Jeanette Shakalli

Be creative and don't be afraid of sharing
your true passion with others.

Jeanette Shakalli

Aggie women are doing extraordinary things across the globe and the Aggie Women Network want to shine a spotlight on each of them.

Born in Panama City, Panama, Dr. Shakalli obtained her Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and Chemistry from the University of Notre Dame in 2007 and received the Senior GE Prize for Mathematics Majors. From 2007 until 2008, she was recognized with the W.E. Coppage Fellowship in Mathematics and obtained her PhD in Mathematics from Texas A&M University in 2012. During her graduate studies, she worked as Teaching Assistant and Instructor of several undergraduate math courses.

From 2012 until 2019, Dr. Shakalli worked at the National Secretariat of Science, Technology and Innovation (SENACYT) of Panama. Dr. Shakalli is currently the Executive Director of the Panamanian Foundation for the Promotion of Mathematics (FUNDAPROMAT), a private non-profit Foundation whose mission is to promote the study of mathematics in the Republic of Panama.

Since 2017, she is the International Mathematical Union (IMU)’s Committee for Women in Mathematics (CWM) Ambassador for Panama. Dr. Shakalli currently serves as Secretary on the Board of Directors of the Panamanian Association for the Advancement of Science (APANAC), Secretary on the Board of Directors of IEEE Panama Section, and Program Committee Chair of the Special Interest Group of the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) on Recreational Mathematics (SIGMAA REC). Moreover, she is the Executive Coordinator of the Panama Pod of 500 Women Scientists and a member on the Advisory Council of the Gathering 4 Gardner (G4G) Foundation.

 

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Why did you choose to be an Aggie?

I chose to pursue my graduate studies at Texas A&M University due to the excellence in teaching, the quality of research and the amazing faculty members in their Department of Mathematics. As soon as I was admitted, I was assigned a first-year graduate advisor, Dr. Paulo Lima-Filho, who was always looking after me to make sure that I was adapting well to the courses, the program and the new environment. As an international graduate student, Texas A&M University recognized the importance of having a support system so that every student can reach their maximum potential. Later on, I chose Dr. Sarah Witherspoon, who is currently the Head of the Department of Mathematics, to be my PhD thesis advisor. She was the best advisor any student could hope for!

What is your favorite memory as a student?

My favorite memory as a graduate student at Texas A&M University was spending quality time with my fellow classmates. I met amazing people from diverse countries like Mexico, Nepal, Uruguay, Canada, Czech Republic, United States, India and many others, who I still consider to be my friends. My most precious moments were by far learning about their different cultures, sharing anecdotes about our lives and experiences, and realizing that even though we come from distinct backgrounds, we are so similar in so many ways.

What advice do you have for current students/students about to graduate?

Seize the moment! Time flies so fast that in a blink of an eye, everything changes. Also, be flexible to adapt to the new situation, whatever that might be, and make the best of it! Be creative and don't be afraid of sharing your true passion with others. For instance, I love mathematics! People used to make me feel uncomfortable whenever I shared my passion for mathematics with others but now I use it as an opportunity. If they say something like "I never liked math," I try to change their perception towards mathematics and help them see the beauty and richness of mathematics with concrete examples, such as the connections between magic and math, or music and math, or origami and math. Since math is all around us, there are endless examples that we can come up with, depending on their personal likes and dislikes.

What is your favorite quote or mantra that you live by?

"If you do what you love, you'll never work a day in your life."
– Marc Anthony

What is your greatest accomplishment/project you’re most proud of?

During the pandemic, I have organized more than 140 virtual events on mathematics with more than 16,000 participants, including kids and adults of all ages from diverse countries like Panama, Spain, Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Colombia, Guatemala, Ecuador, Venezuela, Brazil, Peru, United States and many more Spanish-speaking countries. As the Executive Director of the Panamanian Foundation for the Promotion of Mathematics (FUNDAPROMAT), I want to inspire our youth to study math or follow a career in STEM. I also want to convince the general population that math is not only fun but it also has many interesting applications. It is overwhelming how FUNDAPROMAT's mathematical outreach efforts have impacted the international community and in only 6 months!

