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Graduate School F A L L

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Dissecting Fish Taxonomy a race to catalogue nature’s wonders

Exploring the Anatomy of Fat Focus on Families


Message from the Dean


The Land-Grant Mission


New at the Graduate School


Bringing International Experiences to Auburn


Helping Communities Grow


Dissecting Fish Taxonomy


Exploring the Anatomy of Fat


International Recruitment Highlight


Tips for Applying to Graduate School


Areas of Study


Auburn, Alabama


Graduate School as an Investment


Applied Economics PhD


Focus on Families


Graduate Student Council


The Gift of Excellence


Graduate School Staff


Upcoming Events

Publication Team Editors George Flowers, Dean George Crandell, Associate Dean Jessica Nelson, Managing Editor Design, Photo, and Production: Office of Communications and Marketing staff – Al Eiland, Mary Huddleston, Jeff Etheridge, Melissa Humble, and Pam Kirby Download this Auburn Graduate School publication online at Auburn University Graduate School 106 Hargis Hall, Auburn, AL 36849 Phone (334) 844-2125 Fax (334) 844-4348 Postmaster, please send address changes to 106 Hargis Hall, Auburn, AL 36849-5122. Contents 2012 by the Auburn University Graduate School, all rights reserved.

Message from the Dean

Dr. George Flowers As technology speeds change throughout the globe, a graduate degree is increasingly necessary. Graduate degree holders are not only more competitive in the job market, but have the knowledge and skills to shape the future. We at Auburn University are charged with making a positive difference in people’s lives as part of our land-grant mission. You’ll find that this spirit of service, combined with academic rigor and a quest for knowledge, permeate the Auburn campus. Cassandra Kirkland strives to help children and families through outreach as well as her academic research. Austin Monk’s small-town background has contributed to his interest in economic development, and he now works to help bring progress to another Alabama community. Milton Tan has turned a youthful hobby into groundbreaking research in biological sciences. And finally, Desiree Wanders is conducting research that has promise for treating obesity-related health conditions. These are just a few of the outstanding students pursuing graduate study at Auburn University. Please join me in supporting their scholarly and creative efforts that have the potential to make a positive difference in all of our lives.


The Land-Grant Mission 2012 has marked the sesquicentennial of the Morrill Act, which established land-grant universities in the United States. Land-grant universities are distinguished from other state and private institutions by a mandate to provide extension and outreach to the people of the community and state where they reside. This spirit of service highly

years of learning, discovery and engagement

influences the character of Auburn University, and graduate students participate in outreach in nearly every conceivable field. In this issue,

The Morrill Act • 1862–2012

Austin Monk’s work with the Economic Development Institute is an example, and Cassandra Kirland’s activities with the Alabama Healthy Marriages Initiative is another. Service-learning is not just for undergraduates, as these students show us. It can be a lifelong choice, and Austin and Cassandra are just two among many Auburn graduate degree holders making a difference.

NIFA LAND-GRANT COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES U.S . L AND-GRANT COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES Northwest Indian College Blackfeet Community College Washington State University Oregon State University

Univ. of Idaho

Salish Kootenai College Montana State University

Fort Belknap College

Stone Child College Little Big Horn College

Tu rtle Mountain Community College

Cankdeska Cikana Comm. College White Earth Tr ibal

Fort Berthold Comm. College United Tribes North Dakota Technical State Univ. College

Fort Peck Community College Chief Dull Knife College

Sitting Bull Coll.

Si Tanka/Huron Univ. Oglala Lakota South Dakota College State University

University of Wisconsin

Sinte Gleska Univ.

D-Q University

University of Nevada

Utah State University

University of Wyoming

Colorado State University

University of California

Nebraska Indian Community College

Institute of American Indian Arts

Langston University

Oklahoma State University

Southwestern Indian Polytech. Institute

University of Hawaii

University of Arizona



Navajo Technical College


Prairie View A&M University College of Micronesia

University of Arkansas


Te nnessee State University

Lou i s i an a State University

University of Tennessee

Alabama A&M Univ. Mississippi State University Alcorn State University

Texas A&M University

University of Guam

University of Kentucky State Kentucky University

Lincoln University

New Mexico State University

Ilisagvik College

Northern Marianas College

University of Missouri

University of Arkansas at Pine Blu•

Tohono O’Odham Community College

Purdue University

Auburn University Tu skegee University

University of Connecticut Rutgers University

West Virginia University

Ohio State University University of Illinois

Haskell Indian Nations University

University of Rhode Island

Pennsylvania State University

Iowa State University

University of Nebraska

University of New Hampshire

University of Massachusetts Cornell University

Michigan State University

Little Priest Tr ibal College

Kansas State University

Diné College

Saginaw Chippewa Tr ibal College

College of Menominee Nation

University of Minnesota

University of Maine

University of Vermont

Bay Mills Community College

Leech Lake Tr ibal College Fond du Lac Tr ibal & Comm. College

Sisseton Wahpeton Community College

Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College

& Community College

West Virginia State Univ.

University of Delaware Delaware State University University of Maryland University of Maryland Eastern Shore College Park University

Virginia Te ch

Virginia State University of the District of Columbia

North Carolina A&T State University Clemson University University of Georgia Fort Valley State University

North Carolina State University

South Carolina State University

1862 1890


Florida A&M University


of Florida

Southern University and A&M College

University of Alaska


American Samoa Community College




University of the Virgin Islands University of Puerto Rico

Source: National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture.



For me, like for most who decide to pursue a graduate degree, whether the investment is worth it comes down to the availability of opportunities afterward. I am hopeful that the skills I acquire during my time as a graduate student in the COB will allow me to make a lasting impact through my research, teaching and outreach.

