University of Vermont

Academic Ceremonies - May Commencement

Recognition of Outstanding Student Leader Award Recipients
David V. Rosowsky, Professor of Engineering, Provost and Senior Vice President

Student Leader Awards 2014The Outstanding Student Leader Awards are among the most prestigious awards presented by the University of Vermont. The students recognized today have been nominated by fellow members of the campus community, including students, faculty and staff, for their leadership, scholarship and service to the University. It now gives me great pleasure to announce for the first time, here today, the award recipients. Students when your name is called please come forward and join me on stage. Audience, please hold your applause until all the students are on stage.

The Mary Jean Simpson Award is presented to the senior female student who best exemplifies the qualities of character, leadership and scholarship. This year’s award is given to Hillary Laggis.

Hillary is a Public Communication major in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She will graduate summa cum laude today. Hillary is the recipient of the Pearson Prize for Higher Education and was a finalist for the Truman Scholarship, both highly competitive national awards recognizing outstanding academic excellence and commitment to public service. She is also the 2014 recipient of the Ira Allen Society Scholarship, the Lawrence K. Forcier Outstanding Senior Award, and the Outstanding Service Scholar Award, presented to the student who has “translated their high level academic achievement into meaningful contributions to ‘real world’ community development.” Hillary is the founder and president of Avi Adventures, a program to help lower income local youth get involved in the outdoors.

To do this, Hillary brought together three groups on campus -- DREAM, the Outing Club, and Dewey House -- and has since recruited underclassmen to join the team to ensure the program’s future at UVM. In addition, Hillary has volunteered extensively with Spectrum Youth and Family Services and was as a volunteer coordinator following Vermont’s Tropical Storm Irene.

Reflecting on her UVM experience, Hillary said, “You cannot be great on your own – it takes support and encouragement from others to realize your potential.”

The F.T. Kidder Medal is presented to the senior male student who best exemplifies the qualities of character, leadership and scholarship: Dennis Mahoney

Dennis is a Business Administration major with a double concentration in marketing and entrepreneurship in the School of Business Administration. Dennis is founder and owner of Mahoney Landscaping, a business he has run while a student. He was a student trustee on the UVM Board of Trustees for three years serving on the Educational Policy and Institutional Resources; Audit; Budget, Finance and Investment; and Board Governance committees. As an Advocat, Dennis was a student admissions representative and head tour guide in his senior year. He is also president of the Boulder Society. His volunteer work includes Serve Burlington, helping the refugee community; Kids Alive Basketball Camp; and Hurricane Sandy Relief.

Dennis is the recipient of the Presidential Scholarship, the Keith Wormser Scholarship, the ALANA Student Achievement Award, and he took 2nd place in the 2nd annual global Family Enterprise Case Competition.

Reflecting on his UVM experience, Dennis said, “UVM provided an environment that taught me to be a life-long learner, a leader for today, and a network of friends to change the world.

The Class of ’67 Award is presented to the senior student who has been active in student activities, has received university recognition in a varsity sport, and/or has been elected to an office in a recognized student activity. There are 2 recipients, the first is Alesandro Carissimo.

Sandro is a Business Administration major with a double concentration in Accounting and Finance and a minor in Economics in the School of Business Administration. He is the starting point guard and captain of the Men’s Varsity Basketball team and helped lead the Catamounts to four twenty-win seasons, two regular-season championships two NIT births, a Conference Championship and the second NCAA tournament win in school history. He has been named to the America East All-Conference First Team and America East All-Conference Academic Team.

In the community, Sandro has helped rebuild homes with the Athletic Department after Hurricane Sandy, refereed for Special Olympics and tutored students in the Business School. An excellent student, Sandro has been offered a full-time job with Wells Fargo Securities.

Reflecting on his UVM experience Sandro said, “a second home, giving me the best four years of my life and the tools I need to have even better years in the future.”

The second recipient of the Class of ’67 Award is Suzanne Friedman.

Suzanne is a Business Administration major with a minor in economics in the School of Business Administration. She is a 4-year member of the Women’s Club Ice Hockey team and captain. Through her leadership and dedication, the team was ranked 13th in the country by the American Collegiate Hockey Association. Suzanne is the recipient of the Outstanding Athlete Award for significant achievements in her sport, as well as academics and service to the campus community. She is a hard working student athlete who leads by example. This year Suzanne created LGBTQuiet, a group on campus for students to meet and discuss issues of gender identity and sexuality. LGBTQuiet distinguishes itself from other campus LGBTQA groups by focusing on issues related to coming out and not being out.

Reflecting on her UVM experience, Suzanne said, “When I have questions, I step outside and breathe in that crisp green mountain air, purple horizon, it absorbs into my pores. I have answers.”

The Keith M. Miser Leadership Award is presented to the student who has been successful in campus leadership. There are 2 recipients, the first is Breonna Young.

Breonna is a Film and Television Studies major and Theatre minor in the College of Arts and Sciences. The hallmark of Breonna’s education is overcoming obstacles and bringing people and groups together to make a difference in the community. She is focused, highly motivated, and determined. Breonna has used her role as a student leader on campus to speak out against racism, gender inequality, and high-risk drinking. She has held leadership positions with the Black Student Union, UVM Week of Welcome, University Program Board, ALANA Student Center, and the Inter-Residence Association.

