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May 25: Graduate school recognizes 17 with outstanding student awards

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

FREDERICK, Md.—Each year, graduate students who have completed all degree requirements are recognized for excellence at a special reception. Factors such as students’ GPA, class contribution, coursework, thesis or project and overall performance are some of the factors considered by program directors and department faculty when making the selections. The 2011 most outstanding graduate students, by discipline, are:

Chacko Chakiath, M.S. in Biomedical Science
Chakiath, who works for Functional Genetics in Gaithersburg, Md., earned his bachelor of science degree from the University of Maryland, College Park in 1997. His thesis project, “Directed Evolution of Pectin Methyl esterase A of Erwinia chrysanthemi Toward Higher Thermo Stability,” was published in the highly cited journal, Applied and Environmental Microbiology. In this work, Chakiath developed the methods to efficiently screen for improved variants of the pectin methyl esterase enzyme as well as to identify a number of specific mutations that stabilized the native enzyme. His work is being applied in a project to produce biofuels from agricultural wastes.

Matthew Roberts, M.S. in Computer and Information Science
Roberts earned a bachelor’s degree from Towson University. He previously worked at the U.S. Coast Guard Operations System Center in Martinsburg, W.Va., as a software engineer, helping to develop the Long Range Identification and Tracking project. The system improves the response time for search and rescue missions at sea and assists in the fight against piracy. Matt has been named a member of the USCG Application Product Lines Enterprise Services Contract Team of the Quarter and the USCG Operations System Center Team of the Quarter.

Donald Shaffer, M.S. in Information Technology
A native of Rochester, Pa., Shaffer joined the U.S. Coast Guard at the age of 19 and was accepted to Coast Guard Officer Candidate School in 1999. During his 20-year coast Guard career, Shaffer has served in a variety of operational and staff positions. Today, he is a lieutenant commander at the Office of Information Assurance, Coast Guard Headquarters, in Washington, D.C. Shaffer was awarded two Coast Guard medals of commendation, two Coast Guard achievement medals and three commandant's letters of commendations. He earned a bachelor of science degree in computer information systems from Saint Leo University in 2006.

Adam Rivera, M.S. in Computer Science
Originally from Little Falls, N. J., Rivera earned a bachelor of science degree in computer science. While at school, he managed a student group that provided volunteer technical support for the students beyond what the university's IT department provided. In addition, Rivera worked part time on a software engineering practicum in robotics, developing movement and sensor management algorithms. Rivera, whose interests are in algorithmic side of programming and in artificial intelligence, chose Hood because of its reputation in the computer science field and for the opportunity to learn and work with other computer science professionals in the National Capital area. He was selected for the award for his excellence in academic achievement, positive attitude and dedication to studies.

Rania Radwan, M.S. in Management of Information Technology
Radwan is originally from Heliopolis, Cairo, Egypt. She earned a bachelor of arts degree in Egyptology from Cairo University’s School of Archeology, and a graduate diploma in environmental management from the university’s School of Economics and Political Science. Radwan began her professional career in Egypt as a project coordinator at the Egyptian Ozone Layer Protection program under the United Nations Industrial Development Organization. There she worked to ensure compliance with international regulations on the implementation of ozone depleting substances in the industrial sector. In the United States, she was employed as a senior account manager at First Advantage Corporation, where her exposure to information technology projects and data migration motivated her to enroll in Hood's management of information technology program to develop her experience in the IT business field. Currently, Radwan is working at CoreLogic Corporation in Rockville, Md., in the data integrity department.

Jessica Rogers, M.S. Curriculum and Instruction
Rogers is a pre-kindergarten teacher at the progressive, independent Green Acres School in Rockville, Md. There she also serves as the early childhood unit liaison and has been on the school's admission committee for many years. With a concentration in early childhood education and a 3.96 GPA, Rogers has been praised for producing high quality work and has been recognized for her diligent and skillful approach with early learners.

Suzanne Modugno, M.S. in Educational Leadership
Modungno maintained a 4.0 GPA throughout her course of study. She was recognized by faculty for her relentless attention to excellence in every course she took, a key factor in her selection as the recipient of this award. During this internship year, she continually sought participation in activities that would extend her knowledge, skills and competencies necessary for an effective leader in today's schools.

Amy Routzahn, Certificate in Educational Leadership
Routzahn, a reading specialist at Waverly Elementary School, was selected by faculty and instructors in the Educational Leadership program for her high standards and for her excellent scores in many of the assessments used to gauge an intern's readiness for a school-based administrator. During this internship year, she actively sought experiences to improve her preparedness to become a successful school-based leader.

