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Cream of the Crop

Ten UAlbany Scholars Earn SUNY’s Highest Award

ALBANY, N.Y. (April 3, 2017) – Ten UAlbany students won the Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence, the highest honor the State University of New York bestows on its students. This year, 256 students from 64 campuses won the award, which will be handed out at a ceremony Wednesday, April 5, at the Empire State Plaza.

"It is my honor to celebrate the achievements of students who have surpassed SUNY’s highest standards of academic excellence and leadership both on and off campus," said SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher. "Every student we recognize has demonstrated a strong commitment to their degree program, home campus, greater community, and much more. Congratulations to all of the students receiving this year’s award.”


UAlbany's Chancellor's Award winners are David Boll, Stuti Misra, Aritra Saha, Naomi McPeters, Mathew Boll, Caitlin Qingyang Briggs, Cassandra Edwards, Kayla James, Ermida Kaduah and Akeela Makshood. (Photos by Mark Schmidt)

Award winners were nominated based on their integration of academic excellence with other aspects of their lives including leadership, campus involvement, community service, arts (creative or performing), athletics, and/or career achievement.

Below are UAlbany’s honorees. In the weeks ahead, Today at UAlbany will run individual profiles of all 10 of these distinguished students.

Mathew Boll of Lynbrook, N.Y.
Major: Chemistry (Forensic); Minor: Biology

Boll has been recognized by UAlbany for his excellence in research and academics on several occasions and is a founding member of the UAlbany Undergraduate Chemistry Club. He not only has a passion for chemistry but also for firefighting. Boll has been serving his home town with the Lynbrook Fire Department since 2013.

He plans to pursue a career in either law enforcement, a forensic laboratory or perhaps as a fire marshal.

Caitlin Qingyang Briggs of Mohawk, N.Y.
Major: Psychology; Minors: Mathematics and Organizational Studies

Briggs has been a leader on campus in Residential Life, Campus Recreation, and Orientation. She has participated in Peace Action and field hockey and served as president of Psi Chi and
co-president of Cornerstone Campus Ministry. Briggs received The UAlbany Great Dane Award for leadership accomplishments as well as a grant from the University at Albany to fund her honors thesis research.

After graduation she will be attending Michigan State University’s Industrial/Organizational Psychology Ph.D. program.

David Bunn of Amityville, N.Y.
Major: Biology

Bunn is a member of the Honors College, Phi Beta Kappa—the nation’s oldest academic honor society—and Omicron Delta Kappa National Leadership Honor Society. David has sat on committees to help direct change at UAlbany, such as in the residence halls as a member of the Residential Life Advisory Board and as a member of the Biology Department’s Graduate Recruitment Committee to help diversify its graduate program.

He plans to attend medical school, and has been accepted to Harvard Medical School, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and Weill Cornell Medicine.

Cassandra Edwards of  Brampton, Canada
Major: Psychology; Minor, Criminal Justice

An international student, Edwards is graduating with a bachelor’s in honors psychology and a minor in criminal justice and has already started her graduate program, working toward a Master’s in Mental Health Counseling. Besides excelling in the classroom, she is an honors program scholar, undergraduate research assistant, and community volunteer. Edwards is a prominent member and two-year captain of the University at Albany women’s basketball team.

After completing her Master’s, she plan to pursue a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology.

Kayla James of Baldwin, N.Y.
Majors: Criminal Justice and Psychology; Minor: Sociology

James began her involvement in the Emerging Student Leader Program, where she serves as a leadership coordinator. She also has served as orientation leader, resident assistant, EOP tutor, Intercollegiate Athletics Advisory Board member and represents UAlbany as a Purple &
Gold Ambassador. She is a Presidential Honors Society and Omicron Delta Kappa National Leadership Honor Society member, and a research assistant, exploring pro-social decision making while enrolled in the criminal justice combined bachelor’s/master’s program.

After graduation, James plans to remain at UAlbany as a full-time graduate student in the School of Criminal Justice, with a concentration in crime causation, prevention and intervention.

Ermida Koduah of the Bronx, N.Y.
Majors: Political Science and Globalization; Minor: International Studies

Koduah’s academic excellence has been displayed by receiving multiple awards and scholarships, including the Dr. Seth W. Spellman Achievement Award, U.S. Department of State study abroad scholarships, and the Rockefeller College Advisory Board Scholarship. As president of Sankofa Africa Organization, she is active in the Albany community by mentoring high school students. Additionally, she has performed dance for the university’s annual performance hosted by Black Theatre Productions.

She plans to work in the U.S. and abroad for a few years before pursuing a master’s degree International Development.

Akeela Makshood of Albany, N.Y.
Majors: Political Science and History

Maksood will be graduating with honors in political science and history. She has been the recipient of the Dr. Seth W. Spellman Achievement Award for three consecutive years as well as the Undergraduate Research Endowed Fellowship for research on Islamic Art and American Society. She has worked as the student activist coordinator for Amnesty International in the Capital Region. Throughout her years at UAlbany, she has been a dedicated leader of the Muslim Students

After graduation, Makshood plans to work for a year before going to law school.

Naomi McPeters of Albany, N.Y.
Major: English; Minors: Documentary Studies and Educational Studies

Born and raised in Albany, McPeters is one of four children homeschooled from childhood through high school. Since admission to UAlbany, she has been a member of the Honors College and is now in the English Honors Program. She has served as peer advisor, photographer, and community assistant for a Living-Learning Community, and Humanities Senator. Eleven of her photographs are permanently installed in campus offices, and she plans to pursue documentary filmmaking when she graduates.

McPeters plans to work in New York City for a year, then attend graduate school for journalism with a focus on documentary or investigative reporting.

Stuti Misra of Dubai, UAE
Majors: Computer Science and Mathematics

Misra is a member of the Honors College, Omicron Delta Kappa, and Presidential Honors Society. Stuti has presented her research in wireless networks at multiple conferences. She co-founded Cultural Connections and served as its president. She was also the vice chair of ACM-W UAlbany Chapter, and documentation specialist of ASIS&T UAlbany Chapter.

Misra will be joining Amazon as a full-time software development engineer in July. She plans to attend graduate school in five-10 years to further her education in computer sciences.

Aritra Saha of Hollis, N.Y.
Major: Nanoscale Engineering; Minor: Mathematics and Political Science

Selected as a Fellow in the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, Saha founded and served as president of Theta Tau, the national engineering fraternity, and conducted research on microtubule networks and proton exchange in fuel cells. A student senator in the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, Saha co-founded the debate team, served as assistant director in the College Democrats of New York, and served as legislative aide for New York State Senator Leroy Comrie.

Future plans include studying at Harvard or Stanford, starting his own business and possibly running for political office.

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About the University at Albany
A comprehensive public research university, the University at Albany offers more than
120 undergraduate majors and minors and 125 master's, doctoral, and graduate certificate programs. UAlbany is a leader among all New York State colleges and universities in such diverse fields as atmospheric and environmental sciences, business, criminal justice, emergency preparedness, engineering and applied sciences, informatics, public administration, social welfare, and sociology taught by an extensive roster of faculty experts. It also offers expanded academic and research opportunities for students through an affiliation with Albany Law School. With a curriculum enhanced by 600 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers.