SELİS ÖNEL (Main | Research | TeachingService | Vita | ChE Home | Links )



Personal Statement: Philosophy of education, service and ethics


My personal philosophy about education, service and ethics has not been taught but has been built and developed by experience through my willing to be, share and learn with people as well as my desire to help and serve to improve the environments we and others live in. I believe strong education requires two-way commitment, both from the one that is receiving it and from the one that is offering it.  Good service is only possible with strong willpower, reduced number of restrictions and good amount of appreciation.  Strong ethics is only possible with a consciousness of the moral values and a feeling of respect for each other and others’ values. I believe that education, service and ethics are the most important parameters in the equation of a wise society.


Regarding improving environments, I like to spend time to think and put effort to enhance my surroundings, which gives me more motivation to enjoy my life and like myself as a better person. I like to see and work with motivated and positive people, but these all depend on certain parameters. I believe environment is a crucial parameter that affects individuals’ behavior, which in the end may affect the mood of the whole community. I feel fortunate to have grown up in a family that respects these three values, i.e., education, service and ethics, highly, and I am aware that many individuals may get affected due to the lack of such a sense of respect.  As an individual I feel it is my responsibility to initiate the processes and work with others to reverse the conditions that cause dissatisfaction or help advance the circumstances to cause more contentment. This is how I understand service to one’s community, where the driving force is the happiness of people.


I like to observe my surroundings and listen to what others feel, which in one way or another affects my own feelings. I cannot avoid asking myself what could be done to improve the situation or to help the person(s). As a result, I get involved in or initiate activities through my acquaintances with different environments I enter. When I first came to NU, I was lucky to quickly find out about the Graduate & Professional Student Association, where students could take initiatives and serve the NU graduate student community. Joining meetings, I met other students, learned the rules, took initiatives to resolve some of the graduate student issues at NU such as the health insurance costs and coverage, graduate assistant pay schedules, and so on. Consequently, I got elected three consecutive years for the executive board positions, the last being the president. I answered many emails and calls from graduate students concerning student issues and continuously sent out informational announcements even when that was not part of my duty. Working on many college-based as well as university wide issues with other graduate students and the University administration was a great benefit to my personal growth in addition to the benefits these activities brought to the graduate community at NU.


Service to community through contribution to activities and personal initiatives can be enhanced more by creating a platform for such service. This was what I wanted to do when I realized that there was a need for better communication and flow of information between the Materials people, who were in different departments but in fact were located in the same campus. These people wanted to know about each other’s research as well as equipment and instruments to be able to create a mutual research environment. Eventually, Graduate Materials Links (GML) was formed with the motivation of graduate students and support from directors and faculty in different departments. I served as the founding president to this student group for two years and led the organization of more than ten seminars and two important symposia at NU. GML is now being led successfully by another woman Turkish graduate student at NU. Since its formation, this student group provided the circumstances to increase the activity of the Materials community at NU. It formed the links through seminars, meetings and poster sessions and created a pleasant platform to communicate, learn and serve.


Understanding the needs of an environment and taking the initiative to fill the gaps may help use the potential of that environment in more efficient ways. The Department of Chemical Engineering at Middle East Technical University in Ankara, Turkey attracts and welcomes many successful college candidates that score very high points on the Turkish university examinations every year. This department hosts world-known professors and well equipped classrooms and laboratories. When I was a senior student in this department, I realized the lack of a student organization that would make the connections with the students in other colleges and countries and with the industry and I took the initiative to found the student chapter of American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AICHE). The department fully supported the activities of this student group and provided office space. Soon this student chapter became a bridge for the flow of information through invited talks, technical short-courses and social activities in the department and the students became more affiliated with the chemical engineering news around the world through the monthly magazine of AICHE and the AICHE international meetings.


Many people admire initiatives and wish to contribute, whereas some may not consent with the time and energy put into such service. On my part, I enjoy working and become more efficient and motivated if and only if there is some useful input from my side to make things better. My personal understanding is that individuals should be sensitive and feel the responsibility to respond to the needs of their environment.


Regarding the ethics of service, I believe service in any form would be the most meaningful if the regulations as well as values of the environments are respected. To me, learning first, then acting within the rules of the environment is crucial. I believe that even regulations that cause discontent should be respected until the individuals or groups take action through legitimate methods to change or modify them. I also believe that the regulations should be elastic enough to allow for motivated service to be initiated and carried out without fear and hesitation.


Finally, I believe that education and service should be committed to excellence with integrity and good intentions, where there is respect for the diversity and goodness of all.  I certainly appreciate and applaud all those committed to achieve excellent service and hope that they will continue to be valued for their efforts.  

Selected University Committee and Service Activities

▪    Member, Search Committee for  Assistant Director, Center for Effective University Teaching, NU, 2006

▪    Member, Northeastern University Planning Council, 2005

▪    Member, Northeastern University Committee on Funding Priorities, 2004

▪    President, NU Graduate Student Government, 2004-2005 (Represented more than 4,000 graduate students)

▪    Member, TA Leadership Committee, Center for Effective University Teaching, NU, 2004-2006

▪    Founding President, Graduate Materials Links at Northeastern University, 2004-2006

▪    Founding President, MRS Student Chapter at Northeastern University, 2004-2006

▪    Founding Executive Member, Graduate Engineering Bridges at Northeastern University, 2004-2006

▪    Founding President, ACerS/ASM/TMS Joint Student Chapter at Northeastern University, 2004-2005

▪    Silver level licensed Life-guard at METU Swimming pool, 1998-2000

▪    Volunteer First-Responder/Instructor of Earthquake Precautions, Free public courses prepared and offered at METU , 1998

▪    Founding President, ICHMT Student Chapter at Middle East technical University, 1996-1998


Summary of Service to Northeastern University

professional involvement

▪    Executive Member (Membership Committee), Turkish American Scientist and Scholar Association, 2005-

▪    Member, Materials Research Society (MRS), 2004-

▪    Member, Materials Information Society (ASM),  2003-

▪    Member, The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society (TMS), 2003

▪    Member, American Ceramic Society (ACerS), 2003-

▪    Member, American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), 2000-

▪    Member, American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AICHE), 1996-


Community involvement

    Member, METU Classical Turkish Music Chorus of the Rector, 2007-

    Executive member, Turkish-American Cultural Society of New England, 2000-

▪    Member, Cambridge Society for Classical Turkish Music in Boston, 2000-2007

▪    Member, METU Academic Society for Classical Turkish Music, 1999-2000

    Member, METU First Aid and Life Saving Society, 1997-2000

▪    Member, METU Classical Turkish Music Society, 1994-2000

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