Donovan Collier, Rolla, MO PhD, Dept. of Management

Top Rankings

Auburn is included in a distinctive group of 18 universities designated as Land, Sea, and Space Grants and receives many accolades from accrediting agencies and ranking publications. • Auburn has been ranked among the top 50 public universities in the U.S. for 20 consecutive years, ranking 37th in the 2013 edition of U.S. News & World Report. • Modern Healthcare ranked the College of Business as the 16th best graduate school and 5th among MBA programs for physician-executives. • College of Education’s Rehabilitation Counseling Program ranked 17th in U.S. News & World Report’s “America’s Best Graduate Schools,” 2010 edition. • College of Education’s Department of Kinesiology doctoral program nationally ranked 28th by the American Academy of Kinesiology and Physical Education, 2010 edition. • Aerospace Engineering ranked 34th in U.S. News & World Report’s “America’s Best Graduate Schools,” 2012. • Industrial Systems Engineering ranked 21st in U.S. News & World Report’s “America’s Best Graduate Schools,” 2012. • The College of Liberal Arts’ Audiology program ranked 45th in U.S. News & World Report’s “America’s Best Graduate Schools,” 2012. • Auburn University has been named by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance as one of the top 100 Best Values in Public Colleges for 2011-12 • Distance education graduate programs in Auburn University’s College of Education and Samuel Ginn College of Engineering were named honor roll programs in U.S. News & World Report’s Top Online Education Program rankings. • A comprehensive list is available at


Bringing International Experiences to Auburn Auburn University recently celebrated the opening of its new center for Korean culture and language education with music, dance and Taekwondo performances in Foy Hall. The new Auburn University-Keimyung University Korea Center will offer non-credit classes in Korean language and culture beginning in the fall of 2012. Taught by a visiting instructor from Keimyung University, a private university located in Daegu, South Korea, the classes will offer the Auburn community a way to understand and connect with the area’s growing Korean and Korean-American population. “Korean language has an important place in our community due to the growing presence of Korean-based industries in Alabama,” said Andrew Gillespie, assistant vice president of Auburn’s Office of International Programs. “Your neighbors, your children’s school friends and your coworkers may be fluent in Korean, and learning those language skills can provide a definite edge in the job market in this state and globally.” The three Keimyung University groups who performed during the opening ceremony represent some of the best of South Korea’s artistic talent. The Keimyung University Taekwondo Demonstration Team was founded in 1998 and has conducted demonstrations in Korea and across the globe, including a display at the 2011 World Taekwondo Championship. In 2008, the team was awarded a special commendation by President George W. Bush. Grandmaster Lee Kyuhyung, who directed Taekwondo demonstrations at the opening ceremony of the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, leads the team. Keimyung University’s Korean Traditional Dance Team has performed across North America, Europe and Asia to further its goal of advancing recognition of Korean traditional dance worldwide. The Keimyung University String Quartet consists of outstanding senior students drawn from the Keimyung Chamber Ensemble.


Helping Communities Grow By Jessica Nelson

The graduate school experience is not always about laboratories and controlled experiments, or carefully extracting meaning from surveys and data sets. For Austin Monk, a recent graduate from the Master’s of Public Administration Program, it was about finding out how he can be a better public servant.


Monk is passionate about involvement at the community level. “In everything I do,” he says, “I want to bring benefit to the state of Alabama and my community.” His choices in education and life bear witness to this passion, and his focus has paid off – immediately after graduation, Monk began his first career position as the director of economic development at the Washington County Economic Development Institute. Attending Wallace State Community College near his hometown of Cullman made sense for Monk, who lives in Chatom, Ala., now but still retains close ties to Cullman. It was there that he began to really chart a path of civic engagement. He was involved in the student government association – first as senator, then president – and had already been a member of his local Lions Club. Then, through activities with the Wallace State Foundation, he met Peggy Smith and Dale Greer, who are director and assistant director, respectively, of the Cullman Economic Development Agency. He described them as mentors and credits them with focusing his path toward economic development as a career. It is one thing to have a goal, and quite another thing to travel the road to get there. Monk took some time after transferring to Auburn from his two-year school before plunging into leadership roles. However, one turning point came when Cal Clark, a professor in political science invited high achieving undergraduates to consider participating in the newly created ABM program, or Alternative Bachelor’s-Master’s degree program. The ABM program allows undergraduates to take graduate-level classes that confer dual credit, so they can begin progress toward a master’s degree while still in the process of earning the bachelor’s degree. The difference, says Monk, was not just in the coursework. Yes, there was more reading, more discussion, and more practical application of concepts that undergraduates are usually just beginning to master. But also, “We worked a lot outside the class, in group projects. That’s where camaraderie and friendship are built, outside the classroom. The level of interaction was just higher.”

He was also surprised by the different way that graduate students and faculty interact. “All my professors were very nice as an undergraduate, but they recognize the fact that you wanted that higher level of achievement,” he says. “You seem to have earned a level of respect at that point.” Having one foot still in the undergrad world while experiencing the master’s level work seems to have been exhilarating. Monk enthuses about the philosophical underpinnings of his career field. “You have a certain degree of responsibility to your community and whoever you’re serving,” he says. He sees public administrators as part of the very foundation of civil society. “Without administrators, the laws that are made by administrators could not be implemented as well. It’s a beneficial relationship.” With this enthusiasm, Monk moved on to embrace other civic and leadership roles as he transitioned to a full-time graduate student. He helped found an Auburn chapter of Alabama Citizens for Constitutional Reform, served as a graduate ambassador, tried to stay active in state and local politics, and also worked for Auburn’s Economic and Community Development Institute. This was some of the most valuable experience he gained, and is directly related to the position he accepted after graduation. ECDI is part of Auburn’s outreach mission, and is also affiliated with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. His work was part of implementing a grant from the US Department of Commerce called the National Telecom Information Administration Broadband Technology Opportunity Program. The purpose of the program is to promote broadband technology through awareness and education campaigns in order to benefit consumers. “My main focus was logistics, as far as training is concerned,”

he says. ECDI is collaborated with partners to develop 10 training modules to be disseminated through extension coordinators. Then the challenge, Monk says, is “making sure that information is out there and available to the public, and is sustainable.” He says sustainability is one of the key ideas in economic development, because the things they do should be able to keep rolling by themselves. “This program is beneficial because it is long term. This is infrastructure. This is information availability. This is capacity -building for an entire nation.” While this work could easily have led right into his current position, Monk says that his other leadership activities have helped prepare him for this real world challenge. For example, although he did not volunteer to be a graduate ambassador for advancement reasons, it was experience that is likely to serve him well in unforeseen ways. “You are meeting people you’ve never known, trying to sell the university and promote it. What education does Auburn offer, what programs, what assistantship opportunities are there? He says that will help him in trying to attract businesses to invest in his new community. “I’m going to have to sell an entire county and their assets. What type of workforce do we have; what type of infrastructure and leaders?” Monk will have the advantage of sincerity on his side. He says of Auburn, “You go anywhere on campus, you start talking, and everybody is nice. You have to convey that family atmosphere. I’m proud that I’m part of this institution, and, as a graduate ambassador, I got to say how proud I am.” It is certain that this absolute dedication to community, both in the abstract and in very real terms, will enrich both Monk and every community where he belongs. But no matter where he travels, the Auburn community will travel with him. 9

