Academic Excellence Day Brims with Excitement

April 22, 2015

More than 30 awards were given to students¬—most of whom are graduating seniors—at University Campus last week to honor their academic achievements. The awards ceremony is the highlight of the annual Academic Excellence Day program, which also includes oral presentations, musical performances, and exhibits by students who have distinguished themselves in their studies.

During the awards program, students who are named outstanding in an academic major by the appropriate faculty are honored for their work.

An even higher level of distinction goes to those undergraduates who are selected as the outstanding student from one of the university’s three schools. Additionally, one student who spent all four college years at University Campus is selected for the annual Clara McDonald Olson Scholastic Excellence Award. Collectively, the accomplishments of the student award winners demonstrate the possibilities open to undergraduates at Saint Leo.

School of Arts & Sciences – Kaitlyn Hite, who was also named the outstanding student in the general biology major, was honored as the most outstanding student for the School of Arts and Sciences. In presenting the award, Dean Mary Spoto, noted that in addition to Kaitlyn’s accomplishments as a biology major with a chemistry minor, Kaitlyn completed the Honors Program. She has worked on additional laboratory research with chemistry faculty member Dr. Jess Jones since Fall 2013. Kaitlyn recently presented at the 2015 Florida Academy of Sciences and was the recipient at that conference of the honor for Outstanding Undergraduate Oral Presentation in Environmental Science and Chemistry. In extra-curricular activities, she has served as the president of the Pre-Medical club, and president of the Delta Epsilon Sigma Catholic university national honor society, is a member of Beta Beta Beta, the national biology honor society, and is also a member of the Saint Leo swim team. She plans to attend medical school.

School of Education & Social Services – Although she was unable to attend the ceremony, graduating senior Diane Shoemaker was praised by Associate Dean Karen Hahn for her consistently excellent academic performance as a criminal justice major with a criminalistics specialization. Diana is also a member of the Alpha Phi Sigma National Criminal Justice Honor Society and was president of the Students Against Irresponsible Decisions Club. Dr. Hahn further noted that the School of Education & Social Services was also impressed with Diana’s active participation in several other campus programs and various community service activities such as Habitat for Humanity and Adopt-a-Road.

Donald R. Tapia School of Business – Graduating senior and ROTC Cadet James Swonger was honored as both the outstanding student in the relatively new economics major and as the outstanding student for the Tapia School. (This was the first year for an award for outstanding economics major.) In announcing the honor for the Tapia School, Dean Michael Nastanski noted that as an ROTC Cadet, James also served as Battalion Commander for the Suncoast Battalion, which includes the cadets not only from Saint Leo, but from other Tampa Bay institutions including the University of South Florida. Perhaps most notable, Dean Nastanski added, is the fact that James will be named a Distinguished Military Graduate, which represents the top 20 percent in the nation. James was also an active member of a fraternity and volunteer tutor at a local school. Upon graduating, he will be commissioned into the U.S. Army as a second lieutenant and will report to the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence at Fort Rucker, AL, in July. He also plans to pursue a master’s degree in economics after settling into this first assignment.

Clara McDonald Olson Scholastic Excellence Award – In addition to a high grade point average, this award, named for Saint Leo’s first dean of academic affairs, recognizes a student who also exhibits the qualities of a scholar. Honoree Jodecia Parkins has been a double major in accounting and international hospitality and tourism management. She was also named the outstanding student of the year in accounting. She had been an active member of the Pacioli Accounting Club and president of the Intercultural Student Association, among other campus activities. She interned at Hilton Barbados and is now completing an internship at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP in Tampa. She plans to continue her education by obtaining the Master of Accounting degree at North Carolina State University.