In this month's student-scholar spotlight, we feature Makena Neal, Doctoral Candidate, who was awarded the American Association for Adult and Continuing Education (AAACE) Graduate Student Leadership Award.

Makena Neal began her doctoral study in Higher, Adult and Lifelong Education, in 2016 and aims to complete her program in May of this academic year. Throughout her doctoral program, Makena dedicated her time toward activities that align with her interests of adult learning, community engagement, and professional development. For the past two years, she has been the leader of all outreach related activities for the #iteachmsu Commons, a campus-wide initiative aimed at creating a space where educators across roles can come together to share their work, connect with other educators, and grow in their educator practice. As a part of this work, Makena launched MSU’s “Thank an Educator” initiative and #iteachmsu Educator Awards, a year-long peer-recognition program that shares gratitude for educators across roles at an institutional scale. Additionally, Makena is one of two authors of MSU’s Educator Competency Framework, a directive that came from the Provost’s office, and will be utilized at both individual and communal scales to guide and align educator professional development across roles and campus. In addition to the efforts outlined above, Makena is a co-coordinator of the Graduate Leadership Institute, which includes designing, organizing, facilitating, and evaluating the Leadership Fellows, the Leadership Summit, and the Leadership Academy programs. Makena is dedicated to leading innovative, change-oriented programming to enhance opportunities for the learning and development of adults and communities around her. Based on her interest and dedication to leadership initiatives, Makena was awarded the AAACE Graduate Student Leadership Award.