Virginia Tilden, M.S. in Environmental Biology
Tilden, who earned a 3.75 GPA, garnered a long list of accomplishments and accolades while at Hood. She was nominated and inducted into the national scientific research society, Sigma Xi, and received the outstanding student award from the Entomological Society of Pennsylvania, where she serves as the student member to the society's executive board. She also has served as a board member and is the current president of the Wildlife Society. Tilden has lectured in graduate and undergraduate courses on grassland restoration—her thesis research—and has also published reports through the National Park Service. A recipient of a Hood College Graduate School Research Fund, Tilden attended scientific conferences and meetings and presented results from her thesis at 17 different conferences.

Betsy Diehl, M.A. in Humanities
Diehl has been working in higher education fund raising for the past 10 years. She served as the director of annual giving at Hood for five years and is currently a major gifts officer at her undergraduate alma mater, Gettysburg College. Her research for her capstone was inspired not only by her professional role in the field of philanthropy, but also by her role as a mother to two daughters. The department uses Betsy's capstone proposal as a model for students enrolled in the program. Her capstone project, “Philanthropy as an Expression of Feminism: Aligning a Traditionally Masculine Concept With a Decidedly Feminist Ideal,” figured prominently in her candidacy for her current position. She said that more than ever, she's making use of and applying to her work what she learned in her coursework at Hood.

Chelsea Roberts, M.S. in Mathematics Education
Roberts graduated cum laude in 2007 from Hood College with a bachelor of arts degree in mathematics and certification in secondary education. She was also elected to membership in Pi Mu Epsilon honorary mathematics society and participated in a Summer Research Institute project that explored the life and work of Maria Agnesi, an 18th-century Italian mathematician. She presented her research at a summer meeting of the Mathematical Association of America before beginning her teaching career at Gov. Thomas Johnson Middle School in Frederick. After moving to San Antonio last summer, Chelsea completed her master's degree long-distance, working with professors Graybeal and Mayfield on independent study projects. Her capstone project examined mathematics instruction for students with special needs.

Ajay Manik and William Randall, Master of Business Administration
Manik works as a technical team leader at NCR Corporation in Germantown, Md., where he provides leadership to a team of software developers. He earned a master's degree in physics from Delhi University in India. He is a member of Sigma Beta Delta, the academic honor society in business and management, and was chosen as a recipient of this award for his dedication to academic excellence, strong analytical skills and excellent teamwork.

Randall, who earned an undergraduate degree from the University of Maryland, is the operations manager of the Frederick News-Post, sits on the Board of Directors of Randall Family, LLC, and is the fifth generation of his family to be actively involved in management of the family's business. A member of Sigma Beta Delta, Will was chosen as a recipient of this award for his academic excellence, good citizenship and strong leadership skills.

Emily Kennedy, M.S. in Reading Specialization
Kennedy graduated summa cum laude from Salisbury University in 2004, enrolled in Hood’s Reading Specialization program in 2007 and completed her master’s degree his past fall with a 4.0 GPA. She also received a distinguished ranking on her exit folio and her performance in both the Hood and FCC practicum were exemplary. Kennedy has served as a third grade teacher, a sixth grade language arts teacher and is presently the kindergarten language arts master teacher at the Nysmith School for the Gifted in Herndon, Va. Kennedy not only has excelled in academics but also has impressed the faculty with her positive attitude and her willingness to go above and beyond.

Michelle Bianchi, M.A. in Human Sciences
Bianchi was born and raised in the suburbs of Sao Paulo, Brazil. At the age of 18 she moved to an island in the south of Brazil to study psychology. Along with studies, Michelle worked on helping disadvantaged and low-income families raise their standard of living by introducing them to solidarity economy. After graduating, she moved to the United States to study English before enrolling in Hood’s master of arts in human sciences program.

Ashley Portrey and Mandi Browning, M.A. in Thanatology
Portrey has utilized the knowledge gained from her classes in a variety of ways. She spent the past year working with the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults, where she designed volunteer programs that directly engage the survivor network and that also help young adult patients regain some control of their lives. She established two young adult cancer support groups, one in Washington, D.C., and one on Towson University's campus. Along with her full-time job, Portrey has also spent the last year researching the Jazz Funeral with Wanda Ruffin, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology and volunteering at Hope Lodge and Hospice. There she organized a group of volunteers to cook dinner once a month for the patients and guests staying at the facility during their cancer treatment. For her practicum Portrey worked in the bereavement department at Hospice of Frederick County, where she helped organize Camp Jamie, a bereavement camp for children. Portrey plans to start her own nonprofit bereavement center, Journey House, with her friend and fellow award recipient, Mandi Browning.

Browning earned a bachelor of arts degree in psychology from the University of Colorado, Denver. She volunteers with Hospice, has her own private grief counseling practice and trains public school staff on how to counsel children who are experiencing grief. Browning teaches at Front Range Community College and also serves on the board of directors for Take Jake, Inc., a nonprofit organization that provides support services to the families and friends of organ and tissue donors.