Commencement Award Winners
The Guy Stevenson Award for Excellence in Graduate Studies
Ph.D. Public Health Sciences
Mentor: Professor Monica Wendel
The Guy Stevenson Award for Excellence in Graduate Studies honors a former dean of the Graduate School and is presented to an outstanding doctoral degree recipient who has demonstrated excellence in both scholarship and leadership within the discipline, and has made significant contributions to teaching and/or service. Trinidad Jackson is the recipient of this year’s Stevenson award and as such, serves as the Graduate School’s outstanding student and will deliver a speech for the Hooding and Commencement ceremonies.
Trinidad Jackson is a proud son of St. Louis, MO, but can make his home anywhere. He transitioned from “U. City” to Kentucky State University to explore an undirected academic path; he found homes within biology and psychology programs in addition to the Whitney Young Honors College. Thereafter, he obtained graduate degrees and worked in clinical psychology and public health domains across communities in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Ghana
In November 2014, the fight for collective liberation summoned Trinidad’s mind, body, and spirit back to St. Louis as a disruptor and social movement scientist. The Ferguson Uprising—sparked by Ferguson Police Department’s murder of Michael Brown—provided a landscape that carried his critical social action research from St. Louis to Louisville. Upon returning to Louisville in 2015, he led community-based participatory research that explored power, oppression, and the need for critical consciousness and action through lenses of justice, safety, hope, and racial equity. This engagement and critical community-generated data were foundations for his team’s ultimate CDC Center of Excellence designation for violence prevention research. Their approach deviated from traditional violence prevention by hiring youth to engage in teaching, learning, and co-leading efforts addressing structural violence and liberation. During this same time period, Trinidad was the lead evaluator for Pivot to Peace—a collaborative effort across Louisville that recruited gunshot and stab wound victims from their hospital beds to engage in communal healing and community building. His work has been disseminated at local, national, and international levels through academic publications, presentations, and art.
Trinidad has engaged in multiple fellowships with organizations focused on sociopolitical transformation including Kentuckians for the Commonwealth and BMe, an organization working to transform Black communities locally and nationally. In July 2020—during racial justice uprisings across the country, he presented to Louisville Metro Council, urging it to declare racism a public health crisis. He felt it critical to catalyze government responsibility for a social phenomenon that kills so many people daily. In December 2020, an executive order addressing this crisis was declared, but the city has monumental gains to make before racially minoritized people are not suffering from premature death rooted in legacies of white supremacy.
He is a board member for the Minority Mental Health Project and has volunteered on numerous committees for entities across the city including the University of Louisville, Louisville Metro Government, Jefferson County Public Schools, and Louisville Urban League. In April and May 2021, he was respectively selected for new leadership roles: Assistant Dean for Culture and Liberation at the University of Louisville School of Public Health and Senior Advisor to the Commissioner within Kentucky’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services to address policies, systems, and environments in ways that prioritize humanity. He has been presented with the Center for Women and Families’ Nolen Allen Man of Distinction and the Outstanding Student/Employee of the Year awards for his professional and community-related efforts. Trinidad was inducted into Kentucky State University’s 2021 Forty under Forty class, and he was honored with a proclamation for Trinidad Jackson Day (June 26) in the city of Louisville.
The John Richard Binford Memorial Award
Robert Eric Shoemaker
Mentor: Professor Alan Golding
Robert Eric Shoemaker is the recipient of the John Richard Binford Memorial Award, which honors a former chairman of the Department of Psychology. This award recognizes a doctoral degree recipient who excels in scholarship and has contributed to other areas within the discipline such as leadership, teaching, or service.
Robert Eric Shoemaker is a prolific poet and interdisciplinary artist. Eric holds an MFA in Creative Writing & Poetics from the Jack Kerouac School at Naropa University and today receives his doctoral degree in Humanities at the University of Louisville. Eric’s work focuses on magical poetics, public history, and gender and sexuality.
Eric has published three books of hybrid poetry, memoir, and playwriting: Ca’Venezia (2021, Partial Press), We Knew No Mortality (2018, Acta Publications), and 30 Days Dry (2015, Thought Collection Publishing). Eric has published scholarly work in Signs and Society, Jacket2, Entropy, and Gender Forum; translations in Asymptote; Exchanges; The Adirondack Review; and Columbia Journal; stage plays in Plath Profiles; poetry in Analogies & Allegories; Tiny Spoon; Bombay Gin; The Gordian Review; Barely South Review; Verde Qué Te Quiero Verde; Kairos; and other journals; prose in Miracle Monocle; and essays in Mount Analogue; Roar; and other journals.
