#NARSTGrads: The Here and Now... and Beyond

Theila Smith

#NARSTGrads: The Here and Now... and Beyond

Meet the Immediate Past and Present NARST Graduate Student Coordinators of the NARST Graduate Student Committee: Christa Haverly and Theila Smith

The Graduate Student Coordinator is the committee chair and also the committee’s liaison to the NARST Board of Directors.

Christa Haverly is the past Graduate Student Coordinator (the committee chair and liaison to the NARST Board of Directors). Her two-year term just completed at the 2021 Annual Conference. She is a postdoc at Northwestern University, working with Jim Spillane on an NSF-funded grant studying how school districts are supporting instructional reform in elementary science in response to the NGSS. Christa is married with a one-year-old and a dog who keep her busy and also bring immense joy through all the uncertainty and difficulty of this pandemic. She doesn’t have much time for hobbies these days, but she enjoys walking her dog in the mornings to Lake Michigan, including over the winter when the water freezes and creates beautiful ice shelves that look other-worldly.

Theila Smith is the current Grad Student Coordinator. She is a 3rd year PhD student (complete in 2022) at the University of Groningen, Netherlands. Her PhD research project focuses how children, those from the Afro-Caribbean community, in particular, come to form, negotiate, and author their science identities through their engagement in a community-based S.T.E.A.M. enrichment programme: ROOTS: “Ik ben Science!”. Theila is part of the Caribbean diaspora living in Brooklyn, N.Y., having been born and raised in Jamaica. She relishes the times she gets to visit her family in Jamaica, spending time with her two beautiful nieces, sister, mother and many cousins. Her guilty pleasures are watching Asian dramas and reading romance novels. :)

What does our committee offer for graduate students? The purpose of the NARST Graduate Student Committee (GSC) is to support the graduate student members of NARST. To do this, as a committee, we offer a host of events to engage with grad students at the annual NARST conferences as well as year-round.

  • NARST Conference events
    • Graduate Student Forum
    • Graduate Student Research Symposium
    • Graduate Student Social
    • Graduate Student Travel Scholarship
  • Year-round events
    • Virtual Writing Groups
    • Webinars
    • Newsletters/Blogs

What are the NARST GSC Accomplishments over the past years?

The Graduate Student Committee is a relatively young committee. Prior to Christa’s leadership, Francesca Williamson led the committee for two years. We are proud of what we have accomplished in this time. Francesca led the charge to make her role as the Graduate Student Representative--a non-voting member of the NARST Board--into a voting member position. When Christa began her term as the Graduate Student Coordinator, she was the first to take this role as a voting member of the NARST Board. Soon after her start, the Board approved a motion to increase the size of the Graduate Student Committee in order to better serve the needs of NARST grads through our programming.

The Graduate Student Forum has been around for many years, but the Graduate Student Research Symposium, Social, and Travel Scholarship are all new conference initiatives since our committee formed. We have also worked to improve communication with NARST grads through the creation of a blog, newsletter, Twitter account, and Slack group. This past year, due to the pandemic cancelling the 2020 conference, we also planned and hosted our first webinars, an initiative which was already being imagined, but the pandemic increased the sense of urgency to provide support for NARST grads in the absence of our annual conference events.

What are the future goals of the committee? In continuing and strengthening our support of the scholarly community, we are looking at ways to reach a broader audience which includes  colleges in the US serving communities traditionally underrepresented in science and science education  diverse colleges in the US as well as in international universities. Under the stewardship of NARST GSC volunteer, Ti'Era Worsley, and our co-chair Jordan Henley, we are also looking at how to have spaces for deeper discussions about the grad-student related topics that sometimes cannot be covered in our usual programming.  We envision these discussions will take place on Twitter and the app, Slack. Another goal for this year is to have an award for mentors, simply, the mentor award. As graduate students, our success is a testament of the mentors we have in our professional (and personal) lives. Furthermore, most of the main events the NARST GSC hosts depend on the generous mentorship of our junior and senior colleagues in the science education community.

Since 2017, the NARST GSC has undertaken so many initiatives, and we look forward to connecting with the grad student community at various junctures as part of the PhD journey. In that same token, a lot of the work we do is because of the many volunteers that give of their time and effort, some of whom are official members of the standing committee while others volunteer to help out on one or more of the subcommittees. We are always excited and gladly welcome whoever wants to extend their help in making these events a success in big and small ways. Please fill in the volunteer form if you would like to lend a hand. Also, please take the time to fill in this survey and tell us how we can best serve you. Finally, feel free to drop us an email at narstgradcommittee@gmail.com, follow us on Twitter at @STEMEdGrads and on Slack. We want to hear from you!


Graduate Student Blog