Loyola University Chicago

The Graduate School

Arthur J. Schmitt Fellowship

The Arthur J. Schmitt Foundation supports graduate level study at Loyola University Chicago. 

Reflecting Arthur J. Schmitt's responsible stewardship to his community and the world, the Schmitt Leadership Scholar Fellowship commits its resources to supporting doctoral students who show both great financial need and great promise to develop personal leadership, then fosters their development as socially responsible leaders in the Loyola community and beyond. At Loyola, this goal aligns closely with our own Jesuit mission of expanding knowledge in the service of humanity. 

The fellowships provide support to PhD students who have demonstrated excellence in all aspects of graduate study and are in the final stage of doctoral work, i.e. completing the dissertation. The fellowships include a stipend, a tuition scholarship, and health insurance.

See our current Schmitt Fellows below; a list of previous Schmitt Fellows can be found here.

2021-2022 Schmitt Fellows

Diana Acosta is a doctoral candidate in the Developmental Psychology PhD Program. Her research seeks to advance knowledge about how everyday familial interactions and conversations support Latine children’s informal learning of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). With a broader goal of making STEM more equitable and accessible to diverse learners, she incorporates a strengths-based approach in her work to understand how families’ everyday practices around science and engineering can support early engagement and learning of STEM. One of her projects, conducted in the Tinkering Lab at the Chicago Children’s Museum, examined how tinkering can provide culturally sustaining engineering learning opportunities for Latine families. Diana was named a Frances Degen Horowitz Millennium Scholar by the Society for Research in Child Development, an honor awarded to scholars of color who demonstrate a commitment to diversity and social justice in developmental science. Her dissertation examines how the cultural practice of oral stories and storytelling during at-home tinkering activities can foster engineering learning and spatial language use among Latine children and their families. Given the COVID-19 pandemic, this project has been conducted online and will elucidate alternate methods for conducting online observational studies with children and families, in particular with the Latine community, which has been underrepresented in developmental science research. Diana’s dissertation will also make significant contributions to the literature on children’s learning and will provide practical implications for parents, teachers, and other STEM educators.

I am a PhD candidate in the English department. My studies the politics of relationships between human and non-human animals, including dogs and horses, in twentieth and twenty-first century U.S. fiction and media. I am looking for “modes of relation” between human and non-human animals at specific moments in history. For example, in one chapter I study narratives of friendship with work animals in regional twentieth-century American fiction. In another, I address the complex role dogs play in both challenging and reinforcing human rights abuses. Though this project deals primarily with literary fiction, I am also studying relationships as they appear in film, television, scientific studies, and pop culture. In taking the bonds people share with other animals seriously (including my own complicated friendships with the animals who live with me), I want to tangle with questions of ethical treatment, respect, and reciprocity within significant or intimate personal attachments that begin in power imbalance.

Ultimately, this project is driven by the hope that the paradigm of kill or be killed, own or be owned, dominate or be abused, etc. is not the only possible structure for survival. Close attention to the way we relate to animals reveals both the difficulty of and the potential for sharing power in liberating ways. In this sense, the dissertation asks what alternatives to predatory social structures and cruel abuse of difference we might find in the animals and animal stories we are drawn to. 

This research aligns with a vision of leadership, drawn from Women’s and Gender Studies, that seeks to align academic work with the needs of the community. By sharing power with our students and including community organizations in our teaching and writing, I believe colleges can create moments of imagination in which new formations of power or survival become visible. The Schmitt Fellowship will allow me to continue my pursuit of teaching and research as a holistic, ethically-driven, community-oriented vocation. I am excited at the possibility of working with my peers in other disciplines to imagine better worlds together. 



Arseniy Butrin is a PhD candidate working in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry in Dr. Dali Liu’s X-ray crystallography lab. Over the past three years, Arseniy has been working on research projects in structure-based drug design and has published six research papers in high impact journals to date. His work in lab has produced significant results to help advance a potential novel therapy for Hepatocellular Carcinoma (HCC), the most common type of primary liver cancer. 

Arseniy has mentored threemaster’s students and five undergraduate students in research and has served as teaching assistant in General Chemistry lab, Organic Chem lab, Physical Chemistry lab, and Biochemistry lab. The awarded Schmitt Fellowship will support him to complete his research thesis on “Structural and Transient Kinetic Analysis on Mechanism-Based Inactivators of Human Ornithine Aminotransferases”. The results of his thesis project potentially could be used for the rational design of a new generation of drugs against HCC. 

Arseniy’s ultimate goal as a scientist is to make a positive impact for society. He wants to help people despite their race, background, and gender. He thinks thatlack of effective and appropriate treatments for serious diseases at their terminal stage is one of the one of the most crucial problems of modern society. He believes that as scientists deserve equal opportunities to work on their research, patients around the world deserve equal and effective treatment. 