Dissecting Fish Taxonomy By Jessica Nelson

Cataloguing the world around us is not a new occupation (or preoccupation) for humans, but the science of taxonomy still seems like murky water to many of us. Why is it important?


Milton Tan, a graduate student in biological sciences, says that even some scientists question the modern day relevance of the painstaking work that taxonomists do to catalogue new species and assign them scientific names. Perhaps in a technology-driven age, just the idea of a process devised in the 18th century seems out of place. Tan, however, believes that taxonomy is a sort of building block for the rest of biological research. “If you don’t know what you’re studying, you can’t talk about it correctly and infer how this differs from this,” he says. “It presents the language that they use to talk about the species.” He continues in a conservationist vein: “People talk about what a shame it would be if the elephants were extinct. But there are millions of species we don’t even know about; how are we supposed to protect them?” In other words, aside from the joy of knowledge, Tan sees it as a race to catalogue nature’s wonders before the human footprint presses them into a fossil record. In this light, taxonomy suddenly seems urgent. The table in front of Tan is cluttered with vials containing fish immersed in dingy liquid, all members of a quirky group of fish called armored suckermouth catfishes. This lab has earned a reputation for expertise with these fish in particular, led by professor Jon Armbruster. Popular in the aquarium trade, these fish are what brought Tan to Auburn. After several years of keeping aquarium fish, Tan says, “I kind of focused in on how I think these fish are the coolest things to keep.” He was intrigued by the breadth of diversity – over 800 species - and their bizarre appearance. They have wild color patterns, armored plates on most of their bodies, and that odd sucker mouth. He was an undergraduate student at the University of Delaware when he noticed an article about the discovery of four new species in the genus Hypancistrus – the genus he was already fascinated by. It was Armbruster’s lab that had described these fish, and Tan was immediately interested in both the lab and in taxonomy. He was already leaning toward biological research, probably with fish. But the news that he could have a career that included working with and describing his favorite fish was exciting. “I was like ‘This is awesome! You can do this? Like as a living?’” he says. Tan’s own turn for making fish news came in 2012, when he was contacted by National

Geographic magazine about a new species of armored suckermouth catfish that he described. For him, it was another day in the lab. “It’s kind of funny, because Jon, my advisor, has described 30 or 40 of these species, and none of them have gotten a feature. It seems kind of random, but I’m not going to turn down National Geographic,” he says. Tan had recently published his description and name for Cordylancistrus santarosensis, which was collected in Ecuador and sent to the lab by a collaborator. The description appeared in the journal Zootaxa, a “megajournal” for publishing new species descriptions, and Tan thinks perhaps their decision to make the paper open access helped attract notice. He is bemused but glad for the unexpected notice. When a scientist talks about “describing” a species, something very specific is meant. Every single physical detail must be noted, and this description serves as the final word in defining the characteristics of a new species

and how it differs from close relatives. The taxonomist also has the responsibility of assigning a scientific name. Tan says that scientists can get a little proprietary over the naming rights to new species, which is one of the reasons the journal Zootaxa is useful in getting descriptions on the public record in a speedy manner. The first description published is the one that sticks – and no one wants to do the work of description and then get edged out by a few weeks. Although he laughs about the scenario, he admits that sometimes people get a little combative over naming rights. “You obviously don’t want to be duplicating someone else’s work, but it’s also something that’s special to you,” he says. “This group of fish that I’m working on, for example, I want to be the person that puts the name on these.” Although he had assumed that his dissertation would stay with the armored suckermouth catfishes, his other interest in evolutionary questions has led him in 11

another direction. Students in this lab also study systematics, which tries to reconstruct evolutionary relationships. Although studying physical specimens is one way to tackle systematics, Tan explains that they can now use DNA sequences to look at relationships between fish in a group. He points to a poster he and his lab mates put together. “So these are all members of the same species of Hemiancistrus, and these are another species, and they all group together in a single genus. That may change as we add more species, but it’s a start.” He says that they can use this kind of genetic data to interpret not only relationships, but “biogeography,” or 12

how the fish migrate. In contrast to the archaic-seeming process of describing new species, DNA sequencing brings biotechnology to the science of taxonomy. It is this technology that makes possible the kind of research that Tan intends to pursue for his dissertation. He will be studying an entirely different group of fish called cyprinids – or minnows. One fish in this group, the zebrafish, is what is considered a model organism in that it is heavily studied and figures prominently in developmental research for fish. One reason for this is that they have transparent larvae. These baby minnows are transparent and also external to the mother (as opposed to

