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Celebration of Academic Excellence Honors Undergraduates for Scholarly, Creative Work

Saint Leo University recognizes students for their academic leadership, experiential learning, excellence in scholarship, and more during annual event.

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31 March 2023 - By University Communications

At Saint Leo University, our students not only are challenged to meet expectations for their academic work, but also to learn to think critically, learn new skills, and develop the character to become good citizens and responsible leaders. On March 30, the university hosted its Celebration of Academic Excellence, which recognized the scholarly and creative accomplishments of undergraduates.

“This is a day to celebrate the student who has a research project worth discussing, or has written a play or short story worth telling, or offered a musical performance worth hearing, or has painted or photographed something that merits being seen,” said Dr. Mary Spoto, vice president of Academic Affairs. “In other words, Celebration of Academic Excellence is a time to showcase what every Saint Leo University student has done that is intellectually and artistically significant. Please join me in celebrating our student successes.”

The class schedule at University Campus was modified for the day so that the afternoon could be spent highlighting students’ works, which they presented orally or via posters, which were judged by faculty panels. In addition, students’ artwork was on display and the student musicians and vocalists performed.

A highlight of the day was the awards ceremony, which was held at the end of the day.

Awards from four different categories were presented to students from three of the four university’s colleges and one school. Additionally, the Clara McDonald Olson Scholastic Excellence Award was presented to a student based on grade point average among students who attended University Campus for four years.

Here are the award winners:



Excellence in Academic Leadership Award: Gannon Key, presented by Dr. Moneque Walker-Pickett 

Excellence in Scholarship Award: Megan Rowe, presented by Christina Cazanave

Excellence in Experiential Learning Award: Julia Ruggiero, presented by Dr. Carol McLeish

Dean’s Award for Excellence: Vanessa Navarro, presented by Dr. Rhondda Waddell



Excellence in Academic Leadership Award: Alora Peters, presented by Dr. Thomas Humphries

Excellence in Scholarship Award: Jessaca Bristol, presented by Dr. Tammy Zacchilli

Excellence in Experiential Learning Award: Rafael Soto, presented by Frank Orlando

Dean’s Award for Excellence: Hannah Evers, presented by Dr. Heather Parker



Excellence in Academic Leadership Award: Nina Michelangelo, presented by Kurt Yann

Excellence in Scholarship Award: Tayhana Taylor, presented by Dr. Patrick Murphy

Excellence in Experiential Learning Award: Tayhana Taylor, presented by Dr. Michele Flint    

Dean’s Award for Excellence: Seanette Culmer, presented by Dr. Zachary Smith



Excellence in Academic Leadership Award: William (Rob) Bryan, presented by Dr. Steven Alt

Excellence in Scholarship Award: Pia Perthen, presented by Dr. Steven Alt

Excellence in Experiential Learning: Oriana Carey, presented by Dr. Jacob Aguilar

Dean’s Award for Excellence: Courtney Gray, presented by Dr. Monika Kiss

Other awards included


Excellence for an Academic Poster Award: Helen Huynh, The Relationship between Narcissism, Relationship Satisfaction, and Infidelity

Faculty Mentor Award for Best Poster: Dr. Tammy Zacchilli, professor of psychology   

Certificate of Distinction for a Poster: O'shea Williams, Jillian Falvo, and Nancy Lopes                                            

Excellence for an Oral Presentation Award: Hugo Sheehan, Evaluating Differences in DNA Helicase Activity in Normal Versus Cancerous Cells

Runners-up: Runners-up: Nichole Long and Christopher Bove, Saint Leo University’s ACES    STEM + Ed Program Provides Career Readiness, faculty mentor Cheryl Berry                         

Faculty Mentor Award for Best Oral Presentation:  Dr. Sergiy Borysov, associate professor of biology

Club/Organization with Highest GPA: Entrepreneurship Club, presented by Dawn McElveen

CLARA MCDONALD OLSON SCHOLASTIC EXCELLENCE AWARD: Angelica Molina, presented by Dr. Mary Spoto, vice president of Academic Affairs 


Saint Leo University thanks Karatinos Law and attorney Keeley R. Karatinos for the donation of the awards.