West Windsor, N.J. – Mercer County Community College (MCCC) recognized and rewarded top achieving graduates at the Honors Convocation that preceded Commencement on May 21. Students were presented with certificates and scholarships by MCCC faculty and administrators in full regalia as family members looked on at Kelsey Theatre. Among the more than 100 students to be recognized were American Honors, PTK and NJ STARS students.
President Patricia C. Donohue welcomed the capacity crowd. “Today is a celebration of learning and student success. It is a time to honor you for your achievements and celebrate your hard work. We also want to acknowledge the families and friends who have supported you in your journey,” she said.
Presiding over the ceremony was Professor of Business and Economics Laura Sosa, the recipient of the 2014 Distinguished Teaching Award.
Graduates from all three divisions at the college – Liberal Arts, Business and Technology, and Math, Science and Health Professions – were called to the stage. A number of them are first generation college students, while others returned to Mercer as career changers having already earned bachelor’s degrees. Many worked part or full-time while attending school. For some, English is their second language.
Several of the college's honors scholars received multiple awards. Among them was American Honors grad Michael Vetick, who received the Excellence in Chemistry Scholarship, the Excellence in Organic Chemistry Scholarship adn the Rick Rednor AIDS Foundation Scholarship. Vetick says he has always enjoyed science, particularly anatomy and physiology, and became especially intrigued with organic chemistry at Mercer. This summer he will complete an internship in biochemical engineering at Princeton University before heading to Rutgers University to study Molecular Biology and Biochemistry in the fall. His long-term goal is to attend medical school.
Music/Education major Celina Hicks was also a multiple award winner. Hicks, who is the youngest of three accomplished sisters to graduate from Mercer, earned the Outstanding Achievement Award in Music and the James Kelly Music Scholarship. She also earned the Professor Betty Wallace Cornelius Mathematics Excellence Scholarship. A soprano soloist for the MCCC Chorus, she was the founder of the college’s Music Club and served as vice president of the Student Government Association. Hicks will attend Rowan University in the fall to earn her bachelor’s degree in Music Education. She plans to teach music at the college level.
Two Criminal Justice standouts also have big plans. PTK All-Academic grad Lauren Stout, who completed internships at the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office and the Attorney General’s Office while at Mercer, earned the Mercer County Chiefs of Police Association Scholarship and will attend Rider University in the fall. Her goal is to become a special agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration. Criminal Justice grad Chelsie Woods, the recipient of the New Jersey Chapter of the American Correctional Association Scholarship and the New Jersey Association of Criminal Justice Educators Scholarship, is the first in her family to attend college. A PTK student who was also a member of Psi Beta, the psychology honor society, Woods will continue her studies at The College of New Jersey to earn her B.S. in Criminology, with a minor in Business Administration.
Two art students who will be transferring to the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan were honored. Graphic Design major Christopher DuBois was the recipient of the Samuel Willig Memorial Scholarship in Advertising Design. DuBois balanced his college classes with a two-year internship at the MCCC Gallery and a job at Trader Joe’s. Photography student Grace Spencer earned the Outstanding Achievement Award in Photography and Digital Imaging. This spring, Spencer was one of 16 student photographers whose work was included in “Our Diverse American Identity," an exhibit that was unveiled at the Pregones Theater in New York City in April.
Jennifer Vasta, who previously earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and women’s studies, was the recipient of the Outstanding Achievement in Fine Arts award and the Mel Leipzig Scholarship. Vasta plans on a second career as an art teacher. Her artwork is currently on display as part of the “Generation Next” exhibit at the West Windsor Arts Council through July 11.
Three scholar athletes received special recognition for academic and athletic excellence. Two students, Michael Pfeiffer and Lyndsey Buckley, were the recipients of Cynthia Schaffer Memorial Scholarships, while Kaitlyn Cegielski received the Art Forman Athletic Scholarship.
Pfeiffer, a Business Administration major, was a two-year member of the baseball team and will transfer to Rider University to study economics. Buckley, also a Business Administration student, played for both the women’s soccer and softball teams for two years. She plans to transfer for her bachelor’s degree in either Business Administration or Sports Management. Cegielski was a two-year member of the softball team and will attend Richard Stockton University in the fall to complete her bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design/Advertising.
Twenty students were recognized as part of the first graduating cohort of American Honors at Mercer. (This program has successfully built upon Mercer’s original honors program, which began in 2007.)
Also among the honorees were seven members of Alpha Theta Gamma, MCCC's chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) International Honor Society, including PTK All-USA Stars Michael Chica and Lauren Stout, 25 NJ STARS graduates, five new members of the Alpha Mu Gamma National Collegiate Foreign Language Society, and 36 students who were selected for Who’s Who Among Students. Seven students who will transfer to William Paterson University (WPU) at Mercer in the fall were presented with WPU scholarships.
View addidtional photos on Facebook here.
| Graduate Grace Spencer is pictured with Professor of Photography Michael Dalton following the ceremony. Spencer earned the Outstanding Achievement Award in Photography and Digital Imaging and will attend the School of Visual Arts in the fall.
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