On Saturday, May 20 and Sunday, May 21, UVM celebrates its 216th commencement ceremonies. Over the weekend, thousands will receive hard-earned master's, doctoral, baccalaureate and honorary degrees. Meet just a few of these impressive Catamounts below.
Marylyn Rogel, who graduates with a BA in sociology and a minor in critical race and ethnic studies, has been a campus leader in social justice. A first-generation college student, Rogel’s first stop post-UVM is Miami, where she’ll begin a two-year stint as an elementary school teacher through Teach for America, which accepts only 15 percent of applicants nationally. “I see it as a way of giving back,” Rogel says. “I was fortunate to have some really committed teachers who set high standards. It made me realize what a positive impact a good teacher can have on students.” Read more.
Ben Grebber, an Honors College student majoring in biology with a minor in chemistry and pharmacology, won’t be leaving after commencement. Instead, he’ll join the Larner College of Medicine Class of 2021. He credits UVM’s PEP (Premedical Enhancement Program) with igniting his passion for medicine. While shadowing a gastroenterologist, general surgeon, and primary care physician, Grebber learned how to interact with patients and develop the skills needed to collect patient information and formulate a diagnosis and treatment plan. “One experience during my physician shadowing solidified my interest in attending medical school – my mentor physician allowed me to see a patient on my own,” says Grebber, who also enjoyed early exposure to the College of Medicine’s active learning activities.
Catamount swimmer Sarah Mantz excelled in the pool and the classroom throughout her UVM career. A top student in the Grossman School of Business with a concentration in marketing, she has earned multiple appearances on the America East Commissioner’s Honor Roll and All-Academic Team. Mantz was also all-conference as a swimmer for the past two seasons and leaves UVM as the individual school record holder in the 50 freestyle and as a team member in three relay events. A recent internship with business consulting firm Fletcher/CSI’s Williston office earned Mantz a post-graduation job in research and quantitative analysis. Read more.
Connor Payne, a chemistry major in the Honors College, will go straight into a Ph.D. program at Harvard this fall in chemical biology. He’s fascinated by this intersection, particularly as the fields combine in drug development. Payne presented research on tRNA at the 2017 Student Research Conference, and nominated advisor Robert Hondal, associate professor of biochemistry and chemistry, for the Office of Undergraduate Research’s first Mentoring Award, which Hondal received at the conference.
Kiana Gonzales, a linguistics major with a concentration in psycholinguistics, grew up with a unique perspective on language: both of her parents are deaf, so she’s been signing all her life. At UVM, she served as the president of the American Sign Language Club, an orientation leader, a member of the gymnastics team, and treasurer of the Chi Alpha Christian fellowship group. After graduation, she’ll work at the United Nations with the disability policy forum.
Biology major George Chrisafis received a Common Good Fund award in summer 2016 through UVM’s Career Center to intern at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. “Common good” sums up the Honors College student’s post-grad plans, too. Now that he defended his thesis on cancer research, he’ll go on to the competitive research program at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, in a lab that focuses on pancreatic and breast cancers, plus ALS. Chrisafis’ ultimate goal: medical school.
Caitlin Drasher, a wildlife and fisheries biology major, has spent the last four years volunteering extensively with the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife; her dedication earned her a Vermont Campus Compact Engaged Student Award. After graduation, she’ll share her experience working with black bears as a wildlife technician with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, helping to manage human-bear conflicts. Having successfully defended her honors thesis, Drasher is considering graduate school, and hopes to continue studying impacts of human development on wildlife, especially large carnivores like black bears. Read more.
Among the first students at UVM to graduate with a degree in food systems, Olivia Peña is a member of the Real Food Working group, a committee on campus that helps guide food purchases at UVM. The group recently hit its goal of locally sourcing 20 percent of food on campus, three years ahead of the 2020 target. She also served as a project assistant researching harvest losses in developing countries as part of a climate change, agriculture, and food systems organization on campus. While at UVM, Peña has taught horseback riding lessons, served as an orientation leader, and was a College of Agriculture and Life Sciences student representative. After graduation, she’ll stay on at UVM as a graduate student in the food systems program. Read more about the Real Food initiative.
