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2021 Graduate Student Leadership Award Winners Announced

Jasmine Routon

The Graduate College is pleased to announce the winner of the 2021 Graduate Student Leadership Award:

Jasmine Routon, a doctoral student in Human Development and Family Studies.

Routon’s research focuses on the expereineces of rural LGBTQ+ individuals and families, particularly their experiences of poverty, housing instability, and other social inequalities. Routon's research critically engages with LGBTQ policy at the municipal, county, state, and federal levels to best understand capacity-building strategies for the health and wellbeing of queer populations. 

Driven by community-engaged research, advocacy, and social justice, Routon serves on various nonprofit boards, including the Board of Directors at Uniting Pride of Champaign County, the local organization that advocates for the equality, wellness, and visibility of LGBTQ+ communities. Through this role, Routon led the Training Committee which provides educational workshops, such as LGBTQ Cultural Competency, to a wide variety of institutions, including primary school classes, teachers and staff, University of Illinois teaching assistants, faith groups, and nonprofits. Routon also serves on the Equality Illinois Community Advisory Group to strengthen the advocacy network across the state of Illinois and on the Board of Directors for Queer Kentucky, a nonprofit working to bolster and enhance queer culture and health through storytelling, education, and action.

In granting Routon the award, the Graduate Student Leadership Award selection committee commended the “deep and wide impact” of Routon's work and the use of scholarly expertise to advocate for a material change in communities .

The Graduate College is also pleased to announce four recipients of Special Recognition in Graduate Student Leadership. They are:

Adithya Kuchibhotla is a doctoral student in Physics. Kuchibhotla has worked with Educational Justice Project in numerous capacities. The committee recognized Kuchibhotla’s outstanding mentorship experience leading other students involved in the Education Justice Project.

Julia Spielmann is a doctoral student in Psychology. Spielmann is recognized for co-leading the mindfulness discussion group as part of the Education Justice Project. The committee was impressed with Spielmann's passion and demonstration of authentic leadership in this initiative.

Julissa Nunez is a master's student in Agricultural & Biological Engineering and is recognized for working as part of a team to design clean drinking water systems for communities within the Navajo Nation. The committee commended Nunez for standing out as a leader amongst her peers in various aspects of her graduate work.

Leila Shinn is a doctoral student in Nutritional Sciences. Shinn has demonstrated leadership in creating "Grads Understanding Wellness IN Discussions (UNWIND)," a series of workshops and dialogues around topics related to wellness and mental health. The committee recognized Shinn’s extensive leadership experience both within her department and in the larger community.

Meet the Award Recipients

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The Graduate Student Leadership Award is sponsored by The Graduate College and its student advisory group, SAGE (Students Advising on Graduate Education). Begun in 2015, the award was created to recognize graduate students who have exhibited outstanding service that has positively impacted the campus or wider Urbana-Champaign community.

For more information about the Graduate Student Leadership Award, visit the Graduate College website at