Syracuse UniversityScholar Spotlight

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    Scholar Spotlight Archive

    Academic excellence is central to Syracuse University's purpose, and is highlighted by the many students who regularly showcase the University's scholarly tradition. Each week, we profile one of these students to provide a glimpse into the stories and achievements that make our students special.

    2014-15 Scholars

    Cavel Whyte ’15

    Cavel Whyte ’15

    Arts and Sciences student Cavel Whyte hopes to someday serve as an academic advisor to students from low socioeconomic backgrounds.

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    Cavel Whyte ’15

    Cavel Whyte hails from Kingston, Jamaica, and attended high school in the Bronx that did not have any college counselors. So she took it upon herself to learn the college admissions process firsthand, then teach it to her peers. She feels that she hit a home run getting accepted to Syracuse University, and has become involved in both research in her major (psychology) and the community.

    Q: What do you like about Syracuse?

    A: The atmosphere here is so different and refreshing. I’m used to everyone back home always going about their business and forgetting to smile or say ‘hi.’ Syracuse University is filled with friendly people who do amazing things, on and off campus. It makes you wonder if there’s something here in the water.
     
    Q: What does your research involve?

    A: I’m currently working on an independent research project titled ‘Media Images and Body Satisfaction: A More Valid Test.’ It’s supervised by Leonard Newman, associate professor of psychology, and studies media objectification and body image issues. My research focuses on whether or not the nature of models affects women’s satisfaction with their own bodies.
     
    Q: What else are you involved in on campus?

    A: I  help out in the College of Arts and Sciences admissions office. I meet with hundreds of prospective students and their families, guiding them through the admissions process. Also, last fall, I was asked to serve on the A&S Dean Search Committee. Communicating to others the importance of identifying a candidate that values transparency about the issues pertinent to the student body was crucial, especially as the committee’s lone student representative. Being part of that committee has allowed me to represent my peers and to engage with faculty and staff across disciplines.
     
    Q: What else have you been involved in, both on and off campus?

    A: I am a member of the Psychology Club, volunteer for the Syracuse University Literacy Corps and help to feed the homeless through the Phi Chapter of the Alpha Phi Omega national service fraternity.
     
    Q: How has your family background helped you?

    A: My mother and brother instilled in me a sense of compassion and social justice.
     
    Q: How do you hope to use those attributes in the future?

    A: I hope to someday serve as an academic advisor to students from low socioeconomic backgrounds. I want people to know I can relate to them, and that, regardless of their income, they’re capable of doing great things.

    Written by Christina Tiberio, student in the Office of News Services

    Lynda Brady ’15

    Lynda Brady ’15

    Bioengineering student Lynda Brady is melding her love of math, science and music.

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    Lynda Brady ’15

    “Home. It’s a powerful word. It invokes images of people and places, and also feelings, maybe of safety, comfort and acceptance. Home is probably a place you just left, and you might be thinking right now how different this place is from your home.” Bioengineering senior Lynda Brady spoke these words from the lectern of Hendricks Chapel this past August to the incoming class of College of Engineering and Computer Science students. As the student speaker for the college’s convocation, Brady shared her experiences and offered some advice to the undergraduate class of 2018. Three years prior, Brady sat in the very same seats unsure of what lay ahead or how she would fit in. Now she is president of the engineering honor society, Tau Beta Pi, and a student who calls Syracuse University home.

    Q. What brought you to the bioengineering program at SU?

    A. I was looking at many different options and submitted a last-minute application to SU. Through a series of overnight events, I found the campus to be a nice fit for me. It felt welcoming—so much more than my other options.

    In high school I had to do a project on what I wanted to do with my life and that’s when I picked bioengineering. The more I found out about it, the more I liked it, and decided that it was actually what I want to do. Plus, I’ve always loved math and science. I’m really into physics of the body and biomechanics.

    Q. What has been a highlight of being in the program?

    A. Right now, I’m working on my honors capstone project in the Institute for Human Performance within Upstate Medical. I’m testing the fracture toughness of irradiated mass bones. When people get radiation therapy for cancer, even if it’s for a soft tissue, the bones are affected. For some reason, radiation makes bones more prone to fracture down the road. We haven’t been able to find a conclusive reason why.

    Q. Why did you feel it was important to take on a leadership position in Tau Beta Pi in addition to your coursework?

    A. I became a member during my junior year and wanted to revamp our chapter. I saw an opportunity for the organization to have more activities and more of a campus presence. It’s great for engineers, but I found some students didn’t know what it was, so I’ve made it a goal to get more people involved with it.

    We offer programs like Engineering Futures, a workshop that focuses on soft skills that we don’t always get in our engineering classes, but are vital in the professional world. These are free expert presentations, open to all. We also offer scholarship programs through the organization. Many of the world’s greatest engineers have been in it and employers know about it.

    Q. What are you passionate about outside of engineering and leadership? 

    A. I have a deep love of music. I’m a member of the Hendricks Chapel Choir. We perform a lot and it’s a good way to meet other people. I’m in a songwriting class too, so my roommate and I jam together. I seriously considered becoming a music composition major before college.

    Q. Do you find connections between engineering and music?

    A. Music is all math. Music is definitely interesting in the way that it affects your body, your brain and the way that you think and study. The way you remember things is affected by music. I think that there is a lot of interrelation with the biological side of music.

    Having a background in music has also helped me to be more creative and draw different conclusions, reconcile things and multitask. It’s definitely been helpful.

    Q. What inspires you to call SU home?

    A. I honestly didn’t know what to expect coming in, but once I embraced being here and made friends, I felt comfortable. I always tell people they need to get involved. Once I got involved with the College’s PRIDE efforts and the people around me, everyone started to feel like a family to me.

    Getting to know like-minded engineering students also made it feel more like a home. It sounds cliché, but I don’t know how else to describe it. Syracuse is definitely a good, strong community and support base. People know what you’re going through and are willing to help you.

    I even made it a point to make friends with engineers in other disciplines because you can get bogged down in your classes and get into the same mindset as everyone else in your specific program, but if you talk to other people in other classes you can get a broader perspective.

    I’m big on community and feeling like you are part of something and being at a big sports school makes me feel connected. We have a lot of school spirit here, which I love. As an engineering student, it’s nice to be a part of a liberal arts university. It’s helpful to get the liberal arts perspective. We can get cool big acts, comedians, and musicians. There are definitely a lot of cool things to do around here, which you may not expect being here in Central New York.

    Overall, I enjoy that my group of friends is not homogeneous. I can talk to people who aren’t just focused on engineering, which is one of the great opportunities SU gives.

    Aron Romanoff ’15

    Aron Romanoff ’15

    Creativity, ambition and storytelling drive senior Aron Romanoff to constantly push himself to the limit in pursuit of his passion.

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    Aron Romanoff ’15

    Creativity, ambition and storytelling drive senior Aron Romanoff to constantly push himself to the limit in pursuit of his passion. Born in Manhattan and raised in rural Vermont, the College of Visual and Performing Arts film major writes, directs and produces his own films. Romanoff has a 3.7 GPA and spent a semester studying film in Los Angeles, and is also one of a select few students chosen to attend the Sundance Film Festival this year. The students traveled to Park City, Utah along with associate professor of computer art and chair of the Department of Transmedia Heath Hanlin from VPA and assistant professor of television Keith Giglio from the Newhouse School. Romanoff returned with added inspiration and perspective, and immediately dove back into the production of his original films here at Syracuse.

    Q: VPA’s film program is very demanding, especially for majors. What are the expectations placed on you, and what are some of the projects you’ve worked on throughout your time at Syracuse?

    A: Every year you have to do a film, and every semester you’re working on some big project that’s central to that film. So, everyone’s pretty much constantly working on their own stuff, and also helping each other out if they have time. It’s crazy how busy we are, but it’s all very cool. In terms of my past projects, they’re usually experimental dramas with some sort of fantasy element involved. I’m not heavy on the fantasy, but I like to throw in something that couldn’t happen in the real world to make it a little more interesting. For instance, I made a film two years ago called “Rewound” that opens with a son cleaning out his father’s house after the father has passed away. The son always thought his relationship with his father was strained and distant, but then he finds a collection of trinkets representative of all the happiest times the two had spent together. He also discovers an old tape of him and his father, and when he plays it, he finds himself sucked into the past and dropped back into the moment from the recording. So, there’s your fantasy element. It’s not like he totally resets his life or anything; his dad is still dead and he eventually returns to the present, but he gains new insight and appreciation for their relationship because of the experience.

    Q: Sundance must have been incredible for someone who is as involved in the film culture as you are. What was the average day like, and what did you take away from the overall trip?

    A: Sundance was such a great experience. We had a list of all the movies, so we would pick out where we wanted to go beforehand. The festival is actually spread out through four cities; half of my selected films ended up being in Salt Lake City as opposed to Park City, including my favorite film from the entire festival. It was called “People, Places, Things,” directed by Jim Strouse, and it was just a simple romantic comedy, but I had a grin on my face from start to finish. The atmosphere of the whole place was great, too. We were in this little village right next to downtown, and even though the weather was very similar to Syracuse, everyone just seemed so happy and involved in what was going on around them. Getting the chance to be a part of that, and to meet and talk to a lot of the Sundance people, was very inspiring. So many of them are fresh out of school, if they even went to school in the first place, and they’re just doing their own thing, trying to get noticed.

    Q: Now that you’re back in Syracuse, what are your plans for the rest of your senior year?