Nathan Ellstrand is a PhD Candidate in History and Arthur J. Schmitt Fellow at Loyola University Chicago, and a Visiting Student Researcher at the University of California, Berkeley.  Among various topics, he is interested in United States-Latin American transnational history, ideology, and borderlands.  He is currently writing his dissertation on the political activities of the Unión Nacional Sinarquista, a right-wing Mexican Catholic organization, in the United States during World War II.  His work for his Masters in Latin American Studies at the University of California, San Diego covered women's leadership in the Partido Liberal Mexicano while the party was in exile in early twentieth century Los Angeles.  Nathan has also conducted research and presented on the sanctuary movement of the 1980s.

Apart from academia, Nathan is passionate about education and social justice.  Nathan enjoys eating (he’s a foodie!), traveling and riding his bike in his free time.




Emily Ma is a doctoral candidate in the department of Integrative Cell Biology. Her work, in Dr. Clodia Osipo’s lab, focuses on the epigenetic regulator, histone lysine methyltransferase 2D (KMT2D), and its role in HER2+ breast cancer resistance. KMT2D belongs to a family of histone modifying proteins which plays an important role in regulating developmental processes. Specifically, KMT2D monomethylates histone 3 lysine 4 at enhancers throughout the genome and is required for transcriptional activation. Emily’s work has shown that KMT2D is necessary for both proliferation and cancer stem cell survival in the HER2+ BT474 cell line. Through RNA-sequencing and ChIP-sequencing experiments, Emily has identified several KMT2D regulated genes that may contribute to these phenotypes and serve as novel targets for therapies. Additional contributions of this dissertation include advancing our understanding of the development of drug-resistance in HER2+ breast cancers. Outside of the lab, Emily is actively involved in Loyola’s admissions committee both as an interviewer and as a student volunteer helping prospective medical students enhance their applications and develop their leadership and advocacy skills. As a Schmitt fellow, Emily will continue to serve her community and hone her leadership skills with the goal of becoming a future leader and advocate for others in both medicine and research. 



Dannis Matteson is a doctoral candidate in the Integrative Studies in Ethics and Theology (ISET) program and her dissertation is titled "Creative Disobedience: A Critical Political Character Ethics for Delinking from Patterns of Racial and Religious Supremacy." Inspired by the work of German theologian, Dorothee Sölle, who links the Christian virtue of obedience to the atrocity of Nazi genocide, Dannis aims to target the ways in which white Christian supremacy is masked as morality in U.S. communities today. Dannis' project implements a character ethics approach to identify red flags within Christian moral identity formation that signal patterns of racial and religious supremacy. Ultimately, this will contribute to retrieving and creating communal practices of delinking from supremacist attitudes, beliefs and behaviors, through critical self-reflection, prayerful protest, and active solidarity.

Aside from working on her dissertation, Dannis stays busy organizing with Edgewater Mutual Aid Network and serving as a founding team-member of EncounterPoint, a spiritual community and hospitality hub for individuals and groups who collaborate on spirituality and social justice initiatives.

Rebecca Valeriano-Flores is a doctoral candidate, archivist, and musician. Her doctoral research in the Philosophy Department is in phenomenology, existentialism, and critical philosophy of race. Her dissertation, “Three-Dimensional Praxis: Frantz Fanon and Anti-Colonial Practices of the Self,” addresses issues of race and racism by developing a philosophical resource to help guide us in anti-racist political action and work toward a more just world. To create this world, we must (1) uncover the hidden structures of racism that are at the core of our experiences, (2) practice self-reflection to find how those hidden structures affects our own experience, and (3) take part in building a just world in our very own communities. She is also part of a community-based, participatory action research project on incarceration and civil commitment in Illinois. As part of this project, she is working on the development of an archive of materials received from incarcerated people in Illinois, from poetry and written testimony to institutional handbooks and forms. As a musician and performing artist, she has released three full-length albums and has toured the U.S. and Europe. Her newest project, “The Silence of Memory,” is a multimedia work that mixes storytelling, visuals, and sound to explore themes of violence, self-refection, family, and memory—a creative work developed in parallel with her dissertation research.


Jesus Zamora-Pineda is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology. His research focuses on understanding how microbes influence the immune cells within the human body. Probiotics are microorganisms that can live in our bodies and have essential functions in developing and shaping a robust immune system. Understanding the mechanisms of how these bacteria can do this is subject to active investigations. The Knight lab studies the probioticBacillus subtilis, a gram-positive bacterium found in fermented soybeans and farm soil. The Knight group has previously found that the active compound of  subtilis is the sugars found outside of the bacterium called exopolysaccharide (EPS). Injecting purified EPS alleviates symptoms and increases survival in animal models of colitis, sepsis, and graft-versus-host disease. Mr. Zamora-Pineda’s thesis tries to uncover the molecular and cellular mechanisms of how EPS can mediate these health benefits. EPS acts on innate cells called macrophages and dendritic cells to decrease inflammation and disease. Surprisingly, EPS is recognized by these cells using the same receptor needed to identify harmful bacteria. This finding suggests that this receptor called TLR4 can distinguish between harmful or beneficial bacteria. His thesis aims to uncover this mystery. Successful completion of this dissertation will provide knowledge on how to switch off inflammation in inflammatory diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease. Furthermore, it will also serve as a solid basis for developing inexpensive and easy-to-administer treatments that can protect and ease the suffering of people with inflammatory conditions.