GW Distinguished Scholars Honored

Students with record of highest academic achievement recognized at ceremony at the Marvin Center.

GW Distinguished Scholars 2019
GW President Thomas LeBlanc and Provost Forrest Maltzman joined the university's 2019 Distinguished Scholars. (William Atkins/GW Today)
April 29, 2019

By B.L. Wilson

The Academic Honors ceremony Thursday evening was an opportunity for George Washington University’s highest achieving and most distinguished scholars not only to be recognized but also for them to thank their professors, advisers and peers for their support throughout their years at the university.

The 10 Distinguished Scholars were selected by deans, professors and administrators for their exemplary performance both inside and outside the classroom.

GW President Thomas LeBlanc said that he valued the opportunity to spend time with remarkable students  “and tonight especially, I do mean remarkable students.”

“Through your academic and extracurricular rigor, your maturity and your commitment to personal growth, you have achieved success in various ways and represented GW with distinction,” said Dr. LeBlanc.

Outstanding Academic Award recipients, GW students who maintained an institutional cumulative grade point average of 3.94 or higher, were also recognized.

Provost Forrest Maltzman, serving as emcee, said the Academic Honors ceremony is one of his favorite events at this time of year. He then introduced each of the 2019 Distinguished Scholars:

Ashley Atilano, Columbian College of Arts and Sciences
Ms. Atilano, a double major in English and Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies, was nominated for excelling in delivering creative works of verbal art across a variety of genres and historical periods in the Americas and elsewhere around the globe.

As a first-generation college student, she focused on issues of accessibility for students from underrepresented backgrounds.

“I’m a proud Latina, low-income college student who has earned a place in higher education,” Ms. Atilano said.

She said that she owed her growth to the departments she studied in that led her academically “to challenge the inequities I experienced in my life through exposure to cross-cultural, intersectional and feminist scholarship.”

She will pursue a master of arts degree at the Stanford University's Graduate School of Education.

 Jack Hirschman, Columbian College of Arts and Sciences
Mr. Hirschman has a double major in physics and political science with a minor in computer engineering. He was nominated for his exceptional talent, versatility and productivity in research.

He used his knowledge of field programmable gate arrays from nuclear physics and his detector that he worked on in astrophysics research to provide a test detector for his nuclear physics, which led to international collaboration and work in Israel and Switzerland, and travel to workshops and conferences in the United States and abroad.

“GW has provided me with countless unique opportunities in academic research and involvement that no other institution can perfectly match,” he said.

He will continue his physics studies in a doctoral program at Stanford University this fall.

Jeremy Marsh, Columbian College of Arts and Sciences
Mr. Marsh achieved distinction with an academic record of excellence while working as a research assistant for political science courses and also working part-time outside the university throughout his time at GW.

He is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in political science with a minor in journalism/mass communication.

He served as an intern with both Congress and The Cook Political Report.

“Get to know your professors and your classmates,” he said. “Not only can a professor lead to your next internship or research opportunity, but they are usually pretty smart and interesting, too. You can also learn a few things from your classmates, and who knows one day you might work for them.”

Mr. Marsh will continue work toward a master’s degree in the GW Graduate School of Political Management.

Marco Bollinger, School of Medicine and Health Sciences
Mr. Bollinger was honored as a Distinguished Scholar for completing his degree achieving grades of “A” in every one of his courses while on active duty in the U.S. Navy.

He enrolled in the Health Intervention and Disaster Response Program after discovering his passion for emergency health care as a sailor and completing his training as a special operations combat medic.

He could not be present for the ceremony. 

Dietrich Reidenbaugh, School of Engineering and Applied Science
In addition to his personal accomplishments, Mr. Reidenbaugh, a major in computer science with a minor in computer engineering, was nominated as a Distinguished Scholar because he has built a culture of scholarship, leadership and service among his peers.

Coming from Boise, Idaho, he took full advantage of the opportunities a diverse urban university offers, participating in student organizations and studying at Korea University in Seoul, which he said helped him “get comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

“What I found consistently is that wherever I am, whatever I am doing, it is the people who make the experience,” he said. “The people have definitely made my GW experience.”

