become successful educators at the university and college levels. Anahid supports a student-centered approach to education, where students are active participants in their education. She has mentored, taught, and lectured students in numerous disciplines, including engineering, physical therapy, and biomechanics and movement science. Recently, she has become interested in teaching-as-research, for which she has presented her findings on assessing students’ perception of learning in mechanical engineering curriculum at the 2016 American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) Mid-Atlantic regional conference.

As a relatively new field, Anahid is an advocate for sharing biomechanics with her community. Locally, she has co-created a series of educational online videos to introduce biomechanics research and tools at UD with the community. She’s also helped to organize high school students and teachers to tour the local Science, Technology, and Advanced Research campus at UD and to participate in activities during an annual National Biomechanics Day. Globally, Anahid is co-chair of the American Society of Biomechanics advocacy student committee, where she works to bring awareness to a host of topics in biomechanics via social media and international events. These topics range from new research and discoveries in the field, to advice for students from leading researchers and industry partners, to resources for educational lesson plans and teaching strategies. She presented one of these lesson plans at the 2017 ASEE national conference.

As a female engineer herself, Anahid is passionate about encouraging young women to pursue careers in engineering. She is a program specialist with the Perry Initiative, a non-profit organization that conducts day-long programs across the country where female high school students get hands-on experience applying engineering principles to mock orthopedic surgeries. Anahid plans to become an academic professor in the future, where she will continue to place a great emphasis on communicating her studies to the public to improve understanding of biomechanics, in addition to supporting young scholars, especially minorities, to pursue careers in the STEM fields.


PhD candidate in English, Temple University

MFA in Poetry and Poetry in Translation, Drew University
AB in English, with Education Certification, Bryn Mawr College

Darla Ida Himeles is a doctoral student in English at Temple University, where she studies twentieth- and twenty-first-century American poetry and multiethnic American literature. Her poetry chapbook, Flesh Enough (Get Fresh Books, 2017), is a lyric exploration of extinction and loss—animal and human. Both her scholarly and creative work are energized by investigating the relationship between activism and art, particularly with regard to ethnic American activist traditions. Her dissertation investigates how Jewish activist and interpretive traditions have shaped American activist poetry in the lyric tradition, particularly with regard to animal rights. She is the recipient of the Laura S. Dabundo Graduate Essay Award at Temple University; is associate editor of The Stillwater Review, a lyric-oriented literary journal; and her poems, translations, and essays have been published widely.

Darla’s interest in the intersection between activism and art is rooted in her commitment to a philosophy of “unfinishedness”—a commitment she takes from Paolo Freire’s Pedagogy of Freedom, in which Freire claims that awareness of our “radical unfinishedness” is foundational to our humanity, our educability, and our ability to hope. Just as the work of a poem or a political movement is never finished, she believes teaching and learning are predicated on the shared belief that all teachers and learners are unfinished beings. As an instructor, Darla creates learning communities in which learning is collaborative and all minds in the room are understood as in process. She has honed this practice through scholarly publications in the field of education; a position as Bryn Mawr College’s Coordinator of Staff Education, in which she facilitated teaching and learning partnerships between diverse campus constituents; and teaching experiences in divergent undergraduate communities, including Maine Maritime Academy and Temple University, where she has created syllabi that reflect and supplement the diverse subject positions represented in the room. She chooses texts that encourage dialogue, leaves space on her syllabus and in her lesson plans for student input, creates opportunities for students to teach, and makes time to genuinely respond to student feedback. Temple University’s First Year Writing Program, where Darla has mentored her fellow graduate students in the Teaching in Higher Education Practicum, has recognized Darla’s teaching with an Outstanding Instructor Award multiple times.

Being committed to unfinishedness necessitates being open to revision—as a writer, a thinker, a teacher, and a leader. In and out of the classroom, Darla aims to reframe revision not as correction but as rethinking. She focuses less on imperfection than on potential and insists that little is fixed in stone. Engaging with colleagues in a way that recognizes them as in-process human beings regardless of hierarchical rank has been a hallmark of her leadership style. While at Temple, Darla has served as co-president of the Graduate English Association, graduate assistant to the First Year Writing Program, and graduate student representative to the department’s Graduate Executive Committee and to the College of Liberal Arts’ Strategic Planning Core Committee.