What were you going to be when you grew up?

I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up. My mom wanted me to study medicine since she is a pediatrician. My dad wanted me to study something business related since he has a PhD in Chemistry but he is the CEO of a chemical company in Panama so he figured that something business related might help me succeed in life. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at things), I was not interested in either of them. During my first year as an undergraduate student at the University of Notre Dame, I had to take the regular core courses as part of the undergraduate program. I enjoyed learning about mathematics and chemistry so much that I decided I wanted to study both so I obtained my Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and Chemistry from the University of Notre Dame in 2007.

Favorite movie quote:

"The answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything is… 42."
– The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

I would love to have a switch in my brain that I could turn on and off that would allow me to read people's minds. I have always wondered what on Earth is going on inside people's heads. With this superpower, I could work on a research project to analyze how people truly think and reach conclusions following their own personal logic. In fact, this superpower could even be temporary because what I genuinely want is to help avoid so many conflicts among human beings by examining the results of this study.

Sarah Jackson

Brace yourself for failure and hardship.
It’s a necessary ingredient for success.

Sarah Jackson

Aggie women are doing extraordinary things across the globe and the Aggie Women Network want to shine a spotlight on each of them.

Sarah Jackson has a long-rooted passion for public service and public affairs. She currently serves as the Vice President of Strategy and Public Affairs for Dallas Citizens Council – an organization of Dallas-area executive business leaders who engage in public policy and infrastructure initiatives impacting the area. Before her move back to Texas in 2009, Sarah was a communications professional in Washington, D.C. She served as the Deputy Press Secretary for U.S. Congressman Pete Sessions (TX-32) and Press Secretary for U.S. Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (NE-1). Her previous experience also includes a Presidential Appointment to the U.S. Department of State as a Public Affairs Specialist in the Office of Media Affairs. At the U.S. State Department, Sarah collaborated on strategic media initiatives for senior officials – including the U.S. Secretary of State. In 2014, Sarah participated as a Storyteller in 41ON41 - a film on former U.S. President George H. W. Bush. Two years later, Sarah was selected as a 2016 Presidential Leadership Scholar. There she had the opportunity to further study former Presidents George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush, William J. Clinton, and Lyndon B. Johnson. In 2022, Sarah will serve as President of The Texas Lyceum, an organization that facilitates a greater understanding of major public policy issues for the state’s next generation of leaders.

#PurposefulWoman #BushSchoolAlum

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Why did you choose to be an Aggie?

I chose to be an Aggie because I was living and working in Washington, D.C. in my late 20’s and was eager to move back home to Texas. I connected with the Bush School Recruiter at a graduate school fair and became devoted to the Aggie Family!

How long would you last in a Zombie Apocalypse? Why?

Some of my friends would say I’m high-maintenance and may not last long, but I consider myself medium-maintenance and coupled with my knowledge from “The Walking Dead (TWD),” I could possibly make it for the long haul.

What is your favorite memory as a student?

In 2011, for the Gulf War's 20th anniversary, many of President George H.W. Bush's cabinet members came to College Station for anniversary events. Students were assigned to the VIPs – I spent the day with former Vice President Dick Cheney.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

I’d like to have the superpower that allows me to absorb other superpowers because every superpower has its strength and is the best tool in different life situations we all face day-to-day.

What advice do you have for current students/students about to graduate?

Brace yourself for failure and hardship. It’s a necessary ingredient for success. The disappointment you’ve experienced in this senior year will be an important milestone in your life journey. Take heart, because the best is truly yet to come. Your career path will evolve into a career position that’s an ideal combination of your strengths, talents, and interests.

Favorite movie quote?

