grad commencement 2022
Honors and Awards

Graduate Students to Receive Diversity, Distinguished Teaching Awards at Commencement 2024

Doctoral student Paola Pimentel Furlanetto will be honored for her commitment to diversity and graduate students Elif Savas and RoseAnn Elaine Vik will be recognized for their exceptional work in teaching during UMass Amherst’s Graduate Commencement ceremony on Friday, May 17, at McGuirk Alumni Stadium.

Commitment to Diversity Award


Paola Furlanetto
Paola Pimentel Furlanetto

Paola Pimentel Furlanetto, of Campina Grande, Paraíba, Brazil, will receive the Commitment to Diversity Award in recognition of her commitment to issues of diversity and justice in her work.

Pimentel Furlanetto is working on her Ph.D. in industrial engineering and operations research. She is investigating the social equity impacts of carbon capture in the electricity system in her thesis, “Modeling Power Systems Operation and Emissions to Inform an Equitable Energy Transition.”

Pimentel Furlanetto translated her passion for climate justice into teaching at UMass. She taught ENG 191: Electricity, Environment, and Equity, introducing first-year students to the operational structure of the power system and shedding light on the multidisciplinary challenges of developing sustainable systems. She also volunteered for ELEVATE—a fellowship program that trains students to bridge the challenges of a just energy transition—to create STEM games, events and outreach events.

Beyond her work on climate justice, Pimentel Furlanetto partnered with engineering students to develop the audiovisual project “Womanhood in Engineering: Marriage, Motherhood, and Multicultural Backgrounds.” She also served as president of the UMass Amherst Student Chapter of INFORMS (Institute for Operations Research and Management Sciences). Her team’s efforts were recognized with the 2023 Magna Cum Laude Student Chapter Award.

With her doctoral degree, Pimentel Furlanetto plans to work in the regulatory and policy landscape of the energy sector, as well as teach and build a generation of engineers who are trained to listen, respect and include diverse human perspectives.

Distinguished Teaching Awards


Elif Savas
Elif Savas

Elif Savas was born in Eskisehir, Turkey, and grew up in Istanbul. Her Ph.D. is in political science with a concentration on political theory and comparative politics. She feels honored to receive this year’s Distinguished Teaching Award in recognition of her abilities to create a non-punitive classroom environment and build trust with her students through empathy and curiosity. 

Savas’s aptitude for educating goes beyond the classroom. She presented research from her dissertation, “Gendering the Far Right: A Comparative Perspective of Gendered Autocratization in the 21st Century,” to the American Political Science Association and Latin American Studies Association and also spoke at the Countering Backlash International Conference.

Before starting her doctoral program, Savas earned a Master of Philosophy degree from UMass Amherst. Her thesis, “Proper Subjects of Gendered Necropolitics: A Case of Constructed Virginities in Turkey,” was published as a book chapter in “Turkey’s Necropolitical Laboratory: Democracy, Violence, and Resistance” (2019).

Prior to moving to Massachusetts full time, Savas was awarded multiple grants and fellowships to conduct research in the United States. Among these are the graduate school’s Summer Research Grant (given in partnership with the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences) and the Fulbright Master’s Program Award.

Following graduation, Savas plans to work actively as a researcher, educator, and political activist on the defense of reproductive rights for sexual and gender minorities.

RoseAnn Vik
RoseAnn Vik

RoseAnn Elaine Vik, of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, is a Ph.D. candidate in microbiology. A non-traditional, first-generation student, she was a golf pro before transitioning to a career in academia.

Teaching 700 students in her role as graduate teaching assistant, Vik also mentored approximately 35 students in the Webley lab, using an inclusive and compassionate approach that shows a vested interest in each student. She wholly designed and taught a first-year seminar class, “What Bacteria Can Teach Us About Thriving,” in her role as a UMass College of Natural Sciences Teaching Fellow, and she has been a guest lecturer for multiple 300-level general microbiology courses. Her aptitude for fostering a love of learning earned her the inaugural Department of Microbiology David Pollack Graduate Teaching Award.

Vik is equally as strong of a researcher as she is an educator. Her rigorous research on pathogenic microbiology delves into a largely undeveloped field that has implications in agriculture, human health and infectious disease. In her undergraduate years, she was the winner of the Metropolitan State University Undergraduate Research Conference (2017), and received a National Science Foundation grant to contribute research to the Center for Advanced STEM Education.

Vik’s goal is to teach and mentor undergraduate research, guiding students as they navigate new content and turn uncomfortable concepts into familiar applications.