Academic Awards at University Campus Highlight Student Efforts and Ingenuity

April 20, 2016

Saint Leo University celebrated its annual Academic Excellence Day at University Campus, Thursday, April 14, with an afternoon of undergraduate presentations and recitals featuring some of the finest work of the year. Academic -Excellence -1 The presentations and recitals not only provide students an opportunity to showcase their work in front of faculty and peers, the sessions serve as demonstrations of the level of achievement possible at Saint Leo to rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors at University Campus.

An academic awards ceremony comes at the end of the day and also highlights successes that students have attained during the course of their academic careers. New categories were established this year for awards given to students in each of the university’s three schools: Arts and Sciences, the School of Education and Social Services, and the Donald R. Tapia School of Business. The award parameters themselves describe the hallmarks of a Saint Leo education.

  • Excellence in Academic Leadership. These are given to students with junior or senior standing and a cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 3.25 or more who have had a positive impact on academic life at the university and upon other students. That might be through leading group work, mentoring or tutoring peers, founding an academic community among students, serving in a leadership role in an academic club or honor society, demonstrating a positive outlook, or, most likely a combination of these elements.  
  • Excellence in Scholarship. Scholarship can include research or creative work and juniors and seniors with a GPA of 3.25 or more are eligible for consideration. Student nominations for this award are accompanied by work samples such as research findings, art samples, excerpts from original creative writing, or multimedia presentations. Reviews by faculty or external reviewers attesting to the works’ originality, value, and creativity are also included in nominations.
  • Excellence in Experiential Learning. Juniors or seniors with a cumulative GPA of 3.25 or more and who have exceeded expectations in field placements or internships can be considered for this award. Nominations are expected to include a letter from each student’s department chair or field supervisor that shows evidence of the student’s initiative, of the student’s successful application of classroom learning to the outside work, and professionalism and integrity.
  • Dean’s Award for Excellence. This award is reserved for a graduating senior with a cumulative GPA of 3.25 or higher who has demonstrated a combination of excellence in classroom courses, individual scholarship, academic leadership among students, success in experiential learning, and accomplishments in community service.    

Saint Leo’s respective schools recognized the following individual students. The Division of Academic Affairs also announced two awards.    

School of Arts and Sciences
Ryan Hart ’16 won the Excellence in Academic Leadership Award. Ryan distinguished himself in the Global Studies Program by forming a team that competed for the first time in the Model Arab League held in February in Tampa. The team placed well in the academic competition, and Ryan, an ROTC cadet, presented his own academic work on the origins and expansion of the Islamic State in poster format at the Florida Undergraduate Research Conference, also in Tampa. Among his student peers, he started and presided over the new Global Studies Club and related Facebook page. He plans to pursue graduate education and a career in crisis management while serving in the National Guard.

Alexis Watson ’16  was named winner of the Excellence in Scholarship Award. Alexis has pursued several research projects over the course of her studies for the Bachelor of Science in psychology. She made one research poster presentation in 2014 and two in 2015 at the Southeastern Psychological Association at one of the sessions for undergraduates. She also served enthusiastically as a supplemental instructor for a research methods psychology class, a job that required her to attend each class meeting with students to hold a study session weekly. She holds membership in the International Honor Society in Psychology.

Ashley Reynolds ’16  received the Excellence in Experiential Learning Award.Ashley completed a double major in English with a specialization in professional writing and global studies, and also completed the university’s Honors Program. Ashley landed an internship in spring 2015 at the American Embassy in La Paz, Bolivia, and received such high evaluations that she was offered and accepted a summer job there. During her time in Bolivia, she researched the experience of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency to apply to her senior thesis. She turned this work into a poster presented at the Florida Undergraduate Research Conference in Tampa in Spring 2016. In another accomplishment, she heeded the advice of her internship supervisor and took the Foreign Service Officer Test—an examination necessary to begin a career in diplomacy at the U.S. Department of State—which is her career objective. She passed on the first attempt, while the typical experience requires two or three test sittings. She is deciding between graduate school at American University or George Washington University, having been accepted at both.

