Hall, Schmitz earn Presidential Graduate Fellowships

Hall, Schmitz earn Presidential Graduate Fellowships

Elisha Hall (left) and Rachel Schmitz

University of Nebraska President Hank Bounds announced July 22 six recipients of 2015-16 Presidential Graduate Fellowships. The prestigious fellowships honor a select group of NU graduate students each year on the basis of high scholastic performance and personal accomplishment. Fellows receive a stipend provided through the NU Foundation that allows them to pursue their studies full-time.

This year, fellowships were presented to Elisha Hall and Rachel Schmitz of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Two students at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and two students from the University of Nebraska Medical Center also received fellowships.

“The students who receive Presidential Graduate Fellowships represent the highest level of success at the graduate level. We are incredibly proud of the work they do, and we are fortunate to have a level of private support that allows them to fully devote themselves to their studies and research,” Bounds said. “These students are already making important contributions to their fields that are benefiting the university and people in the state and beyond. I’m eager to see what they accomplish in the future.”

Hall, of Lincoln, is a doctoral student in human sciences. Her goal is to fight socioeconomic-related nutrition disparities to improve community health and well-being. Poor nutrition can affect school performance, sleep patterns, illness, chronic disease development and mental health; Hall said she believes each leads to a domino effect of other problems.

Her research in the field has already made significant impacts on industry literature: Hall developed, validated and piloted a survey that measured nutrition-based knowledge, behaviors and self-efficacy in fifth-graders, finding important disparities between students at low-income and high-income schools.

Hall's doctoral research evaluates an interactive elementary nutrition education program, examines the relationships between social cognitive theory constructs for low- and high-income groups, and explores rarely studied perspectives of teachers on classroom-based nutrition programming. Hall plans to one day teach and research in the field as a university professor. She hopes to create and evaluate programs that address the complexity of family life to in turn reduce health disparities, especially in children.

Schmitz, of Norfolk, is a doctoral student in sociology. Through her research, she hopes to provide better understanding of social phenomena. Her doctoral dissertation will focus on gender and sexuality among minority groups by studying LGBT members of the homeless community and LGBT college students. Schmitz has already achieved noteworthy success in the literary field. Thus far, Schmitz has seven scholarly publications, with four already published and three forthcoming, and has another four currently under review. Schmitz is the first sociology student in the department’s history to take both of her required comprehensive exams at the same time. Schmitz received her bachelor’s degree in sociology and Spanish from Wayne State College in 2009 before coming to UNL for graduate work. She plans to one day secure a job in academia and research disenfranchised groups, including homeless youth and LGBT young adults.

NU also awarded fellowships to Mackenzie Harms, a UNO doctoral student in industrial organizational psychology; Heather Hannaford, a UNO graduate student in English; Crystal Epstein, a University of Nebraska Medical Center nursing student; and Aditya Bade, a UNMC doctoral student in pharmacology and neuroscience.