    A: I’m really focusing on my senior thesis, which is a digital, 15-minute film. Like I said, I try to mix in some fantasy stuff, and I guess that I’d describe the thesis as a romantic fantasy experimental drama, which is a bit of a mouthful. I got started on it really early, and actually filmed a lot of it back in my hometown before I returned to school. The plot centers on a guy with intense social anxiety, and he has this imaginary friend who left him when he was a kid, but then the imaginary friend suddenly comes back when the guy’s in his 20s. Also, the imaginary friend has a girlfriend, who the real guy ends up falling for. And everyone asks me if the girl is real or not, and right now she’s imaginary, but that might change. I’m in the editing process right now, so who knows? The original script is never set in stone.

    Q: Once you graduate, what do you see yourself doing?

    A: I’ll be spending the summer back in Vermont, working as the tech director for the School of Creative and Performing Arts. It’s a cool gig, and it lets me be at home for a little longer. After that, it’s either LA or New York. I’d love to move out to LA and room with some of the people I’m graduating with, which would make it a little more affordable for all of us, and then see how everything goes. Luckily, I already have some connections out there from the semester I spent in LA last year, so I’m just going to try and work my way up the ladder. I could be a PA for a while, or maybe get behind the camera. Another route would be working on someone’s independent project. With that, there’s less money but a whole lot more creativity. That’s why the people at Sundance were so appealing to me; they made the choice to pursue their own ambitions. Once you graduate and get out there in the business world, it’s always a fine line between a bigger paycheck and more creative control over your projects. You’ve got to find a balance that you’re happy with. Once you get that, everything else comes naturally.

    - Written by Austin Galovski, work-study in the Office of News Services

    Timothy O’Connell

    Timothy O’Connell

    First-year M.B.A candidate Timothy O'Connell is off to an exceptional start, securing a position as one of the top five scorers in the country on the Bloomberg Aptitude Test.

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    Timothy O’Connell

    A first-year M.B.A. candidate at the Whitman School of Management, Timothy O'Connell recently secured a position in the Bloomberg Hall of Fame by being one of the top five scorers in the country on the Bloomberg Aptitude Test. As a long distance runner, O’Connell’s resolute nature was integral in being placed in the 99th percentile, the highest in SU history.

    How did you come to take the Bloomberg Aptitude Test?

    Michael LaMarche from the Career Center recommended the test to differentiate me and build my profile. There were no cons to taking the test, only pros. It didn’t cost any money, and if I fared well, I could become a part of the database of top scorers that recruiters would use when looking for potential candidates. I’ve already had a couple of internship postings directed to me.

    What led you to to Whitman’s M.B.A. program?

    Before I joined the M.B.A. program, I received my accounting degree from SUNY Geneseo. Various internship experiences during my undergraduate career led me towards a career in finance. After dabbling in financial advising at Merrill Lynch, I learned that I enjoyed providing solutions to a client. I then completed an internship at OppenheimerFunds in Rochester, where I worked with both portfolio managers as well as credit analysts.

    One of the most important reasons I chose Whitman over other programs was that I felt it would provide me with a more individualized experience. When I visited, I felt comforted knowing that I would be a unique student, as opposed to just a number, or part of the crowd, which tends to happen at some of the other larger programs.

    What are you looking to gain from Whitman’s M.B.A. program?

    Building a network and gaining credibility in my field of interest are some of the things I’m looking for. I also want to broaden my business knowledge by gaining experience in other aspects of business, such as entrepreneurship and real estate. Whitman has provided me with a greater opportunity to take finance classes that teach the rigorous process of applying theory in real life situations, also known as experiential learning.

    What strategies would you advise for those planning to take the Bloomberg Aptitude Test?

    I would recommend taking the time to review all sections at least once. I would also advise them to wait until they have a solid knowledge of finance overall, possibly until the second year, by when they would have covered the core finance courses. The test is a combination of general math and aptitude, but also focuses heavily on finance and so, having a strong foundation is extremely important.

    Story by Byron Dela Rosa ’16, Whitman School of Management work-study.

    Brian Cheung '15

    Brian Cheung '15

    The experiences that Brian Cheung has had through Syracuse University have prepared him to be a highly successful professional.

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    Brian Cheung '15

    While this spring may represent the end of an era for senior Brian Cheung, the experiences that he has had through Syracuse University have prepared him to be a highly successful professional. Cheung is a dual major in Whitman and Newhouse, studying finance and broadcast and digital journalism, with a minor in Chinese studies. The Rockaway, N.J., native has earned a 3.8 GPA, along with numerous awards and scholarships, and aspires to be a financial journalist. He’s spent three summers interning for NBC, as well as with the Global Institute for Tomorrow in Hong Kong during his semester abroad.

    You’ve received high praise and recognition throughout your time at Syracuse. Can you go into more detail about some of the awards you’ve received, and what they meant?

    Most recently, I was selected as one of 11 seniors to be named a Whitman Scholar, which is the highest academic recognition awarded by the school. I was incredibly honored by the opportunity, and really by all of the opportunities offered to me throughout the years. The way I look at it, if someone’s going to stick his or her neck out and nominate me, I have an obligation to follow through and put forth my best portfolio. I always try to position myself in a positive way, but there are a ton of smart, capable students out there, so when a professor singles me out, I owe it to them to try my hardest. I’ve also been named an Emma Bowen Scholar, which is a program that aims to increase the presence of students with minority backgrounds in the media, and I was awarded the Thomas Mulaney Scholarship by the New York Financial Writers’ Association, in recognition of my financial writing and interest in financial journalism. Here at SU, I’ve been a consistent Dean’s List student and a Renee Crown University Honors Program student.

    You have a big interest in finance journalism. When did that start, and what first sparked your interest?

    I came to Syracuse wanting to study journalism. After applying to Newhouse, and then getting in, I couldn’t see myself going anywhere else. My parents were very supportive of my journalism ambitions, but they also urged me to make the most of my time and go for a second degree. I’ve always had a general respect for the finance field, so I figured, “Why not?” But as I got deeper and deeper into the coursework, I started to really love the idea of stock trading, with all of its ups and downs, and really just the overall exciting nature of risk. In particular, I really like the concept of money and currencies, of the world economy and currency exchange and how it all works together. It was that interest that led me to go abroad to Hong Kong my junior year, and while overseas, I came to the ultimate realization that my two interests could be blended together. Finance journalism was the way to go.

    While abroad in Hong Kong, what memorable experiences did you have, and how have those experiences helped you back in the United States, with both your academic and professional careers?

    Going abroad to Hong Kong really showed me just how many different cultures and worlds there are out there. I visited nine different countries, and to see that corner of the world and be exposed to so many different things was very cool on both a finance and journalism level; it shows how many stories there really are to be told. With today’s globalization, Americans should know what’s going on in Japan’s and Malaysia’s economies more than ever before, and maybe I can be the guy to do that.

    When it comes to your professional career, where have you interned, and what are some of the most valuable lessons that you’ve learned from your work experience?

    Through my Emma Bowen Scholarship, I’ve had the opportunity to work at NBC for the past three summers. I was in a rotational program, so I first worked in advertising, then investigative journalism and finally breaking news. Also, while abroad in Hong Kong, I had a marketing internship in an economic think tank called the Global Institute for Tomorrow. This semester, I’m returning from a four-week, holiday break internship at CNBC. Through everything, the most valuable thing that I learned is that in order to be successful, you must be willing to learn. I learned a lot in the classroom, but once you’re out in the real world, things change. You need to rely on your coworkers and yourself, and constantly adapt. Every summer at NBC was a totally new experience, and I had to listen to my supervisors and just absorb as much possible. If I wasn’t willing to learn, I wouldn’t be anywhere near as successful. I try to be as diligent and hardworking as possible, and it’s really paid off for me.

    Written by Austin Galovski, work-study in the Office of News Services

    Ebony Jones '15

    Ebony Jones '15

    Ebony Jones has been fascinated with architecture since a childhood trip to Disney World.

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    Ebony Jones '15

    After going on a road trip with her parents to explore all the colleges she applied to on the East Coast, Ebony Jones ’15 chose Syracuse University because she liked the supportive atmosphere. “Syracuse was the only place I felt really welcome from the staff, my tour guide and the people in the admissions office,” says Jones, a School of Architecture student from Levittown, Pa. “It’s like a second family.”

    What do you like about architecture?

    I find it challenging, but it’s been a lifelong interest. Since I was little, I’ve been fond of buildings--my first visit to Disney World with my family got me especially excited. I will never create something like Disney World, but that really sparked my interest.

    Where did you study abroad?

    In spring 2013, I studied in London after I received a Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, awarded by the U.S. Department of State to students traditionally underrepresented in study abroad programs.

    What did you enjoy about you time in London?

    I liked its relaxed pace. They make time for themselves and their friends. In America, we work so much, we rarely have time for our family. We are always rushing and always on the go. The culture is quite different.

    How did studying abroad help you as a budding architect?

    Our professors took us around and showed us a lot of things that we probably wouldn’t have seen from an architectural standpoint. These trips were fantastic. London is diverse architecturally and absolutely amazing. I really enjoyed it. In my spare time, I traveled to the Netherlands, Scotland and France to experience various cultures and see more European architecture.

    How have you passed your enthusiasm for Syracuse University on to others?

    I am one of the University 100 ambassadors, a group of students who give prospective students and their families campus tours and participate in different events through the Office of Admissions. Syracuse felt like a second home when I came here, so I hope to give visitors the same feeling. I also share my own experiences on campus and abroad. I always tell people on my tour I’m really glad to be here. I honestly couldn’t see myself anywhere else.

    What does the future hold for you?

    I have not figured out what type of architecture I will do and which city I will live in. Maybe I will do architecture in London!    

