Graduate Advocates

Graduate Life Fellows

Mission Statement
Graduate Life Fellows serve as ambassadors for the Graduate School to increase awareness of opportunities and resources, and provide support for graduate students from orientation through graduation. Working with the Graduate and Professional Student Government, they coordinate activities that foster diverse social and academic engagement. They strive to build graduate community and enhance student life, with the ultimate goal of elevating graduate education at UNC Charlotte.

Each year the Graduate School's Center for Graduate Life appoints a group of continuing graduate students to serve as Graduate Life Fellows (GLFs).  GLFs are awarded $5,000 for the academic year in exchange for their service. Application information can be found in the Spring semester.  

2018-2019 Graduate Life Fellows

Rajan Puri
Doctoral Candidate
Applied Mathematics - College of Liberal Arts & Sciences (Second-year Fellow)

Hello, my name is Rajan Puri! I am a PhD candidate in my fourth year of the Applied Mathematics program. My primary area of research interest lies in mathematical physics and partial differential equations. I am extremely pleased to be part of an active research community and GLF program that is both nurturing and supportive. My first year of Graduate Life Fellow program provided me an excellent opportunity to develop my soft skills and most importantly gave me an exposure to various social and academic engagement.  I hope to continue to engage, share, support, and build strong and vibrant student community here at UNC Charlotte. I’m excited again about representing graduate students in various student activities to best address our graduate needs. Originally from the beautiful country of Nepal, I certainly enjoy being outdoors in nature. Please feel free to share your graduate experience, ideas, and reach out with any questions that you might have. Come see me at the Center for Graduate Life (Cone, 268) during my office hours on Thursdays from 1-3:00pm.

Austin Jeffries
Doctoral Candidate
Biological Sciences - College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, Graduate Life Fellow (Second-year Fellow)

Hello, my name is Austin Jeffries and I am a PhD candidate starting my fourth year in the Department of Biological Sciences. My research focuses on how different brain cell types elicit inflammatory responses to viral pathogens and discovering how we could mitigate this inflammation. I am excited to be joining the GLF program for another year to continue creating exciting social and career development opportunities for the upcoming Fall and Spring semesters. I am passionate about promoting graduate health and speaking out for the needs of graduate students. As a cohort of future leaders, I believe it is important that we are given the tools necessary to excel during graduate school to maximize our education and career opportunities. Because of this, I am also a proponent of healthy eating and exercise in graduate school. If you need any tips on maintaining a healthy lifestyle while in graduate school, want to voice your concerns about graduate programs, or have ideas for future events and/or opportunities come see me at the Center for Graduate Life (Cone, 268) during my office hours on Wednesdays from 4-6:00pm. I wish the best for our community in their endeavors!

Ana Orejuela
Doctoral Student
Health Psychology - College of Liberal Arts & Sciences

I am a sixth year doctoral student in the Health Psychology PhD Program (clinical concentration) and my research focuses on posttraumatic growth, especially among minority communities. Given my interest in health psychology, I am very passionate about promoting wellness and self-care among graduate students. I am originally from Puerto Rico, and understand that being in a different cultural environment and far away from home can add an additional layer of stress to the graduate school experience. As a GLF, I hope to encourage graduate students across disciplines to create a sense of community not just with each other, but also with the broader Charlotte community in which our university is embedded. For fun, I love to practice martial arts and yoga. While I greatly miss the beaches back home, I’ve greatly enjoyed exploring the beautiful mountains of NC. Please feel free to stop by the CGL during my office hours on Thursdays from 1:00-3:00pm.

Rachel Saunders
Doctoral Student
Counselor Education & Supervision - College of Education

Hello everyone, I am a second-year doctoral student in the Counselor Education and Supervision program. I received my Master's in Counseling from UNC Charlotte, so I am a proud Niner at heart. Prior to starting my doctoral program, I served as a school counselor and high school coach in Cabarrus County. I am originally from Fayetteville, NY, but I have been living in the Charlotte-area for over 6 years. I currently serve as the President for Mu Tau Beta, the Counseling Honor Society chapter of Chi Sigma Iota. I wanted to become a Graduate Life Fellows to help build a sense of community for graduate students and serve as a listening ear to anyone who may be coping with the challenges of being a graduate student. Graduate students have multiple roles to balance, and the Center for Graduate Life offers great resources and support systems to help enjoy the roller coaster ride of being a graduate student. Visit me during my office hours on Tuesdays from 1:00-3:00pm.

Babak Bahrani
Doctoral Student
Infrastructure & Environmental Systems - College of Engineering

I am a third-year PhD student in the Infrastructure and Environmental Systems (INES) program. I have started as a graduate student here in 2013, and received my Masters in Fire Protection and Administration in 2015 from UNC Charlotte, so I’ve been a Niner for 5 years now! My research interests includes wildland fires, human behavior in emergencies, and structural fire safety. I have been cooperated with different undergraduate and graduate student organizations during the past five years. Also, I had a chance to attend numerous event held by the Center for Graduate Life (CGL), which was a truly great experience, and a discovery of joy of learning. I chose to be a GLF because I believe it is time to contribute more to the UNCC graduate community and pass the torch. I hope our team could assist you, the graduate students at UNCC, to enjoy as well as benefit from your graduate life here. I would be more than happy to meet and assist you, so please stop by at CGL for a chat and a cup of coffee during my office hours on Wednesdays from 3:00-5:00pm.

Tonderai Mushipe
Doctoral Student
Geography & Urban Regional Analysis - College of Liberal Arts & Sciences

I am currently a PhD student in the Urban Regional Analysis program in the Geography Department.  I also obtained both my Bachelor’s degree (Economics) and Master’s degree (Public Administration) from UNC Charlotte, so I am a full-blooded 49er. My research interests include how to make economic development accessible and beneficial to all populations within a locale. I am currently working on a multi-year research project that will study the impact of the extension of the light rail on the socio-economic conditions of the neighborhoods along this line.

Outside of class I have always been passionate about peer-mentoring.  I have been especially involved with programs offered by the Office of Multicultural Academic Services at UNC Charlotte, Student Ambassadors and Toastmasters International. It’s my strong belief that success as a student is strongly dependent upon feeling like you’re part of the larger university community. I am therefore excited to be joining the wonderful team of Graduate Life Fellows.  As graduate students it is easy to get tunnel vision and only interact with individuals within your program, but yet there is much to be gained by accessing resources and students outside one’s program. When my schedule and the weather permit I like to play tennis or golf (Not very good yet) and grilling out.  There are a lot of cool cultural events in Charlotte that I like to go to when I get the chance. I am always happy to meet graduate students so feel free to stop by the Center for Graduate Life (CGL) and say hello during my office hours on Monday mornings from 9-11am.

Paige Neroda
Master’s Student
Public Health-College of Health and Human Services

Hi, my name is Paige Neroda and I am a 2nd year student in the Master of Public Health Program.  My research interests include social determinants of health and how they impact healthcare access, especially when it comes to mental health.  During my time at UNC Charlotte, I have been an active member of GPSG, serving as both the Secretary of Public Relations as well as a member of the Senate Finance Committee.  I strongly believe in the importance of connectedness and social well-being, and am excited to be able to help graduate students reach optimal levels of these concepts through serving as a GLF.  I hope to be able to provide some insight in to what it means to get the most out of your graduate school experience through what I’ve learned from my own personal involvement.  In my spare time, I enjoy doing anything creative, from crafting to graphic design, and I also love to travel!  Come see me during my office hours on Wednesdays from 12:00-2:00pm at the CGL and we can chat!

The Graduate Life Fellows can be reached through the Center for Graduate Life email.