Eric’s play, “Barrens,” a translation of Federico García Lorca’s “Yerma,” won the inaugural Orinda Award for Best New Translated Play from the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of America. Eric is also the author of the duet musical “PLATH/HUGHES”, which was awarded the 2014 Olga and Paul Menn Foundation Prize for Best Play. He is the Poetry Editor for the journal Plath Profiles and serves as a member of the University of Chicago Arts Alumni Board and the Sarabande Books Young Professionals Board.
In addition to being a prolific writer and translator, Eric is a generous colleague and community- engaged scholar. His nominator, Dr. Simona Bertacco, Humanities’ Director of Graduate Studies, writes that “Eric Shoemaker will leave a huge void not only in our graduate community but also in Louisville where he organized poetry readings, led poetry workshops, and collaborated with many art boards and organizations. He is the Poetry Editor for the journal Plath Profiles and serves as a member of the University of Chicago Arts Alumni Board and the Sarabande Books Young Professionals Board.” Eric has recently accepted a job at the prestigious Poetry Foundation in Chicago to bring his ideas of public engagement to this historical institution.
The John M. Houchens Prize for Outstanding Dissertation
Heba ElSayed Mohamed Kandil
Ph.D. Computer Science and Engineering
Co-mentors: Professors Ayman El-Baz and Adel Elmaghraby
Heba ElSayed Mohamed Kandil is the winner of the John M. Houchens Prize, which honors a former registrar of the university and is awarded to the doctoral student who presents the most meritorious dissertation for the current commencement.
Heba received her B.Sc. and M.S. degrees in computer science from Mansoura University, Mansoura, Egypt. In August 2016, she joined the Bioimaging Laboratory at the University of Louisville, Louisville, KY, and today she earns her Ph.D. in the Computer Science and Engineering Department at the University of Louisville. Her current research is focused on developing new computer-assisted diagnostic (CAD) systems for diagnosing severe diseases correlated with cerebrovascular changes in human beings. According to Dr. Wei Zhang, chair of her department, Heba’s dissertation “not only surmounts a high bar in achievement but also promises to leave a strong impact on the pre-diagnosis of severe diseases such as hypertension. Hypertension afflicts 1 in every 3 adults and is a leading cause of mortality of about 4100,000 in the United States. . . . If not medically controlled in the early stages, hypertension would cause severe medical complications such as vision loss, heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure, brain lesions, and cognitive impairment. Therefore, the early detection or prediction of the disease is a top medical concern. The work presented in this dissertation focuses on developing a new noninvasive CAD system that possesses the ability to make an early prediction of hypertension by tracking the changes in humans’ cerebral vascular systems that develop before the onset of hypertension.” The dissertation also offers a very promising framework for diagnosing other cerebrovascular diseases
Heba’s mentor, Dr. Ayman ElBaz notes that she has a “proven record, diligence, and prolific endeavors in the medical imaging field and that she has demonstrated her ability to be successful in this area of research. During her research, Heba published the reported results in top international conferences and prestigious journals.” Heba has authored and co-authored 18 publications (6 journal articles, 6 conference papers, 2 book chapters, and 4 abstracts).
The Alice Eaves Barns Award Outstanding Achievement in Master’s Program
M.S.S.W. Social Work
Mentor: Assistant Professor Shawnise Miller
The Alice Eaves Barns Award is named in honor of Mrs. Alice Eaves Barns for her many years of outstanding service as a staff member of the Graduate School. This award recognizes a student who has displayed tenacity in the face of adversity while attaining excellence in both the classroom and outside endeavors. The award is given in recognition of outstanding achievement in a master’s program. Vickie Stone is this year’s recipient of the Barns award, and she tells her own story in her words here:
I have faced many obstacles throughout life, only to power through, letting nothing stand in my way. Born to elderly parents, I had little parental guidance and structure at a young age. Subsequently, I had quit going to school by the sixth grade. By the age of 18, I had become an unwed, single, teenage mother of two. Enduring the trauma of my mother’s death I turned to drugs and alcohol for the next 20 years. With little education, I became a server to support my children as well as my addiction. I lived and worked as a functioning addict until my children became of age and moved out. After a short stay at Jefferson Alcohol and Drug Abuse Center, I signed myself out against the recommendation of my counselor only to wake the next morning from an accidental overdose. I made a vow to God that day and declared, “If you let me walk away from this one, I will never look back”.