    Story by Shi Shi

    Shuyuan Chen ’15

    Shuyuan Chen ’15

    Shuyuan Chen is using her experience to help others like her thrive at Syracuse University and at other schools and colleges around the United States.

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    Shuyuan Chen ’15

    International students often face a unique set of challenges when they embark on their collegiate career in the United States. But one international student, Shuyuan Chen ’15, from Yangzhou, China, is using her experience to help others like her thrive at Syracuse University and at other schools and colleges around the United States. With a dual major in economics and religion, Chen is one of the founders of Intercontinental Scholars (ICS), an international education company with the goal of helping international students bridge the cultural gap as they plan for college in the United States.

    Q: What inspired you to establish Intercontinental Scholars?

    A: I realized that lacking the language and cultural background are only symptoms of the struggles that international students face; the true reason many students have difficulties is that they do not have an awareness of the cultural gap before they come to this country.

    Q: What has ICS done so far?

    A: We have performed research, visited schools, held experimental summer camps and collected survey data. We have finished our first curriculum and are now working on our marketing strategy.

    Q: What other ideas are you working on to help in bridging the cultural gap that international students experience?

    A: I plan to work with Marlene Blumin, a professor in the School of Education, to co-author a book for Chinese high school students to prepare them for college in the United States. It will be based on Professor Blumin’s book “It’s All About Choices” (Kendall-Hunt 2008).

    Q: What has your academic experience been like at Syracuse?

    A: I really appreciate the diverse opportunities. My professors are extremely helpful in both academic and career planning and I’ve been able to pursue two distinct majors that interest me. Almost every person who learns my major combination for the first time asks why I made this decision, but almost all of the internship and job offers I have received so far, even those in banking or international business, were interested by both my economics courses and my religion courses.

    by Laura Bulman

    Justin Elkhechen '15

    Justin Elkhechen '15

    Justin Elkhechen's fascination with the workings of the human body has led him to a challenging area of research.

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    Justin Elkhechen '15

    Justin Elkhechen has long been fascinated with the workings of the human body. A former high school baseball and soccer player, he says his love for sports fuels his desire to understand the intricacies of how we function, especially in the cellular and molecular realms.

    That thirst for exploration has led Elkhechen, a biochemistry major from Fort Lee, N.J., to perform research at the Syracuse Biomaterials Institute (SBI) and at the Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine, where he spent summer 2013 as an Amgen Scholar, part of a prestigious national program that promotes undergraduate research.

    Q: How did your love of and experience with sports play a role in deciding what you wanted to study at Syracuse University?

    A: The human body is so remarkable on so many levels. I wanted to explore that here in much more detail.

    Q: What got you interested in the research you are involved with?

    A: The catalyst for me was the interdisciplinary course Stem Cells in Society; it motivated me to dig deeper into the topics we were covering. Through that course, I met Professor (James) Henderson. I learned more about his research at the Syracuse Biomaterials Institute and joined his lab as a sophomore.

    Q: What are you currently working on?

    A: Right now, I am working on Honors research pro­ject that involves understanding how changes in the fiber alignments of shape-memory polymers can influence the migratory patterns of breast cancer cells and murine stem cells. In the lab, I develop fibrous polymeric scaffolds that, when exposed to temperature shifts, change shape during cell culture, providing the opportunity to study how the cells respond to alterations in the fibers. Those arranged in one direction, for instance, can facilitate cancer cell migration to surrounding tissue, leading to metastasis. Likewise, a random alignment can inhibit cell movement. The research I’ve done is really valuable to me. It is a real privilege to be involved in it.

    Q: How was your experience with the Amgen program?

    A: My time as an Amgen Scholar helped me to further elevate my research skills. My mentors at Stanford, Dr. Marius Wernig and Dr. Sean Wu, involved me in a collaborative research project designed to generate Purkinje fibers, which are responsible for the heart’s conduction system. The program was a phenomenal experience; it was a highlight of my college career.

    Q: While performing research has been a priority for you during your undergraduate studies, what other things have defined your Syracuse experience?

    I enjoy the balance of academics and social life at Syracuse. I am an avid Orange sports fan, and I have also worked for SU Ambulance, served on the College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Team and the college’s Academic Integrity Board, and am president of Shadows of Health, which links students interested in the health field with health professionals.

    Q: What are your plans after graduating from Syracuse in May?

    A:  My research experiences with the Syracuse Biomaterials Institute and at Stanford University as an Amgen Scholar have inspired my plans to go to medical school next fall with a long-term goal of focusing on orthopedics.

    My parents have been an endless source of encouragement and inspiration. They came here as immigrants [his father is from Lebanon; his mother, Venezuela]. They worked as hard as they possibly could to establish themselves in this country. They inspire me to be the best I can in something I’m passionate about.

    Perry Copes, II '15

    Perry Copes, II '15

    Since receiving a prestigious fellowship to study in Tajikistan, Perry Copes, II is learing Persian in preparation for a position in national security.

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    Perry Copes, II '15

    Perry Copes, II, from Philadelphia, Pa., is earning his master’s degree in international relations from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs with a focus on global security and emerging markets. In 2013, he was selected for the Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program to study Persian in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. While at SU, he worked as a graduate assistant for the Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism (INSCT). He was recently selected as a Boren Fellow for the 2014-15 year and will be continuing his study of Persian in Tajikistan from September to May 2015.

    Q:  How did you become interested in this language and region of the world?

    A:  I've always had an interest international affairs and U.S. foreign policy. Before coming to Maxwell, I interned in Washington D.C. at a public policy think tank focusing on international security. I developed an affinity towards my research dealing with Iran and Afghanistan, which culminated in my decision to study Persian since it is the language of this region.  Iran has a rich history and beautiful culture that has been disproportionately represented in western media. I wanted to learn more about this country and region outside the lens of traditional security matters. Persian is a “critical language” and by developing this linguistic proficiency, along with a regional expertise, I will be in better position to pursue a career with the U.S. government.

    Q: You spent two months in Tajikistan in the summer of 2013. What are your thoughts as you settle in for nine months of language study and cultural immersion?

    A: I've been blessed with an amazing opportunity to dedicate an academic year to studying this language and culture. I feel much more prepared this time around because of my CLS experience in 2013. I know what my weaknesses are as a language student and plan to address them from the moment I step off the plane. Seeing how my language skills improved with just one summer gives me great confidence in what my abilities will be at the end of nine months. As a student it's often difficult to devote sufficient time to language study when you have other obligations due to a full course load; I can finally study Persian without the dark cloud of an economics test looming over my head! I know this will be a challenging experience but the gains in language proficiency and cultural expertise will be invaluable in my career. Lastly, I've heard Tajikistan can be a little rough in the winter, but that's nothing that Syracuse hasn't already prepared me for. 

    Q: What does a typical day look like?                                            

    A: It depends on your personal study routine. I usually wake up around 7 a.m. to review flashcards and eat breakfast. Speaking with my host family at the breakfast table serves as a warm-up for the day. I have class four hours per day Monday-Friday. When classes are over I rest for a little before starting my homework. Some days I will go to lunch with my language partner to practice speaking. I try to go out and interact with the community as much as I can.  Being exposed to the informal speech and colloquialisms in the community is a useful complement to the formal speech I am exposed to in the classroom. At the end of the day I go home and eat dinner with my host family. This is another chance to practice speaking before preparing for the next day. On the weekends I have down time where I go on cultural excursions, visit other cities in Tajikistan, or go to the bazaars to practice my bargaining skills. 

    Q: Who is an interesting person that you’ve met?

    A: I met the U.S. Ambassador to Tajikistan at my briefing in the embassy.  At the embassy's Fourth of July barbecue I met other expats and employees of the U.S. Foreign Service community. It's always interesting to hear the different backgrounds represented from across the U.S. 

    Q: What are your hopes and goals for this year?

    A: My main goal is to improve my Persian skills as much as possible. Additionally, I want to become more culturally engaged through my interactions. Staying for an academic year allows me to be a cultural ambassador and represent the diversity that makes the U.S. great. Representing myself both as an American and as a minority in America, I will be able to introduce my background to a society that is largely unfamiliar. It's this cultural exchange that will help break down the stereotypes people may have about parts of the world they have never been to. 

    Q: Please share any advice your have for students interested in either the CLS or Boren programs.

    A: First, really take the time to think about why you want these awards. CLS and/or Boren are very competitive and having this understanding will make your application essays strong. At Syracuse, you have great resources at your disposal to put your best application forward. Reach out to faculty for their regional/cultural expertise, the SU Writing Center and the Center for Fellowship and Scholarship Advising. Second, be sure to highlight how the skills gained from CLS and/or Boren are directly transferrable to your future careers. Be assertive and make a strong case for why you should receive this award. Third, do not wait until the last minute, and proofread your essays 2,471,943,576,987 times. Lastly, have an open mind. Long-term immersion can be challenging and your experience will likely be much different than what you are used to in the U.S. You must realize that at the end of the day you are there to experience their culture and not the other way around. Embracing these differences will give you perspectives that produce lifelong benefits.

    Maryann Akinboyewa '15

    Maryann Akinboyewa '15

    From the "Real Girl's" program to the "Be Kind More Confident" project," Maryann Akinboyewa is helping empower women and girls.

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    Maryann Akinboyewa '15

    Maryann Akinboyewa of Bowie, Md., is a senior marketing management major in the Whitman School of Management and a writing and rhetoric major in the College of Arts and Sciences. She is a 2014-15 Remembrance Scholar and was recently chosen as a member of the American Association of University Women’s National Student Advisory Council. As a first-semester freshman, she jumped right into the student experience and has built on it ever since.                    

