2021 Graduate Contribution to Community Life Award Recipients 

Shekinah A. Fashaw-Walters

Shekinah Fashaw-Walters is from Delray Beach, FL and will be receiving a PhD from the Department of Health Services Policy and Practice. During her time at Brown she engaged as a servant leader and especially worked to support diversity and inclusion efforts at both the departmental, school of public health, and university level. Shekinah has served in various leadership capacities including as the president of the Samuel M. Nabrit Black Graduate Student Association, the Chair of Student Life for the Graduate Student Council,  a Co-Coordinator for the 2019 Graduate Students of Color Orientation, and a student planner for the Womxn in STEM Symposium. In addition, she has served as a trusted student voice on her department's admissions committee, school DIAP committee, and the Graduate School's Diversity Advisory Board. Shekinah considers herself a life-long learner and has enjoyed the opportunity to participate in the Research Matters talks, BEST program, and Sheridan Center Teach Consultant program. After graduation, she will be joining the faculty at the University of Minnesota as a tenure-track Assistant Professor in the division of Health Policy and Management. There, Shekinah will continue her research on health equity, aging, and racism while supporting and mentoring students from historically underrepresented backgrounds. 


Bardiya Akhbari

Born and raised in Tehran, Iran, Bardiya will receive his Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering in May 2021, where he will deliver the 2021 Commencement Ceremony Doctoral Address. Bardiya joined Prof. Trey Crisco's laboratory at Brown University in September 2016 and started his research at the intersection of orthopedics, biomechanics, and medical imaging to design systems that can translate to clinical settings to reduce pain and improve wellness.
During his time at Brown, Bardiya was involved in several roles across the university. From 2019 to 2020, Bardiya was a graduate board member of the International Students' Advisory Board, meeting the administration regularly to discuss the problems that international students face. During Bardiya’s tenure, the Board found the biggest challenge facing international students is the lack of on-campus housing for international graduate students. The Board also advocated for enhancing tax advising and filing support services, subsidizing SEVIS/SEVP and OPT application costs for international students, as well as establishing emergency funding for leaves, meal support, and other basic needs. Bardiya was also the co-founder and president of the Iranian Graduate Students Association (IGSA) for four years and the president of the Iranian Students Association (both graduate and undergraduate chapters) for two years. During his tenure, Bardiya and his team arranged more than ten community events and supported current and prospective Iranian students in various capacities (such as waiving admission fees for Iranian-born students in 2017 and extending the graduate school’s application deadlines in 2019). Bardiya was also the representative of the Center for Biomedical Engineering at the Graduate Student Council (GSC) for two years and the faculty meeting observer for the BioMedical Engineering and Biotechnology (BMEB) graduate advisory board. As a representative for GSC, Bardiya was communicating the university-wide news and resources to the department and students, and as the faculty observer for BMEB, he was reporting the decisions made by faculty during the meetings to the department to improve the center’s transparency. Bardiya plans to continue in the field of biomechanics research, and he is seeking out a postdoctoral appointment.

Christopher J. Lee

Christopher J. Lee grew up in Irvine, California and will be receiving a PhD in English in May 2021. Chris has served as Graduate Coordinator (2019-2020) for the Brown Center for Students of Color and as a member of the Bias Review Team (2019-2020). They were selected as a Graduate Community Fellow (2019-2020) for a new area of focus, “Gender Queeries,” an initiative to make institutions more equitable for trans, queer, and gender non-conforming graduate students. Their research on trans/queer politics has been featured in a wide range of academic and non-academic publications, including TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly, Women & Performance, The New Inquiry, The Baffler, and Art Papers. Chris has sought out opportunities to mentor students and student groups, especially trans and queer students of color. They have served as editorial advisor (2015-206) to Brown’s student-run feminist publication, bluestockings magazine, and as a primary instructor for a directed independent study on "Critical Trans Studies." At Brown, Chris has collaborated with undergraduate and graduate students to organize panels, film screenings, and workshops that spotlight trans liberation, including “Captive Genders” (2016) with filmmaker and community historian Tourmaline, and “Free Cece!” (2018) with activist and prison abolitionist CeCe McDonald. Beyond Brown, Chris has worked with AS220 to co-found and lead Queer Arts Festival (2015-2019), an annual event series that highlighted queer artists and activists in Providence. Chris also co-curated the Publicly Complex poetry series (2018-2020), and currently serves as Board Treasurer (2020-present) for the Providence Youth Student Movement (PrYSM), an organization that supports Southeast Asian young people, queer and trans people of color, and communities impacted by state violence. After graduation, Chris will return to Brown as a Dean's Faculty Fellow. They plan to spend their summer growing vegetables and herbs at Tooth and Nail Farm, a BIPOC support collective. Their goal is to center trans/queer liberation in all aspects of their work— professional, academic, and otherwise.

Amy Chin

Amy grew up in Queens, New York. As a first-generation low-income undergraduate student, she attended the School of Industrial Labor Relations at Cornell University to learn how to build worker power, particularly with immigrant women of color. She brought these political investments and lessons to Brown through her consciousness-raising efforts in programming, teaching and mentorship. At the Sarah Doyle Center for Women and Gender (SDC), Amy served as a graduate coordinator where she created programming around pedagogy, community-based research, and women of color feminisms. She is grateful to the SDC for its enduring commitment to provide the gentle space for all folks to figure out what feminism means to them on their own terms. Through the SDC, she began co-coordinating Brown Asian Sisters Empowered (BASE), an Asian/American feminist student group at Brown. From her BASE students, she has learned what it means to try together—whether that meant figuring out what we cared about in community, supporting one another as we muddled our way through and/or being there for each other during the highs and lows of our attempts. For Amy, BASE’s emergency gathering zoom meeting after Georgia remains a testament to the potential Asian/Americans have to care for one another here at Brown. Her work and time in graduate school has been deeply shaped and sustained by the wonderful students and staff who are trying to build a more livable world. This summer she will receive a PhD in sociology. After Brown, she will start a position as a tenure track Assistant Professor at Vassar in the American Studies and Asian Studies programs.