University Recognizes Students for Outstanding Academics

GW leaders come together from each school to honor roughly 200 students on Tuesday.

President Steven Knapp and Provost Steven Lerman with the university’s distinguished scholars.
President Steven Knapp and Provost Steven Lerman with the university’s distinguished scholars.
April 24, 2013

George Washington University on Tuesday recognized roughly 200 students for their outstanding academic resumes, and bestowed a select nine with the honor of distinguished scholar during the annual Academic Honors Dinner.

“This is a great event every year,” President Steven Knapp said in welcoming remarks in the Marvin Center Grand Ballroom in front of students, their family and friends, faculty and staff. “I get to listen to stories that really bring home what we are as an institution.”

Provost Steven Lerman, who also provided remarks, added, “It’s through that interaction between faculty and great students that we build a great university.”

After honoring more than 150 recipients of the Outstanding Academic Achievement Award, leaders from each school recognized their distinguished scholar.

Adele Ashkar, associate dean for academic excellence in the College of Professional Studies, introduced scholar Charles Snead IV, who came to GW for the Police Science Program after being honorably discharged from the Marine Corps. He immediately excelled, Ms. Ashkar said, and is a friendly and thoughtful student. Mr. Snead attributed his success to hard work, determination and, most importantly, to his teachers’ investment in him.

Peg Barratt, dean of the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, honored scholars Adam Bethke and Paul Seltzer. Mr. Bethke, she said, is a “deeply curious” student who is a voracious reader and always thinking critically and making connections.

Mr. Bethke said his undergraduate research in criminal justice and sentencing policy taught him skills from writing to interviewing and analysis. “Undergraduate research has been, without a doubt, the most important part of my academic experience,” he said.

For his part, Mr. Seltzer, another scholar from the Columbian College, is curious, passionate and “driven by a deep desire to change the world,” Dr. Barratt said a recommender wrote. Mr. Seltzer spoke of the importance of remembering the workers on campus who make sure it runs. During his time with the GW Progressive Student Union, he and friends organized breakfasts to get to know workers and show their appreciation for them.

“As scholars, our academic work must not stop at making intellectual connections--it has to continue into making human connections,” Mr. Seltzer said.

Next, Michael E. Brown, dean of the Elliott School of International Affairs, introduced Jane Olmstead-Rumsey, an all-around scholar with a keen and inquisitive nature, he said. While others experience the typical “senioritis,” Dr. Brown said, Ms. Olmstead-Rumsey is taking elective math classes. “That’s senioritis, GW style,” he said.

Ms. Olmstead-Rumsey said she is “in awe of the education I have received from the Elliott School.” She highlighted the invaluable experience she gained doing research on World Bank governance and fragile and conflict-afflicted states. And she had some advice for the younger students in the room: Step out of the library and “soak up this amazing location” in D.C., take advantage of the speakers who come through campus and the study abroad opportunities. They’ll be what students remember most come graduation, she said.

Introducing Mark Buente, Isabelle Bajeux-Besnainou, associate dean for undergraduate programs in the School of Business, said Mr. Buente, who has traveled abroad multiple times and been involved in many service projects, has “left an impact on every program he has been a part of” in GWSB.

Mr. Buente said the phrase “Raise High” embodies what he has experienced at GW, such as working together as a team in a class to achieve a common goal.

“As I move onto the next chapter of my life, I have one favor to ask,” Mr. Buente said. “Please continue supporting each other.” It will make GW all the better, he added.

Rumana Riffat, associate dean for academic affairs in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, introduced scholar John Wittrock, who she said builds a “culture of scholarship among his peers.”

Mr. Wittrock implored students to get involved in research during their career at GW, no matter how busy they may be.

“The opportunities and resources available to me through the department and school have been extraordinary, as well as the support and advisement of the faculty who have encouraged me to take on great challenges,” Mr. Wittrock said.

Introducing Katherine Lemming, Joseph Bocchino, senior associate dean for health sciences, said Ms. Lemming, a high achiever who studies pharmacogenomics as her second bachelor’s degree, was the unanimous choice for the evening’s honor.

Ms. Lemming discussed how her interest in research has grown since she came to GW. She also said she has learned to expect the unexpected when it comes to preparing for a future career.

“Being flexible is an important part of being successful,” she said. “Life is always going to collide with school, but the key is finding a balance.”

Jean Johnson, dean of the School of Nursing, next introduced William Smith, calling him a “very rare individual who actually has been described as never having a bad day.” Mr. Smith, who served in the Peace Corps in West Africa, has made an “incredible mark” in SON, and is a leader among his peers, which was evident especially in a recent medical mission to Haiti.

Mr. Smith called that trip a “fantastic experience and great exposure to the population I want to serve as a nurse.” He said he hopes to help underserved populations after he graduates.

Lastly, Julie DeLoia, associate dean for academic affairs in the School of Public Health and Health Services, introduced Carolyn Stalgaitis, who is “far beyond her years” when it comes to her academic and professional achievements.

“She’s one of the people we love to see in public health,” said Dr. DeLoia, commending Ms. Stalgaitis for being a dedicated and motivated agent for change.

Ms. Stalgaitis closed the evening with a theme that ran throughout all the honorees’ speeches--that of thanks for all those who have supported the scholars throughout their lives.

“No one ever accomplishes anything alone, including those of us who are on stage tonight,” she said.