    Q:  How did you begin to build your student experience here at Syracuse University?

    A:  I joined the Office of Engagement Programs the first semester of my freshman year, and started as a volunteer for the “smART” afterschool art program. Each week, I would go out into the community to mentor middle-school students and encourage them to use art as a means of self-expression. In my sophomore year, I became the program director to the smART program. I was so excited because it was my first leadership opportunity on campus! As a volunteer, I worked one-on-one with the middle-school students I mentored. As program director, my responsibilities and expectations grew. I was now in charge of recruiting, training and supervising college student volunteers. I also managed my office’s social media accounts and created the lessons plans for the students we work with. I am now a senior and am still running the program exclusively for middle-school girls in the Syracuse area. I changed the name of the program to “REAL Girls,” to better reflect what I am trying to teach my students—which is to be their most confident, real self. Working for the Office of Engagement Programs has been critical to my development at Syracuse University as it has made me a more confident, capable leader. I look forward to finishing off my senior year just as I started my freshman year, with the Office of Engagement Programs! 

    In my sophomore year, I landed my first internship in Syracuse, as a communications assistant in the Division of Student Affairs. It was such a rewarding experience and one the first times I truly felt integrated into everything going on campus. I loved being part of the planning process for events happening across campus for students. My supervisor sought out a number of exciting projects for me to work on. One of my proudest moments was participating in the “What’s Being Built on South” campaign. My main role was to promote the challenge course on South Campus. It’s incredibly rewarding to have been able to watch that project come to fruition. 

    I joined Whitman Women in Business as the vice president of membership in my sophomore year. Women’s empowerment has become so much a part of my identity here at Syracuse. I am committed to helping women and girls everywhere enter the business world. My role with the organization includes getting undergraduate women familiar with the organization. We do everything from planning events to bringing in successful women entrepreneurs to encouraging and inspiring the members of our organization. 

    Q:  You have developed the “Be Kind More Confident” digital media brand. What is its purpose and how is it making an impact?

    A:  “Be Kind More Confident,” my Honors capstone project, is a digital media brand launching in Spring 2015. I’ve seen many of my friends and women I admire struggle with low self-esteem, social anxieties and lack of confidence and I always wonder why. Women have so much to offer the world and I truly believe we do not give ourselves enough credit.  

    This past summer, I lived and worked in Uganda for a women’s empowerment organization. I worked with Ugandan women helping them create their own sustainable businesses. The women there were so confident, dignified and determined to succeed. My experiences abroad really inspired me to go forward and create “Be Kind More Confident." I can’t share the exact details of the project yet, but watch for the launch next spring. 

    This project has been in my heart for a while. I’ve grown a lot over the past three years and I am excited to share my journey with other women. It’s my hope that “Be Kind More Confident” will help restore self-esteem and confidence in women everywhere.

    Q:  You are a 2014-15 Remembrance Scholar. What has that experience been like?

    A:  Becoming a Remembrance Scholar was such a rewarding experience. I am proud of myself and my 34 fellow Remembrance Scholars for the work we have done this past semester and will continue to do this year. 

    I am still in awe of how incredible my fellow scholars are. They are role models of not only academic excellence, but also continuous service. Together, we’re campus leaders, world-changers, entrepreneurs and do-ers. Each of us learned the importance of thinking beyond ourselves because to represent someone else is no easy feat. 

    I had the pleasure of representing Kesha Weedon this year. Kesha was a social work student passionate about music, children and family. She’s more than just a “victim,” she’s a member of Syracuse University. I will always remember the history of Pan Am 103 and Kesha, and her family and I look optimistically towards the future. I will continue to act forward in the name of Kesha Weedon by showing kindness and respect for others. 

    Q:  You were recently selected for the American Association of University Women’s National Student Advisory Council. What does this entail and how is it helping you make an impact on the Syracuse University campus?

    A:  As a National Student Advisory Council member to AAUW, I have been tasked with promoting gender equity at Syracuse University. I hope to get more women involved with the organization. In addition, I will be in charge of organizing Equal Pay Day activities at Syracuse University and creating an action project that tackles women’s issues. I will also participate in the planning of AAUW's National Conference for College Women Student Leaders (NCCWSL) at the University of Maryland in May 2015. 

    Dan Goldberg '15

    Dan Goldberg '15

    For a majority of college students, mid-November signals the beginning of a holiday break. Not for Dan Goldberg.

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    Dan Goldberg '15

    For a majority of college students, mid-November signals the beginning of a holiday break. But for iSchool senior Dan Goldberg—CEO of one business (Golden Gear) and partner in a new four-person startup (DiamondMMA.com)—November’s calendar is filled with entrepreneurship competitions, and the concept of a time-out from classes and promoting his businesses likely hasn’t even crossed his mind.

    Dan recently competed in the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards and the Ivy Sports Symposium, a Shark Tank-style competition. He's pitching Diamond MMA company’s product—a uniquely designed protective athletic cup—to sports-world executives and key business figures. It’s the chance to obtain major exposure, have the opportunity to find new mentors, strategic partners, and potential investors, and to continue to push forward in the world of entrepreneurship.

    To Dan, these events also represent the ability to show how his innovation will have a major impact in the sports world and beyond, he says—as well as to show the judges why he has, well, something more. Never seeming to lack for enthusiasm, work ethic, a positive attitude, a salesman’s demeanor, or pitching skills, “more” is Dan’s strong suit.

    “All my life, I’ve really been a go-getter, and I feel like I’ve also viewed things differently. In the past, where other people have seen just problems, I saw the solution,” Dan recounts matter-of-factly. “My dream is to be a successful entrepreneur, and I won’t stop until I get there"

    Dan and his Diamond MMA team are working to create maximum exposure for their product, including competitions like the kind he’s entering—and add mentorships and connections along the way—just as he’s done throughout his years at the iSchool.

    That’s because to Dan, college is a place to build relationships as much as it is about the academics. “I can’t even count how many mentors I have at Syracuse, and even if I left school today, I feel like I’ve got everything I can from Syracuse because I’ve created such a great network of mentors who all want to see me succeed,” he enthused. “That’s what the iSchool is great at. My biggest mentors are at the tip of my phone; I can dial them anytime.”

    Nick Danyluk '15

    Nick Danyluk '15

    Nick Danyluk enjoys tinkering with innovation, inventing a device that converts his ordinary monitor into a touch screen.

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    Nick Danyluk '15

    When the installation of Windows 8 was complete on Nick Danyluk’s laptop, he discovered with disappointment that the interface was geared towards monitors with touch screens, which was not something his computer featured. In this scenario, most people would seek out a way to make do or revert to the more familiar layout of Windows 7. Danyluk is not most people. Instead of taking the easy way out, he chose to employ a more challenging solution — invent a device that converts his ordinary monitor into a touch screen.

    After nearly a year and a half of designing, building, and fine-tuning, BeamBreak was born. Small and light enough to be carried in a backpack, the device is little more than four long thin circuit boards connected to each other to form a rectangle that fits directly over a 15 inch monitor. These are wired to another small square circuit board, the device’s “brain.” situated behind the screen. To power it, a short USB cord plugs into the laptop’s port. The inside of the rectangle is lined with tiny clear LEDs that flash beams of infrared light across the screen to black phototransistors on the opposite side, generating an invisible grid.

    When you touch the screen, your finger blocks two intersecting beams of infrared light. With this, Danyluk’s code is able to determine where you are touching and tells Windows. The operating system takes it from there and the effect is virtually indistinguishable from the touch screens of top manufacturers.

    A senior in the College of Engineering and Computer Science’s electrical engineering program, Danyluk is eager to find innovative solutions using the knowledge he is gaining in the classroom. His work on BeamBreak is indicative of this. Inside and outside of his studies, he is engaged and passionate about technology, and he’s having fun doing it.

    Q: It’s clear that electrical engineering is a good fit for you. Why did you choose to study this subject?

    A. I’ve always liked to tinker.  I took programming courses in high school and spent a lot of time learning about my family’s home computer. That carried over. At 12 or 13, I was replacing the memory and upgrading video cards. I considered pursuing computer science, but I can’t see myself programming everyday. Although I’ve seen the computer engineers build some amazing things, that’s not for me.

    I feel that electrical engineering is much more hardware-centric. The real draw was that I could work on projects like this and once I learned the fundamentals, I found that there is so much you can do with engineering. It’s a broad field and Syracuse University has a great program. I enjoy having full access to the labs and my professors really encouraged and helped me when I was just getting started.

    Q. BeamBreak has taken up a substantial portion of your free time. Have you made time to participate in other things at SU?

    A. I’m a part of the IEEE professional society. It’s a place where you have a bunch of passionate people in one spot and it’s amazing what you can come up with. For example, I’ve joined the SU Micromouse team. Micromouse is a competition in which we design a robot mouse to make its way through a maze using the shortest path possible to the center. It has sensors on it that can detect if it has a wall next to it and uses an algorithm to dictate its strategy. I’m going to be involved with building the hardware. It’s a great example of the College’s majors overlapping — electrical engineering students build the robot and the computer engineering students figure out the software and how to get through the maze. We provide the body, they provide its brain.

    Q. BeamBreak is complete and you are in your final year of your undergraduate education. What’s next?

    A. Just for fun, I’ve started work on a robot that moves around the room and bumps into things like a Roomba vacuum cleaner does. It will also post to the internet to announce how its day is going.

    As far as after college, I am looking for a full-time job. I’ve always really liked consumer electronics and am gravitating towards a career in that. I would love to work on the latest laptops, phones, tablets, 3D printers, or other cutting-edge gadgets. I want to build things and have tangible results.