This past year, as IRA Director of Student Advocacy, she worked with IRA administration and the Office of Student and Community Relations to engage the Greater Burlington Community in campus educational events such as Family Fall Fest and Craft with a Cause. She credits four mentors that helped her break out of her shell and become an influential leader on campus.

Breonna is a recipient of the Provost’s Leadership in Equity and Campus Diversity Award, LGBTQA Center Bridge Building Award, NASPA Undergraduate Fellows Program, and Presidential Scholarship.

Reflecting on her UVM experience, Breonna said, “Persevering through strength, empowerment and finding my true self within myself.”

The second Miser Leadership Award recipient is Christopher Veal.

Christopher is a Biochemistry major and Studio Art minor in the College of Arts and Sciences. He is co-founder and president of the Minority Association of Premedical Students – UVM (MAPS), founder and program director of the Living Learning Community “Pre-Health Professions,” treasurer, National Biological Honor Society – Tri Beta Upsilon Tau Chapter UVM, and program director of the Living and Learning Community “Africa House.” In addition, he has worked as a research assistant for the UVM College of Medicine and as a Student Researcher for the Vincent Center for Reproductive Biology at Massachusetts General Hospital at Harvard Medical School. In creating MAPS, Christopher envisioned a club devoted toward diversifying the face of medicine and exhibiting cultural competency both here in Burlington and in pre-med student’s future careers.

MAPS is currently planning a semester long volunteer collaborative with the College of Medicine to deliver health services to migrant farm workers in Vermont, and also developing a mentorship collaborative with the minority youth group “Diversity Rocks” in Burlington. Christopher credits his family for providing him with a good foundation and guiding principles – to always do the best you can and to always “Look Back, Give Back, and Move Forward.”

Reflecting on his UVM experience, Christopher said “UVM has changed my life, my only wish is that one day I am able to provide someone with a fraction of what UVM has provided me.”

The Elmer Nicholson Achievement Prize is presented to the student who has emerged from their total UVM experience with the promise of great expectations in their field of interest. There are three recipients. The first is Mache Chase.

Mache is a Psychology major and Sociology minor in the College of Arts and Sciences. Her leadership activities include the ALANA mentor program, member and president of the Black Student Union, and the Academic Integrity Council. She has a good ear and a strong voice, and the passion to speak up against bias. Mache delivered a moving closing speech at the Trayvon Martin Teach-In. Along with classmate Breonna [Bree-on-na] Young, she helped plan the Flash Mob for Black History Month to raise awareness on campus for students of color. “We Are Not Invisible” reached beyond the UVM campus to students of color at other universities with over 60,000 shares on Facebook.

An accomplished student, she graduates today with the aspiration to get her master’s degree in Social Work and Higher Education and further her goal of supporting students of color through student support services.

Reflecting on her UVM experience, Mache said, “Success isn’t ultimately awards or recognition, it is the true pleasure of knowing you made a difference somewhere and changed a life.”

The second Nicholson Achievement Prize recipient is Erick Crockenberg.

Erick is an Ecological Design and Development major with minors in Green Building and Community Design and Spanish in the Self-Designed major program in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Erick has the ability to envision a project, pull teams across areas of expertise together and facilitate collaborations. He is co-leader (with classmate Tad Cooke) and project manager in the redevelopment of the Moran Plant on Burlington’s Waterfront. Out of an initial 120 proposals their project became the final proposal for the Moran Plant and was voted on and approved by the City of Burlington at Town Meeting Day this year. There is much to be done between now and spring of 2016 when they hope to break ground, but they are off to a great start. Erick was also the grant writer and co-principal investigator for a successful design project that used compost heat as an agricultural energy source for a combined research and production greenhouse.

In addition, Erick has held leadership roles with the UVM Outing Club, Wilderness Trek, Tropical Storm Irene Recovery Effort and Code for BTV/NOFA Vermont.

Reflecting on his UVM experience, Erick said “Think big and then figure it out – and have a hell of a good time while doing it.”

The third Nicholson Achievement Prize recipient is Tad Cooke.

Tad is an Ecological Design and Development major with a minor in Green Building and Community Design in the Self-Designed major program in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. He will graduate cum laude today. In 2012, Tad was named a Udall Scholar and in 2013, was a Truman Scholarship finalist, both highly competitive and prestigious national award programs. At UVM Tad has flourished in the self-designed major program, learning skills that were directly applicable to his professional goals, engaging faculty and students for their expertise and help, and successfully managing multiple competitive grants. With classmate and research partner Erick Crockenberg, Tad has worked on a Clean Energy Fund sponsored project to investigate heating greenhouses with cow manure. Having spent 18 months to bring the project to its fruition, in November of 2013 they had beautiful tomatoes growing in northern Vermont.

For small farms in places like Vermont, this could economically extend their now too short growing season. Room 9 Redevelopment is a business enterprise created around their proposal for the redevelopment of the derelict Moran Plant on Burlington’s waterfront. Their proposal brings mutually beneficial businesses together to create an environmentally and financially sustainable facility. When he is not writing proposals, Tad has been a leader with UVM’s Kyak Club and Wilderness Trek and has volunteered with Bread and Butter Farm, Burlington Farm 2 School, Colchester Rescue EMT, and the New England Organic Farmers Association.

Reflecting on his UVM experience Tad quotes Norman Peale, “There’s real magic in enthusiasm.”

Last modified May 22 2014 03:06 PM