Meet PhD Candidate Thelma Velez

Meet PhD Candidate Thelma Velez

Thelma Velez, a PhD candidate in the School of Environment and Natural Resources at The Ohio State University, is nearing the end of her doctoral degree and a three-year-long National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.

Awarded to Velez in 2016, the National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) is the country's oldest fellowship program supporting graduate students in various science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. The program recognizes outstanding graduate students i who are pursuing research-based master's and doctoral degrees at accredited United States institutions. The fellowship provides an annual stipend and a cost of education allowance for tuition and fees, opportunities for international research and professional development. Velez adds, “When I came to OSU, I had already been awarded a university fellowship for my first year of study. Securing the NSF GRFP was essentially a blessing of money, time, and freedom to commit to becoming a better scholar.”

Velez, who expects to graduate in May 2020, is an environmental sociologist researching environmental, climate, and food justice mobilization and activism utilizing a social movement lens. Her publications span theoretical and political economic analyses to action-oriented, community-based projects seeking to alleviate the most pressing problems in our society today. Part of her dissertation focuses onthe convergence of agroecology, climate justice, and the environmental justice movements in Puerto Rico post-Hurricane Maria and the pervasive legacy of colonialism.

She has been actively attending Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI) professional development events for several years and also served as a panelist for incoming/interested cohorts of students. Velez adds, “The program that has had the greatest impact on me has been ODI's Preparing for the Professoriate retreats.” The retreats provide a scholarly atmosphere of support where doctoral students can share and receive ongoing feedback on their research and professional interests. In additional to the retreat, Velez will be attending ODI's Dissertation Boot Camp in the near future, which provides PhD candidates from underrepresented populations with the space to work on their dissertations with other Ohio State students and faculty.

After graduating, Velez hopes to obtain a tenure-track faculty position. “One the one hand, I really enjoy research, teaching, and service within academia; however, I am also pursuing this trajectory because I am dedicated to changing the disparate representation of women of color in faculty positions. Latinx women comprise only 1.3% of university professors in the U.S., Black women are 1.6%, and Indigenous/American Indian women < 0.1%. As institutions across the nation continue to recruit underrepresented students, particularly people of color,