GW Student Scholars Honored

Annual academic awards dinner recognizes more than 200 students with a GPA of 3.94 or higher and distinguished scholars.

From left: Mary Paradis, Numita Puran, Emily Somberg, Madison Brown, Provost Forrest Maltzman, Erica Feinman, President Knapp, Philip Lopreiato, Paul Scotti, Hannah Sassi, Kathy Boter. (William Atkins/GW Today)
April 17, 2017

The Academic Honors Dinner Thursday night at the Marvin Center Grand Ballroom is the only awards celebration that recognizes specifically the accomplishments of students inside the classroom--202 of them who have a grade point average of 3.94 or higher with at least 36 credit hours.

 It is “a tremendous feat,” Provost Forrest Maltzman said.

A select group of those students--nine graduating undergraduate students--were recognized individually by each of their schools as “distinguished scholars.”

George Washington President Steven Knapp said, “They are selected for what they do in and out of the classroom but also for their intellectual promise.”

Calling attention to the university’s $1 billion “Making History Campaign,” Dr. Knapp said that GW’s distinguished scholars will make history for the university. “You are the future of this nation and the world. It is through you that we are going to be shaping the world as a university,” Dr. Knapp said.  

The deans or their representatives of each college then introduced the distinguished scholars highlighting the research, community service and contributions each had made to the university.

“If there is one thing I’ve learned over the last four years at our university, it is that no one succeeds alone,” said Emily Somberg, an Elliott School of International Affairs major, speaking of the community she found at GW. “Raise High represents more than the individual perseverance of future ambitions, it means giving back and recognizing the value of working together and challenging one another not to just to reach higher but to reach further.”

The occasion serves as opportunity as well to acknowledge and thank the mentors and professors who have supported and guided them throughout their time at GW.

The 2017 Distinguished Scholars:

Erika Feinman, Columbian College of Arts and Sciences

In introducing Erika Feinman, associate dean of undergraduate studies Elizabeth Chacko described a student deeply immersed in women’s, gender and sexuality studies while simultaneously involved in student campus life. As a student leader and Student Association president, Feinman helped pass the religious diet accommodation act, served on GW’s Committee on Sexual Assault Prevention and Response and worked tirelessly on social justice and diversity issues and bringing positive change to GW.

“As a trans student,” Feinman said, “I have often felt lost.”

The guidance of a professor and mentor changed that, giving Feinman the confidence “to pursue an academic project that I feel passionately about. It is with that guidance that I have come to feel that my research is valuable and that I’m breaking new ground in a budding field.”

Paul Steven Scotti, Columbian College of Arts and Sciences

Dr. Chacko said the faculty members who recommended Mr. Scotti considered him “as being in the top 1 percent of students they have ever taught” and having a promising future in the field of cognitive neuroscience, evidenced by the fact that he was accepted at all 13 Ph.D. programs to which he applied.

Mr. Scotti said he found his community at GW in weekly board games role- playing Dungeons and Dragons and discovered his passion for neuroscience research his sophomore year.

“College is supposed to prepare us for the real world,” he said. “Although to be fair I’m off to get a Ph.D. and stay in school forever.”


Philip Lopreiato, School of Engineering and Applied Science

In addition to Mr. Lopreiato’s near perfect GPA in computer science during his four years at GW, said Professor Shahrokh Ahmadi of the school's Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, he held an impressive array of research and internships, working at the Defense Department and at Facebook where he plans to start working this summer.

Mr. Lopreiato encouraged his classmates to “find your passion in life, whatever it may be and throw yourself entirely into it.”


Hannah Sassi, School of Business

“What motivates Hannah is excellence, leadership and service,” said Leo Moersen, associate dean of undergraduate studies. “She came to GW motivated to succeed academically because GW gave her an opportunity that her parents didn’t have.”

A finance major with a minor in economics, Ms. Sassi will go to work at Citibank in its public sector group where she will be advising large international organizations like the United Nations and the Red Cross. It was an opportunity she almost missed out on because a snowstorm caused her flight to be canceled four times, making her six hours late for the job interview.

“I think what saved me was I talked about what I was passionate about and why this opportunity meant so much to me,” she said.


Emily Somberg, Elliott School of International Affairs

Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and Student Services Lisa Stephenson praised Ms. Somberg for a masterful job of building a nexus between the social sciences and the arts, leading to a double major in international affairs and French language, literature, art and culture with a concentration in international economics.

Ms. Somberg plans to teach in France one year and then return to Washington to pursue a career in international development.


Madison Brown, Milken Institute School of Public Health

“Maddie,”as her teammates often shout in the middle of a game, “is not only an outstanding scholar, but a gifted athlete who has played Division 1 volleyball for the past four years,” said Senior Associate Dean for Academic and Student Affairs Julie Deloia. That is no small feat, she said, for a science major with labs and a significant practice and travel schedule.

“My teammates have been crucial to my success here,” Ms. Brown said. “Whether it was telling me, ‘You’ve got this,’ quizzing each other at the airport or just talking to each other for hours in the locker room about our current life crises.”

Ms. Brown will be working as an intern at the Food and Drug Administration with plans to either attend law school or obtain a master’s degree in regulatory affairs.


Mary Paradis, College of Professional Studies

Ms. Paradis is a veteran of the Chicago Police Department with more than 30 years of experience in law enforcement and private security, noted Christopher Deering, the associate dean and associate provost for administration operations. She achieved a 4.0 grade point average in the GW Police and Security Studies program. At the same time, she served as senior director of safety and security for the George Washington Police Department.

“I am not your traditional student. I’m managing a job, children,” said Ms. Paradis. “CPS has been really fulfilling for me. I want to thank my husband, Peter, who is a single parent several nights a week, and the best proofreader a wife could ever ask for.”


Kathy Boter, School of Nursing

Ms. Boter started out as consultant to over a dozen hospitals around the country providing valuable insights about how hospital finance and operations intertwine with clinical practice, according to Dean Pam Jeffries. But she realized her heart was more in line with serving patients in clinical settings than in hospital operations and management. 

Since joining GW, she received a nursing scholarship from the Virginia Hospital Center where she will be working this summer.

Ms. Boter said as she recently did clinical rotations, surgeons, doctors and nurses wanted to know whether she’d had nursing training in a previous life. “What they were basically saying is, ‘You are prepared. You ask the right questions. You accurately provide patient care.’ I certainly know that it is the program and the professors that got me to this point,” she said.

Namita Puran, School of Nursing

Ms. Puran’s experiences prior to coming to the GW School of Nursing include obtaining a bachelor’s of science degree in biology from the City University of New York--Queens, conducting research on mental illness and working for a decade in the family construction business. As a recipient of the competitive Washington Square Scholarship, she was able to study at the nursing school and was accepted in a nurse residency position at the Medstar Washington Hospital.

“The academics in the School of Nursing program was so rigorous that it prepared me for my community clinical which I did in Mukono, Uganda,” said Ms. Puran, who credited a GW alumna for making that experience possible.

“It was a fabulous experience. We went in there as an eight-person nursing team. We empowered the patients, the village health workers to test for high blood pressure and to say, ‘What can you do as a person to prevent it?’”


Student Life


Students Honored for Exceptional Scholarship

April 28, 2014
Eight “distinguished scholars” among the 175 students commended for academic achievement.