Skip to main content Skip to navigation

President’s Leadership winners honored for mentorship, volunteerism

Mentors, volunteers and leaders in the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences have earned recognition for how they change the world and help their community.

Eleven CAHNRS staff and faculty members, undergraduates and graduate students were presented with the Leadership and Engagement Award of Distinction (LEAD) from the President of Washington State University, April 18 at Pullman’s Compton Union Building.

Presented jointly by the WSU Center for Civic Engagement and the Office of Student Involvement, the President’s Award for Leadership and Engagement honors people who show exceptional service, involvement, mentoring, leadership and social change in the university and their community.

Two from CAHNRS received Faculty and Staff awards: Marwa Sanad, research associate in the Institute of Biological Chemistry (IBC), and Debbie Christel, assistant professor in the Department of Apparel, Merchandising, Design and Textiles (AMDT).

Marwa Sanad

Challenging herself to help others

At IBC, Sanad researches how plants adapt and protect themselves to ensure sustainable agriculture and food security under climate change.

She also volunteers throughout the campus and is involved with her local and global community, as a member of the Plant Biochemistry Graduate Student/Postdoc Seminar planning committee; as a Pullman Regional Hospital volunteer; collecting refugee donations for UNICEF; as a voting member for the President Commission on the Status of Women; as co-advisor of the Arabic Language and Culture Organization at WSU; and as past president of the Muslim Women Association of Pullman at the local Islamic center, among other efforts.

“To come to the USA as a colored, Arabic, and Muslim researcher, especially as a woman and a single mother of two children, was not an easy mission,” she said. “Every day, a new challenge was waiting to prove that I am capable.”

The President’s Award has been a big inspiration for Sanad, who once questioned whether she should invest so much time in volunteerism, helping students, and social work.

“I feel now that I am part of WSU, as WSU is a part of me,” she said. “I’ll never hesitate to race for more professional and civic engagement, together with my research goals. This award confirms my lifetime hypotheses: that hard is possible, and that if you have potential, then you need to put it to good use.”


Debbie Christel

Mentoring design for everyone

“Clothing has tremendous power to improve quality of life,” said AMDT’s Christel, whose teaching and research explores data-driven design for diverse body types.

Mentoring undergraduates and introducing students to hands-on academic research, Christel’s work is rooted in the belief that everyone deserves equal access to high quality clothing.

“Instead of taking an aesthetic approach, my students and I look at the experiences of the wearer, then design from that perspective—not from the perspective of what looks pretty,” she said. “I want my students to be critical and creative problem solvers.”

Christel with AMDT students at the Cougs LEAD Awards Ceremony, April 18.

For Christel, the President’s Award affirms that her teaching and undergraduate research projects are providing transformational learning for WSU students.

“It feels great to be recognized,” she said. “I have tried really hard to create learning environments that help students grow as individuals, and cultivate their thinking rather than their ability to memorize facts. That really is the greatest gift and exactly what I try to do.”

Student award winners

Graduate student recipients of the President’s Award for Leadership included Shuresh Ghimire, a doctoral student studying vegetable horticulture, and Melanie Thornton, a doctoral student in the Environmental and Natural Resource Sciences program.

Undergraduate recipients of the award include Tyisha Brown El, Interior Design; Paige Campbell, Economic Sciences; Brennan Hyden, Horticulture; Erika Nonan, Apparel, Merchandising, Design and Textiles; Alfredo Rosas, Landscape Architecture; Mackenzie Selleg, Human Development; and Kyle Strachila, Economic Sciences, Agricultural and Food Systems.

Media Contacts

Deborah Christel, Assistant Professor,
Marwa Sanad, Research Associate,