University Recognizes 2016 Distinguished Scholars

President Knapp, Interim Provost Forrest Maltzman celebrate achievements of students at Academic Honors Dinner.

University Recognizes 2016 Distinguished Scholars
Interim Provost Forrest Maltzman and President Steven Knapp flank award winners (left to right) Jason Hoffstot, Kelley Finnegan, Lana Robins, Kristen Pinto, Jonathan Rice, Katherine Bradshaw, Katherine Stasaki and Christopher Evans. (Zach Marin/GW Today)
April 20, 2016

By Tamara Jones

A star athlete slips on a tennis ball, and her future as a pro is over. The small-town son of working class parents gets rejected for 21 jobs at the local mall, and assumes his college application will meet the same fate. The event planner exploring a possible nursing career faints on her first hospital field trip.

But passion, perseverance and a hunger for learning put these GW seniors among the eight “distinguished scholars” honored Tuesday night for their academic achievements with President Steven Knapp calling them “the citizen leaders this institution is designed to educate.”

The distinguished scholars delivered remarks at the Outstanding Academic Achievement Awards dinner hosted Tuesday by Interim Provost Forrest Maltzman and Dr. Knapp at the Marvin Center Grand Ballroom. With family, friends and faculty guests on hand, a total of 222 sophomores, juniors and seniors with a GPA of 3.94 or higher received certificates.

Dr. Maltzman lauded the honorees for “exemplary work in and out of the classroom.”

Introduced by the deans or associate deans of their respective colleges and chosen for both their academic achievement and contributions to the university community, the distinguished scholars encouraged their fellow students to harness GW’s rich intellectual resources to find mentors, pursue research or study abroad.

“GW’s focus on undergraduate research is one of the things that sets it apart, and for which I’m very grateful,” said senior Katherine Bradshaw, one of two distinguished scholars from the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences. “For me, there was nothing more breathtaking than the moment when I stood in Stratford-Upon-Avon, within arm’s length of Shakespeare’s 400-year-old original birth record—except maybe the next moment when I turned to my classmates and saw they were just as excited.”

The 2016 Distinguished Scholars are listed below:

Columbian College of Arts and Sciences

Katherine Bradshaw

Lauding Ms. Bradshaw’s 4.0 GPA, Elizabeth Chacko, associate dean of undergraduate studies, said Ms. Bradshaw plans to complete her master’s in English at GW next spring.

Christopher Evans

Dr. Chacko described the political communication major and former White House intern as “a caring peer” who helped raise mental health awareness through his volunteer work with the GW Listens hotline.


School of Engineering and Applied Science

Katherine Stasaki

“I’m wondering if these students operate in some unique parallel time zone with 48 hours in the day to our 24,” joked David Dolling, dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science, listing Ms. Stasaski’s “impressive array of internships.”

Ms. Stasaski, who will begin pursuing her PhD this fall at the University of California, Berkeley, recalled her “defining moment” as a computer science major: Grateful students hugging her after she installed literacy software on their phones at the Washington Learning Center.


School of Business

Jonathan Rice

Mr. Rice, “an accomplished DJ” and a first-generation college student in his family, “is a most remarkable young man,” said Leo Moersen, associate dean for undergraduate programs at the School of Business..

With a job at Price Waterhouse, the business administration graduate will enter GW’s masters program in the fall.

“When I was in high school, I walked around the mall and applied for 21 jobs,” Mr. Rice recalled. “How many did I get?  Zero. Even applying to this school with my background should have discouraged me. But it didn’t, and here I am.”  


Elliott School of International Affairs

Lana Robins

Entering GW as a promising member of the women’s tennis team with plans for a pro career, Ms. Robins was described by her professors as “one of the best students” in recent memory, according to Lisa Stephenson, associate dean for academic programs.

“In the beginning of my junior year, I tripped on a tennis ball and set two years of associated ankle injuries in motion,” Ms. Robins recalled. Unable to play, “I was lost.”

She was “simply in search of an interesting elective” when she enrolled in a human trafficking course and discovered her career path. After interning in the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Virginia last year, Ms. Robins “found a passion for advocating for trafficking victims” and plans to become a federal prosecutor.


Milken Institute School of Public Health

Kristen Pinto

“Anyone who can get six-year-olds interested in carrots and broccoli has my full, undying respect,” said Julie DeLoia, associate dean for academic and student affairs, praising Ms. Pinto’s efforts to teach children how to prepare healthy food as a volunteer at Little Friends for Peace.

Ms. Pinto will return to GW in the fall to pursue her master’s in public health.


College of Professional Studies

Jason Hoffstot

The Northern Virginia father and Little League coach with an interest in cybersecurity will be “almost half-done” with his work toward a Master of Science in Business and Technology after finishing summer courses in the accelerated master’s program, said Dean Ali Eskandarian.

“Some of the most enjoyable times I have had while being here were essentially field trips into the work place,” Mr. Hoffstot said. A visit to NIST labs in Gaithersburg “helped me imagine the world that we will be living in years from now.”


School of Nursing

Kelley Finnegan

“Kelley is one of those students who give 110 percent,” said Dean Pamela Jeffries, praising the compassion and commitment she believes Ms. Finnegan will bring to her chosen specialty of labor and delivery.

Ms. Finnegan left her job as an event planner to study nursing “after a year of soul-searching.” While shadowing nurses at Washington MedStar to see if the career was a good fit, Ms. Finnegan ended up in the emergency room herself after fainting in a patient’s room.

 “To say I really had no idea what was in store for me would be an understatement,” she concluded.