By the numbers alone, what Laura Hirst, Cory Jackson, Carl Lam and Samantha Jemiolo have achieved at SUNY Fredonia is impressive - seven different majors, 11 scholarships and membership in 11 honor societies. Their overall GPA approaches 3.87 - about as close to 4.0 as any foursome could dream of earning.
They joined a highly select group of students as recipients of the SUNY Chancellor's Award for Student Excellence, an honor that recognizes a student's ability to integrate academic excellence with accomplishments in leadership, athletics, creative or performing arts and community service. Chancellor's awards were presented to a total of 274 SUNY students at the ceremony and reception held Wednesday, April 2, at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center, Albany.
Students honored with the Chancellor's Award for Excellence truly embody the power of SUNY, said SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher. "As proven leaders and role models, scholar athletes, creative artists, and civic volunteers, each student is recognized not just for academic achievement, but also for the profound impact they have on college campuses and local communities across New York State," Zimpher said.
At the awards ceremony in Albany, from left, are: SUNY Fredonia Provost Terry Brown; award recipients Carl Lam, Laura Hirst, Samantha Jemiolo and Cory Jackson; and David Herman, vice president for student affairs.
The numbers, though, don't tell the whole story of their educational experiences at SUNY Fredonia. Wide ranging off-campus adventures - studying history, political systems and language in the Czech Republic; conducting research in the Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy at the University of Rochester; playing violin with the Western New York Chamber Orchestra and three additional orchestras; and engaging in medical mission trips in Central America - underscore their passion to pursue learning outside of the classroom.
Hirst, of Watertown, who is majoring in political science and history, with a minor in international studies, has charted an ambitious educational course that spans several continents. Faculty in social science and humanities departments submitted glowing recommendations in support of her nomination.
Hirst spent a semester studying central European history, the Czech political system and the language at Univerzita Karlova in Prague and serving as an English translator with the Memory of Nations project with Cesky Rozhlas (Czech Radio). For her Honors Senior Capstone course, "Africa: Conflict and Crises," Hirst wrote an essay, "African Union: The Challenge of Peace," that examined the evolution of the African Union and assessed its effectiveness in resolving or preventing conflict in Africa. The essay, which she later expanded for presentation to a public audience, will be given at the regional Phi Alpha Theta conference at Buffalo State College in April.
"Beyond simply excelling in class and by writing deep and insightful exams and research papers, she embodies the desire to learn more about a given subject, even if that requires learning how to do so from a variety of different perspectives and disciplines," wrote Alex Caviedes, associate professor of political science, in his recommendation.
"Not only did she expand from history to political science, but now she is fearlessly taking economics courses in her final semester, simply because she sees the need to develop a firmer understanding of the roots of social problems throughout the world," Caviedes added.
When colleagues of Dr. Steven Fabian, associate professor of history, learned that he was nominating Hirst for the award, they "lit up" his email with glowing praises - "amazingly hard worker," "easily the best student in my class," "outstanding candidate" and "extremely bright" and other superlatives.
"Our faculty commends Laura for her ability to master content in such diverse subjects as European, American, Islamic, African, pre-modern and modern history, despite her lack of exposure to the topics prior to taking the courses. Her curiosity and enthusiasm for learning are not limited to just one particular historical interest," Fabian wrote in his recommendation.
Hirst even sought out a history professor to give a presentation on her Czech experience to one of her classes and encourage other students to study abroad. "For Laura, it is not just about pursuing and fulfilling personal goals; it is also about community and understanding her role within it," Fabian added.
Hirst's scholarships, which total seven, include: New York State Scholarship for Academic Excellence, Northern New York Community Foundation, John and Helen Mancuso, Fiat Lux, Ann James Manley, David H. Carnahan and faculty/staff.
She was granted membership in the following honor societies: Pi Sigma Alpha (political science honor society), Golden Key International Honour Society, Sigma Iota Rho (international studies), Phi Alpha Theta (history) and Alpha Lambda Delta (first-year student with 3.5 GPA or higher).
