Success Stories

Juan Bibiloni-Rivera Selected as 2020 Truman Scholar

Juan Bibiloni-Rivera, a senior in Mechanical Engineering at ISU, has been selected as a 2020 Truman Scholar, becoming the first Truman Scholar at Iowa State in 14 years. In selecting Truman Scholars, the Harry S. Truman Foundation chooses extraordinary students who are highly motivated and high-achieving and present a passion for and dedication to public service. Becoming a Truman Scholar will allow Juan to pursue his dream of a career in public service to create public transit and infrastructure policy to enhance the lives of marginalized populations in the U.S. Through the application process, Juan worked closely with Laura Good, Assistant Director for Nationally Competitive Awards, and Kristin Terrill, the Nationally Competitive Awards Writing Consultant in the CCE.

"My written application would not have been successful in moving me forward to being named a 2020 Truman Scholar if not for the incredible guidance and help of Kristin Terrill from the CCE. My campus application was rough and in need of a lot of revising before I submitted it nationally. As an engineering student, this represented an especially difficult challenge for me. Nonetheless, Kristin went over every word with me to understand what message I wanted to communicate, and then discuss options for how I could communicate that message even better. Every week leading up to the application deadline, I would make an appointment with Kristin at different stages of my writing, and she always knew exactly how to structure our sessions to fit my ever-changing needs."


Cimone Wright-Hamor Awarded Pappajohn Scholarship

Cimone Wright-Hamor, a PhD candidate majoring in Computer Engineering, was recently granted the 2019 John and Mary Pappajohn Scholarship. This award recognizes students who are establishing their own business or are participating in the entrepreneurship programs on campus. With the funding, Cimone will investigate how the combination of courses impacts student attrition. This project is designed to help students matriculate through a bachelor’s degree while providing departments with a more accurate student headcount for future classes. Cimone received assistance from the CCE writing consultants to compose a compelling scholarship application.

"Working with the CCE on improving my application material has been an incredibly rewarding experience. Mitch, an Interdisciplinary Writing Consultant, prompted me with questions, which exposed hidden assumptions I made in regards to the topic. His inquiry about the subject encouraged me to restructure my application to be more cohesive, revealing my experiences and goals for the product. In addition, Mitch evaluated if I answered each question in the application. He pushed me to think deeper about the advantages of the product and how to strategically include them in the application. His feedback and constructive suggestions provided me with the guidance necessary to produce a comprehensive application. The CCE consultations have taught me how to polish application materials and significantly diminished my fear of feedback. I also use the CCE to polish my research papers and hold myself accountable to deadlines. The CCE is an excellent resource!"


Chase Krug Received National FFA Proficiency Award


Chase Krug is an Agronomy major in his sophomore year at Iowa State and was recently named among the top four recipients of the National FFA Proficiency Award in Plant Science. Chase, a former Borlaug-Ruan International Intern (2018), is also a 2019 John Chrystal Award recipient and recently published an article on the “Importance of Protecting the World’s Agricultural Genetic Diversity” on the World Food Prize organization blog. In October, Chase travelled to Indianapolis, Indiana to compete at the National FFA Convention, during which he received this distinguished proficiency award and ranked as one of the top awardees in the nation. Chase thanks Kristin Terrill, the Nationally Competitive Awards Writing Consultant in the CCE, for her assistance in helping him write the blog post for the World Food Prize John Chrystal Award.

"Kristin provided valuable feedback on my National FFA Proficiency Award in Plant Science. The application required the use of different writing styles, and Kristin helped me create a cohesive story that highlighted the most important features of my research and provided individual feedback on how to improve multiple sections of the application. Over multiple sessions, we were able to revise all portions of the application. Kristin was extremely helpful in generating ideas and topics that made my application stand out."