    Q. So much of what you are involved in is above and beyond your academic responsibilities. What do you get out of these experiences that make them worth your time and energy?

    A. The easy answer? It’s fun. There are parts that are a struggle. I had a weird bug with BeamBreak where it was nearly short-circuiting the USB port because one line of my code was wrong. These kinds of roadblocks are frustrating and can leave you banging your head up against the wall, but the end result is worth every second.

    As an engineering student, there have been nights when I’ve had to pull an all-nighter, but also many nights when I am just able to hang out with friends. I have a group of friends that I met here that I wouldn’t change for anything else in the world. We’re very close-knit.

    Through my academic work and related extracurricular activities, I can confidently say that if you gave me a box of circuit components, 24 hours, and my computer, I can build something innovative with it. It’s a lot of work. It takes a lot of dedication and time management skills, but it’s been so positive. I’ve learned so much.

    Stephanie Breed '15

    Stephanie Breed '15

    Stephanie Breed recently took a trip down memory lane, only to discover her “present.”

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    Stephanie Breed '15

    “Hop on Pop” and “Goodnight Moon” are two of the most nostalgic children’s books and always put a smile on one Syracuse University student’s face. Stephanie Breed, a senior art history major in the College of Arts and Sciences with a minor in entrepreneurship and emerging enterprises in the Whitman School of Management and a member of the Renée Crown University Honors Program, recently took a trip down memory lane, only to discover her “present.”

    Q: Where are you from?

    A: I was born in Rochester but spent most of my childhood in Manlius, just a few miles away from the Syracuse University campus. In high school, I fostered my creativity by making jewelry, scrapbooking and being part of my school’s yearbook staff.

    Q: What internship did you recently undertake?

    A: I interned at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, where I paid homage to the Syracuse-born author of “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.” The internship was everything I dreamed it would be and then some. The museum combines my two passions - art and children’s books - and was basically a dream come true.

    Q: What program did you create to help local children?

    A: I am the founder of Books are Food for Thought, a program that provides books to underprivileged children in Central New York, in particular those children who receive free or reduced meals at community centers and schools. I created the organization in 2008 and since then, more than 20,000 books have been delivered to area children. Spreading literacy has always been very important to me, and Books Are Food for Thought has given me the opportunity to get books directly into the hands of kids and see the positive effects.

    Q: What are your plans after Syracuse University?

    A: I am gearing up for the future, working on applications for graduate school and keeping an eye out for museum jobs. I will miss cheering in the student section at Syracuse basketball games, but will be able to look back at my time at Syracuse with the well-earned (butterfly) wings of an alumna.

    By Christina Tiberio

    Jacoby Loury '15

    Jacoby Loury '15

    Jacoby Loury balances academics, research, and volunteer work, determined to improve mental health for minority youth.

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    Jacoby Loury '15

    Jacoby Loury will graduate with a degree in psychology and a minor in philosophy, and he has big plans for after graduation. Loury, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences, is currently balancing a heavy course load, several research projects and volunteer work. Loury isn’t afraid to dream big; in fact, he’s passionate about improving mental health for minority youth.

    Q: During your undergraduate career you have been actively engaged in volunteer work and mentoring, and been an advocate for those facing adversity. What are some of the things you have done?

    A: I volunteer with a crisis hotline, where I provide guidance to people who are struggling with depression, anxiety and sometimes contemplating suicide.

    Q: What has your undergraduate experience at Syracuse been like?

    A: I’ve learned so much from my time at the crisis hotline and even more from the amazing faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences. I have met and formed connections with so many inspirational faculty members that want nothing more than for Syracuse students to succeed. I’ve received honest and insightful advice and if one professor can’t answer a specific question, they don’t hesitate to point me in the right direction.”

    Q: What do you plan to do upon graduation?

    A: I plan to pursue a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, and hope to become a licensed psychologist and have my own private practice. I am also interested in being a resource to law enforcement. I’d love to have the opportunity to evaluate and diagnose the mental health of those accused of committing crimes. Mental health is such a complex topic and I’d like to help law enforcement understand why people do the things they do.

    Q: What do you do in your limited free time?

    A: I can be found playing intramural basketball, watching Orange athletics, or taking in a concert. I love music and am a percussion enthusiast.

    Elizabeth Blowers

    Elizabeth Blowers

    A lover of linguistic arts and the great outdoors, grad student Elizabeth Blowers shines in and outside the classroom.

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    Elizabeth Blowers

    Being a graduate student is a challenge in itself, but being a graduate student at Syracuse University while also a member of the Reserve Officer’s Training Corps (ROTC) is anything but easy. However, graduate student Elizabeth Blowers, who is pursuing a master’s degree in French literature is seamlessly navigating the challenging academic landscape with the poise of any seasoned cadet.

    Q: Where are you from and where did you earn your bachelor’s degree?

    A: I am originally from Pepperell, Massachusetts, and completed my bachelor’s degree at Saint John Fisher College in Rochester, New York. There, l studied French and adolescent education and earned my New York State teaching license.

    Q: What did you do after graduation?

    A:  I have a desire to teach and to see the world, I traveled to Europe after graduation and found myself a “home away from home.” I lived in Strasbourg, France, and taught English for nine months at a local high school. Once I tasted the joys of teaching, I decided that it was my true career path. To achieve this goal, I came to Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences.

    Q: What do your graduate studies entail?

    A:  I am a teacher’s assistant for French 102. At the College of Arts and Sciences, I have not only received a great education, but found a home. Everyone is very warm, welcoming and close. They have truly made me feel like a member of the family.

    Q: What is your goal once you complete your graduate degree?

    I want to be a university professor or a high school teacher, but first there are a few things that I want to check off my bucket list. After graduating from Syracuse, I hope to become a second lieutenant in military intelligence. After completing my deployment, I want to earn a Ph. D. in French literature or education.

    Q: What do you do in your free time?

    A:  As an undergraduate, I was a member of the women’s rugby team. Now, I enjoy long hikes and running 5K races. I currently have a 5K race planned twice a month for the next two months. Races also allow me to volunteer and give back to the local community, especially to the Wounded Warrior Project, an organization I hold close to my heart.

    Q: How has the College of Arts and Sciences helped you in moving towards your goals?

    A: Syracuse has tested my mental and physical comfort levels and helped mold my future. “I am challenged every day, physically, mentally and professionally, to exceed my limitations and better myself. I am confident that I will leave Syracuse University with a hard-earned master’s degree, unrelenting professionalism and mental agility that will make me stand out against other candidates for future jobs.

    When I am facing an uphill battle in the classroom or in the woods, I reflect on the quote, “You are only confined by the walls that you build yourself.”

    By Christina Tiberio

    Alexis Peña '16

    Alexis Peña '16

    Alexis Peña, a junior at Syracuse University’s College of Engineering and Computer Science, is as passionate about her college experience as she is about her future in bioengineering.

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    Alexis Peña '16

    While classes may have kicked off for the fall semester, the summer remained a busy time for Alexis Peña. A junior in the Bioengineering program at the College of Engineering and Computer Science, Peña was wrapped up in the Research Experience and Mentoring (REM) program on campus. She completed a computational investigation of tight junctions, which are cell to cell adhesion structures found in human tissue that protect us against infection and toxins.

    Q: Why did you choose to pursue bioengineering as a major?
    A: Since I was younger, I’ve always been interested in science and math. I attended the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics. I love engineering because I’m passionate about helping others and want to create sustainable medicine to save lives. I also want to continue to do research, so I’m trying to do as much as I can as an undergrad.

    Q: Why did you choose to study at Syracuse University?
    A: I wanted to attend a private school outside of North Carolina and Syracuse has a great engineering program. I also saw that they were receiving a lot of funding for research and want to be a part of it.

    Q: What are you involved in outside of your coursework?
    A: Outside of my classes, I am a resident assistant in Lawrinson Hall and the Academic Excellence Chair of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), and a part of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) and the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) research program. I’m also in the honors program and a tutor. Since freshman year, I have been working in Dr. Henderson’s lab in the Syracuse Biomaterials Institute.

    Q: What has your experience at Syracuse University been like?
    A: Being so far away from home, I have a really good support group here. My advisor and the College’s PRIDE office helped me connect with the Honors Program, NSBE, LSAMP and others. They are extremely helpful and supportive. The people in the Bioengineering department have helped me to be placed in the research labs. They’ve sparked my interest and I wouldn’t want to be anyplace else. I’m not sure I would have this experience someplace else. I was definitely able to adjust to college life quickly when I started at SU. Before I came here, I was already taking courses with a similar structure to college courses. The Engineering College is relatively small and the University itself is big. I have the close contact, small student to teacher ratio in my engineering classes, but I’m still going to a big university, so I get to have the clubs, the sports, all of the other activities.

    Q: What’s next for you?
    A: I hope to get a Fulbright Fellowship, study abroad for a year, and earn my PhD. I hope to be an entrepreneur. I really want to make sustainable medicine. I’m really passionate about sustainability and think that we could do a lot better with hospitals, so somehow being a part of that would make me really happy.

    Bin Peng Ph.D. ’16

    Bin Peng Ph.D. ’16

    Recently, Syracuse University doctoral student Bin Peng Ph.D. ’16 got the chance to meet, and to learn from, some of the most brilliant minds in the field of economics.