mice, which gestate internally), so they provide loads of data. Because of their popularity in developmental research, their entire genome has been sequenced. “You’ve got this huge genomic database, and you’ve got all the developmental data,” Tan says. “What I’d like to look at are some of its relatives that have variation in their adult appearance.” In particular, there are members of two groups that essentially never mature. Multiple species of the genera Paedocypris and Danionella retain juvenile characteristics into adulthood, and remain tiny, transparent fish for their entire lifespan. Because of this oddity, they have been studied some, but what Tan wants to do is entirely novel – in part because technology has only recently made it practical to attempt. “So not only are they small, but they don’t develop completely in other ways as well – for example, in their bone development. They are missing approximately 40 bones that normally develop in zebrafish.” Here is where it gets exciting. Because there is such a wealth of data on zebrafish, a close relative of both of these species, it begins to look possible to actually try to match genetics with appearance. Imagine reading DNA like a blueprint. This is not possible yet, but the series of unique circumstances surrounding these three tiny fish species make Tan think that he might be making a few steps in that direction. These Paedocypris and Danionella both have a paedomorphic (juvenile) appearance, but they are not each other’s closest relatives, evolutionarily speaking. This means that they evolved this characteristic independently – like birds and bats both have wings. “The idea,” Tan says, “is that gives us two replicates in this experiment, allowing us to compare both of these miniature guys and normal guys like the zebrafish.” He is enthusiastic about this new direction, but isn’t forgetting his strange catfish. “I’m still going to work on all these fish,” he says, and gestures to some of the vials, “and describe all these.” Although this line of research could keep him busy for many years, he still hopes that in the future he can bring what he learns about minnow genetics back around to take an even closer look at the armored suckermouth catfish.


Exploring the Anatomy of Fat By Jessica Nelson

Some academic disciplines seek answers to the big questions in life. How did we get here? What is the nature of our universe? How can we live longer, improve our lives, and achieve the next mind-blowing technological feat?


However, in Auburn’s anatomy, physiology, and pharmacology department, graduate student Desiree Wanders is looking at the small questions – as small as a cell, in fact. She’s looking at cells, proteins, and genes, and wanting to know why they do the things they do. Of course, there are always big questions lurking in the background, which for her are questions related to human health, obesity, and obesity-related conditions such as type 2 diabetes. Wanders completed a rotation in Dr. Robert Judd’s lab during her fellowship with the Cellular and Molecular Biosciences Program, and found his research interests to be a good fit with hers. “I come from a nutrition background, and I definitely wanted to stay in obesity, diabetes, that type of field,” she says. “He does that research.” To fully explain her work, she gives a crash course on fat. She opens an incubator and points at trays lining the shelves. “We have two types of cells growing here: adipocytes, or fat cells, and we also have macrophages.” Macrophages are cells of the immune system that are found in the blood (where they are called monocytes), and which make their way into fat deposits. To be clear – we all have these monocytes, and we all have at least some measure of body fat. When these cells enter the fat, they are called macrophages, and undergo a range of “macrophage polarizations.” “We’re looking at the interaction between macrophages and adipocytes, because both cells secrete a number of proteins that can affect things like insulin sensitivity,” she says. The thing is, when a person is lean, their adipose tissue (or fat) contains mostly macrophages that tend to do good work in the body. They secrete beneficial proteins, and the adipocytes abundantly secrete the beneficial protein adiponectin. However, when a person is obese, the macrophages tend to work the opposite way, and secrete pro-inflammatory cytokines. This inflammation is linked to a host of obesity-related conditions, including reduced insulin sensitivity (leading to type 2 diabetes.) The brief version – when you are already fit, these cells produce proteins that enhance your health; when you are obese, they work to make you sick. “Adiponectin, the good protein, was just discovered in 1995, but its good properties are enormous. It increases insulin sensitivity, is anti-inflammatory, is good for the heart and

fights cancer. There’s nothing bad about it that we know,” Wanders says. Just before she came on board, a post-doc in the lab was conducting a study on men with metabolic syndrome who were given pharmacological doses of niacin on a regular basis. Because the lab already had an interest in adiponectin, it was one of the things that they tested in the men’s blood. They noticed that the men treated with niacin showed significantly increased levels of adiponectin. Although this wasn’t the first study to document this change, niacin is more widely studied for its effects on cholesterol and triglyceride levels, Wanders says. But because adiponectin was already of interest, they then followed up with a single niacin dose, and at the cellular level saw an immediate increase in the amount of adiponectin. “So that was where my research began – trying to identify the mechanism by which niacin increases adiponectin.” In medicine, it seems that nothing really happens unless we

understand why it happens, so understanding this process was important. However, at first, her research hit a brick wall. She looked at production of adiponectin within the fat cells, and different factors involved in this process, but nothing she examined showed any effect from niacin. She did show that niacin certainly increases adiponectin production in the fat, but none of the mechanisms she examined explained the increase. However, since she was not getting any answers, it occurred to her to look at inflammation. She says that one thing that is known about adiponectin is that the amount of it is dramatically reduced in states of obesity and adipose inflammation, and from there she began watching the effect of niacin on inflammation. Because if inflammation seemed to reduce adiponectin, perhaps reducing inflammation would increase it. For this stage of the research, Wanders fed a study group of mice a high-fat diet, and accordingly, they became obese. She affirmed 15

that in these obese mice, their adipose tissue showed increased inflammation, and a decrease in anti-inflammatory markers. They then definitively showed that niacin prevented some of these changes of chemistry within the fat. Going even smaller, they looked at specific proteins known to be associated with inflammation, and found that niacin decreased the expression of these proteins, one of which is a protein directly linked to type 2 diabetes. Niacin didn’t do everything – the subjects did not lose weight. However, it appeared that some of the health problems associated with their obesity might be positively affected. Wanders says that niacin activates a receptor when administered, and it was originally thought that activation of this receptor is necessary for niacin’s improvements in blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels – but this wasn’t certain. So she conducted a study with the purpose of determining whether or not niacin’s effects on inflammation were achieved if the niacin receptor was not activated on the cells. They worked with mice lacking this receptor, and found no effect whatsoever from 16

the niacin. “This is key,” she says, “because drug companies are betting on the niacin receptor, and there is currently a great deal of research seeking compounds that activate the receptor and produce the effects of niacin, but perhaps are more potent, or eliminate the one side effect – the niacin flush.” What interests Wanders is that all the effects attributed to niacin are known benefits of adiponectin. “I feel like people aren’t putting two and two together,” she says. “We’re interested in both niacin and adiponectin, but other people don’t care about that.” She thinks it is at least a possibility that many of the known effects of niacin are actually the effects of increased adiponectin production, rather than a direct effect of the niacin. Although she will not be able to answer that question before her graduation, she included it in the ‘future directions’ section of her dissertation defense seminar, and hopes the lab will continue her work. One way to answer the question is to repeat her earlier experiment with mice that are lacking adiponectin. If none of the effects on inflammatory markers occur, then they will have major news.

What they have done has already earned Wanders some attention on campus. In addition to being selected as one of the 2011-2012 Outstanding doctoral students, a university-wide honor, Wanders won second place in her category at the second annual Graduate Research Symposium, which is Auburn University’s only campus-wide forum for students to present their research. It was the first year she had presented, she said, because it was the first year her work had yielded results. That is just the way research goes sometimes, she says. After graduation, Wanders will head to Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La., for a postdoctoral fellow position. She will not be leaving Auburn entirely behind, however. Her left foot sports a tattoo of the Auburn War Eagle, wings spread. When asked if she was an athlete during her undergraduate days, she shakes her head and instantly fires off a line from the Auburn Creed: “No, I just believe in Auburn and love it.”

International Recruitment Highlight The graduate school has initiated two major efforts toward international collaboration in 2012. In April, George Flowers, the dean of the Graduate School, attended one of the largest recruitment fairs in the Middle East, the International Exhibition and Conference on Higher Education in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. In addition, several Auburn University administrators and faculty, including Dr. Flowers and Jay Gogue, Auburn’s president, traveled to Santa Maria University in Valparaiso and Austral University in Valdivia. Educational exchange and collaborative agreements bring new perspectives to Auburn, and often provide additional opportunities for Auburn students to travel, work, and learn in an entirely new place.


Focus on Focus on Families: Families Extension and Research Extension and Research By Jessica Nelson

As a bright young woman with a drive to make a difference, pre-med must have seemed like an obvious choice of major for Cassandra Kirkland when she began college at the University of Georgia. “But I realized it just wasn’t my niche,” she says, “so I did some hard thinking.” An advisor steered her to UGA’s child and family development program, and says that almost immediately “It felt right. It just felt right.”


It seems that she was right, because she has by any measure been highly successful in this field here at Auburn. During the final year of her doctoral program in human development and family studies, Kirkland not only was awarded one of the Graduate School’s Outstanding Doctoral Student awards, but received recognition in her field at the national level, as one of the National Council for Family Relations’ graduate students of the year. But while grateful for the honors she has earned, what is most important to Kirkland is the conviction that she has found her way to help people. What she discovered when she began her graduate program is something that is an integral part of Auburn as a land-grant institution: outreach. Kirkland is a highly trained academic, and can parse data sets and tease meaning from complex statistical information, but outreach is where she found her passion, she says. Shortly after coming to Auburn, Kirkland plunged into applied work with the Alabama Healthy Marriage Initiative. What she loves is using the information to help people.

With her work with AHMI, Kirkland worked with the Tuskegee Head Start program to offer relationship counseling to Head Start families. The basic principle was that a better relationship between parents means better outcomes for children. For the program, she worked with both married and unmarried parents. “The whole rationale is that if we can help you in your intimate relationship, then you may serve as an example of conflict resolution, and in turn that will have some positive implications for your children’s social behavior.” The applied work that Kirkland supervised with this project was the process not only of providing that education, but assessing participating children both before and after the classes. Graduate students would observe a classroom and make notes about the behavior of all the children, without knowledge of which ones whose families were involved in the study. Applied work like this, which leverages knowledge to help communities, is only half the story. Her academic research grew directly out of the AHMI project. “Often times we would try to get the mothers and fathers involved and I was very interested in

father involvement and the difference that made.” It is not, she says, that father involvement is more or less important than a mother’s – it is simply different. Additionally, because of biology and social structure, a mother’s participation in a child’s life is more likely guaranteed than that of a father, especially in the context of parents who are not married. This is where her data analysis skills come in. Kirkland’s dissertation research focuses on paternal involvement, but instead of direct work in the field she used secondary data analysis to draw conclusions from a well-known data set called “Fragile Families.” Fragile Families is a longitudinal study following 5,000 families over several years – it is ongoing, in fact, with nine years of information available. The families identified as “fragile” tend to be non-married parents, low income, and predominantly minority, living in largely urban environments. The study focuses on a primary child, and studies that child through interviews with parents, the child, and even teachers once they reached school age. “It’s just a very rich data set,” she says. She has access to the information because the study, housed at Princeton, is available to the public so 19

that other researchers can mine the data to pursue questions of their own. For example, the paternal involvement questions Kirkland is interested in are specifically ones of mental health and context, and how this determines first how fathers are involved in their children’s lives, and secondarily, how that involvement seems to affect children’s behaviors. This study, and the fact that it is openly accessible, made it possible for Kirkland to ask questions that she would never have been able to handle on her own. A graduate student doesn’t have the resources for a nine-year longitudinal study, she points out with a laugh. She is serious, 20

though about her hopes for the implications of her work. “I come from a strengths-based approach,” she says. “I never want to pathologize, so what I’m looking for are unique strengths, areas of resiliency. I like to empower people.” In the long run, the goal would be to create interventions that help families – bringing her academic work back full circle to extension. In talking about the broader impact she hopes to have, Kirkland says, “I am also very much interested in the policy implications of our research.” She explains that working in extension, she will be working with policy makers and federal

agencies that help fund programs like the Alabama Healthy Marriage Initiative. To better understand how to work productively with these entities, she sought out internships at the state and local government level. These gave her an immense amount of insight into the policy making process, and how programs are selected, implemented, and made to be accountable. Although she expresses only gratitude for the opportunities afforded her, it is clear that Kirkland made the most of her time in graduate school. Sometimes picking out a life path among the trees and rocks is difficult, and sometimes a wide, paved path seems to open up and point the way. When she made the decision to come to Auburn, Kirkland says it was an easy decision. She admired Auburn’s Human Development and Family Studies program but had been intimidated by the admit rate – only six graduate students accepted per year seemed like unlikely odds. However, she had just returned from an interview in Maryland when she received a strange call. When she picked up the phone, a stranger said “So, what do you want to research?” “And I said ‘Who is this?,’” she says, laughing. The caller was Margaret Kylie, who was the first to welcome her to Auburn and who became her major professor. She says Kylie has different research interests, so her role as a graduate mentor was not necessarily to put her to work on ongoing projects. Instead, she shepherded Kirkland through “finding her passion.” Kirkland has found her passion, which is leveraging research to help people. In a statement that seems to sum up one of the recurring themes of the conversation, she says, “I feel this sense of accountability for what I’ve been afforded.” She does not think she knows how to “fix” people, she says, but she hopes only to give people hope and belief in what they themselves can do. As for what she has learned here at Auburn, she says, “If I don’t use this to make a difference, then it wasn’t worth anything.” Cassandra Kirkland graduated in the Summer of 2012, and has gone on to a position as an extension professor at Mississippi State University. However, her philosophy is nothing if not the creed of an Auburn woman.

“I believe in education, which gives me the knowledge to work Wisely and trains my mind and hands to work skillfully.”

— George Petrie, Auburn Creed


Top 15 countries represented by international student population:


Auburn University opened a new horizon for me and changed me into an entirely different person. I believe graduate study is not only a conventional process of learning but also a practice of personal development. Due to this progression, my thoughts are more composed, aim is more focused, and as a person I am a lot more organized than I was before. Right now I feel confident to face challenges in my career as well as in personal life. The degree prepared me to take charges in my specialized field but the whole process of learning in Auburn University set me up to take responsibilities which I think is the biggest gain in my life. All these happen only because I had made a wise decision to invest my time in the graduate studies of Auburn University.


China India South Korea Turkey Taiwan Nepal Nigeria Thailand Brazil Sri Lanka Canada Bangladesh Kenya Colombia United Kingdom

Sonnet Gomes, Dhaka, Bangladesh Master’s of Science in Geology, 2012



General Admission Requirements ŠŠ Bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university ŠŠ Official transcripts of all undergraduate and graduate coursework from each school previously attended ŠŠ GRE or GMAT (if required by program of interest) ŠŠ Complete the online application. ŠŠ Application fee: $60 for domestic students, $70 for international students ŠŠ Three letters of recommendation (to be sent to your department)

Graduate Education: A Wise Investment An Auburn University graduate degree can help you achieve your goals for the future. Alumni with a graduate degree stand out to potential employers and exhibit the advantage of a global education. Nationally, the projected number of job openings increases with the level of education, as does the level of potential earnings. In the state of Alabama, where many graduates choose to remain after graduation, the projected earnings reflect the national forecasts.


Additional Requirements for International Students ŠŠ TOEFL Scores: 550 on the paper TOEFL (pBT), 213 on the computer TOEFL (cBT), and 79 on the internet TOEFL (iBT)–minimum of 16 in each section, or a 6.5 Overall Band Score on the IELTS ŠŠ Proof of ability to finance graduate studies, if accepted All documents and fees should be submitted at least 45 days (domestic students) or 90 days (international students) prior to the desired date of enrollment.

Resources for International Students

ŠŠ Office of International Education International Orientation Document processing ŠŠ International Student English Center ŠŠ Free English language tutoring for enrolled international students ŠŠ International Student Organizations ŠŠ Social support ŠŠ Airport pickup for new students

Apply Online at Admissions to any graduate degree program is granted by the dean of the Graduate School upon the recommendation of the department of proposed study. Deadlines are listed in the Auburn University Bulletin (www.auburn. edu/bulletin). However, most academic units make admission decisions several months in advance. Thus, applicants should check with the department to which they seek admission to determine when materials should be submitted.

Contact Us Auburn University Graduate School 106 Hargis Hall Auburn, AL 36849-5122 334-844-4700 fax 334-844-4348 e-mail:

Distance Education Auburn University is committed to addressing the needs of the modern student. The educational opportunities you will find through the Distance Education program meet the same exacting standards as do on-campus offerings. Courses are carefully designed by Auburn faculty with the aid of distance education professionals who assist in the development of instructional materials, academic resources, technical support systems, telecommunications, and student services. In addition to the opportunities listed below, numerous Independent Learning and Professional Development courses are offered through Distance Education. College of Agriculture

The College of Engineering

Master’s Degrees:

Master’s Degrees:

• Agronomy and Soils

• Aerospace • Chemical

College of Business

• Civil

Master’s Degrees:

• Industrial/Systems

• Accounting

• Material

• Business Administration

• Mechanical

• Information Systems

• Computer Science & Software

• Management • Executive MBA • Physician’s Executive MBA

Engineering program College of Human Sciences

Master’s Degrees:

Master’s Degrees:

• Business Education

• Food Science Nutrition with

• Foreign Language Education

special emphasis in Hotel/

• Music Education

Restaurant Management

• Special Education

Letters of Recommendation ŠŠ Select writers who know you well, who can comment on your potential as a researcher and a scholar. ŠŠ Choose writers who can also speak to your goals, your motivation, and your commitment to graduate study. ŠŠ Even better, if possible, select individuals who are known to the people at the institution where you are applying.

Personal Statements

ŠŠ Convince your audience that you have what it takes to succeed in graduate school. ŠŠ Provide evidence that you are motivated and eager to learn. ŠŠ Show that you are familiar with the program to which you are applying and that you are a good fit. ŠŠ Proofread: typographical errors and grammatical mistakes can undermine your best efforts.

• Dual MBA/MISE degree

The College of Education

• Rehabilitation Counseling

Tips For Applying To Graduate School

General Advice

ŠŠ Take the GRE early, in case you want to take it again. ŠŠ If possible, gain undergraduate research experience. ŠŠ Apply as early as possible, and confirm your department’s priority deadline.

Graduate Certificate: • TESL/TEFL



Areas of Study College of Agriculture

Samuel Ginn College of Engineering

Public Administration and Public Policy

Aerospace Engineering


Agronomy and Soils

Biosystems Engineering

Technical and Professional Communication

Animal Sciences

Chemical Engineering

Applied Economics (Interdepartmental)

Civil Engineering

Biosystems Engineering (Interdepartmental)

Computer Science and Software Engineering


Entomology and Plant Pathology

Electrical and Computer Engineering

Fisheries and Allied Aquacultures

Industrial and Systems Engineering

Harrison School of Pharmacy


Materials Engineering

Poultry Science (Food Science Option)

Mechanical Engineering

Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology

College of Architecture, Design, and Construction

Polymer and Fiber Engineering

Building Construction

School of Forestry and Wildlife Services

Community Planning


Integrated Design and Construction

Forest Economics

Industrial Design

Natural Resources

Landscape Architecture

Urban Forestry

Real Estate Development

Wildlife Sciences

College of Business

College of Human Sciences

Business Administration

Consumer Affairs


Human Development and Family Studies

Finance Management & Management Information Systems

Integrated Textile and Apparel Science

Real Estate Development (Interdepartmental)

Nutrition, Dietetics, and Hotel Management

College of Education

College of Liberal Arts

Curriculum and Teaching

Audiology, Doctor of Audiology Clinical Degree

Educational Foundations, Leadership, and Technology




Special Education, Rehabilitation, and Counseling/School Psychology


Sports Management (Minor)


Communication Disorders

History Public Administration



School of Nursing

Pharmacal Sciences Pharmacy Care Systems

College of Sciences and Mathematics Biological Sciences Cellular and Molecular Biosciences Chemistry and Biochemistry Geology/Geography Mathematics and Statistics Physics

College of Veterinary Medicine Anatomy, Physiology and Pharmacology Biomedical Sciences Clinical Sciences Pathobiology For an extensive list of specific programs or program advisor contact information, please visit the Graduate School website

Auburn, Alabama For southern charm with collegiate vigor, consider Auburn. This diamond on the eastern Alabama plains has a population of just under 58,000 and is home to Auburn University. On football Saturdays, when die-hard fans arrive in droves to cheer their beloved Tigers, Auburn swells to the state’s fifth-most-populous city. And as Auburn’s largest employer, the university also plays a starring role in the local economy. With mild winters and hot summers, the city offers no shortage of outdoor recreation opportunities. Find a nice hiking trail in the 696-acre Chewacla State Park before cooling off with an afternoon swim. Take a stroll through the Donald E. Davis Arboretum, located on the Auburn University campus. Golfers can head to nearby Grand National golf course and wend their way through the state along the beautiful Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. “Once you have been there, you just want to come back,” says John Cannon, president of SunBelt Golf Corp., which manages the trail.* *Source: Best Places to Live 2009 by Luke Mullins, U.S. News & World Report, June 8, 2009

City of Auburn: Best Places to Live 2009 According to U.S. News & World Report, “In selecting our Best Places to Live for 2009, we looked for affordable communities that have strong economies and plenty of fun things to do.” 25


Having an Advanced Degree means Higher Pay & Prosperity Average Annual Earnings of Adults 25 or Older in the United States during 2009 All

$46,600 $128,600

Professional degree Doctoral degree


Master’s degree

$74,200 $58,800

Bachelor’s degree Associate’s degree


Some college, no degree


High school diploma or GED


Some high school, no diplmoma


Less than 9th grade

$19,800 SREB Factbook 2011, p. 67

Holders of Advanced Degrees will be in high demand in the next 5 years Projected Increase of Job Openings by Education or Training in the United States from 2006 until 2016 All


Doctoral Degree Professional Degree


Master’s Degree


Associate’s Degree


Bachelor’s Degree + Work Experience


Bachelor’s Degree


Postsecondary Vocational Certificate Work Experience or on-the-job Training

SREB Factbook 2009, p. 94



Projected Earnings Differential for Alabama MS and Doctoral Graduates during 2009-2010 Degree

Total Degrees

Projected Lifetime Earnings Differential

MS + Post MS


$3.3 Billion



$1.6 Billion Total: $4.9 Billion

If 64% of these 2009-2010 graduates remain in Alabama after graduation, it would mean that $3.1 billion more would be earned in and spent in the state of Alabama.

14% 10% Data on Degree Completions 2009-2010 taken from the Alabama Commission on Higher Education and includes graduates of public and private universities


ABM program Eligibility Requirements Cumulative GPA • 3.40 or higher

The ABM program offers outstanding Auburn students the opportunity to earn both the bachelor’s and the master’s degrees in less time and at less cost than usual. It does so by allowing these exceptional students to count up to nine hours (in a 30-hour master’s program) or 12 hours (in a 36-hour master’s program) to count toward both degrees.

Completed Course Work • 45 semester hours (minimum) • 96 semester hours (maximum) • 24 semester hours at Auburn (if you are a transfer student)

How to Apply for Admission to the ABM Program • Meet with a departmental advisor to discuss program requirements • Complete the ABM program Application Form (including all approvals) and return it to the Graduate School • Submit departmental application materials (as required)

Current ABM programs • Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology

Continuation and Graduation Requirements

• Agronomy and Soils

• Maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.40 or higher

• Apparel Merchandising, Design, and Production

• Earn a grade of B (3.0) or higher on all double-counted, graduate level courses

Management • Consumer and Design Sciences • Fisheries • Horticulture • Industrial and Systems Engineering • Materials Engineering • Nutrition, Dietetics • Nutrition, Hotel Restaurant Management emphasis

• Complete the degree requirements within time limits set by the Graduate School and the degree-granting program Individual programs may set higher standards for continuation in the program.

Application for Admission to the Graduate School Students generally will take the GRE and apply for admission to Graduate School at the beginning of the senior year. Students should contact the department for application deadlines as departmental deadlines are often much earlier than the Graduate School’s application deadline.

• Poultry Science • Public Administration

Other programs are currently under development.

Students must complete the bachelor’s degree, be admitted to the Graduate School and the degree program before entering the master’s degree program. Admission into the ABM program does not guarantee admission into the Graduate School. Students must still apply for admission to the Graduate School (including submitting the Graduate School application, paying the application fee, and providing transcripts and standardized test scores as required) by the prescribed deadline.