As a founding member and vice president of the International Club, Hirst helped to mold the identity of the new organization to facilitate student exploration of the world from SUNY Fredonia. Hirst was vice president of Model European Union. Additionally, she performed with the SUNY Fredonia All College Band, University Chorus and Gospel Choir, and served congressional internships with U.S. Senator Charles Schumer and U.S. Representative Bill Owens.
Jackson, of Schenectady, has thrived as a biology major, capitalized on a wide range of internship and research opportunities available to science majors and earned high praise from faculty members. The most notable achievement for Jackson, who aspires to be a physician, was acceptance into the University Of Florida College Of Medicine.
SUNY Fredonia provided an internship and shadowing experiences that have enabled Jackson to gain knowledge of the demands and rewards of physicians, and that has affirmed his career choice.
Jackson conducted research in neurobiology and anatomy at the Summer Scholars Program at the University of Rochester in 2013 and gained insight into how organic chemistry is applied to medicine during a pharmacy internship at Brooks Memorial Hospital in Dunkirk during the fall semester of 2012. He was introduced to new techniques and sharpened his ability to think critically to answer questions - an important trait that will serve him well in medical school - in biochemistry research that he conducted at SUNY Fredonia with Dr. Matthew Fountain over the span of five semesters.
Dr. Ted Lee, professor of biology and chair of the Health Professions Advising Committee, considers Jackson to be one of the top applicants from SUNY Fredonia to apply to medical school in the last 13 years, and cites his stellar academic record (GPA 3.99) and MCAT score (34) as indicative of his intellect, ability and potential to succeed. Jackson scored in the 97th percentile on the national American Society for Chemistry exams in both organic chemistry and biochemistry.
"Cory Jackson is an excellent candidate for medical school; he is extremely bright and motivated to become a doctor. His is genuinely a kind and caring individual who will apply his considerable ability to his patients' needs," Lee wrote in his letter of recommendation to the American Medical College Application Service. In addition to the University of Florida College of Medicine, Jackson was also accepted at SUNY Upstate Medical School.
The chair of anesthesiology at Brooks Memorial Hospital said that Jackson has the potential to become a great physician, citing his work ethic, desire to learn and personal interactions with others, Lee noted.
An excellent scholastic record, high class standing, interest in a medical career and exemplary ethical behavior resulted in Jackson receiving the Adele Maytum Hunter Scholarship. Jackson was also accepted into TriBeta Honors Society (biology) and Golden Key International Honour Society and is a member of the Math Club, Biology Club, Chemistry Club and Health Professions Club. Additionally, he has tutored students in core courses, including organic chemistry, biochemistry, physics and calculus.
Lam, of Hamburg, is a rare triple major: audio/radio production, applied music and journalism, and he has excelled in all three areas. Kathleen McDonough, associate professor and chair of the Department of Communication, wrote in her nomination that Lam exhibits a wide-ranging curiosity about the world and is a lateral thinker who draws from all his areas of expertise.
"He is creative in his musicianship and in the way he uses sound to enhance the message in audio productions," McDonough noted.
Lam's engagement with the campus community is extensive. He currently serves as chair of the Student Relations Committee, Alma Mater Society and the Music Students Representatives Council. He is a member of the Associate Provost for Curriculum, Assessment and Academic Support search committee, President's Student Cabinet, Student Association Presidential Cabinet, School of Music Leadership Council, General Education Committee, General Education Revision Subcommittee and Academic Affairs Committee.
"Everything Carl does reveals a deeply ethical and responsible young man who works to make his part of the world a better place," McDonough added.
His three internships in Buffalo media have included: morning weather and nightside news, both at WGRZ-TV, and morning news at WBEN 930 AM. Lam is currently serving as an announcer/host at WNED-FM, Buffalo, and host/producer with Fredonia Radio Systems. Lam also wrote a series of articles for The Leader student newspaper that highlighted outstanding adjunct professors.
An accomplished violinist, Lam performs regularly with the Fredonia Chamber Orchestra and Fredonia College Symphony Orchestra and is a substitute musician with the Western New York Chamber Orchestra, Southern Tier Symphony and Orchard Park Symphony Orchestra.
