Wednesday, 01 April 2020 17:19

Three Oswego Students Earn SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence

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Three SUNY Oswego students have earned the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence, the highest student honor in the SUNY system.

Honored for outstanding accomplishments inside and outside the classroom are Dylan A. DiGrazia, a chemistry major; Samantha Jenks, a dual major in psychology and in cognitive science; and Chanel Meyer, a dual major in Spanish adolescence education and in Spanish.

Dylan DiGrazia

DiGrazia’s organic chemistry research has been presented or accepted to present at the likes of the national and the northeast regional meetings of the American Chemical Society, the SUNY Undergraduate Research Conference and the RISE Summer Scholar Symposium. Working under chemistry professor Fehmi Damkaci, DiGrazia performed research for the past two summers and designed his own capstone project.

“From day one I could see that he was extremely goal-driven and had a very strong work ethic,” Kristin Gublo, instructional support specialist for the chemistry department, wrote in nominating DiGrazia. “He is such a pleasure to be around and a wonderful role model to our younger students.”

His numerous scholarships and awards include the Willy G. Schuh Jr. Outstanding Senior Award, Pearl A. Monroe Scholarship, Peter ‘75 and Andrea Guglielmo ‘73 Award, Freshman Chemistry Scholarship and Dean’s Scholarship. He is a member of the Phi Kappa Phi national honor society, president of the Outdoors Club, a tutor for the Office of Learning Services, a Math Camp assistant and peer mentor. Additionally, he helps with the college’s annual summer GENIUS Olympiad.

Hailing from Amesbury, Mass., DiGrazia also has minors in math and in applied statistics. In June 2015, he completed an Eagle Scout project of building a boardwalk over a muddy section of a trail in a park in his hometown.

He has been offered teaching assistant positions at two doctoral programs to date, with a future goal of spending time in industry and then becoming a professor.

DiGrazia noted a “passion for lifelong learning and teaching” that pointed him toward his life’s goals. “Through interactions with my classmates, my time tutoring students at my university and by peer mentoring the general chemistry lab (course), I have ample experience teaching and have always enjoyed my time educating students,” he said. “As well as teaching, I have always enjoyed studying chemistry; it has been one of my greatest passions since high school.”

Samantha Jenks

“Her exceptional performance and achievements in psychological and neuroscience research made her a top candidate for this award,” psychology faculty member Sien Hu wrote in nominating Jenks. “Highlights of her academic and extracurricular accomplishments include a first-authored manuscript currently under review, a published co-authored journal article, summer research with monkeys at MIT, and human imaging and behavioral research in my lab.”

Jenks earned a spot in the highly competitive Massachusetts Institute of Technology Summer Research Program in 2019. Jenks simultaneously managed two projects -- one a psycho-physics experiment on feature-based attention in humans, and the other examining a spike wave from analysis of monkey data.

A native of West Islip, she is first author of “Threat bias and resting state functional connectivity of the amygdala and bed nucleus stria terminalis” in the Journal of Psychiatric Research and is co-author of “Imaging the effects of age on proactive control in healthy adults” in Brain and Imaging Behavior.

“Being a first author as an undergraduate facilitated my presence in the field, which is vital for the career of becoming a research scientist in cognitive neuroscience,” Jenks noted. “My research is something I can feel pride in; it has allowed me to enter a conversation where people from all around the world learn from each other to figure out how the human brain functions.”

As a research assistant in SUNY Oswego’s Cognitive Neuroscience Lab, Jenks takes part in studying the architecture and functions of the human brain. She has presented related research at the Society for Neuroscience Conference in Chicago, the SUNY Undergraduate Research Conference at Niagara Community College and the college’s Quest symposium.

Jenks also is a member and leader of Oswego’s track and field team program and vice president of the Vega honor society. She plans to continue her education to continue researching the human brain.

Chanel Meyer

In addition to academic excellence, Meyer has demonstrated a commitment to service and world awareness.

In June 2019, she took part in the SUNY Stands with Puerto Rico program, where she helped repair houses, farms and the National Rainforest all damaged by hurricanes. She has presented on her experience to the college’s Global Awareness Conference, and additionally gave a thesis in Spanish at Oswego’s Spanish Colloquium.

“Chanel was selected from a large pool of applicants and more than demonstrated why she was well chosen for this project as she engaged wholeheartedly in disaster recovery efforts in Puerto Rico,” wrote Joanne O’Toole of the curriculum and instruction department, who served as that experience’s team leader and as Meyer’s practicum supervisor. “She put 100 percent of herself into each aspect of the project in order to make a positive difference in others’ lives.”

A current semi-finalist for a Fulbright Student Award, Meyer has studied abroad in both Spain and Ecuador. In each location, she additionally engaged in service learning, working as a teacher's assistant and a tutor. She has helped manage 21 international programs in nine countries as an assistant in the college’s Office of International Education and Programs.

“I studied in Spain in the Fall of 2017 and in Ecuador in the Fall of 2018 to break my comfort zone and see if I had what it took to achieve success,” Meyer wrote. “Spain and Ecuador gave me just that. These experiences and opportunities offered me growth, confidence and certainty in my career path.”

She has earned a federal TEACH grant to help in low-income schools, and a GETGO Scholarship to support her study-abroad activities. Meyer also is a member of the Phi Beta Delta honor society for international scholars. Meyer plans to continue her pursuit of teaching, ideally through SUNY Oswego’s graduate education programs.

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