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    Bin Peng Ph.D. ’16

    Recently, Syracuse University doctoral student Bin Peng Ph.D. ’16 got the chance to meet, and to learn from, some of the most brilliant minds in the field of economics. Peng, a student in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, was one of 400 young researchers from 40 different countries (and one of 29 from the United States) who were selected to attend the 5th Lindau Meeting in Economic Sciences, held in Lindau, Germany, August 19-23. First held in 2004, the biannual meeting gives young researchers the opportunity to have personal interaction with Nobel Prize laureates.

    Q: When did you begin your studies at Maxwell, and what is your research focus?

    A: I am a native of China’s Hunan Province and I earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, Hubei, China. I joined the Syracuse University community in 2011 to begin my graduate studies at Maxwell.  My research focus is in econometrics—using mathematics, statistics and even computer data to test theories, make predictions and evaluate policies.

    Q: How were you chosen to attend the Lindau Meeting?

    A: I was selected through a competitive application process and supported in the trip through the National Science Foundation. I was thrilled to be chosen to participate in the meeting. Among the dignitaries attending the meeting’s opening ceremonies was German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Leaders were interested in this meeting, as they are searching for answers to the economic issues that their countries are facing.

    Q: How was the meeting structured, and what kind of interaction did you have with the Nobel laureates?

    A: Each morning, the Nobel laureates lectured on a topic of their choice related to economics and led informal roundtable sessions. Laureates also joined us at mealtimes for further discussions.

    Seventeen Noble laureates engaged with us during the five-day meeting, offering different perspectives to classic theories at the intersections of economics and critical issues such as inequality, unemployment, finance and big data. They encouraged us to drill deeper and think outside the box. Networking with other young researchers set the stage for me for potential future collaborations.

    Q: What did you bring away from the meeting?

    A: Interacting with the Nobel laureates made me energized and eager to continue my studies at Maxwell. My current work is studying the theories of high-dimension econometric models, which are the foundation for empirical work dealing with big data sets. It was emphasized in the meeting, and strengthened my belief of how important my work is. It also gave me a comprehensive and clear picture of what work I may potentially engage in in the future.

    Kristin Weeks '15

    Kristin Weeks '15

    Kristin Weeks, a senior in Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences, may be from the tiny Western New York village of Akron, but she has big dreams and huge goals.

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    Kristin Weeks '15

    Kristin Weeks, a senior in Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences, may be from the tiny Western New York village of Akron, but she has big dreams and huge goals. Weeks, who is ambitiously pursuing a triple major in biology, sociology and political science, is a member of the Renée Crown Honors Program, a Coronat Scholar and a recipient of the Norma Slepecky Undergraduate Prize.

    Weeks was awarded the Norma Slepecky Undergraduate Prize in her junior year, given in honor of the late Norma Slepecky, who was a professor of bioengineering and neuroscience in the College of Engineering and Computer Science, and a passionate researcher and advocate for undergraduate student research.

    Students competing for the Slepecky Prize are required to submit documentary evidence of their research as undergraduates. Weeks, who was studying abroad at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, submitted the award winning paper, "Nutrient Limitation of Bean Plant Performance Under Co-Stress: Herbivory and Soil Halogenation."

    Referring to Weeks’ paper, Mark Ritchie, professor of biology, says, “The most important aspect of the work is her discovery that leaf temperature reflects the response of plants to nutrient stress.” He adds that most undergraduates have difficulty completing one research study, but he is amazed by Weeks' persistence. “She has completed three research projects and has done so largely without close supervision or detailed direction. This speaks to her ability to process complex information and act on it. It also speaks to her emergence as a budding young scientist.”

    Weeks plans to pursue graduate school and hopes to practice biological research after earning Ph.D. and M.D. degrees.

    Joseph Darling G'12

    Joseph Darling G'12

    What excites chemistry doctoral student Joseph Darling? Enzymes! Darling's enzyme research may one day lead to a treatment for the genetic disorder that causes insatiable appetite and obesity, and may reveal a connection to diabetes.

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    Joseph Darling G'12

    It’s plain to see that enzymes excite chemistry doctoral student Joseph E. Darling G’12. When asked to describe an enzyme he’s researching, the Michigan native reacts with the swiftness he relied on as a former high school sprinter and soccer player. “It’s easier to draw,” he says, springing from his conference-room seat to a white board in the Life Sciences Complex and charting out a molecular interaction in red marker. “Your body has all kinds of enzymes like this, which is what makes biochemistry so cool. It’s really just a chemical reaction on a large scale with proteins. It’s your body’s way of sending and receiving signals, and that’s basically what life is.”

    For Darling, the enzyme in question is known as GOAT (ghrelin O-acyltransferase)—a catalyst for modifying the peptide hormone ghrelin, which regulates appetite and other physiological processes. As a member of chemistry professor James Hougland’s research team, Darling is exploring interactions between GOAT and ghrelin to develop GOAT inhibitors that could prevent the enzyme from triggering ghrelin’s hunger signaling. The research may one day lead to a therapeutic treatment for Prader-Willi syndrome, a genetic disorder that causes hyperphagia (insatiable appetite) as well as obesity, and may reveal a connection to diabetes.

    Darling’s work in Hougland’s lab helped him win a 2012 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, a highly competitive award that comes with an annual stipend, funding for research materials, seminars, and other activities, and allows him to do full-time research. Darling credits Hougland for sparking his interest in enzyme research in the first graduate class he took at SU in fall 2010. “He’s a really good teacher,” Darling says. “I’m so happy I’m in his lab.”

    Darling knows he’s found a supportive environment at Syracuse University that has reinforced his love for teaching and research and where the intrigue of enzymes continues to captivate him. “My NSF funding lasts until May 2015, so that gives me lots of time to get as much done on this project as we possibly can,” he says. “After that, I’m not going to leave any stone unturned with anything I’m curious about.”
    Natalie Rebeyev ‘15

    Natalie Rebeyev ‘15

    Natalie Rebeyev has been named a Gates Cambridge Scholar, enabling her to pursue a full-time postgraduate degree in any subject at the University of Cambridge (U.K.).

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    Natalie Rebeyev ‘15

    Natalie Rebeyev, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences, has been named a Gates Cambridge Scholar, enabling her to pursue a full-time postgraduate degree in any subject at the University of Cambridge (U.K.). A dual major in biology and Jewish studies, she is one of only 40 students in the United States to receive the scholarship, which is funded by the Gates Cambridge Scholarship Foundation.

    Q: What subject of study will you pursue with the Gates Cambridge Scholarship?

    A: I will use the award to pursue a Ph.D. in medical science under the supervision of Paul Lehner at the Cambridge Institute for Medical Research.

    Q: How did you achieve this remarkable accomplishment?

    A: I had a lot of help during the application process. Dean Karin Ruhlandt was one of six scientists who helped me prepare for my interview with the Cambridge selection committee. I was greatly assisted by members of Syracuse’s Center for Fellowship and Scholarship Advising (CFSA), who mentored and guided me throughout all phases of the process.

    Other A&S faculty members  conducted mock interviews, including Ramesh Raina, associate professor and chair of biology; Sandra Hewett, the Beverly Petterson Bishop Professor of Neuroscience and professor of biology; Kari Segraves, associate professor of biology; Robert Doyle, professor of chemistry; and James Hougland, assistant professor of chemistry.

    Q: What do you plan to do after studying at Cambridge?

    A: After studying at Cambridge, I plan to return stateside for medical school. I ultimately want to go into viral oncology, researching the link between viruses and cancer.

    Q: How does your background inspire you?

    A: I am a Bukharian Jew from a community that originates in Central Asia, and I am committed to sharing my experiences with and supporting the goals of young women from traditional immigrant communities. I am the first person to attend college from both sides of my family. It signifies that any woman, regardless of upbringing, economic status and cultural background, can achieve her highest goals. I’ve been so fortunate to be mentored by successful scientists, both male and female, and, thanks to this scholarship, I’ll be able to someday mentor aspiring scientists, as well. Furthermore, I will be able to make an impact on women by serving as an agent of change both locally and internationally. I could have never achieved this honor if not for the support of my professors, advisors, and peers.

    Q: What other honors have you received? What are your other activities?

    A: In addition to being a Coronat, McNair and Remembrance Scholar, I am a member of the Renée Crown University Honors Program. I hold leadership positions with the medical fraternity Phi Delta Epsilon and the Chabad House at the University. Two summers ago, I conducted cancer research at the Technion, Israel Institute of Technology, in Haifa (Israel) and I’m currently working on research alongside Richard Wojcikiewicz at SUNY Upstate Medical University.

    Nick Granados-Kramer '17

    Nick Granados-Kramer '17

    Since the third grade, Nick Granados-Kramer ’17 has known he's wanted to be a teacher, but it's an SU alum who's inspired him to teach science.

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    Nick Granados-Kramer '17

    Sophomore Nick Granados-Kramer is a triple major in the College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Education. The Hyde Park, NY native studies secondary science education, chemistry and physics, and has high ambitions to be a science teacher. His life is characterized by his propensity for giving back to his community, whether it is through teaching, peer advising or off-campus internships, and he has a clear passion for bettering himself by bettering those around him.

    Q: Academically speaking, you’re involved in a lot, but it all centers around your desire to teach. What is it that motivates you, and when did you first decide that teaching was what you wanted to do?

    A: I decided that I was going to be a teacher when I was in third grade. I remember coming home one day and just telling my parents that teaching was what I was going to do, and I haven’t changed since. Part of that is because I had such a great third grade teacher, and that inspired me to pursue a teaching career. I know I was young, but I’ve always been that person who sets their mind to things really early. I also believe that teaching is the best profession where you can actually help people.

    Q: All education majors have to student teach at local schools. What has that experience been like for you, and which schools have you worked in?