Martha Broadnax Named Finalist for Marshall Scholarship


Martha Broadnax, a Political Science major in her senior year at Iowa State, has been named a finalist for the prestigious Marshall Scholarship. Marshall Scholarship candidates are recommended for the award by an appointed university committee based on the student’s dedication to and demonstrated experience with scholarship, leadership, and service. Martha’s investment in local and campus community improvement, enthusiasm for resolving issues of social injustice, and work in local, state, national, and international political spheres has earned her this outstanding opportunity. If awarded the scholarship, Martha will join fewer than 50 U.S. students who will go on to study at an academic institution in the United Kingdom and work to build valuable ties among the British and American communities and institutions. In preparing her application package, Martha worked closely with Laura Good, the Assistant Director for Nationally Competitive Awards, her faculty mentor, former Marshall Scholar Dr. Richard Mansbach, and Kristin Terrill, the Nationally Competitive Awards Writing Consultant in the CCE. Speaking of the CCE’s support, Martha says:

"I credit the success of my essays to the CCE and Kristen Terrill. I came in with rough idea of what I wanted to present in my application, but Kristen really helped me polish my essays. This experience was more than just having someone edit my application. Kristen made it a point to ask what was most important to me and what I wanted to convey to the selection committee and helped me create my own voice. The CCE not only helped me create a strong personal statement that reflected who I was, but also helped me gain the confidence to apply for other Nationally Competitive Awards."


Lin Meng Received the 2019 FINESST Award


Lin Meng, a Ph.D. candidate majoring in Geology and Environmental Science, was recently granted the 2019 Future Investigators in NASA Earth and Space Science and Technology (FINESST) award. This award recognizes proposals for graduate student-designed research projects that contribute to NASA’s science, technology, and exploration goals. With the funding, Lin will investigate how light pollution and urban heat island impact tree growth in U.S. cities using remote sensing images. This project helps to answer one of the key questions in the global change field: how the terrestrial ecosystem changes under the changing world. Lin received much help of her advisor Dr. Yuyu Zhou, her collaborators, and CCE writing consultants to compose a compelling application.

"Working with the CCE on improving my application material has been an incredibly rewarding experience. Kim Becker assisted me in structuring my personal statement in a more straightforward and effective manner that shows my academic excellence by revealing my goals, experiences, attributes, and academic achievements. She walked me through the standards for evaluation one by one and pushed me to think more and deeper about my own advantages and potential by asking me questions. Her feedback helped me produce a refined and concise personal statement, which is one crucial part of the application package. The whole process taught me how to polish a strong application material, which will be useful for my future career. I also worked with Liberato Silva dos Santos in polishing my research papers and got great feedback! The CCE is a definitely fantastic resource and big thank you to you all!"


Jenny Phan Received NRSA Grant for Dissertation Research


Jenny Phan was awarded the F31 Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) Individual Predoctoral Fellowship from the National Institute of Mental Health. Jenny is a doctoral candidate in Human Development and Family Studies. Her NRSA-funded dissertation research focuses on puberty and autism. Her current training focuses on a window of human development - puberty. Jenny bridges her previous research work examining the interplay of biomarkers and behavioral outcomes with neurotypical and autistic adolescents. In her future postoc work, Jenny will examine trajectories of health outcomes in the autism population and their families to identify buffers and strategies and to mitigate caregiver burnout. Jenny's inspiration for this research comes from her children and from parents caring for autistic adolescents who need fact-based information.

Acknowledging the mentorship from her professors, Jenny is also grateful for the assistance she received from CCE: "With the help of Hardeep, an interdisciplinary writing consultant at the CCE, who was also a Predoctoral Fellow with NIH, I felt more at ease taking on a huge writing goal such as a national competitive fellowship grant. I met with Hardeep to go over my training plan and research strategies, specifically targeting language use, organization of content, and flow of information. With a first-hand experience as an awardee herself, Hardeep helped me understand and follow the grant application guidelines as well. I also want to credit the CCE for the years of experience I gained as a writing consultant because the continued education I have received from the Center really strengthened my writing abilities ."


Collin Powell Received 2019-2020 Fulbright Award


Collin Powell was awarded a Fulbright scholarship for the 2019 to 2020 academic year and is ISU’s first Fulbright student winner since 2014. Collin, who is currently studying in the Master’s program in Interior Design, will be heading to Vienna, Austria for his Fulbright stint to take classes, teach English, and conduct research on how the Viennese public housing system effectively serves a diverse population that includes recent migrants. With the help of Anne Grevstad-Nordbrock (Fulbright-Student advisor), Laura Good (Assistant Director for National Awards), and writing consultants like Mitch Stephenson in the Center for Communication Excellence (CCE), Collin was able to craft a compelling application.

