Top seniors honored as 2016 Presidential Scholars

contact: Jeanne Baron
| WMU News
Photo of WMU's Sangren Hall.

The Presidential Scholar designation is the highest academic honor that WMU can bestow on its undergraduates.

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Fifty students will be recognized as Western Michigan University's top seniors for 2016 during the 36th annual Presidential Scholars Convocation starting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 29, on campus in the Bernhard Center.

Each year, faculty members from across the University select the most outstanding senior in their various academic schools, departments and programs to represent their units as a WMU Presidential Scholar. This year, 50 scholars were chosen from a senior class of more than 6,500 students.

The Presidential Scholar designation is the highest academic honor that WMU can bestow on its undergraduates. Selection is based on the students' general academic excellence, academic and artistic excellence relative to their majors, and intellectual and artistic promise.

The 2016 Presidential Scholars Convocation, which is by invitation only, will include a program featuring a keynote address by Dr. John M. Dunn, president of WMU. Also making remarks will be Dr. C. Dennis Simpson, president of the WMU Faculty Senate, and Connor Smith, president of the Western Student Association. After each of this year's scholars are recognized and awarded certificates, a dessert reception will be held while the scholars have their pictures taken with Dunn and Simpson.

Long list of talented students

This year's Presidential Scholars include a nursing major who is studying to be an American Sign Language interpreter so as to build a career around providing quality nursing care to the deaf community, an electric propulsion researcher who has collaborated with NASA on a project as well as co-authored a published scholarly article, a future airport administrator who has interned at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York and two other U.S. international airports, and an electrical engineer whose mentored research at WMU has led to participation in a National Science Foundation-funded research program and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Summer Research Program.

Among the scholars who already have graduated are a men's soccer player who was on the 2012 and 2014 academic all-conference teams and has fulfilled his dream of working in the commercial construction industry, and a biological sciences major who is a Fulbright Scholar semifinalist and the co-designer of a national award-winning low-cost device to treat infants suffering from respiratory distress.

Two 2016 recipients of the Presidential Scholar designation have previously received the honor from departments offering one of the other programs in which they are majoring. In addition, some Presidential Scholars have excelled after returning to school as nontraditional students. They include two mothers who have been working full time and raising their children while completing their degrees.

Presidential Scholars for 2016

  • Accountancy—Mari B. Tobin of Kalamazoo.
  • Anthropology—Keshia D. Driscoll-Cook of Kalamazoo.
  • Art—Sarah N. Spohn of Laingsburg, Michigan.
  • Aviation sciences—Megan E. Voisard of Otsego, Michigan.
  • Biological sciences—Joseph D. Barnett of Kalamazoo.
  • Business information systems—Carrie M. Renfrow of Natchez, Mississippi.
  • Chemical and paper engineering—Andrew J. Bogan of Warren, Michigan.
  • Chemistry—Casey E. Wright of Chesterfield and New Baltimore, Michigan.
  • Civil and construction engineering—Jason J. Grant of St. Louis.
  • Communication—J. Gabriel Ware of Detroit.
  • Comparative religion—Rachael J. Pulice of Warren, Michigan.
  • Computer science—Scott B. Linder of Portage, Michigan.
  • Dance—Sarah A. Mills of Warsaw, Indiana.
  • Economics—Alec C. Kraus of Orland Park, Illinois.
  • Electrical and computer engineering—Alexandra C. Ferguson of Livonia, Michigan.
  • Engineering design, manufacturing and management systems—Aaron J. Huntoon of Clio, Michigan.
  • English—Daniel J. Neff of Goshen, Indiana.
  • Environmental and sustainability studies—John R. Lutchko of Traverse City, Michigan.
  • Family and consumer sciences—Amber M. Herr of Muskegon, Michigan.
  • Finance and commercial law—Steven R. Ross of St. Joseph, Michigan.
  • Gender and women's studies—Alexa P. Morrison of Sterling Heights, Michigan.
  • Geography—Kate E. Meyer of New Baltimore, Michigan.
  • Geosciences—Courtney M. Wright of Jenison, Michigan.
  • Global and international studies—Virginia M. Privett of St. Joseph, Michigan.
  • History—Kelsey E. Ennis of Midland, Michigan.
  • Human performance and health education—Kelsey A. Berry of Kalamazoo.
  • Industrial and entrepreneurial engineering and engineering management—Matthew T. Bracey of Plymouth, Michigan.
  • Integrated supply management—Jordan S. Berning of Battle Creek, Michigan.
  • Management—Rachel E. Guenther of Portage, Michigan.
  • Marketing—Brianna M. Amat of Pinckney, Michigan.
  • Mathematics—Kathryn S. Hillenbrand of Vicksburg, Michigan.
  • Mechanical and aerospace engineering—Matthew J. Baird of Alpena, Michigan.
  • Music—Michael A. Hudson-Casanova of Sterling Heights, Michigan.
  • Music theatre performance—Audrey L. Johnston of Libertyville, Illinois.
  • Nursing—Maija E. Paldan of Kalamazoo.
  • Occupational therapy—McKensie S. Ward of Cass City, Michigan.
  • Philosophy—Conor T. O'Donnell of Grand Rapids, Michigan.
  • Physics—Ian S. Brown of Baroda, Michigan.
  • Political science—Jennifer L. Townsend of Otsego, Michigan.
  • Psychology—Kevin A. Anderson of Constantine, Michigan.
  • Social work—Erika R. Camarillo of Portage, Michigan.
  • Sociology—Sarah A. Wirth of St. Joseph, Michigan.
  • Spanish—Elizabeth A. King of Cadillac, Michigan.
  • Special education and literacy studies—Nathalie E. Hanson of Kalamazoo.
  • Speech pathology and audiology—Kelsey E. Bowles of St. Johns, Michigan.
  • Statistics—Zachary M. Buchalski of Sanford, Michigan.
  • Teaching, learning and educational studies—Ciera L. McCrory of Detroit.
  • Theatre—Sarah M. Collins of Middleton, Wisconsin.
  • University studies—Jenica D. Batt of Dyer, Indiana.
  • World languages and literatures—Maria V. Paterno of St. Charles, Illinois.

For more news, arts and events, visit wmich.edu/news.

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