In 2013, Lam was the recipient of the Dr. Robert Hesse Violin Scholarship, Louis C. Adler Scholarship and L. Michael Dimitri Scholarship. He was inducted into the Golden Key International Honour Society and Lambda Pi Eta Honor Society and received the Marc Cohen Student Association Award, all in 2013.
He has served internships in the Registrar and Admissions offices and with Academic Advising.
Jemiolo, of Orchard Park, is a psychology major with a minor in sociology, so it shouldn't be a surprise that she engages in activities that serve others, both locally and on distant shores. She has excelled academically, despite a heavy course load, while devoting considerable time every week to campus and community service projects.
Close to home, Jemiolo, is a leader with the Christian ministry Young Life, where she mentors teens in a local high school, speaks at formal and informal events, leads small and large group meetings and coordinates weekend trips and extended camp excursions.
She joined Dr. Andrea Zevenbergen, professor of psychology, in studying the effect of parent-child shared reading programs that serve underprivileged families in Chautauqua County. Jemiolo compiled a paper which investigated one aspect of the larger research study and presented it at the 2013 Western Pennsylvania Undergraduate Psychology Conference and in a Psi Chi poster session.
During the summers of 2009 and 2010, Jemiolo assisted doctors and volunteers at medical clinics that served 500 to 600 patients per day in different villages in Costa Rica and Honduras, respectively. She aided in patient care, worked in the pharmacy, communicated directions for medication and also cared for children during clinic hours.
Working with Young Life, Jemiolo helped form a partnership between Orchard Park, and Los Naranjos, in El Salvador, to provide clean water, medical support and aid to a local school. Young Life students and adults began annual mission trips to that town in 2013.
Jemiolo received an Upperclassman Scholarship and Orchard Park Rotary Scholarship and was president of Golden Key International Honour Society. She was admitted into Psi Chi (Psychology honor society) and Alpha Lambda Delta (first-year undergraduate honor society) and was also named Student of the Month for December 2013 by the Office of Residence Life.
"She has done very well academically while committing considerable time each week to mentoring youth, as well as engaging in many campus and community service projects on a weekly basis," Zevenbergen wrote in her nomination of Jemiolo.
Also recommending Jemiolo for the award was Mark Suida, assistant director of Campus Life and coordinator of the Leadership Development Program/Leadership Minor. Suida praised her leadership skills at Golden Key meetings, saying Jemiolo runs them with confidence and comfort, yet still allows members to give input that results in effective group communication.
Suida also lauds Jemiolo for her dedication to improve the quality of student life, both on and off campus, by serving as a tour guide, team coordinator for Relay for Life, psychology tutor, tutor at a Dunkirk elementary school and volunteer with Everywoman Opportunity Center.
"Although she is gifted academically, it is her positive outlook, work ethic and intrinsic motivation that make her stand out among her peers," Suida said.
In recognition of that academic prowess, Jemiolo was invited to enroll in the Department of Psychology's Senior Honors Seminar, "Psychology of the Holocaust." In her examinations and journal writing, Jemiolo demonstrated understanding and compassion related to issues of oppression, Zevenbergen said.
Intelligence, strong work ethic and a genuine interest in providing service are among her most noteworthy traits, Zevenbergen said. "She is very interested in learning and strives for cultural sensitivity and understanding of diverse groups. I believe she exemplifies ideal characteristics of SUNY graduates."
Jemiolo has been accepted into the highly competitive Accelerated Bachelor of Science program in nursing at Niagara University. She will be among 20 students in the class, which leads to a B.S. in nursing in 12 months.
The outstanding pool of SUNY Fredonia students nominated for the award also included: Erin Dorozynski, business administration-management; John Estanislau, business administration-music industry; Peter Mason, English; Hanna Neumann, visual arts and new media and women's and gender studies; Ryan Edens, applied mathematics; Hannah Manning, biology; Adrian Van Hall, applied mathematics and economics; David Butzer, chemistry and geochemistry; Shauna Presto, business administration-music industry, minor in communications; Emma Garcia, Spanish, minor in jazz studies, minor in anthropology.