Working with the CCE on the application process has been a dream. I hadn't seriously considered applying for a Fulbright until Laura Good convinced me otherwise and sent me directly to the CCE to meet with Mitch. The consultants at the CCE are experts at helping you take your raw ideas and filter them into a cohesive and cogent response that strengthens your goals and makes your application shine. In fact, working with the writing advisors has shifted my perspective on graduate school and helped me to hone my research interests, giving me better direction in both my academic and personal life. The CCE is a fantastic resource and their encouragement and support have helped me stay committed throughout this journey.


Min Zhang Offered Data Scientist Intern Position at Google


Min Zhang, a Ph.D. student majoring in Statistics, received an offer from Google to be a Data Scientist intern in the summer of 2019. This position requires a solid background in quantitative methods, strong skills in statistical modeling, and demonstrated intellectual merit. Min’s role at Google will involve working with large, complex geographical data sets to solve non-routine analysis problems by applying advanced analytical methods. The first screening round for applications is incredibly competitive, so Min deeply appreciates the generous help with her application materials provided by Mitch Stephenson, a CCE writing consultant, and Karin, the Graduate Career Services coordinator.

I was quite unsure about my internship application for the position of Data Scientist, and this offer from Google was in fact beyond my expectation. Mitch and Karin provided generous help with my application materials, including the curriculum vitae and cover letter. They gave me some professional suggestions that were quite useful for my preparation this time, and will also be useful for my future career. My consulting experience proved that they are excellent at digging out a candidate’s potential to match the employers’ needs. The CCE is definitely a great resource for job/intern hunters, because shining your selling points to others is, to some degree, an art of language, and the CCE is really good at this.


Majd Abdulghani Named Rhodes Scholar


Iowa State University alumna Majd Abdulghani, a student in the Genetics and Genomics M.S. program, was named the recipient of the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship, becoming the first ever Rhodes scholar from Saudi Arabia and the first Iowa State Rhodes scholar since 1995. While a student at ISU, Majd applied for the Rhodes Scholarship, a prestigious scholarship for individuals who are eager to enact and show enormous potential to affect positive change in the world. Rhodes scholars receive a fully funded education at Oxford University for two to three years in the field of their choosing. Majd completed her Rhodes Scholarship application with the help and encouragement of the ISU Honor's program staff, namely Laura Good and Dr. Svitlana Zbarska, and the Center for Communication Excellence (CCE), especially writing consultant Mitch. Majd remarks:

I barely dared to dream of even making it to the finalist stage, but here we are! Without Mitch's help, I doubt that I would have reached this stage as smoothly as I did. Mitch is a superb person to work with: easy to talk to, encouraging, and has a really good grasp of what scholarships like the Rhodes are asking for. Beyond helping me make my writing and my application stand out, he helped me better understand and articulate myself and my goals. These things have not only been beneficial for scholarship applications, but benefited my professional skills in general. Thank you to everyone in the CCE! You guys are awesome!


Elizabeth Lee Awarded Brown Fellowship Award


Elizabeth Lee is a Ph.D. student in the Applied Linguistics and Technology program at Iowa State University (ISU). She awarded the 2018-2019 Brown FellowshipAward, an award granted to deserving recipients aiming to enhance their research in their disciplinary area. With the funding, Elizabeth will devote much of her time to evaluating a diagnostic reading test given to non-native English speakers at ISU. Her project addresses a substantial missed opportunity in ESL reading assessment and pedagogy. Her research will reinforce the strength of using mixed methods to evaluate the validity of local language assessments and will also set an example for conducting systemic functional linguistic analysis in the realm of language assessment and evaluation.

Elizabeth extends a huge thanks to the CCE, and especially CCE writing consultant Mitch Stephenson, for helping her create a compelling fellowship application.


Hardeep Obhi Awarded Prestigious NIH Grant


Hardeep Obhi is a doctoral student majoring in Gerontology and an Interdisciplinary Writing Consultant for the Center for Communication Excellence. She was awarded a prestigious F31 Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) Individual Predoctoral Fellowshipfrom the National Institute of Aging in the National Institutes of Health. In her proposal, titled Biopsychosocial Reserves and Dementia: Identifying Life-span Protective Factors, she plans to utilize longitudinal data and interdisciplinary techniques to assess life-span protective factors against cognitive decline and dementia. Hardeep will augment training available to her at Iowa State University with support from this grant by partaking in rotations with mentors across the U.S., learning about the epidemiology of dementia, understanding biological underpinnings of cognitive dysfunction, and refining her analytical prowess. Results of her project will contribute to the understanding of life-span biopsychosocial reserves to promote cognitive health in later life as well as having implications for developing interventions and preventions for cognitive decline. We extend a big congratulations to Hardeep in this incredible achievement.


