Anthony Arnone & Meghan Finnerty
COVID Can’t Stop Success: Honoring Top Graduates
With Commencement on hold, SUNY Brockport honors its most prestigious student award winners for the 2019-20 academic year.
While circumstances surrounding COVID-19 have postponed the in-person graduation celebration for the SUNY Brockport Class of 2020, pride for their success radiates. With more than 2,000 students graduating at the end of this semester, seven managed to earn the most prestigious awards available to students.
President’s Citation Award
The College’s highest award recognizes a graduating senior who has demonstrated outstanding scholastic merit (a GPA of at least 3.75), a strong record of co-curricular activities, significant contributions to the College and community, and evidence of professional promise.
Morgan Hill is a member of the Honors College and boasts an impressive 3.78 GPA as a nursing major with a double minor in biology and women and gender studies. She has managed to land on either the Dean’s list or President’s list every semester she has studied at Brockport, netting her the Dolly Pike Nursing Scholarship and the Alvin F. and Ruth K. Thiem Nursing Scholarship. Hill earned two awards in leadership for her time as a student orientation coordinator, orientation leader, and peer mentor. She was inducted into both the Alpha Chi Honor Society and the Triota Women and Gender Studies Honor Society. Her passion for healthcare led her to serve on the Student Health Advisory Committee, the Dean of the School of Education, Health, and Human Services’ LEAD team, and as Vice President for the Student Nursing Organization. She also worked in the student clinical lab for the Hazen Center for Integrated Care. Hill is planning to work in the field of emergency nursing or women’s health as a registered nurse after graduation.
“This award was something that was truly unexpected, but I am so honored to be recognized in this way. Brockport has taught me to embrace the unknown of what is ahead and have the confidence to move forward in new experiences. It has given me the gift and knowledge to care for others as a nurse and connected me to so many wonderful friends-turned-family and mentors.”
Graduate Distinguished Scholar Award
This award recognizes an exceptional graduate student with a record of outstanding academic work and scholarship. To be considered for the award, a nominee must be a graduating master’s level student with a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.85 and outstanding scholarship or creative activity in their field of study.
Oana Prajitura is completing her Master of Arts in Mathematics, with a 3.89 GPA. She earned her bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the University of Pittsburgh. Prajitura has worked on four different research projects while pursuing her degree at Brockport. Her current research is a statistical systematic review on asthma that derives information on phenotypes of patients with asthma. She has conducted three other research projects as a graduate student and has presented at multiple conferences, including Scholars Day, the 2019 Mathematical Association of America Seaway Conference, and the Joint Mathematics Meeting — the largest annual international math conference. Prajitura worked as a math tutor for the Academic Success Center and was voted Outstanding Tutor of the Month twice her senior year. She also worked as a graduate assistant and grader for the Department of Mathematics and a compliance officer for the Institutional Review Board. Prajitura hopes to work in the data analytics field after graduation before pursuing a PhD in statistics.
“Mathematics is a challenging field, even for those of us who enjoy it, and it can be overwhelming at times. With the support of the amazing people I have met at Brockport, I found the personal and professional growth that I experienced to be extremely fulfilling, and I am honored to receive this award."
Marion Schrank Student Leadership Award
The College’s highest leadership honor is presented to a student who exemplifies integrity and civility. The recipient is selected on the basis of scholarly achievement, exemplary leadership, dedicated involvement in campus organizations and engaged learning, and a commitment to the creation of an inclusive Brockport community.
Katelynn Demskie is part of the Honors College and is a double major in political science and criminal justice. She was inducted into multiple honor societies and will graduate with an impressive 3.9 GPA, but her impact at the College expands beyond the classroom. Demskie served on five different committees, held two positions in Brockport Student Government, and worked a handful of roles at the College in various offices. She has earned multiple awards, including the Josh Silber Excellence in Leadership Award, President's Volunteer Service Award (Bronze Level), SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence (see below for a description and video spotlights), and two scholarships. Her extracurricular work extends beyond Brockport, as she engages in community service at locations in Texas and Michigan. After graduation, Demskie plans to serve as a team leader for AmeriCorps NCCC before attending law school and resuming her studies in Fall 2021.
“Brockport has helped me find my voice that I didn’t know I had when I started, find my passions that I was scared I wouldn’t find, and provided me with a place to learn and grow as both a person and leader.”
SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence
The Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence acknowledges students who have achieved excellence both inside and outside of the classroom. Each year, the College seeks nominations of students who have demonstrated and been recognized for their integration of academic excellence with other aspects of their lives, which may include leadership, community service, arts (creative or performing), athletics, and/or career achievement.
Tyler Johnston maintained a 3.86 GPA as a biochemistry major with a double minor in pre-professional health and psychology. Johnston has a passion for serving others and was a role model in the Brockport community.
Alysha Rios is a first-generation student who held a 3.65 GPA while studying sociology with a minor in social research methods. She made great contributions to Brockport through research, student engagement, tutoring, as an orientation leader, and as president of the Organization for Students of African Descent.
Katelynn Demskie held a 3.9 GPA as a double major in political science and criminal justice. Beyond her academic success, she has been highly engaged as a student leader. She found her second home at Brockport and gave of her time to better the campus community.
Nolan Coble maintained a 4.0 GPA as a double major in physics and mathematics. He used his time as a student to make great contributions to both departments and helped other students through his passion for tutoring.
Tyler Laird held a 3.7 GPA as a double major in exercise science and kinesiology with a double minor in biology and chemistry. Laird made significant contributions to Brockport athletics, biomechanics research, the Brockport campus, and the Greater Rochester community.