GradThriving was developed by staff and faculty at multiple universities who are passionate about supporting underrepresented students in STEM. We hope to empower you to demystify challenges that you may face in graduate school and provide you with practical and beneficial resources that will help you succeed in your graduate program. This work was supported by the National Academy of Engineering's (NAE) Connecting Efforts to Support Minorities in Engineering Education Workshop and mini-grant program. To learn more about this project, please click here.

To learn more about the National Academy of Engineering, please click here.

Scroll down to learn more about GradThriving partners. You can also email us at

Dr. Shernita Lee

Dr. Shernita Lee is the Assistant Dean and Director of the Virginia Tech Graduate School's Office of Recruitment, Diversity, and Inclusion.

Dr. Lee's training is in discrete computational biology but she also specializes in student engagement, programming, and outreach. She holds a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Alabama State University and a doctorate from Virginia Tech in genetics, bioinformatics, and computational biology.

Lee is passionate about creating a diverse and inclusive environment for graduate students, improving graduate student retention, aiding in the navigation of challenges graduate students encounter, and directing students to university/departmental resources and advocates to help them successfully complete their degree.

Dr. Liz Karr is the Associate Dean of the Graduate College at the University of Oklahoma. She has also been a faculty member there since 2007.

Dr. Karr was a first-generation college student that began her higher education journey at a community college before moving on to a regional four-year college. It was there that she discovered a love for research in the field of microbiology and decided to pursue graduate school. Initially, she started graduate school as a master's student, unsure of what to expect and if it suited her.

Dr. Karr transitioned to the Ph.D. program by the end of her first year of graduate school. She credits her success to strong, engaged mentors and a robust support system. In her role as Associate Dean, she strives to make graduate education accessible to all and remove barriers preventing students from succeeding even when challenges arise.

Dr. Liz Karr

Dr. Jackie McDermott

Dr. Jackie McDermott joined the College of Engineering at Purdue University in August 2018 and is the Associate Director of Graduate Diversity and Inclusion.

Jackie completed her B.S. in Biology from Hofstra University with minors in Spanish and Biochemistry, and her Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Biology from Brandeis University. As the first person in her family to obtain a graduate degree, Jackie is enthusiastic about preparing future graduate students as well as supporting current graduate students during their Master's and Doctoral studies. She works closely with the Sloan Indigenous Graduate Partnership (SIGP) Scholars and attends the national NSBE, SHPE, and SWE conferences annually.

Jackie is passionate about supporting historically underrepresented students and making a more diverse, equitable and inclusive Purdue Engineering.

Nina Parshall has over a decade of experience in high education working in the areas of student recruitment, mentoring and support. She currently serves as the Director of Graduate Recruitment Support in the College of Engineering at The Ohio State University, where she develops strategic data-driven recruitment initiatives, manages the college fellowship competition and facilitates an alumni and peer mentoring program. In addition to student recruitment and programming she is closely involved with undergraduate research in which she manages an NSF Site REU program, chairs a campus-wide committee for summer research experiences and works to raise awareness about research with undergraduate students in the college.

Nina serves on Liaison International's EngineeringCAS Advisory Board where she collaborates and partners with universities and other board members to advance enrollment and participation in graduate engineering programs. She was recently honored with the College of Engineering Inclusive Excellence Award for her continuous effort in the area of diversity, equity and inclusion. Nina earned both her B.S. and M.S. in Civil Engineering at The Ohio State University.

Nina Parshall

Stephen McBride

Stephen McBride is the Assistant Director of Graduate Student Success for Purdue University's College of Engineering.

Stephen is also a PhD candidate in Agricultural Sciences Education and Communication at Purdue University, and prior to beginning his doctoral studies at Purdue, he had been an auto, home, and life insurance agent for Farm Bureau Insurance in Decherd, Tennessee. With a strong background in leadership development and career preparation, Stephen received many of the highest honors in both the National 4-H and National FFA Organizations.

During his year of service as the National FFA Southern Region Vice President, Stephen was trained as a professional facilitator and keynote speaker while representing the National FFA Organization on his visits to more than 30 states and Japan. Stephen is passionate about student development and connecting students with the resources and training they need to achieve their career goals

Steven Crossley received his Ph.D. in chemical engineering at University of Oklahoma in 2009. After graduation, he conducted research at ConocoPhillips, now Phillips 66, prior to rejoining the University of Oklahoma as an Assistant Professor in 2011.

His research focuses on fundamental understanding of the complex and dynamic interfaces involved in important chemical reactions in areas related to energy, sustainable chemicals, and nanomaterials synthesis. He is currently leading several large grants in the areas of waste plastics conversion and upcycling and CO2-free hydrogen production. Dr. Crossley is the recipient the NSF CAREER award and holds the Teigen Presidential Professorship and Sam A. Wilson professorship. He served as the CATL division Programming Chair for ACS national meetings (2019-2020), member-at-large of the division (2020-2022), and alternate councilor (2023-2024). He also serves as president for the Great Plains Catalysis Society (2022). Dr. Crossley is an Energy Faculty Fellow in the Institute for Resilient Environmental and Energy Systems (IREES) at OU. Dr. Crossley is registered member of the Cherokee tribe and works to facilitate the success of Native American students in STEM fields.

He serves as faculty advisor for the University of Oklahoma's award-winning American Indian Science and Engineering (AISES) chapter.

Dr. Steven Crossley