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Meet STEPS’ Student Leadership Council!

By: Mai Listokin

American cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world: indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” At STEPS, our dedicated Student Leadership Council (SLC) lives out Mead’s words through their work in phosphorus sustainability, scholar development, and scientific collaboration. 

STEPS’ 2024 Student Leadership Council.

SLC President and graduate scholar at ASU, Lucas Crane, explains his role on the council: “We want to provide resources for scholars that aid with their research, public speaking, career development, mental health, etc., such that they can look back on their time in STEPS and point to things that made meaningful impacts on their lives and careers.” 

An example of the projects that SLC develops is their upcoming scholar-reviewed blog, which will feature scientific writing, conference summaries, and other work from scholars. The goal of the blog is to offer scholars a low-pressure way to practice their academic writing skills. SLC also designs agendas for monthly meetings and student-led seminars, leads project groups, and provides resources and connections for scholars. 

Hector Fajardo, Vice President and graduate scholar at NC State, attends each monthly meeting along with the executive committee gatherings. Fajardo explains that he enjoys connecting with his peers on SLC and organizing activities to engage other scholars, especially those from other universities. The interdisciplinary aspect of SLC allows for collaboration between scholars of a vast variety of expertise all working together to advance STEPS’ vision for phosphorus sustainability. 

Another essential aspect of SLC is its funding, which is handled by treasurer Jiangfeng Xu, also a scholar at NC State. Xu works on coordinating bills from students and managing the budget. His mission is to foster a sense of community and belonging among students and postdocs in STEPS, through continued involvement and outreach initiatives. Xu intends to schedule regular meetings on writing and presentation practices to provide another avenue of engagement for students. 

Says Xu of  his work at SLC, “We brainstorm lots of ideas to understand what scholars need, either for personal interest or to promote professional development, and involve more scholars in the SLC and scholar-led activities.” 

Along with the leadership and financial tasks of SLC, Josephine Geraghty works as the education and outreach committee chair. She is a graduate scholar at NC State, and regularly assists with coordinating scholar-focused seminar materials, organizing scholar activities, and prompting student involvement in the center. Her role on SLC connects perfectly with her position on the science communication team for STEPS.

Geraghty emphasizes her favorite part of working on SLC, “I try to find ways to leverage our social media and other tools to engage with scholars across our center and work to highlight their work. I enjoy learning about what scholars are doing and finding ways to get them engaged.” 

Rounding out the SLC are Andrew Cannon and MD Anik Mahmud. Cannon is a graduate scholar at NC State and serves as the activities committee chair for STEPS. Mahmud is a graduate scholar at the University of Florida and works as the secretary for the SLC. 

Looking ahead, the SLC is eager to introduce narrative-style pieces that will allow scholars to exercise their creativity and write about their work, conferences they attended, or anything related to phosphorus sustainability. 

All STEPS scholars are welcome to join SLC meetings and contribute to SLC initiatives to enhance their experience within the Center!