“Everyone fails at who they're supposed to be, Thor. The measure of a person, of a hero, is how well they succeed at being who they are.” ~Thor’s Mom in “Avengers: Endgame”

What is your favorite quote or mantra that you live by?

"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where this no path and leave a trail." We’re all standing on the shoulders of leaders who came before us and blazed a trail, so I try to live a purposeful life that allows me to pay it forward.

What were you going to be when you grew up?

A professional dancer, then a lawyer, and finally settled on being a TV news anchor/journalist in high school after watching the media coverage of Princess Diana’s tragic death. This led me down a path that took me to the first school of journalism.

What is your greatest accomplishment/project you’re most proud of?

In 2016, I participated in the Presidential Leadership Scholars (PLS) Program. At the end of the leadership program, I was honored to be selected by my classmates to serve as the commencement speaker and give the address at Little Rock Central High School – the site of one of the most significant events in the Civil Rights Movement. Luminaries in the audience included Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Former U.S. President George W. Bush, Former U.S. President William J. Clinton, and several of the Little Rock Nine. If not for the Little Rock Nine's courage to integrate our schools and our society, our racially diverse PLS class would not exist. The experience of sharing these sentiments and our PLS class memories was one of the most important moments in my life, especially since this happened one week after the police officers' shootings in Dallas.

Melanie Shankle

It's either going to be a great time
or a good story or both.

Melanie Shankle

Aggie women are doing extraordinary things across the globe and the Aggie Women Network want to shine a spotlight on each of them.

Melanie Shankle is the New York Times bestselling author of Sparkly Green Earrings, The Antelope in the Living Room, Nobody's Cuter Than You, and Church of the Small Things. She is a class of 1993 graduate of Texas A&M and lives in San Antonio, Texas with her husband, Perry, and daughter, Caroline. Melanie speaks at events nationwide and writes on her blog, Big Mama. In addition to her other books, she has written 100 day devotional books for women and teen girls. Her newest book, On The Bright Side, was released on February 25, 2020, along with her first children's picture book entitled Piper and Mabel: Two Very Wild But Very Good Dogs.

Why did you choose to be an Aggie?

I knew from the first time I stepped on the A&M campus that I wanted to spend my college years there. Being an Aggie embodies all the things that are most important in life; loyalty, honesty, integrity, helping others and believing in something bigger than yourself.

How long would you last in a Zombie Apocalypse? Why?

About five seconds or until the first Zombie showed up. I have many gifts, but my survival skills regarding a Zombie apocalypse aren't among them.

What is your favorite memory as a student?

I was a Diamond Darling, and I'll never forget the night in 1991 when A&M swept the Longhorns in baseball. Olsen Field was going crazy, and we were all so excited. The celebration lasted well into the night, and it was just the embodiment of all the fun of being a college student and the pride of being an Aggie.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

To be able to teleport...travel across space and distance instantly. Mainly because I hate flying on planes. Not because I'm scared, but because I hate sitting in a small metal tube feeling trapped.

What advice do you have for current students/students about to graduate?

Enjoy every moment of your time on campus. You'll look back on these days as some of the most fun times in your life. But also know that you have so many great things waiting for you in the real world. Fill your life with action. Walk through this open door with your arms wide open. Follow your dreams, take a risk, do the thing that seems too scary. Don't wait for something to happen, but rather make your future, chart your course and find ways to make a difference.

Favorite movie quote?

"Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light." — Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

What is your favorite quote or mantra that you live by?

I have a mantra whenever I'm about to do something I'm unsure about - "It's either going to be a great time or a good story or both."

What were you going to be when you grew up?

My dream was always to write a book, but I'm not sure I believed that it would ever happen until it did. It still doesn't seem real sometimes. And now that I travel and speak, I'm actually using my Speech Com degree, which is a plot twist I never saw coming in the early days when I had no idea what I was going to do with it in the real world.