Celebrating TXST graduate students for Graduate Student Appreciation Week

April 5, 2024 | Kate Malazonia
Publications Writer, The Graduate College

On March 19, 2024, the mayor of San Marcos, the honorable Jane Hughson, proclaimed April 1-5 to be “Graduate Student Appreciation Week.”

Notably, Mayor Hughson highlighted the impact of the Texas State University graduate community, saying, “The economy of the city of San Marcos is strengthened by the research and development efforts of graduate students."

To celebrate and showcase the brilliant minds that fuel our University’s mission each day, The Graduate College has highlighted one graduate student from each of the 7 academic colleges at TXST. These outstanding students include Dominique Gia Alfaro, Lauren Green, Cheri Hatcher, Kendalle Howard, Idza Luhumyo, Norman Torres, and DeShawn Truitt.

Dominique Gia Alfaro - Applied Arts

Alfaro is pursuing her master of science in human nutrition and she currently holds a position as a Graduate Instructional Assistant.

Alfaro’s interest in nutrition began with a family member.

“When my aunt suffered from gestational diabetes and was seen by a registered dietitian, she was prescribed various dietary and lifestyle adjustments that helped her and her baby. Being a healthcare professional has always been my dream.”

Through nutrition, Alfaro hopes to “touch as many lives as possible.” 

Alfaro’s current area of research is community nutrition through programs such as “Food Security LEADers” and “Bobcat Bounty” which focus on community health and access to fresh fruits and vegetables. 

Headshot of Dominique G. Alfaro

“The significance of this research is to further understand the impact of food insecurity on college students and how to build community capacity through the implementation of food pantries on campuses.” 

She attributes the opportunities she has been given to her professor and employer, Lesli M Biediger-Friedman, Ph.D., who has provided her with various opportunities to develop. Additionally, resources such as the University Writing Center have also been instrumental in her research.

“The Writing Center has been the biggest help in assisting me with the writing of my academic papers. Specifically, they have supported me by improving and honing my skills in academic research.”

After the completion of her TXST Dietetic Internship, Alfaro will take her Texas Certification Exam. 

“My long-term goal is to work with the USDA or become a Clinical Registered Dietician. I also would like to dive into some community nutrition and work with state programs, like Texas The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).”

Lauren Green – Fine Arts and Communication

Green is completing her master of arts in communication studies and is a Graduate Assistant. Green was awarded the 2021 Texas State University Regents’ Student Scholar and the 2022 LBJ Outstanding Senior Student award. 

“My scholastic interests center on fostering connection and communication in relationships and workplaces. I was enrolled in the introductory course and fell in love with the content.”

Headshot of Lauren Green

Green credits Mark Paz II, a senior lecturer in the Department of Communication Studies, who has been an extraordinary leader and mentor to her.

“He has taught me so much about the art of teaching and provides a living example of how transformative student connection is.”

Additionally, Kristen Farris, Ph.D., has also been an inspiration to Green throughout her academic journey. 

“Dr. Farris has instilled a supreme work ethic in me and has fueled me to not accept anything but my very best.”

As a member of the Gold Star Society, the Graduate House, and the Communication Studies Graduate Association, Green is heavily involved in the Bobcat community and with San Marcos at large. 

“These have been incredible opportunities for me to foster deeper relationships with my cohort and allow me a breather from all the stressors of graduate school.”

Green began her university career being very scared and almost dropped out. Now, she has found what she describes as, “a loving community and purpose at TXST.”

She added, saying, “My journey at TXST has been one of great trials, unimaginable triumphs, and much discovery. I want my story to be a living example that it does get better and no hardships last forever. The greatest gift that I can receive as a student is the ability to be heard. This makes me feel like the University not only cares about students but wants to serve them successfully.” 

With her future work, Green hopes to inspire and be a source of light for others.

“My current career goals are to launch a podcast centering around the power of communication, and to eventually launch my own lifestyle company.”

Cheri Hatcher – Education

Hatcher is pursuing a Ph.D. in adult, professional, and community education (APCE). Within the APCE program, she has a Doctoral Research Assistant position where she works with Joellen Coryell, Ph.D. on tasks related to Coryell’s research agenda. Additionally, Hatcher is the recipient of the Dreeben, Gowens, Merrick, and Spoonamoore Doctoral Merit Fellowship, and a nominee for the Graduate Student Ambassador program.

After a 20-year career in academic publishing, Hatcher decided to pursue a Ph.D. as a “returning later-in-life” student. Hatcher delved into the importance of an affordable education saying, “I was applying for programs during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and funding for most programs was precarious at best.”

Headshot of Cheri Hatcher

As an older student, Hatcher realized that she had less time to see the return on her investment if she depended on loans to pay for her education. Through her fellowship at TXST, she could enroll in her Ph.D. program and continue her journey of education.

Being a non-traditional student has only fueled Hatcher’s eagerness to be involved in the TXST community. 

“As an ardent advocate of lifelong learning, it makes me more prepared in unique ways. While being an older student may incline some people to recede into their program or research and not engage in the University in other ways, I have resolved not to do that.”

Hatcher has welcomed every opportunity for development; recently, she enrolled in a short-term study-abroad course and spent a month in Italy. In February 2024, she spent three weeks at the Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg, in Würzburg, Germany, attending the Adult Education Academy.

“I am incredibly grateful to the TXST STAR grant funders who have partially funded me for both trips to Germany and Italy– thank you! I also want to thank Dean Michael O’Malley, College of Education, and Dr. Kevin Fall, the Chair of my department, who generously offered me funding to help with the added expense of these experiences.”

