Auburn doctoral students, postdoctoral scholar selected for SEC’s Emerging Scholars Program

Students will travel to University of Missouri to participate in workshops preparing them for faculty roles

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Three Auburn University doctoral students and one postdoctoral scholar will join the Southeastern Conference’s (SEC) Emerging Scholars Program later this month to gain insightful professional development and networking tools for building careers in higher education.

The program was established in 2021 by conference institutions' provosts to help support current doctoral students and postdoctoral researchers from historically underrepresented groups who are considering becoming faculty members. In line with Auburn’s efforts to increase learning opportunities for underrepresented students, the Office of Inclusion and Diversity, or OID, is Auburn’s designated representative for the initiative and worked collaboratively with the Graduate School to select three doctoral students and one postdoctoral fellow to participate this year.

Taffye Benson Clayton, associate provost for Inclusion and Diversity, and veterinarian Dr. Bruce Smith—who serves with Clayton on the Presidential Task Force for Opportunity and Equity—will travel with the scholars to represent Auburn.

“I am honored to accompany these promising scholars as they continue to grow and develop their career prospects for post-graduation,” Clayton said. “We are excited to continue this conference-wide commitment to developing a talented and diverse future of the professoriate.”

The University of Missouri will host emerging scholars and representatives from each SEC institution from Sept. 27-29 for a series of workshops and talks moderated by SEC administrators and faculty. These sessions will focus on topics including applying and interviewing, navigating bias, presenting yourself, navigating your early career as a faculty member and more.

“This collaboration among the SEC provosts will allow us to prepare the future generation of higher education leaders and cultivate a talented and diverse pipeline from our universities to the outside world,” said Vini Nathan, interim provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. “I am thrilled to have partnered with my colleagues in the conference to help these talented students gain such invaluable career development experience.”

Auburn’s participants in this year’s Emerging Scholars program are:

  • Sharday Ewell, a postdoctoral neuroscience fellow in the College of Sciences and Mathematics
  • Jordan Alvarez, a counseling psychology doctoral student in the College of Education
  • Kaniz Afroz Tanni, a pharmaceutical sciences doctoral student in the Harrison College of Pharmacy
  • Will Dwayne Thomas, a history doctoral student in the College of Liberal Arts

“This workshop can help me gain a comprehensive understanding of the academic environment and culture in the U.S.,” said Tanni, a native of Bangladesh. “I think this workshop will also provide me with an in-depth overview of the job search process and delineate the ways I can improve my job application. On one hand, the prospective faculty members will bring fresh ideas to the table, and on the other, the SEC university administrators with extensive experience will offer valuable insights. I’m excited to discuss teaching and research effectiveness strategies with them.”

After completing the program, students will be more prepared to navigate the initial stages of their tenure-track careers and will have the opportunity to share what they have learned with their classmates and peers.

Last year’s inaugural experience was virtual, and eight Auburn students participated: Akilah Alwan, College of Sciences and Mathematics; Andricus Burton, College of Sciences and Mathematics; LaVarius Harris, College of Education; Jessica Renee Norton, College of Human Sciences; Kamia Slaughter, College of Education; Ja’lia Taylor, College of Education; Ashley Williams, College of Sciences and Mathematics; and Shaniqua Lanea Williams, College of Liberal Arts.

For more information on the SEC’s academic collaborations and programs, visit For more on Auburn’s commitment, initiatives and progress toward building a diverse, equitable and inclusive campus, visit the Office of Inclusion and Diversity. OID can be contacted at

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