Carnegie Mellon University

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April 22, 2016

Creating Allies

University Honors Frankenstein’s Mission To Serve His Community

By Josh Quicksall

Will Frankenstein’s work is all about the numbers. But his passion is about community.

The sixth-year doctoral candidate from Carnegie Mellon University’s Engineering and Public Policy has won the 2016 Graduate Service Award, which recognizes one student each year who renders extraordinary service to graduate students and the university.

“Many nominees have made significant contributions to their department, their college, the student groups,” said Suzie Laurich-McIntyre, Assistant Vice-Provost for Graduate Education. “While Will looked to make a difference in each of those segments of campus, he also looked across groups and across borders to create an environment where all were truly comfortable and welcomed. It was his approachability, collaborativeness and dedication to the entire community that put him over the top.”

As a scholar, Frankenstein has earned the respect and admiration of his peers and colleagues. An affiliate of the Center for Computational Analysis of Social and Organizational Systems (CASOS) in the Institute for Software Research, he has made a name for himself through his work, which applies the latest research on statistical and computational models to look at the causes and consequences of nuclear proliferation.

“What you see in the literature is that the three big groups of players — nuclear engineers, political scientists and policymakers — often talk past each other. There’s important day-to-day work that gets accomplished, but it’s difficult to really appreciate the different contributions these communities are making,” Frankenstein said. “My work brings together discourse and data in all of these areas to take a wider view — with the goal of helping the community stay focused and productive in their work together on this shared goal of nonproliferation.”

Kathleen M. Carley, professor of Computer Science and CASOS director, called Frankenstein a natural collaborator.

“He always brings a unique perspective while being courteous of and interested in other’s ideas,” she said. “He always pulls his weight and, although he will take charge when appropriate, he is just as adept in a contributing role.”

Carley said Frankenstein has gone above and beyond in service to the computational social science community by conducting special teaching exercises, organizing course modules and assisting students in data collection and paper preparation.

That diligence extends far beyond the classroom and lab.

“Will’s service can be characterized by his commitment to make Carnegie Mellon a more supportive and inclusive community” said Carolyn Commer, president of Carnegie Mellon’s Graduate Student Assembly (GSA), who nominated Frankenstein for the award.

Whether it was championing social events appealing to those who do not drink alcohol, advocating for a more family-friendly environment for graduate students with children or pushing for the involvement and engagement of international and master’s degree students in GSA initiatives, Frankenstein has led efforts that have transformed lives.

“When I first came to CMU in 2014, I was struck by the engaged and inclusive groups drawing together students from across campus,” said Douglas Sicker, Thomas Lord Endowed Chair and Department Head for Engineering and Public Policy. “Part of this can be directly credited to the tremendous work and leadership provided by Will Frankenstein. Will has put in place or enhanced organizations and systems that will continue to serve CMU for years to come.”

One of those organizations is Allies Grad, a university-wide graduate student LGBTQ+ that Frankenstein co-founded with Casey Canfield, Christian Köhler, Jonathan Porras and Rich Truncellito. Since its inception two years ago, the group has grown from 20 to more than 100 members from every college.

“I’m thankful for the leadership opportunities I’ve had — and the friends and leaders here at CMU who have encouraged me to step up and serve,” Frankenstein said.

“CMU can be a very warm and community-minded institution, Sometimes it’s built into the divisions the university has created — the different schools, departments, labs and cohorts that everyone enters with. But sometimes, it’s necessary to break out of those divisions, especially for smaller groups such as LGBTQ students, where we’re scattered all across the university.” he added. “My hope is that, with Allies Grad, future graduate LGBTQ students at CMU will be able to meet and navigate those divisions. I’m grateful for the support that the group has received from across the university, from the Division of Student Affairs, the Assistant Vice-Provost for Graduate Education and the Student Life office.”

And as he prepares to defend his dissertation, Frankenstein has passed on the reins; yet, continues to inspire, inform and lead. The echoes of Andrew Carnegie credo “My Heart is in the Work” is in all that Frankenstein has done in service to those around him.

“Will’s work has had a rippling effect,” Commer said.