Jason Maulucci, former SGA president, will move seamlessly from political science classes into a job in the Vermont Governor’s Office. Maulucci’s been working for the Governor’s transition team for months, while juggling studying and SGA commitments. “I learned more in my role as SGA president and being involved with campus committees that steer decision-making at the university than I could have ever imagined,” says Maulucci, who turned down an internship at the United Nations to accept the post with Gov. Phil Scott. He hopes to eventually attend law school.
Exercise and movement science major Bethany Kelly will work as a medical assistant at a private practice in Burlington after graduation, but it won’t be her first experience with patients. Her clinical training at UVM included helping young adults prepare for the Special Olympics, working with psychiatry patients at the UVM Medical Center, and teaching strengthening exercises to individuals with multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease. “All of my clinical experiences have been ideal training for when I enter the workforce,” says Kelly. With a bit more experience under her belt, Kelly plans to apply to master’s programs in physician assistant studies. Read more about Kelly and clinical experiences at UVM.
An economics and political science double major and math minor, Nick DeMassi will join the Peace Corps after graduation to teach math to students in Guinea, Africa. It won’t be DeMassi’s first time sharing his love of numbers; the Honors College grad tutored fellow students in a microeconomics course taught by the late professor Ross Thomson, and served as a teaching assistant for another of his UVM mentors, associate professor of economics Sara Solnick, who is also serving as his Honors College thesis advisor. His research involved a new take on the “ultimatum game,” a classic experiment that provides insights into how humans calculate their economic self-interest. Read more.
Engineering grad Marion Cundari is paving the way toward a sustainable future. She’s accepted a job as an energy engineer at Opinion Dynamics, a firm in her native Massachusetts, advising clients (including utilities) on energy-saving opportunities. Her ultimate goal: to help facilitate an industry-wide shift toward renewables and fossil fuel alternatives. “I’ll be applying many of the skills learned over my years at UVM,” says Cundari.
Andrew Dazzo started an internship at Wells Fargo in the summer of 2016 with 200 other college students. His hard work helped him stand out; it was impressive enough to land him a full-time job at the prestigious bank after graduation. While at UVM, Dazzo served as a Student Government Association (SGA) representative, and helped develop the Catamount Innovation Fund, which offers funding and expertise for budding student entrepreneurs to “turn their idea into a successful business,” says Dazzo. Read more about Dazzo and the Catamount Innovation Fund.
Vanessa Avalone, a biology major and French minor, is among three Fulbright awardees from UVM who will spend a year on an English Teaching Assistantship. Avalone first got involved at tutoring here at UVM. “I really enjoyed teaching,” she says. The grad has been funded to teach in Malaysia starting in January; until then, she’ll be studying for the MCAT, with her sights set on attending medical school in the future. In the last five years, more than 100 UVM students and alumni have won or been finalists in prestigious scholarship and fellowship competitions ranging from the Fulbright to the Rhodes. Read more about the 2017 winners.
Kaelyn Burbey received the ROTC Legion of Valor Bronze Cross Award, given annually for achievement of scholastic excellence in military and academic subjects. Nationally, just thirteen cadets receive the award. An Honors College environmental engineering major/mathematics minor, Burbey now begins four years of active duty with the U.S. Army and hopes to work with the Army Corps of Engineers someday. “A lot of our ROTC training induces stress, so that it pushes you to be adaptive and think on the fly,” she says. “That is, obviously, applicable almost anywhere in life.”
Grace Weisbecker, senior in athletic training and Honors College student, was a varsity pole vaulter and hurdler for the Catamounts. A spring break trip to hot spring-rich Iceland sparked a research project on whether a warm soak might be a good warm-up for athletes. She exhibited her findings at the 2017 Student Research Conference. Next stop: a master’s program at Ithaca College for athletic training, with the long-range goal of becoming a professor someday. Read more about Weisbecker’s research and other student projects from the 2017 conference.
Dewey Sheehan knows what an internship can do. After interning with Under Armour for the past two summers, the business administration major/applied design minor worked remotely for the brand for the past year on top of academic work. He’ll go on to work with the company on footwear development. While at UVM, Sheehan was the joint winner of the Senior Award for Excellence in Marketing.
Photos in this story by Kevin Coburn, Brian Jenkins, Sally McCay, Tomoki Nomura '20, Tom Rogers, Andy Duback and Ian Thomas Jansen-Lonnquist.