    A: My first placement was in Fowler High School, and that’s a very interesting place to be, especially for your first placement. There’s a low graduation rate, and tons of students are immigrants. The language barrier was shocking to me, because you’d expect maybe Spanish, but then you get there and every day you’re hearing Tibetan, Nepalese and German, too. However, despite all those obstacles, and maybe because of them, it was incredibly rewarding when the students actually learned. It was a great cultural and learning experience for me, too, and one of the students I taught last year is now actually a student here at Syracuse. I ran into her last semester and she called me out and thanked me. The other schools I’ve taught at are Manlius-Pebble Hill and Grant Middle School.

    Q: What kinds of internships have you had, and how have they impacted your professional and academic experience here at Syracuse?

    A: My mom is a social worker who works with developmentally disabled people, and I interned with her company, Dutchess ARC. The ARC stands for Advocacy, Respect and Community. I worked with their teen program over the summer, which was basically just a program for kids who needed something, anything, to do. So, we did a lot of day trips and hands-on activities. I remember one time I had to drive a 12-person van full of screaming children from Hyde Park to Connecticut. That was crazy. But in terms of day-to-day stuff, it was a lot of watching after people and working with them on behavior. Overall, it was an experience. That’s the best way to describe it. There were lots of ups and downs, but hopefully I’ll be able to do it again.

    Here at Syracuse, I’m a peer advisor for the School of Education. I like talking to new and prospective students because I’ve always enjoyed helping people figure out where they belong. Just talking to them about my experiences can usually give them a good indicator. Also, since my program is so small, with only 11 total students, peer advising is a lot of one-on-one work. You get a very personal connection from that, and in the long run that ends up being so beneficial. I had two peer advisors; one in Arts and Sciences and one in the School of Education, and you can probably guess which one I still keep in touch with.

    Q: Finally, why Syracuse? How did you end up here, and how do you feel about the experience so far?

    A: I visited the School of Education eight times; they knew me by name by the end of it. Ironically, through all of those many visits, my little brother complained bitterly. Now he’s going to be a freshman this coming fall. It’s funny how that worked out. Anyway, I told you that I decided I wanted to be a teacher in third grade, but I decided I wanted to be a science teacher in eighth grade, after being inspired by my then-current science teacher. She was a Syracuse alum, and even before I visited, Syracuse was my top choice just because of that. I thought to myself, if Syracuse can produce something that good, then that’s where I want to be if I want to do this the right way. I’ll never forget the very first time I stepped onto the quad; I remember spinning around and looking at all the buildings, and thinking “I’m home.”

    Milanoi Koiyiet ‘15

    Milanoi Koiyiet ‘15

    Armed with a degree in international human rights and comparative disability law, Milanoi Koiyiet will work to unite women’s rights and disability rights.

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    Milanoi Koiyiet ‘15

    Milanoi Koiyiet is a graduate student in the College of Law. However, she is originally from Kenya, where she already has a law degree. Due to her work ensuring justice for women and girls with intellectual disabilities who have undergone sexual violence, Koiyiet got a scholarship from Open Society Foundations to come to Syracuse University and study international human rights and comparative disability law. She recently presented at the UN Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW), and will be returning to Kenya to continue her work after graduation.

    Q: Can you describe some of the work you were doing in Kenya?

    A: I’m a lawyer in Kenya, focusing on women’s and girls’ rights. I’m a human rights activist and a feminist. In Kenya, just like in many other countries, gender-based violence is a big issue and there is still need for more work to be done. In a courtroom situation, rape cases are many times difficult to prove. So, I worked a lot with the police and health service providers. I trained them on laws regarding gender-based violence cases, the importance of proper handling and maintaining the chain of evidence, and giving evidence as experts in court. If those first steps are mishandled, you don’t have the evidence you need, and without that, the inherent skepticism in the courts makes it very difficult to win the case.

    Q: So when did you make the shift to focusing on women and girls with disabilities?

    A: I got the opportunity to work with an organization called Kenya Association for the Intellectually Handicapped, a parent-based Kenyan National Organization that works with parents and guardians of youth who are intellectually handicapped.

    The organization works in different parts of Kenya and they had many cases of gender-based violence and needed legal expertise to be able to address the issue. We therefore partnered with them and implemented a project on “Enhancing access to justice and health management of sexual violence among women and girls with intellectual disabilities in Kenya.” We started with a baseline survey that showed that more than half of the women and girls with intellectual disabilities have been sexually violated more than once. I was part of the team conducting the baseline survey and the findings shocked me. I thought to myself, “Something needs to be done about this.” So, I began working closely with the Kenya Association for the Intellectually Handicapped. It was a perfect partnership; I brought the legal expertise, and they had the disability experience. Now, not only were we training police officers and healthcare workers, but also working to ensure representation for the survivors. You see, there is a terrible perception of persons with intellectual disabilities in Kenya. They are often looked at as crazy people, not to be taken seriously. My battle quickly became dealing with the existing negative attitude regarding persons with intellectual disability. Creating change is about increasing awareness and changing those negative perspectives.

    Q: How are your studies in Syracuse helping you with those objectives?

    A: Coming to Syracuse was a great opportunity. I received a scholarship from the Open Society Foundation so that I could come and study here for a year. Learning more about international human rights laws and comparative disability laws is helping to prepare me for my return to Kenya. I am currently working closely with Professor Arlene Kanter and Handicap International in a project known as the Making it Work project that is looking into good practices around the world.  The goal of this initiative is to increase the visibility of women and girls with disabilities within international development, human rights, gender and humanitarian action to ensure that their voices are heard on how to respond to violence, abuse and exploitation throughout the world. This is a great opportunity for me where I have gotten a chance to learn, and at the same time, to contribute.

    Q: As graduation gets closer, what are your next steps?

    A: Like I said before, women and girls with disabilities are left out in many discussions. They’re an afterthought. It doesn’t make sense to me. This goes back to attitude and negative perceptions that need to change. We need women’s rights organizations coming together with disability rights organizations to create a uniform platform, because there’s already so much overlap between the two when it comes to these issues. I’m always thinking, “How can I bring these two together?” After speaking at the UNCSW, I had so many people coming up to me wanting to learn more. That was incredible. I want to see women and girls with disabilities involved more in such spaces. If that happens, I’ll go to sleep a very happy person. When it comes to the union of women’s rights and disability rights, I really believe they can work together. There will be better advocacy and progress in ensuring women’s rights; there is strength in numbers.

    Story by Austin Galovski, work-study in the Office of News Services

    Matt Fernandes ’15

    Matt Fernandes ’15

    As a student in the Renee Crown Honors Program, Matt Fernandes has been given the opportunity to pursue his dream of becoming a filmmaker. 

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    Matt Fernandes ’15

    Matt Fernandes may be from California, the movie-making capital of the world, but the aspiring filmmaker has no regrets about attending college on the opposite side of the country. If pressed for an answer, the San Jose native would probably give his experience at Syracuse University, as a dual major in English in the College of Arts and Sciences and in television, radio, and film in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications “two thumbs up.”

    Q: Why did you decide to come across the country to study at Syracuse?

    A: I had a comfort zone in California that I felt I needed to break with. I wanted a well-rounded education, where I could explore my interests and grow as a person. Syracuse seemed to offer that more than any other university. 

    Q: In addition to your two majors, what else have you gotten involved in at Syracuse?

    A: I’m part of the the Renée Crown University Honors Program. I was the marketing director of OrangeSeeds, a first-year leadership empowerment program, for two years; and an acting coach for the First-Year Players, a musical theater organization for non-drama majors. I also have volunteered at the Salvation Army, American Red Cross and the Rescue Mission.

    Q: How did you decide filmmaking was in your future?

    A: I got bit by the acting bug fairly early. During high school, I spent many an afternoon writing and directing short plays, as well as shooting promos for upcoming productions. It was through my role as the fundraising chair of my school’s drama department that I became interested in film.

    Since then, I’ve thrown myself into writing and directing. I’m really proud of my Honors Capstone Project, which is a documentary about former slaves who became authors, abolitionists and social reformers. It’s a docudrama called American Voices.

    Q: What was involved in putting your capstone project together?

    A: I interviewed scholars all over the country, including at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Many of these meetings involved professors of African American studies and American literature. The whole experience of filming and traveling was funded by the Honors Program and Newhouse’s TRF Program.

    Q: What else are you proud of having done during your time here?

    A: I’m proud of the work I’ve done in the English language program as a ‘conversation partner,’ tutoring international students in conversational English. Being a ‘conversation partner’ has taught me how to be a better listener and to be more culturally aware. I now hope I can earn to a Fulbright grant award, to spend a year teaching English in Malaysia. It will help me when I come back [to the United States] and enter the entertainment industry.

    Story by Christina Tiberio

    Ellie Prather ’15

    Ellie Prather ’15

    Ellie Prather '15 plans to pursue a career in public health, advocating for positive social change and increased care and awareness for underprivileged groups.

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    Ellie Prather ’15

    Ellie Prather is a Child and Family Studies major, with a minor in Health and Wellness, in the Falk College. However, her talents extend far beyond her academics. Prather has worked in healthcare, nonprofits, student organizations and on research projects, always with the goal of helping others. Whether it is starting a breast cancer prevention group on campus or attending an international conference on building clinician peer support programs after medical error, Prather applies her knowledge from her time at Syracuse University and uses the experience to better herself and others. After graduation, Prather will pursue a career in public health, advocating for positive social change and increased care and awareness for underprivileged groups.

    Q: How did you land on Child and Family Studies, and now that you’re nearing graduation, how do you feel about your experiences with the program?

