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2024 VAI Graduate School Commencement Program

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VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE GRADUATE SCHOOL<br />

<strong>2024</strong> | COMMENCEMENT PROGRAM


Wednesday, May 22, <strong>2024</strong><br />

1 P.M. | TOMATIS AUDITORIUM<br />

DOWNLOAD A PRINTABLE PDF OF THE PROGRAM BOOKLET AND GRADUATING STUDENT<br />

BIOSKETCHES AT BIT.LY/<strong>VAI</strong><strong>2024</strong>COMMENCEMENT.<br />

PROCESSIONAL<br />

WELCOME<br />

Dr. Peter A. Jones, President and Chief Scientific Officer, Van Andel Institute;<br />

President, Van Andel Institute <strong>Graduate</strong> <strong>School</strong><br />

OPENING OF CEREMONY AND DEAN’S REMARKS<br />

Dr. Eric C. Swindell, Dean and Chief Academic Officer, Van Andel Institute <strong>Graduate</strong> <strong>School</strong><br />

EXCELLENCE IN GRADUATE EDUCATION AWARD<br />

Recipient: Dr. Connie Krawczyk<br />

INTRODUCTION OF GRADUATES BY MENTORS<br />

Dr. Gerry Coetzee<br />

Dr. Carrie Graveel<br />

Dr. Russell Jones<br />

Dr. Matthew R. Steensma<br />

PRESENTATION OF CANDIDATES FOR DEGREE<br />

Dr. Eric C. Swindell<br />

CONFERRING OF DEGREES<br />

Dr. Juan Olivarez, Chair, Van Andel Institute <strong>Graduate</strong> <strong>School</strong> Board of Directors<br />

PRESENTATION OF HOODS<br />

REFLECTIONS BY GRADUATES<br />

Alix Booms<br />

Shelby Compton<br />

Rachel (Rae) House<br />

CONTINUING STUDENT PERSPECTIVE<br />

Joseph Floramo, on behalf of the <strong>Graduate</strong> Student Association<br />

RECESSIONAL<br />

Reception to follow in Cook-Hauenstein Hall.<br />

Music for today’s celebration performed by Kopper and Keys.<br />

For general questions, please contact Susanne Miller-Schachinger at<br />

susanne.miller@vai.edu.<br />

CANDIDATES FOR DEGREE AND THESIS ADVISERS<br />

Alix Booms — Dr. Gerry Coetzee<br />

Shelby Compton — Dr. Russell Jones<br />

Rachel (Rae) House — Dr. Matthew R. Steensma/<br />

Dr. Carrie Graveel<br />

VAN ANDEL EDUCATION INSTITUTE<br />

BOARD OF TRUSTEES<br />

David Van Andel<br />

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer<br />

Van Andel Institute<br />

James E. Bultman, Ed.D.<br />

Susan Keipper Meell<br />

Juan Olivarez, Ph.D.<br />

Teresa Weatherall Neal, Ed.D. (hon)<br />

VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE GRADUATE SCHOOL<br />

BOARD OF DIRECTORS<br />

Juan Olivarez, Ph.D.<br />

Chairman of the Board<br />

Mary O’Riordan, Ph.D., Vice Chair<br />

Maria Cimitile, Ph.D.<br />

James B. Fahner, M.D.<br />

Peggy Farnham, Ph.D.<br />

Peter A. Jones, Ph.D., D.Sc. (hon)<br />

Candace T. Smith-King, M.D.<br />

Thomas Curran, J.D.<br />

Secretary to the Board<br />

Katie Helder<br />

Treasurer to the Board<br />

VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE GRADUATE<br />

SCHOOL FACULTY<br />

Marie Adams, M.S.<br />

Stephen B. Baylin, M.D.<br />

Sarah Bodbyl, Ph.D.<br />

Lena Brundin, M.D., Ph.D.<br />

Nick Burton, Ph.D.<br />

Gerry Coetzee, Ph.D.<br />

Juan Du, Ph.D.<br />

Yvonne Fondufe-Mittendorf, Ph.D.<br />

Stephanie Grainger, Ph.D.<br />

Carrie R. Graveel, Ph.D.<br />

Brian Haab, Ph.D.<br />

Michael Henderson, Ph.D.<br />

Galen Hostetter, M.D.<br />

Peter A. Jones, Ph.D., D.Sc. (hon)<br />

Russell Jones, Ph.D.<br />

Connie Krawczyk, Ph.D.<br />

Peter Laird, Ph.D.<br />

Heidi Lempradl, Ph.D.<br />

Huilin Li, Ph.D.<br />

Evan Lien, Ph.D.<br />

Wei Lü, Ph.D.<br />

Darren Moore, Ph.D.<br />

Sara Nowinski, Ph.D.<br />

Gerd Pfeifer, Ph.D.<br />

J. Andrew Pospisilik, Ph.D.<br />

Scott Rothbart, Ph.D.<br />

Laurent Roybon, Ph.D.<br />

Hui Shen, Ph.D.<br />

Xiaobing Shi, Ph.D.<br />

Matthew R. Steensma, M.D.<br />

Eric C. Swindell, Ph.D.<br />

Piroska Szabó, Ph.D.<br />

Tim Triche, Jr., Ph.D.<br />

Hong Wen, Ph.D.<br />

Bart O. Williams, Ph.D.<br />

Mary Winn, Ph.D.<br />

Evan Worden, Ph.D.<br />

Tao Yang, Ph.D.<br />

Qiang Zhu, Ph.D.