As any reader of Freire will attest, a pedagogy grounded in the notion of unfinishedness must be doggedly hopeful in its pursuit of justice. As a scholar and poet, Darla’s interests in environmental justice, ethnic American experience, and the activist lyric voice align her creative and scholarly activities with her pedagogical and administrative commitments.


Rishi R. Masalia RISHI R. MASALIA
PhD candidate, Plant Biology, University of Georgia (expected 2018)

BS Biology and Molecular Cellular Biology (double major), University of Arizona

Rishi R. Masalia is a PhD candidate in the Department of Plant Biology at the University of Georgia, an ambassador with the American Society of Plant Biologists, and co-founder: the Athens Science Café, the Athens Science Observer, UGA SPEAR, and Science Athens. 

A biologist and bioinformatician by training, his area of expertise is candidate gene identification through genetic mapping and RNA expression techniques using cultivated sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.) as a model. Hailing from the Arizona desert, Rishi has a passion for water and chooses to focus his research efforts on understanding the genetic mechanisms governing crop-water relations, specifically identifying candidate genes conveying an increase in drought resistance while minimizing growth or yield penalties. Thus far, these identification efforts have been successful and through collaborations with other researchers and breeders, his work is informing sunflower breeding programs. 

A passionate science communicator, Rishi is an active citizen in the Athens, GA science community and has dedicated his free moments to increasing the public understanding of science and technology through numerous outreach and education efforts. In 2013, Rishi co-founded the Athens Science Café with other University of Georgia staff to facilitate a science dialogue between the university and the community. These science café events are free to the public monthly lectures covering a diversity of topics by a diversity of scientists, which encourage attendees to ask questions directly to knowledgeable authorities. Two years later, Rishi and other graduate students at the University of Georgia founded the Athens Science Observer, a blog community, as a way to train both graduate and undergraduate students on how to communicate their science effectively to public audiences. This organization has since grown to one of the largest science oriented student groups on campus, with writers from almost every science department on campus. In 2016, Rishi became a finalist in the University of Georgia 3-minute thesis competition, and was asked by the graduate school and various departments to help promote the event and train students. Within this last year, Rishi co-founded UGA SPEAR with other students to increase student involvement in science policy, and served as the graphic artist for the Athens, GA March for Science. He is also working with university, local, and federal science professionals to facilitate networking opportunities and increase community relationships across various science sectors in Athens, GA.

Nationally, Rishi has worked with the American Society of Plant Biologists to run science communication workshops, facilitate discussions on their online networking platform, and conduct interviews with plant biologists around the world to provide career guidance to young students. Finally, an artist in his free time, Rishi uses his artistic background to create educational animation videos and infographics, some of which have been adapted in University of Georgia curriculum. 



PhD Candidate, English, Duquesne University

MA, English, Duquesne University
BA, English and Cultural Studies, Chatham University

Alexandra Reznik’s work is guided by her dedication to empowerment. At Duquesne University, Alexandra is the Coordinator for the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies and a Racial Equality Social Justice Junior Research Fellow. As the General Coordinator and Webmaster for the Word and Music Association Forum, Alexandra works with scholars around the world to make the field of Word and Music Studies more inclusive. Her dissertation amplifies black women’s voices from the nineteenth-century in the context of United States performance history to explore the ways in which race, gender, and class impact navigating entertainment, legal, and educational institutions.

Alexandra’s research has grown out of the ways in which she teaches students how to understand their own navigation of systems of race, gender, and class.  In the classes she has taught, from first year writing to “Who Run(s) the World?”: Power and Performance in World Literature, she has led students by encouraging them to analyze and navigate power systems in literature and their lived experiences. Most recently, Alexandra had the opportunity to discuss her fall 2017 first-year writing class at Chatham University which focused on Beyonce Knowles-Carter’s visual album Lemonade with the Pittsburgh online cultural and news outlet, The Incline.

As a scholar-teacher who’s dedicated to fostering empowerment in the Pittsburgh community, Alexandra is a Higher Achievement mentor to two fabulous middle-school students, a facilitator for Girls Write Pittsburgh that provides writing workshops for girl-identified students ages 13-18, and guest lectures on Beyonce and feminism at The Neighborhood Academy. She has been recognized by Duquesne University’s Center for Teaching Excellence as a recipient of the Graduate Student Teaching Award and a Who’s Next in Education recipient from The Incline.