Hatcher’s dissertation topic is about skilled immigrant women, asking questions about how their aspirational capabilities, transferable skills, and gender play a role in their career trajectories once they have moved to their new destination country. 

She credits Joellen Coryell, Ph.D. for being one of the sources of her motivation saying, “I have enjoyed working closely with her on many projects, resulting in unique professional connections with new colleagues across the world.”

In the future, Hatcher aspires to teach and continue with her research goals.

“One of the most important reasons I am on this Ph.D. journey is to do work that is more reflective of my morals and aligned with my values. I see myself within the mission of TXST, which makes me feel appreciated.” 

Kendalle Howard – Science and Engineering

Howard is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in materials science, engineering, and commercialization (MSEC) while working as a Doctoral Instructional Assistant. 

Having always been a curious person, Howard soon realized that engineering was the best field for her to be in.  

“As my academic career progressed, I was introduced to the world of microeelectromechanical systems (MEMS) and how almost every piece of technology uses these devices. I just had to know more.

Howard expresses her gratitude for the people who surround her at TXST.

Headshot of Kendalle Howard

“As a student and researcher, I cannot do this work alone. When the individuals around me rally to push for me to succeed, I feel the most appreciated. It reminds me of why I am here, especially on more challenging days.”

Howard credits In-Hyouk Song, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Engineering Technology Department at Texas State University, as a substantial contributor to her academic success.

“He is both my research advisor and mentor. I appreciate everything he has done for me.”

Specific University resources have allowed Howard’s doctoral research to excel.

“The library at TXST and the services they provide are amazing. TXST opened doors for me that I did not know even existed. I am so thankful to be here.”

Upon graduation, Howard plans to work in the semiconductor industry. However, she has considered developing her research as an instructor at a university. 

“What is so great about my academic career so far is that I have options. There is not one single way to obtain success.”

Idza Luhumyo – Liberal Arts

Luhumyo is currently pursuing a master of fine arts in creative writing and is also a Graduate Teaching Assistant. Luhumyo notably won the 2022 Caine Prize in African Writing, which is an annual short story award for writers based in Africa and the African diaspora.

“My academic history lies at the intersection of law and literature.” 

Headshot of Idza Luhumyo

Luhumyo previously gained a bachelor of laws from the University of Nairobi, and a master of arts in comparative literature from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London.

“I've loved books ever since I was a little girl. It's been necessary for me to build a life and work practice that centers on this interest.”

Luhumyo believes that her experience at TXST has been highly influenced by faculty members.

“Every faculty member with whom I've interacted — or with whose work I've interacted— has enriched my experience.” 

Luhumyo gets involved in the TXST Community by frequently attending plays put on by TXST Presents, viewing exhibitions, and attending the Creative Writing program readings. 

“All of these benefit me academically.”

Luhumyo’s passion for writing is clear as she talks about her future endeavors.

“I want to keep following and centering my writing compulsion. To keep teaching, to keep learning.”

Norman Torres – Health Professions

Torres is currently completing a doctorate in physical therapy (D.P.T.).

He credits his growth mindset for allowing him to strive in his academic and professional development.

“I was taught to be a life-long learner and to not steer away from progress due to the possibility of failure.”

Torres works alongside professors and classmates within the Department of Physical Therapy to collect data to promote belonging within the community that they have built within their program. 

Headshot of Norman Torres

“Through observation opportunities and working in a PT clinic, I was able to discover the empowerment that physical therapy offers patients.”

Torres noted that each professor he has worked with has shown interest in his growth toward becoming the best clinician possible. 

“Dr. Damian Rodriguez was the first individual I had the opportunity to work with at TXST who established my confidence in the program. Volunteering in the TXST PT Clinic, I was able to recognize that this institution was where I belonged.”

Torres highlighted how he feels the most appreciated when others take the time to further his knowledge, experiences, and therefore, his goals.

“I feel valued to have others see me for who I am and the person I am trying to become. Along with this, I feel appreciated when others are themselves around me. A day does not go by where I don’t receive a hug or a laugh from another individual in my program. This is an aspect that continues to be the reason why I enjoy coming to school each day.”

Torres intends to complete his doctoral program and pass his licensure exam in 2025.

“From there, I hope to establish myself within the Austin community as a clinician who individuals feel confident to work with.”

DeShawn Truitt - McCoy College of Business

Truitt is pursuing his master of business administration and credits his experiences in the U.S. Army and as a volunteer at Ascension Borgess Hospital for fueling his interest in business administration.

“The U.S. Army contributed to my understanding of how to positively influence people to achieve great things while in the face of a variety of difficult situations. My volunteer experience at Ascension Borgess exposed me to the impacts small and large decisions have on organizations. Coupled together, both experiences inspired me to become a future leader who is knowledgeable and transformational.”

Headshot of DeShawn Truitt

Truitt thanked one of his professors for creating an engaging classroom environment for him.

“Dr. Indu Ramachandran’s excitement and energy when teaching her course supplemented my drive and passion for learning about the intricacies of business.”

There have also been specific mentoring and social events that have shaped Truitt’s experiences here at TXST.

“Two reoccurring events that greatly benefited me academically are The Graduate College Shop Talks and my Flex ‘Cohort’ after-class socials. These socials are where many of my friends and classmates met up to share weaknesses, study habits, funny stories, and tips to help us decompress.”

Ultimately, Truitt hopes to have a positive impact on each person he works with.

“I hope to inspire future leaders in the U.S. Army to become the best version of themselves as they serve their country and lead their soldiers. The impact I hope to have in the fitness industry is to increase the overall health of people around the world by making the workout journey more convenient and fun.”

Truitt eventually hopes to retire from the U.S. Army as a commissioned Officer and start two businesses in the fitness industry.