In August 2008, I started living a life of sobriety by making meetings twice a day, finding a group home, getting a sponsor, and working the steps. That was just the beginning for me as I learned how to live a clean life. I lived in many different states over the next five years until I was asked one day by a loved one, “What makes you happy?” That question turned my life around. In 2013, I successfully achieved my General Education Diploma and moved back to Louisville. The next year, I was able to enroll in college, and there I spent the next four years working on my education. In May 2018, I graduated from Jefferson Community and Technical College with an Associate in Arts and an Associate in Applied Science degree. I then went on to enroll as a student at the University of Louisville pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work. My first semester at U of L ended with a grade point average of 3.97 due to the help of my classmates/professors and my own dedication and hard work. In May of 2020, I successfully completed the Bachelor’s program, but due to Covid-19, my long-awaited graduation was held through a zoom link. Upon graduation I decided to pursue my Master’s degree so I enrolled in the Advance Standing Program. Ideally, I would graduate within a year. However, in January 2021, I contracted COVID. As a result, I was placed in the hospital and within days my health had declined, and I was moved into the Intensive Care Unit. After my left lung collapsed, I was placed on a ventilator for 10 days, hospitalized 30 days, in rehabilitation for 11 days, and lived with my sister for 30. I was due to graduate that semester, but I withdrew in order to heal.
Today I am considered a covid long hauler, and even though covid has permanently damaged my lungs, heart, and my memory I was determined to finish getting my degree. I will receive my master’s degree this May and expecting to graduate again with a high GPA. I have persevered through many challenges, and today I stand here stronger, wiser, more resilient than I have ever been, and I thank God for bringing me through this journey.
The Virginia “Jenny” Madden Award for Graduate Student Leadership and Service
Erica Von Proctor Lewis
M.F.A. Studio Art and Design
Mentor: Professor Ying Kit Chan
Artist EVPL with their altered object installation The American Dream (2021). Photographed by Emily Rose Tucker.
The Virginia “Jenny” Madden Award for Graduate Student Leadership and Service is named in honor of Virginia “Jenny” Madden for her many years of service to the Graduate School, the Staff Senate, and the University of Louisville community. The award recognizes a master’s degree recipient who exhibits leadership through service to the recipient’s program, college, discipline, the University as a whole, and/or the community. Erica Lewis is this year’s recipient of the Madden award.
Erica Lewis is a third-year M.F.A. student in the Hite Institute of Art & Design at the University of Louisville, publishing and exhibiting under their initials of EVPL. Lewis grew up in Huntsville, Alabama and graduated from the University of Montevallo in 2019 with a B.A. in English, interested in Rhetoric, and a B.F.A. in Studio Art, concentrating in both Drawing and Printmaking. This spring, Lewis is graduating from UofL with their M.F.A. in Studio Art & Design, the terminal degree for studio artists. However, Lewis will continue their education at UofL this fall in the Comparative Humanities Ph.D. program on the Public Arts & Letters track.
Inspired by the graphic qualities of traditional printmaking, Lewis creates works that are predominately black and white across their use of various mediums, employing a striking and graphic appearance that unites the work across its various materials. (That said, Lewis does diverge from this aesthetic at times to preserve a rhetorical commentary or to preserve the history of a found object). Although they entered UofL as a 2D artist, Lewis’s thesis exhibition largely uses cast objects and altered found object sculptures, led more by their concepts and a tactile viewer experience than by a singular material. Conceptually, Lewis is interested in researching and addressing bias and its integration into daily life through faulty systems, standards, and defaults. For instance, their sculpture The American Dream is an altered found object sculpture consisting of a door with three knobs. Lewis hopes that by viewers suspending disbelief in a gallery setting, they can reach new understandings of the way the world is structured to give privilege to some and to exclude others.
Lewis’s mentor, Professor Ying Kit Chan, wrote that his mentee is an exemplary graduate student, a model citizen, and a natural leader. “Erica has a strong sense of responsibility, impeccable work ethic, awareness of justice, and always works toward a better world.” An abbreviated but illustrative list of their many acts of service to the department, the College of Arts and Sciences, the University, and the community follows: serving the Graduate Network of Arts & Sciences for three years (as representative, Treasurer, and then President); advocating for a new Art History textbook to combat the Western bias of the art canon; working with an undergraduate mentee to create new visual aids for how to draw a face from observation instead of often used yet biased “standards,” formatting an undergraduate student’s artwork into a #BlackLivesMatter #StopAsianHate banner to display on campus and promote the artwork; teaching art classes for Louisville Visual Art and the Shawnee Boys & Girls Club; helping to install/deinstall work from visiting artists/collectives into/out of UofL spaces; volunteering as the Hite Printshop Manager to learn about and help maintain the shop; representing Hite at the Portland Art & Heritage Fair for three years to live print shirts for free. As their mentor notes, Erica’s “leadership and volunteer work has greatly enhanced our community and the University.”