For Bouchet Society Nominees, Research Ties to Advocacy

Five Ph.D. students will be inducted into the Edward Alexander Bouchet Graduate Honor Society, which recognizes diversity and excellence in doctoral education.

March 18, 2024

The 5 Bouchet Students in front of leaf wall at SEH with Chad Heap on the left & Paul Wahlbeck on the right.

From left: CCAS Associate Dean for Graduate Studies Chad Heap with Bouchet inductees Travis Reginal, Claudia Melo, Heather Walsh, Justus Jobe, Michael Guy and CCAS Dean Paul Wahbeck. (Photos: Jordan Tovin/GW Today)

Five George Washington University Ph.D. students will join a network of preeminent scholars from across the country later this spring when they are inducted into the Edward Alexander Bouchet Graduate Honor Society, which celebrates diversity and excellence in doctoral education.

The students were cited for research that included easing the effects of climate change on coastal communities, uncovering the hidden pasts of plantation museums, combating HIV-infected cells and revealing racial microaggressions against nurses in the workplace.

“Today’s event serves as a poignant reminder of the imperative to actively cultivate an environment where inclusion thrives at the heart of an educational institution,” said Paul Wahlbeck, dean of the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences (CCAS), at a March 5 ceremony honoring the nominees.We must continue to strive to build bridges and ensure that all who seek new knowledge, who seek excellence, are provided the opportunities to do so.”

Named for the first African American doctoral recipient in the United States and chartered jointly by Yale and Howard universities in 2005, the society now has 19 chapters at universities across the country. Its goals include developing a network of scholars who exemplify academic and personal excellence; fostering environments of support; and serving as examples of scholarship, leadership and advocacy for people who have been traditionally underrepresented in academics.

Since its founding in 2009, 54 doctoral students and alumni have been inducted into the GW chapter of the Bouchet Society, noted CCAS Associate Dean for Graduate Studies Chad Heap. This year marks the first time that the honorees include a student from the GW School of Nursing, joining current and prior inductees from CCAS, the Graduate School of Education and Human Development, the School of Medicine and Health Sciences and the Milken Institute School of Public Health.

The five nominees will be formally inducted into the society at the annual Edward A. Bouchet Conference at Yale University in April.

Meet the Inductees 

Michael Guy

Michael Guy. Black man with glasses & beard & grey sweater in front of leaf wall at SEH

A Ph.D. candidate in history, Michael Guy’s research focuses on race in early America and on how museums and historical sites function as arbiters of historical memory—scholarship he describes as “a bridge between public and academic history.” He uses the stories told by docents at Hampton National Historical Site in Baltimore County—an 18th century plantation—as windows into larger topics of race and slavery. “I believe that plantation museums can offer a space for…all Americans to face and engage in discussions about just how deep the roots of American slavery run,” he explained. He serves as a research fellow with Johns Hopkins University’s Black Beyond Data project and is the co-founder of the Writing Revolutionaries, a writing forum for GW history graduate students to share their work.

Justus Jobe

Justus Jobe. White man with bear in tan jacket & blue striped tie in front of lead wall at SEH

Justus Jobe is a Ph.D. candidate in biological sciences. His research examines the impact that large-bodied herbivores have on plant communities in coastal landscapes experiencing climate change. His scientific outreach to rural communities along the Eastern Shore of Maryland has helped educate farmers on the challenges of sea-level rise and crop damage. “Research, to me, is not merely an academic exercise, but a powerful tool to address real world challenges,” he said. Among his honors, he is a recipient of the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. He has also mentored undergraduates and D.C. high school students whose independent field research resulted in a co-authored publication. “It is our duty to inspire and nurture the scientists of tomorrow,” he said.

Claudia Melo

Claudia Melo. Dark hair, white jacket, blue blouse in front of leaf wall at SEH

A Ph.D. candidate in microbiology and immunology, Claudia Melo studies natural killer cells’ cytotoxic capacity against HIV-infected cells. She is a member of the GW HIV Persistence, Comorbidities, and Treatment Training Program and the Anti-Racism Coalition Committee of the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Tropical Medicine. She serves as treasurer for the GW Student Organization of Biomedical Scientists and as a member of its Committee of Action and Advocacy. An advocate for underrepresented communities in academia, she volunteers as a mentor with Científico Latino, helping undergraduate STEM students prepare their Ph.D. applications and current Ph.D. students adjust to their first year of graduate school. “Mentorship has played a critical role in my academic career, and I am committed to paying it forward and supporting others,” she said.

Travis Reginal

Travis Reginal. Black man with glasses in grey jacket & blue in front of leaf wall at SEH

Travis Reginal, a Ph.D. candidate in public policy and administration, received his master’s from CCAS’ Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration. His interdisciplinary research centers on strategies for local governments to eliminate racial and ethnic disparities—a field that “holds profound implications for the lives of numerous individuals, particularly those who have historically been underserved and marginalized,” he said. Among his service activities, he expanded the Yale Black Men’s Union mentoring program, supported high school students through Jackson State University’s Upward Bound program and was part of an organization that opened access to AP courses for rural Mississippi students. “I deeply resonate with the Bouchet Society’s emphasis on scholarship, leadership, character, service and advocacy—as it is needed now as much as ever before,” he said.

Heather Walsh

Heather Walsh. White woman blonde hair in black blouse in front of leaf wall at SEH

Heather Walsh is a Ph.D. candidate in nursing and the first Bouchet Society honoree from GW’s School of Nursing. Her research explores workplace racial microaggressions among nurses and how they impact job satisfaction and wellness and the ability to deliver patient care. As a simulation program manager at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C., she is the nursing lead in developing and implementing novel simulation-based curricula including one on racism, equity and microaggressions and another that uses an equity lens to assist nurses in de-escalating situations. “I am very honored to be a nominee to the Bouchet Society,” she said. “I feel committed to being an ally…and disseminating my work to increase awareness about this topic and improve the culture of inclusion for nurses and others.”