Olin Thompson Mefford of Florence, Ala., has been selected Graduate Man of the Year, and Sharnnia Artis, of Chesapeake, Va., has been named Graduate Woman of the Year at Virginia Tech.
The Graduate Man of the Year and Graduate Woman of the Year awards are among the most prestigious student awards given by Virginia Tech. Students who receive this award best exemplify the university motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), through their balanced achievement in scholarship, service and commitment to the university.
Mefford was selected as the Graduate Man of the Year for his passion, remarkable sense of social responsibility, exceptional performance in the areas of research and service, and for his unique ability to tackle problems and solicit active participation and contributions from a diverse group of people.
Mefford, a doctoral candidate in macromolecular science and engineering at Virginia Tech, earned a bachelor’s degree in textile and polymer chemistry with a minor in philosophy at Clemson University’s Calhoun Honors College.
Medford's research interests include the development of new procedures for drug delivery systems, and the improvement of contrast agents for MRI machines. He is the recipient of an National Science Foundation Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) fellowship, through which he also participated in internship opportunities in Australia. He has presented his research results at several conferences and workshops, and published them in professional journals.
Medford is a founding member of the Graduate Scholar Society, which fosters intellectual and scholarly development among graduate students through the creation of learning circles that seek to enrich the scholars and contribute to society as a whole.
In addition to his academic pursuits, he has been active in the Graduate Student Assembly, the Virginia Tech Building Board, the Outdoor Club, and the Claytor Lake Sailing Association.
Artis has spent her graduate career blending the pursuit of a Ph.D. in industrial and systems engineering with her interest in raising awareness on campus about issues concerning diversity and inclusion.
She is credited with diversifying engineering through research designed to improve the quality of life for marginalized groups, such as the elderly and ethnic minorities. Her projects often center on safety and health issues related to these groups.
Her dissertation involves developing and testing a training system design that can be used to enhance the safety skills of Latino construction workers. As a graduate student, she also conducted research on training system needs of individuals who work in small, informal work systems; older adults; and custodial workers.
"It has been a real joy to observe Artis' professional development from her time as an industrial and systems engineering undergraduate student in our capstone design course,” said Brian Kleiner, professor of industrial and systems engineering in the College of Engineering and Artis' advisor. “We have been especially impressed with her ability to simultaneously manage leadership, outreach, and demanding dissertation data collection activities, the latter which includes visitations to working construction sites."
Artis has achieved numerous academic and service awards during her tenure as a graduate student at Virginia Tech. In 2006, she was named Graduate Student of the Year by the National Society of Black Engineers. She also received the Citizen's Scholar Award from Virginia Tech's Graduate School in 2006. Artis was named a Southern Regional Education Board Doctoral Scholar in 2005.
In 2004, she was chosen as a selected profession Fellow by the American Society of University Women. She was also named Student of the Year by the Virginia Tech Black Faculty/Staff Caucus and Graduate Advisor of the Year by the Virginia Tech NAACP college chapter. The Council for the Advancement of Minority Engineering Organizations (CAMEO) presented her with its highest award for her dedication to engineering student affairs: the Bevlee A. Watford CAMEO Award.
The Graduate School at Virginia Tech promotes graduate education as a critical component in the transmission of new knowledge, research, ideas, and scholarship. It is responsible for the development, administration, and evaluation of graduate education throughout the university, providing support to faculty, staff, and more than 6,000 graduate students. The Graduate School is committed to building a diverse graduate community and vibrant intellectual environment to help prepare graduates to lead. Virginia Tech, the most comprehensive university in Virginia, is dedicated to quality, innovation, and results to the commonwealth, the nation, and the world.