Patricia (Tricia) Varacallo ’16 was selected to receive the Dean’s Award for Acad Ex -Tricia -and -Dr --Spoto Excellence. Tricia (pictured with Dean Mary Spoto), who aspires to be a doctor, has been an outstanding student in the biology major in the biomedical health track. She has worked as a supplemental tutor and pursued research projects under the mentorship of faculty members. She presented posters on research work on tumor development conducted with Dr. Iain Duffy at the American Association for Cancer Research meeting and at the 2016 Experimental Biology Meeting of the American Association of Anatomists. Her presentation at the Florida Academy of Sciences in Spring 2016 was recognized as an Outstanding Undergraduate Student Oral Presentation by the Medical Sciences Section of the Academy. Trish has been shadowing various physicians since August 2014. In terms of community service, she has assisted with science outreach activities sponsored by Saint Leo and has worked with Special Olympics. She has applied to medical schools with the intention of starting in the fall.

School of Education and Social Services

Heather Holbrook ’16 received the Excellence in Academic Leadership Award. She is an elementary education major who is expected to graduate with high honors. In addition to earning high grades, Heather set herself apart by participating in a grant project that equips future teachers with portable teaching technology items that can be brought to field assignments, and volunteering to make a presentation about the project to veteran teachers gathered at a summer meeting sponsored by the university. She is an active member of the International Honor Society in Education and president of the Future Teachers Association.

Zoee Brubaker ’16  was selected for the Excellence in Scholarship Award. Zoee majored in criminal justice and completed the Honors Program. Her senior Honors Project explored exploitation of children on the Internet and led her to co-author and submit an article for publication to a professional journal. In addition, she has volunteered for six hours a week at the Dade City Police Department while holding down a part-time job. She will pursue a career in law enforcement.

Stacie Dunmire ’16  received the Excellence in Experiential Learning Award. She is an adult learner who is earning her degree in middle grades education with a concentration in English. She has distinguished herself in field placements as an encouraging teacher who draws the best from her students. She explores the uses of technology in the classroom to present students with innovative ways to learn. She is also a member of the International Honor Society in Education.

Amanda Ricard ’16 Acad Ex -Amanda -Ricard -and -Dr --Walkeris an elementary education major (pictured with Dean Carol Walker) who has thrived in her academic work and field placements. Cooperating teachers have complimented her work on connecting with school children from all backgrounds and executing her well-planned lessons flawlessly. She is an active member of the International Honor Society in Education and of Future Teachers Association. Additionally, Amanda has been a regular volunteer at community service activities for children, including hosting elementary school field trips to University Campus, and working at community festivals and parades.

Donald R. Tapia School of Business

Minghe Li ’16 was chosen for the Excellence in Academic Leadership Award. He is completing a double major in accounting and economics. He has assisted fellow students through his work as a supplemental instructor for classes in microeconomics and intermediate-level accounting, and has been a member of the Pacioli Accounting Club. He applied accounting skills during an internship locally with the YMCA and learned about clothing exporting through involvement with a company in Mongolia. Minghe is fluent in Mandarin and wants to work with companies addressing the Chinese market.

Reena Wright  ’16 received the Excellence in Experiential Learning Award. A computer information systems major, she has delved into work projects using skills learned in the classroom, and supplemented them with newly acquired skills as needed. In Spring 2015 she worked at an applications company in Orlando and worked on teams doing web design. She designed the website for one client.  She is a work-study student in the Computer Science Department and helped to launch at Saint Leo a chapter of the undergraduate honors society for computer and information sciences.

Carl Dunne ’16 Acad Ex -Carl -Dunne -and -Dr --Bal _-2was honored with both the Excellence in Scholarship Award and Dean’s Award for Excellence (Carl ispictured with DeanBalbir Bal).He has majored in both accounting and economics and will graduate with honors. He competed on a team during the International Business Conference 2015, worked as a tutor, and earned high compliments for his work ethic, intelligence, and people skills from his internship supervisor at an accounting software development firm. Carl came to study at Saint Leo from Ireland and is also a competitive runner for the Lions, and assisted with athletics community service and philanthropic projects. 

University Academic Affairs

Additionally, the Clara McDonald Olson Award, given annually to a University Campus student with the highest scholastic average, went to James Thomas Simeon ’16. Acad Ex -James -and -Dr --AndersonJames (pictured with Dr. Jeffrey Anderson) is graduating with a degree in computer science and memberships in two academic honor societies. He also plays violin in the campus string ensemble. The award is named for the first dean of Academic Affairs at Saint Leo and can only be given to an undergraduate who has studied at Saint Leo all four years.

Sigma Tau Delta, the English Honors Society, was recognized for being the student club or organization whose members earned the highest grade point average during the year.