Mr. Dietrich plans to work for Amazon in Seattle.

Rebecca Neteler, School of Business
Rebecca Neteler is completing a bachelor’s of business administration degree with dual concentrations in finance and business analytics and a minor in economics.

She has maintained an excellent academic record while being involved in numerous student organizations, community service and working multiple internships.

She helped coordinate GW’s Sports Industry Networking and Career Conference and served internships on major D.C. professional sports teams, including D.C. United, Washington Nationals and the Washington Redskins.

 “I would never have imagined standing here today having accomplished everything I have,” she said. “I didn’t even think I would pass my calculus class.” 

Ana Mulio Alvarez, Elliott School of International Affairs
Ms. Alvarez was chosen as the Elliott School’s Distinguished Scholar because of her outstanding academic achievement, but also for her hard work, determination and desire to give back to the community.

Ms. Alvarez said that she came to GW from a little town in Spain, “leaving behind my beautiful country, my family and my friends in pursuit of the American dream. Today, I can say I finally achieved my American dream.”

She thanked her professors for their patience “while I changed my research topic 13 times in one semester.

“There was a time in my life,” she said, “when I believed I would not be able to graduate high school” because of serious health issues. “My time at the Elliott School and this award have taught me you have to believe in yourself no matter what life throws at you. If you work hard you can achieve whatever you set your mind to.”

Ajetha Nadanasabesan, Milken Institute School of Public Health
Ms. Nadanasabesan was selected for her exceptional academic record and her commitment to social justice. 

She’s been a member of the gender-inclusive service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega, a peer educator with the Students Against Sexual Assault and a volunteer with the local nonprofit Little Friends for Peace.

Ms. Nadanasabesan said it was her roots and her “parents’ endless sacrifices and stories of resilience and hard work” and the legacy of her older sister, Priyanha Nadanasabesan, B.A. ’15, that have driven her to be her “most authentic self.”

She said she became “absolutely enamored with the idea of intersecting public health with social justice, community engagement and storytelling” during a discussion on harm reduction in a public health class. It led to an internship at HIPS, a harm reduction agency in D.C.

Ms. Nadanasabesan said her biggest reflection in graduating from Milken Institute SPH and her time at HIPS is “that there is great transformative power in changing public health if we really hear and believe the stories people are sharing with us.” 

Her internship at HIPS will become a full-time job this summer.

Dan Titus, College of Professional Studies
Mr. Titus, a father of four, is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in integrated information science and technology. Mr. Titus was nominated as a Distinguished Scholar because he embodies the spirit, intellect and perseverance of the student body at CPS, a program for non-traditional students.

“That definitely describes me,” Mr. Titus said.

He left school at 17 to support his first child and excelled in the construction industry while also earning his GED. He completed an associate’s degree in 2017 before transferring to GW’s Integrated and Information Technology Program where he has maintained high academic standards while juggling family responsibilities and a full-time job.

Mr. Titus first thanked his family and his wife, his “perfect Paula,” without whom, he said, continuing his education would not have been possible.

And then one by one, he listed the virtues of the professors who have supported him throughout his time at GW, “the brightest minds,” “the best statistics professor” and “the best marathon-running writing professor, people who make being super smart look super easy.”

“Completing my bachelor's,” he said, “has been a longtime fantasy. Being a GW student has opened many doors. I’ve acquired a data management position, scholarships and critical skills to succeed in today’s technological society. I’ve established lifelong friendships and made my family proud.”

Sydney Brookbank, School of Nursing
Ms. Brookbank was chosen as a Distinguished Scholar for the work she has done over the past 15 months in the Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program.

She’s the current Student Nurse Association president and represented GW at National Student Nurse Association conferences where she helped write and defend a resolution on the benefits of breast milk in low-birth weight infants. She recently returned from Uganda where she delivered health training and education in several villages.

Ms. Brookbank said the community clinical experience in Uganda not only opened her eyes to health care outside the United States but it also enriched her and made her understand that nursing has a greater need.

“This profession means more than a salary and more than job security,” she said. “It gives me an opportunity to make a positive mark on someone’s life every day.”

Student Life

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