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Graduate Student Leadership Award Winner Announced

The Graduate College is pleased to announce the winner of the Graduate Student Leadership Award: Michelle Delcourt, a doctoral student in Mathematics. 

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

“The committee was truly impressed with the level of service and leadership represented among the pool of candidates,” Kim Shinew, Associate Dean of the Graduate College said. “These students are contributing to the campus and the community in meaningful ways, and are making a difference in lives of many people.  Their commitment was inspirational.”

Michelle Delcourt  Through her work with two math department organizations – Illinois Geometry Lab and Association for Women in Mathematics, Michelle has demonstrated exceptional leadership skills. She single-handedly pioneered and raised over $25,000 for the Sonia Math Days for Girls and Girls Engaged in Mathematics and Science (GEMS), wherein she created extremely successful workshops that have affected the lives of many young girls by introducing them to beauty within deep mathematics. Her work has led to ongoing partnership with Chicago Preparatory Science and Engineering Program that provides non-traditional learning opportunities in math and science to some of Chicago’s most underserved populations.

“When I tell people I'm a mathematician, they tell me one of two things: ‘Oh, you must be incredibly smart,’ or ‘I always hated math.’ That frustrates me so much because higher mathematics is very different from what you see in the school system. I go into school systems and they (the students) love color and pattern and problem solving and all of this is what math is. It's not memorizing formulas, or multiplication facts, it's thinking creatively and solving problems,” she said.

One of her recommenders noted: “Ms. Delcourt has affected many lives through her academic philanthropy, but equally important, her creation of [programming], community partnerships, and training initiatives for future graduate students will last long beyond her residence here and lead our department into the future. … [She] has a real passion for service and a mathematics intellect to match, with a compassion that makes her someone that others want to follow: this is the true definition of a leader.”

You can read more about Michelle on the Grad Life blog.


Five graduate students also received special recognition. They are:

Lydia Catedral - a doctoral student in Linguistics for creating professional development programs for area school teachers to help them serve diverse linguistic populations

Kaye Usry - a doctoral student in Political Science for her advocacy on issues of sexual and relationship violence on campus and in the community, including the development of an evaluation strategy for sexual assault-prevention programming

Katherine Magerko an MD/PhD student in Human & Community Development and the College of Medicine for her work with Avicenna Community Health Center and organizing an international and interdisciplinary team to examine health disparities

Katie Robinson a doctoral student in Nutritional Sciences for developing and teaching innovative classes at wellness camps for National Guard members and their families.

Maria Alejandra Bautista Chavarriaga a doctoral student in Microbiology for creating a dual language program to increase science literacy for native Spanish speaking children and their families in the local community

The awards were announced at the Image of Research/Graduate Student Leadership reception that took place on Wednesday, April 6 in the Illini Union.