    A: I started as a communications and rhetorical studies major, but it just wasn’t clicking for me. So, I switched to child and family studies. I was hooked right at the start with the child development courses, and as I progressed through the coursework, I realized how many different areas the major can be applied to. I needed a bit more direction and focus within the major, so I chose health and wellness as a minor. I was very pleased with this combination and helped me realize I want a career within the health and wellness of children and families.  

    Q: What about internships? Where have you worked, and what have those experiences taught you?

    A: The summer before my senior year I was accepted into the Boston University Summer Study Internship Program on the public health and social policy track. I took two anthropology classes, one being medical anthropology, which was incredible, and I was able to transfer those credits back to Syracuse. Getting ahead in my coursework allowed me to spend more time on my student organization and research position.

    Next, I worked with a nonprofit called Medically Induced Trauma Support Services. I had no idea how prevalent medical error is, so being an assistant to the CEO of the organization provided me with valuable experiences and opportunities. For example, I got to attend a meeting at the Massachusetts Coalition for Prevention of Medical Error. All of these people that care so much about quality health care came together in the same place, and hearing them speak about their work was incredibly educational. What I found most interesting was the focus on supporting clinicians who have made errors, not solely the patients who have experienced them. One of the biggest issues is that so many doctors, nurses, anesthesiologists and other hospital employees are not given a proper emotional outlet to grieve when an adverse event takes place. It was very inspiring to see these individuals take a step back and realize that they are each other’s most valuable resources.

    Q: You’ve also created a successful on-campus group to combat breast cancer. How did that start and what is some of the work you do?

    A: The group is called Protect Our Breasts, and I started it my junior year here at Syracuse. My friend’s mom beat breast cancer a few years ago, and started this group at the University of Massachusetts, where she’s a professor. I’ve always had close ties with their family, so when she asked me if I would be interested in starting a chapter at Syracuse University, the immediate answer was, “Of course.” Protect Our Breasts is all about breast cancer prevention and educating the community about the problem, and that’s something I couldn’t have done without the support I got from the students on this campus.

    It’s all about the power of teamwork; I started it myself, and then it expanded to my friends, and now I have this really solid group of girls who are truly passionate about it. We want to raise awareness about the environmental toxins linked to breast cancer, and hopefully motivate people to live healthier lives. When you really do the research, it’s astounding how many harmful chemicals are in deodorants, lotions, cosmetics; things that we voluntarily put all over our bodies every day. So, if I can educate someone and give them good information, and then they get rid of their bad products and lead a more conscious and healthier lifestyle, there is potential that the individual prevented the unforgiving disease from entering their life. That thought motivates me to do this work and impact as many people as we can.

    Q: On top of that, you’re a research assistant with Project Ethics. What do you work on and how does it relate to your intended career?

    A: Most simply put, it’s research about research. We’re doing research about the inclusion of adults with intellectual disabilities in research. A lot of times people assume that intellectually disabled individuals cannot give consent for themselves, and are hesitant about all the ethical issues that could potentially arise. We are seeking to gain a better understanding of these views. The study has consisted of focus groups, an expert panel, and then stage three was our survey. We are currently writing the manuscript. I have been involved in the study for two years now, and being on the inside of such a big research project, watching it evolve and grow, has been a wonderful experience. I was drawn to this study because of the focus on adults with intellectual disabilities. This is a study for a vulnerable population of people, and I’ve always felt very strongly about raising awareness for an underserved population.

    Q: Are there any other ways that you’re involved on campus that you feel have contributed positively to your experience here?

    A: I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being a peer advisor to the freshmen on campus. I pride myself in my abilities to stay on top of my coursework, get good grades, maintain good relationships with my professors and effectively time manage with all my additional positions. Therefore, I was excited to pass this knowledge on to the freshmen. The transition into college can be a difficult one, and I was grateful to be able to support them during that time.

    Story by Austin Galovski, work-study in the Office of News Services
    Komal Safdar ‘15

    Komal Safdar ‘15

    Komal Safdar came to Syracuse University for its tennis program, and is leaving with a degree in biochemistry and a dream of becoming a physician.

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    Komal Safdar ‘15

    Komal Safdar committed to come to Syracuse University as a junior in high school because of its tennis program. It was the only program in the country that trained its players to go pro after college. The biochemistry major from Cincinnati, Ohio, no longer wants a career as a tennis pro, but she is still glad she picked Syracuse. Her time here gave her opportunities to push herself and prepare for her ultimate career goal, becoming a physician.

    Q: Being a student and an athlete at the same time is notoriously difficult. How have you managed to excel at both?

    A: It comes down to time management. You can’t leave anything until the last minute, and you have to plan out weeks at a time. There is time to fit it all in, but you sometimes have to say no to a movie or a social outing. Sometimes you do have to make a sacrifice. In the end, you will make time for the important things.

    Q: And you certainly have excelled, doing well at tennis for four years and winning several academic awards. What are some of the awards you’ve won?

    A: I was named to the Golden Key International Honor Society and the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, as well as the Big East All-Academic Team and the All-ACC Academic Women’s Tennis Team. I’ve been named the Scholar-Athlete of the Week three times. I won the Thacker Postgraduate Scholarship Award, which is given by the ACC to three student-athletes each year for elite athletic and academic performance. And I won the award for Outstanding Achievement in Biochemistry, which is given to one biochemistry major each year.

    Q: What are some of your other activities?

    A: I do research in the lab of Professor Eleanor Maine, studying the mechanism of C. elegans’ germline development in relation to the GLP receptor. We have specifically worked on isolating a single, but critically important gene in a conserved signaling pathway that regulates the glp-1 gene.

    I belong to Phi Delta Epsilon, a pre-medical fraternity. We volunteer at blood drives, attend educational banquets and have discussions about current health policies and common ethical controversies in science. We also have the opportunity to talk to current medical students, doctors and medical admissions staff. Members have mentored me about applying to medical school, and I will mentor others.

    I’m also the president of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee, which liaises between athletes and coaches and administrators, plans life skills events, promotes unity among athletes in different sports and represents Syracuse athletes to the ACC.

    Q: What are your plans after graduation this May?

    A: I’m applying to medical school for the fall of 2016, so I’m going to take a gap year. I plan to spend most of that time doing research, and have a couple of opportunities in mind, either at the University of Cincinnati or at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. But I also hope to spend some time traveling—to Pakistan, where I have family, and to Europe.

    Q: What type of doctor are you hoping to become?

    A: I’m not sure yet. I’m considering nephrology (kidney treatment), which is my dad’s specialty, or general practice.

    Jesse Campion ’15

    Jesse Campion ’15

    After serving a total of six years in the military with two deployments in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Jesse Campion is graduating with degrees from the College of Law and the Maxwell School.

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    Jesse Campion ’15

    As an undergraduate at Temple University, Jesse Campion never thought he would end up in the military. But then 9/11 happened. “That kind of shifted the tide,” he says. After graduating in 2002, he started learning more about the benefits of the military, enlisted, and left for basic training in November 2003.

    Q. How did your military service progress?

    A. I wanted to learn from the ground up and started out as a vehicle mechanic and paratrooper, stationed with the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg. I worked my way up to sergeant, and about halfway through my service I was recommended for Officer Candidate School. That began the second chapter of my military career. After OCS, I was commissioned and served as an infantry officer. It culminated with me going to U.S. Army Ranger School in 2007 and eventually leading a platoon into combat in 2008. With Ranger School, that was a special accomplish for me. My grandfather, who was an Army Ranger during World War II, served with 5th Ranger Battalion and was part of the invasion at D-Day. I grew up being proud of his sacrifices for our country. He was able to make the trip to Fort Benning, Ga., for the graduation and pin the Ranger tab on me. Overall, I honorably discharged as a First Lieutenant in 2009. I served for a total of six years in the military with two deployments in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom—one being a year in Mosul, Iraq.

    Q. What came next for you?

    A. I decided to go to law school. It had been a dream of my mother’s, but she died of cancer in 2005. I always had a strong interest in going to law school. The GI Bill had been revamped in 2008 to allow for minimal to debt-free education for transitioning veterans. So about a two years after I got out of the service, I took the LSAT and started applying to law schools. Given the opportunities for veterans and national security study, I decided to come to Syracuse University College of Law, where I’m a third-year student. I’m also earning a master’s in public affairs from the Maxwell School and a certificate of advanced study in security studies from the Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism.

    Q. How has it been coming back to school after all those years in the military?

    A. It’s been a great experience, and has given me so many options. But there have been a lot of trials and tribulations along the way, and it’s certainly been a lot of hard work. I’ve currently done long distance from my wife for the past three years, which has been stressful at times. I’ve been very lucky in that I was selected for a couple of great internships and I’ve found supportive professors and colleagues who believe in me. My wife has been the biggest pillar of support for me during this uncertain journey. The summer after my first year, I worked as a legal intern with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office of the Chief Counsel. Last summer, I was a legislative fellow in the office of U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.

    In addition, I was fortunate in the support that I got. The nonprofit veterans group Soldier Socks awarded me their 2014-15 academic scholarship. And just recently, I was named a 2015 Presidential Management Fellow. That is a two-year leadership development program that fast-tracks graduate students into leadership development roles in the federal government. Just seven percent of applicants were chosen at finalists this year out of close to 8,000 PMF applicants.

    Q. What’s ahead for you after graduation?

    A. I am now applying for different positions as a Presidential Management Fellow. I’d like to work in the national security or foreign policy field, and develop as a senior leader in federal government. Ultimately, I would like to learn as much as possible and work my way up into Senior Executive Service  and one day, a presidential appointee.