Liberato Silva dos Santos Selected for ETS Summer Program


Liberato Silva dos Santos is a PhD student in the Applied Linguistics and Technology program at Iowa State University (ISU) and works as an English Writing Consultant in ISU’s Center for Communication Excellence. Liberato was selected for an eight-week Summer Pre-Doctoral Research Experience Program at Educational Testing Service (ETS) in Princeton, NJ taking place in the summer of 2018. As an ETS SPRE intern, Liberato will assist ETS researchers who work on the National Assessment of Educational Progress program by addressing a key subject or technical need within NAEP or K12. He will assist his research mentor with investigating a business research issue specific to the project and will produce beginning plans for an innovative business-driven project. Liberato will also present his work in a public forum at ETS and gain exposure to research and working within a testing and assessment organization.

My current research and future dissertation is on language assessment and testing, so I could not be happier having the opportunity to be a research intern at ETS. I credit part of my success to the high quality, straightforward, "eagle-eye" input and feedback I received from fellow CCE writing consultants in a series of on-site and online consultations I attended. The combined feedback I received from consultants Angelica, Mitch, Angie, and Idée made my job application materials go from OK to excellent. My thanks also go to Sarah Huffman and Elena Cotos for providing such quality training to all CCE writing consultants and for bringing together such a diverse group, coming from different departments and fields of expertise. I believe this diversity was also crucial in enhancing my job application materials. So, this is a big thank you to all of you GPMs and supervisors at the CCE who helped me get here.”


Mohamed Elkashef Announced Recipient of 2018 Karas Award


Mohamed Elkashef, a recent PhD graduate from the Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering at Iowa State University (ISU), was awarded the ISU Graduate College's 2018 Karas Award, an award recognizing an outstanding dissertation that provides an original and unusually significant contribution. Elkashef was also awarded an honorable mention for the Zaffarano Award, which acknowledges superior performance in publishable research. Mohamed is currently working as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Davis. Elkashef shares his experience working with our writing consultants and how it helped him throughout his studies.

The ability to disseminate my research findings was crucial to my success. For many graduate students, writing up their research is a daunting task that can be more challenging than conducting the actual research. I had the chance to work with Sarah and Monica, CCE writing consultants, who provided me with invaluable feedback on my writing. They also guided me to a number of online resources available through the CCE thatproved very helpful to me. Working with the CCE allowed me to produce well-written manuscripts that required little editorial assistance from my faculty advisor and co-authors and progressed quickly through the publication process. As a graduate student, I had an excellent publication record, which earned me two Research Excellence Awards from the Graduate and Professional Student Senate and the Graduate College at ISU. Upon graduation, I received the Karas Award and an honorable mention on the Zaffarano Award. I owe this success to the many resources and facilities available to me at ISU, and the CCE was one of the greatest resources that majorly contributed to my success.


Reetam Das Awarded NSF Teaching Fellowship


Reetam Das is master’s student in the Mechanical Engineering department. Reetam was awarded a fellowship by the Trinect program, a program run by ISU in partnership with Des Moines Public Schools (DMPS) and funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The Trinect program aims to support 3rd to 5th grade elementary school teachers and student teachers to inspire K-12 students to take up a career in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). As a Trinect fellow, Reetam will act as a resident engineer in a triad with a student teacher in training and a cooperating teacher to help with planning and supporting enhanced learning of math and science and to act as a role model in the field. In the process of applying for this fellowship, Reetam worked with Jenny, our Interdisciplinary Writing Consultant, to build his application essay.

Jenny assisted me to structure the essay in a manner that helped me convey my thoughts in a more impactful and concise manner. Her input helped me improve the quality of my work drastically, and that helped me immensely to secure this fellowship. In my opinion, the CCE is a very valuable resource available to the students of ISU and I look forward to working with the writing consultants in the future as well.”