Diversifying Higher Education Faculty fellowships

December 21, 2021

Seven SIU students earn Diversifying Higher Education Faculty fellowships

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Several Southern Illinois University Carbondale graduate students have been chosen for the highly competitive Diversifying Higher Education Faculty in Illinois Program, a fellowship program designed to increase the number of minority full-time tenure track faculty and staff at higher education institutions in the state.

The seven Salukis selected are: Evelyn Aden, Dakota Rose Discepolo, Quianya Enge, Steven Gear, Jeffrey Payne, Olivia Slater and Daniel VanOverbeke.

State diversity program

Established in 2004 by the Illinois General Assembly, the program is open to any Illinois graduate student who is a member of an underrepresented group. The program dovetails with the Illinois Board of Higher Education’s strategic plan, “A Thriving Illinois: Higher Education Paths to Equity, Sustainability and Growth.” After an extensive application process, the IBHE selected 47 new fellowship recipients and 56 continuing students.

Fellowship recipients receive a tuition waiver and monthly stipend. The fellows enjoy networking and conference opportunities as they prepare for careers in higher education. They agree to seek positions in Illinois higher education institutions, governing boards or education-related positions in a state agency after completing their graduate education.

Paul Frazier, vice chancellor for diversity, equity and inclusion, said having seven graduate students selected for the fellowship program speaks to the quality of SIU’s programs.

“The DFI program is a wonderful initiative by the Illinois Board of Higher Education to keep its best and brightest students in academia within the state of Illinois after they complete their graduate education,” Frazier said. “We are very proud to have these seven fellows representing SIU and are looking forward to seeing their continuing positive impact in higher education for many years to come.”

New SIU fellows

Evelyn_Aden-sm.jpg Aden, of Carbondale, Illinois, is a first-year MBA student who is already a double alumna of the university, having earned her master’s degree in professional media and media management studies and her bachelor’s degree in art history at SIU. She has been involved in Photogenesis, a registered student organization, as well as Professional Photographers of America while a student. Aden is a photographer, videographer and graphic artist.  Her goal is to work in an Illinois university or college that will allow her to continue to explore her multi-faceted creative pursuits and help others find theirs while also continuing to build her business.

Dakota_Discepola-sm.jpg Discepolo, a first-year doctoral student in animal science from Chicago, is a double SIU alumna with a master’s degree in animal science and a bachelor’s degree in animal science with a focus on pre-veterinary science. She has been involved in a variety of research projects during her undergraduate career due to her involvement with the McNair Scholars Program, through which she participated in various projects including the Student Research and Creative Activities Forum and the Illinois Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation program.

She was also president of the Native American Student registered student organization and active in the  Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science chapter. She rode on the SIU equestrian team for several years as well. After completing her doctoral degree, she plans to become an animal science professor, promoting opportunities in agriculture for minority students and those from urban areas with a goal of making careers in agriculture, and especially animal science, accessible to all students.

 Quianya_Enge2-sm.jpg Enge, of Chicago, is a second-year doctoral candidate in educational administration and higher education. She earned a master’s degree in workforce education and development at SIU and also a bachelor’s degree in inner city studies from Northeastern Illinois University. She is the chapter counselor for SIU’s Delta Chi chapter of Kappa Delta Pi, the international education honors society, and serves as a teaching assistant for the Chancellor’s Scholars Program. As a research assistant for the university’s Illinois Small Business Development Center, she has focused on developing ways to help people who have had encounters with the criminal justice system break down barriers they face when starting up a small business. Her goal is to become the director of a community college office of equity and inclusion.

Steven_Gear-sm.jpg Gear, of Kankakee, Illinois, is a fourth-year doctoral candidate in rehabilitation counseling and administration. He earned his undergraduate degree at SIU in criminology and criminal justice.  Gear is active in the Graduate and Professional Student Council, Graduate Assistants United, the NAACP and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. He will work in higher education after graduating and his eventual goal is to create his own non-profit program to help people who suffer from substance abuse and mental illness.

Jeffrey_Payne1-sm.jpg Payne, of East Saint Louis, Illinois, is a master’s student in counseling and rehabilitation education and expects to graduate in May 2022.  He earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology at SIU.  Payne is serving an internship with the Union County Counseling Services in Anna.  He plans to become a licensed clinical professional counselor and after working in higher education, plans  to open a private practice.

Slater, of Bloomington, Illinois, is a first-year doctoral student in pharmacology and neuroscience.  She earned a master’s degree in pharmaceutical sciences from the SIU School of Pharmacy and holds a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from SIU Edwardsville. She is involved in research investigating small molecules that have the potential to help patients who have sepsis. She plans to pursue a post-doctoral fellowship working in higher education before deciding on her chosen career path.

Returning fellow

Danny_VanOverbeke-sm.jpg VanOverbeke, of Lake Villa, Illinois, is doctoral student in economics and was initially chosen for the 2020-2021 academic year. VanOverbeke is a multiple SIU alumnus with bachelor’s degrees in economics, finance and business economics. He has also earned master’s degrees in accounting, economics, agricultural economics and media in mass communication and media arts. He plans to continue his work in economic development research after graduation. VanOverbeke hopes to become an economics professor and initially to teach in Israel for a year after graduation.