The celebration of Academic Excellence Day at University Campus on Thursday, April 4, highlighted the academic and artistic accomplishments of undergraduates. The class schedule was modified for the day so that the afternoon could be devoted to presentations featuring some of the most ambitious academic work accomplished by Saint Leo undergraduates at University Campus.

The sessions were open to other students, faculty and staff, and visiting family members. Students described research efforts in oral presentations, explained findings of scientific and psychological research projects in a dedicated poster-presentation room, displayed visual arts projects, read from original stories and poems, and performed musical works. The community aspect of the day provides a means of expression and sharing for the students who are participating, and offers inspiration and modeling to their peers. (Pictured: Senior Amanda Luce during her presentation "A Numerical Analysis of the Opiod Epidemic." She was honored with an award.) 

Saint Leo University President Jeffrey Senese, PhD, welcomed all who gathered to the annual awards reception at the end of the afternoon. "Today is about the joy of deep learning," he said, and urged the students, many of whom are graduating seniors, to continue their intellectual and artistic pursuits. It improves life for the individual, as well as civil society, he said.

College-level awards were announced first. Saint Leo has four categories of awards from each of its colleges. Each of the honorees meets the requirement of having a cumulative grade point average of 3.25, and performed exceptionally in other ways.

The Excellence in Academic Leadership Award, for instance, recognizes a junior or senior who has a positive impact on the academic life of other students as well as earning high grades individually. The Excellence in Scholarship Award honors a student who excelled in research or creative projects and shows continued promise. The Excellence in Experiential Learning Award recognizes a student whose work in internships or field placements is particularly noteworthy for a display of initiative, professionalism and integrity, and application of classroom learning to the field. An overall Dean's Award for Excellence is the highest honor from each college and is reserved for a student who exhibits the qualities celebrated in the other three awards and brings an added dimension of community service to their education.

Other distinctions of note were also presented, including the Clara McDonald Olson Scholastic Excellence Award. It is awarded annually to a graduating senior who studied all four years at  Saint Leo, "earning the highest scholastic average and exhibiting the qualities of a true scholar."  

Dr. Mary T. Spoto, vice president of Academic Affairs, and Dr. Senese are shown here with these notable graduating seniors. From left, they are: Jennifer Fields, Rose Rood, Angela Lazzaro, and Randawnique Coakley.       

Following is the complete list of award winners.

College of Education and Social Services

  • Excellence in Academic Leadership Award: Kristin Sanchez, criminal justice major
  • Excellence in Scholarship Award: Mackenzie Jones, social work major
  • Excellence in Experiential Learning: Rebecca Halley, elementary education major
  • Dean's Award for Excellence: Jennifer Fields, criminal justice major

College of Arts and Sciences

  • Excellence in Academic Leadership Award: Amanda Luce, mathematics major with an economics minor
  • Excellence in Scholarship Award: Caitlin Walsh, psychology major and a mathematics major
  • Excellence in Experiential Learning Award: Rose Rood, sociology major and global studies minor
  • Dean's Award for Excellence: Also to Rose Rood, sociology major and global studies minor

Tapia College of Business

  • Excellence in Academic Leadership Award: Kyshonna Bethel, accounting major
  • Excellence in Scholarship Award: Randawnique Coakley, accounting major and economics major
  • Excellence in Experiential Learning Award: Kristina Niccolls, economics major
  • Dean's Award for Excellence: Also, Randawnique Coakley, accounting major and economics major

Clara McDonald Olson Scholastic Excellence Award:
Angela Lazzaro, psychology major (Bachelor of Science option)

Student Club/Organization with Highest GPA: Alpha Phi Sigma, the criminal justice honor society. Officers are shown here with Dr. Senese, faculty advisor Dr. David Persky, and Dr. Jen Shaw, vice president of Student Activities.

Two awards were made based on the quality of student presentations delivered during the afternoon sessions. The faculty mentors for the presentations are also honored with awards.

Excellence for an Academic Poster Award: Science students Rushnea Dixon, Thavail England, Keva Lockhart, Maeisha McDermott, Brandysha Russell, and Kali Thompson for "Design and Synthesis of Novel Spirotetrahydro -β-Carboline Compounds" mentored by Dr. Patrick Sheridan. The project is based on research into compound used in drugs to treat malaria, and Dr. Sheridan teaches organic chemistry.

Excellence for an On Oral Presentation Award:  Briana Williams, "The School System Effect on Juvenile Delinquency," mentored by Debra Mims from the criminal justice faculty. Briana Williams is shown here with Dr. Senese and education faculty member Dr. Joanne Crossman.