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Graduate School Newsletter - April 2023

Student Spotlight

Jenna Ross

Niagara Falls, New York area provided the ideal place and experiences for Jenna Ross to cultivate her love for the outdoors and traveling while growing up. In time, her passions for the natural world followed her to SUNY Binghamton where her ecology courses and working in the global change ecology lab during her undergraduate studies further developed into an interest in ecology and, specifically, the impact of human interaction with the planet’s ecosystems.

Through her connections at SUNY Binghamton, Jenna learned about Dr. Josh Leffler and his project that focuses on climate change in the Yukon-Kuskokwim (Y-K) River Delta in Western Alaska. This opportunity fit perfectly into her ideal research opportunity and soon she was on a plane to the other side of the United States to spend months in Alaska studying and experimenting.

Now, in the Midwest, Jenna has spent her first year as a graduate student in the Masters of Science in Biological Sciences with a specialization in Natural Resource Management program, and her dedication and passion have not gone unnoticed, especially by her advisor, Dr. Josh Leffler.

Since returning to South Dakota in August, Ms. Ross has been working tirelessly in the lab to run her own experiment documenting how soil ecosystems respond to floods and temperature. Her experiment involves simulating storm-caused flooding in small jars - like the ones used for home-canning of food - and performing 20-hour-long heroic measurements of methane and carbon dioxide release twice a week for months. She is typically the first one to arrive in the lab in the morning, and by far the last to leave. All graduate students work hard to conduct impactful research, but Jenna Ross goes above-and-beyond in her dedication to her science.

Through her research, Jenna has also had to overcome some challenges, such as the size of the project. “My research project consists of 224 soil microcosms that undergo various treatments and weekly gas sampling to measure methane and carbon dioxide fluxes. When you have a sample size of this magnitude, it is challenging because everything takes so much time.” However, Jenna is quick to realize that challenges like this one are great examples of life lessons, in general. “A lot of the experiment has been trying things out until they work and learning as you go, which is also how graduate school is as a whole. No one knows everything at the beginning and it is important to remember this.”

Another vital reminder from Jenna is the importance of community.

Being far away from home, I don’t have the physical support system I have had most of my life, but I have found a new one at SDSU that makes me feel seen, validated, and cared for which I could not be more grateful for. In my life, I would say my mom and dad have influenced me the most. They support me and my dreams, even if that means moving across the country to chase my goals and living in Alaska for months at a time.

Undoubtedly, Jenna will continue to persevere, learn, and grow in her studies of ecology alongside her fellow students and NRM faculty as she works towards completing her master’s program and pursues her career goals as a field biologist or ecologist for a federal agency, such as the National Park Service, Forest Service, or Fish and Wildlife Service.

Graduate Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity Day (GRSCAD) and Graduate Student Recognition Event      Wednesday, April 26 2-7 p.m. CST

Campanile and Hobo Day Gallery or zoom

The Graduate School will be sponsoring Graduate Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity Day (GRSCAD) to showcase and recognize the accomplishments of SDSU graduate students! The day will begin with a featured speaker/presentation, followed by graduate student poster presentations, culminating with the Graduate Student Recognition Event which will recognize Graduate School award recipients and students who successfully earned a Professional Development certificate.


  • Featured speaker/presentation: 2:00-3:00 p.m.
  • Poster show/project judging: 3:00-5:00 p.m.
  • Graduate Recognition Event: 5:00-7:00 p.m.

Students interested in presenting an oral and/or poster presentation should complete the event registration link no later than Friday, April 14th.

Funding Challenge


The Graduate School will be running a 30-day fundraising campaign form March 26 – April 24 to raise funds for graduate student scholarships. Donors can also elect to donate to support graduate student awards, travel awards or to the general fund. To create and offer graduate student scholarships we’re asking for your help to promote this campaign! Please share with friends and family or anyone who wants to support graduate education.

We will also be promoting through our social media channels – Facebook and Instagram. Please feel free to like, share, or interact with our fundraising posts to boost awareness of our campaign!

Upcoming Events

The purpose of this week is to celebrate and emphasize the contributions, impact, and value of our graduate and professional students. Please keep an eye on our social media (Facebook and Instagram) as we will be giving out daily prize drawings and highlighting some of our awesome SDSU graduate students!

The Graduate School staff will also be tabling Monday, April 3 from 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. CST along Main Street in the Student Union. Stop by and grab a treat!

  • CPR, AED, and First Aid Training (Wellness Module) – April 5 (register online)
  • Jumpstart Your Wellness Seminar (Wellness Module) – April 13 (register online)
  • CPR, AED, and First Aid Training (Wellness Module) – April 20 (register online)
  • Graduate Research, Scholarship and Creative Day Activity (Research or Communications Module) – April 26, 2-5 p,m. Hobo Day Gallery
  •   Wednesday, May 3 3:30-4:30 p.m. CST
  •   Campanile Lawn

Join the Graduate School staff as we celebrate the end of the 2023 academic year with ice cream and socialization on the green! This event is open to all graduate students. Graduates, feel free to bring your cap, gown, and hood for a photo op by the Campanile. Those in attendance also have a chance to win some cool door prizes!

Gift Bag


Graduate students – don’t miss out! There is still time to complete the Professional Development certificate for the 2022-2023 academic year! This certificate is a great addition to your resume and helps build on transferable skills you can use while in graduate school and into your next career! The program can be completed fully online at your own pace via D2L. Deadline to earn the certificate this year is Friday, April 14th.

Students who earn a certificate will be recognized at the Graduate Student Recognition Event on Wednesday, April 26th. Additionally, students who complete the certificate will be placed in a drawing to win a SDSU door prize valued at over $100. What are you waiting for? Complete your professional development certificate today!

Awards and Scholarships

The SDSU Graduate School is seeking to recognize outstanding creativity, impact, and innovation in all disciplines offered at SDSU. This award includes original works accepted by the university "in lieu of thesis" - including non-thesis papers, projects, portfolios, media, computer software, etc. Nominations should be made by the student who is completing either B, C or D options or a DNP student.

Deadline: April 7, 2023

To submit your nomination form, log into MyState and click the Dashboard tab. Under the forms portlet, click the Distinguished Innovation and Creative Work Award link.

Important Upcoming Dates

April 14, 2023 - Final Oral Exam Completed

April 28, 2023 - Thesis/Dissertation Deposited to the Graduate School

Internships, Fellowship & Scholarship Opportunities

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