This year in the GSC The Graduate Student Council continues to make progress on creating new and enriching opportunities for which graduate students can participate in with different projects and events. Examples of past initiatives include the Graduate Student Health Insurance Program and travel grants. More recently, the GSC has worked in collaboration with the Graduate School to obtain and secure graduate student housing options available for all graduate students. Every year, the GSC partners with the Graduate school to sponsor a colloquium series where the students gather to learn about a wide variety of topics over a pizza lunch. Ongoing efforts

Glenn Hughes, President Glenn Hughes is a doctoral candidate researching topology in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics. Shortly after high school, Hughes enlisted in the United States Army and served as an infantryman in the 82nd Airborne Division at Ft. Bragg, NC. After his service in the military, he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Houston in 2006 and 2008.

Jennifer Duggan, Executive Vice-President Jennifer N. Duggan is a doctoral candidate in chemical engineering at Auburn University. Her research is focused on developing simple techniques to synthesize and produce magnetic and metallic nanoparticles of controlled sizes. She obtained a bachelor’s degree from Simmons College in Boston, Mass., in physics and chemistry in 2008. In 2007, she was an REU Fellow at Harvard University School of Engineering and Applied Sciences in Cambridge, Mass., where she studied particles with tailored electric and magnetic properties.


are currently focused on offering more social activities such as football tailgates and social hours where students can meet colleagues from other disciplines across the university. The two most anticipated GSC events occur during the spring semester with the Graduate Scholars Forum and Research Week. During the Graduate Scholars Forum, all graduate students are invited to present their research as either a poster or oral presentation whereby the students are critiqued and scored competitively by faculty judges. The winners of the Graduate Scholars Forum advance on to participate in Research Week, which is a university- wide event

Dana Lashley, Vice-President Dana Lashley is a doctoral candidate and research assistant in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Her research is focused on the synthesis of nucleosidic antiviral drugs for the treatment of deadly viral diseases such as Ebola. She obtained her BS in chemistry at the University of Frankfurt in Germany and joined the Auburn PhD program in 2008. Dana also serves as the president of the Iranian Student Association.

Pranav Vengsarkar, Secretary Pranav Vengsarkar is a graduate research assistant in the Department of Chemical Engineering and is working towards his PhD in chemical engineering. He obtained his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the Institute of Chemical Technology (ICT) in Mumbai, India, in the year 2010. He joined Auburn in 2010, and has participated in the GSC since 2011. He is currently researching the size-selective separation of nanoparticles using GaseXpanded Liquids (GXLs) for use in various applications including oil-spill cleanup for completing his requirements towards his PhD.

showcasing the hard work of undergraduate students, graduate students, and faculty. At the end of the spring semester, the students are honored with a special luncheon and awards ceremony that accompanies the Graduate Student Appreciation Week events. If you need more information about joining the GSC, either as a senator or as a participant, please contact Jennifer Duggan, executive vice president at More information can be found at: Like us on Facebook: http://www.

Winston Crowder, Treasurer Winston Crowder is a master’s student in the Aerospace Engineering Department. Originally from Birmingham, Ala., he earned his bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from Auburn University in 2007. His thesis research includes the structural analysis during the ignition of a solid rocket booster, like those used on the space shuttle.

Kristi Jones, SGA Representative Kristi Jones was born in Johnson City, Tenn. However, she grew up in various parts of north and central Alabama. She is at the beginning of her second year in the Master’s of Public Administration program with a concentration in election administration. In addition to her studies, she is a graduate teaching assistant in the Department of Political Science. She graduated with honors from the University of Alabama in Huntsville in 2011 with a BA in political science.

The Gift of Excellence Auburn University recognizes the importance of graduate education in developing the leaders of tomorrow. As President Gogue recently said, “Graduate level academic credentials have replaced the bachelor’s degree in today’s knowledge economy.” The enhancement of graduate education is prominent in Auburn’s Strategic Plan, and we are making great strides to offer the best possible programs to our students. One way you can support this effort is by supporting these outstanding scholars. We seek your partnership in providing fellowships to deserving graduate students. Your two-year commitment of $10,000 per annum will provide a monthly stipend to one Master’s or Ph.D. student. Auburn is committed to the success of these students, and with your contribution, we will provide tuition remission to alleviate the financial burden of tuition. That means that for a student like Leigh Ellen Landers, $20,000 of support has leveraged nearly $50,000 of financial aid.


Growing up, I always knew that college was

something that my parents had saved for, but being one of five children, graduate school was out of the question. Being selected as the Martin Fellow was an absolute dream come true. It is a true testament to my belief that “hard work pays off.” Without the generosity of private donors, I would not have been given this wonderful opportunity of being able to work for the University while pursing my master’s degree.

“If you won’t invest in your own students, how can you expect anyone else to?” Paula Backscheider, Philpott-Stevens Eminent Scholar in English, uses her research account to help graduate students through funding fellowships, assistantships, travel to research sites and conferences, and purchase of research materials.

Through my fellowship, I am learning about development within Auburn and being exposed to so many valuable things that will help me grow as a young professional. I am truly so grateful for this experience and hope that one day I can help change students’ lives the way that mine has been forever changed.

Leigh Ellen Landers Florence, Alabama


Graduate School Staff

George Flowers Dean

Associate Dean

Richard Alverson Director of Information Technology

Chris Anthony Communication Specialist

Deborah Bledsoe Insurance Coordinator

Minnie Bryant Receptionist/Admissions Processing

Donna Childers Matriculation and Program Specialist; Academic Evaluator of Theses

Jessica Corbett International Admissions Processing

Hank Galbreath Director of Development

Clint Lovelace Recruiting, Academic Evaluator of Theses and Dissertations

Jennifer Lovelace Domestic Admissions Processing

Anna McBee Development Graduate Assistant

Theresa Morgan Director of Graduate Admissions

Katie Poole Residency Advisor/ Admissions Processing


George Crandell

Sherry Ray Director of Matriculation (Last names M-Z)

Julie Reece Executive Assistant/ Business Manager

Christy Tanner Development Coordinator

Leonard Vining Special Projects Coordinator


Š November 2012. Auburn University Office of Communications and Marketing. Auburn University is an equal opportunity educational institution/employer.

Auburn University Graduate School Magazine  

Fall 2012/Winter 2013 Graduate School Magazine.