Alix Booms<br />

Dissertation: Functional Evaluation of a Parkinson’s<br />

Disease Risk Enhancer in Microglia<br />

Thesis Adviser: Gerry Coetzee, Ph.D.<br />

Hometown: Greenville, MI<br />

Next Step: Postdoctoral Research Fellow in<br />

Lempradl Lab<br />

Shelby Compton<br />

Dissertation: Mechanisms of LKB1-mediated<br />

inflammation in tumor progression<br />

Thesis Adviser: Russell Jones, Ph.D.<br />

Hometown: Saugatuck and Grand Haven, MI<br />

Next Step: Postdoctoral Research Fellow in<br />

R. Jones Lab<br />

Rachel (Rae) House<br />

Dissertation: Illuminating NF1-Driven Metabolic<br />

Reprogramming in ER+ Breast<br />

Cancer and Innovating Methodology for<br />

Metabolic Inquiry<br />

Thesis Adviser: Matthew R. Steensma, M.D. and<br />

Carrie Graveel, Ph.D.<br />

Hometown: Peterborough, Ontario, Canada<br />

Next Step: Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Lien Lab<br />

Van Andel Institute <strong>Graduate</strong> <strong>School</strong><br />

develops biomedical research leaders<br />

through an intense, problem-focused<br />

Ph.D. degree in molecular and cellular<br />

biology. By combining rigorous,<br />

problem-based coursework with<br />

extensive experience in laboratories<br />

led by the Institute’s expert faculty,<br />

the <strong>Graduate</strong> <strong>School</strong> prepares students<br />

for productive careers in biomedical<br />

research and beyond. The <strong>Graduate</strong><br />

<strong>School</strong> thrives within the state-of-theart<br />

facilities of Van Andel Institute,<br />

with access to extensive core<br />

technology support and the resources<br />

of collaborators in Grand Rapids,<br />

Michigan and around the country.


History of Van Andel Institute <strong>Graduate</strong> <strong>School</strong><br />

Van Andel Institute began with a vision to improve human health through<br />

biomedical research and science education. Van Andel Institute <strong>Graduate</strong> <strong>School</strong><br />

plays a key role in this mission, combining rigorous coursework, extensive<br />

laboratory experience, and the mentorship of <strong>VAI</strong>’s expert faculty to develop the<br />

biomedical research leaders of the future.<br />

The <strong>Graduate</strong> <strong>School</strong> was founded in 2005, with a charter to grant doctoral and<br />

master’s degrees, through the leadership of Dr. Gordon Van Harn as the Director of<br />

Van Andel Institute for Education. Dr. Eric C. Swindell became the Dean and Chief<br />

Academic Officer in December 2023, bringing a vision of creativity and innovation<br />

for biomedical graduate education. The <strong>Graduate</strong> <strong>School</strong> is accredited by the Higher<br />

Learning Commission, a nationally recognized institutional accreditor. The <strong>Graduate</strong><br />

<strong>School</strong> was initially granted accreditation in 2013 and subsequently reaffirmed<br />

in <strong>2024</strong> and is gaining a national reputation for its program design, curricular<br />

approach, and student support.<br />

From the first cohort of three pioneering students in 2007, the <strong>Graduate</strong> <strong>School</strong><br />

has grown to a student body of 49 scholars from 14 different countries. Including<br />

today’s graduates, 43 students have earned Ph.D. degrees and four have earned<br />

master’s degrees. <strong>Graduate</strong> <strong>School</strong> alumni are now taking leadership positions<br />

in academia, research, and industry, carrying forward <strong>VAI</strong>’s values of curiosity,<br />

collaboration, and urgency to improve the health and enhance the lives of current<br />

and future generations.<br />

Acknowledgments<br />

We gratefully acknowledge that the success of the <strong>Graduate</strong> <strong>School</strong> arises from:<br />

• The vision and generosity of Van Andel Institute Founders Jay and Betty<br />

Van Andel.<br />

• The stalwart support of David Van Andel, Chairman and CEO of<br />

Van Andel Institute.<br />

• Encouraging guidance from Van Andel Education Institute Board of Trustees.<br />

• Creative direction and diligent oversight by past and current members of the<br />

Van Andel Institute <strong>Graduate</strong> <strong>School</strong> Board of Directors.<br />

• Instrumental leadership by Past President and Founding Dean, Dr. Steven J.<br />

Triezenberg, in establishing and developing our accredited Ph.D. program<br />

(2006 until retirement in June 2023).<br />

• Committed leadership of Van Andel Institute <strong>Graduate</strong> <strong>School</strong> President Dr. Peter<br />

A. Jones and Dean and Chief Academic Officer Dr. Eric C. Swindell, along with<br />

dedicated and excellent work by <strong>Graduate</strong> <strong>School</strong> staff members: Associate Dean<br />

Dr. Sarah Bodbyl Roels, Assistant Dean Dr. Carrie Graveel, Director of Assessment<br />

and Professional Development Taylor Boyd, Director of Enrollment and Records<br />

Christy Mayo, Director of Student Support Services Alli Roman, and administrative<br />

team members Taijah Claybrook, Michelle Love, and Susanne Miller-Schachinger.


vai.org/graduate-school

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