Chancellor’s Award Winners for 2020

The Chancellor's Award winners are Max Sevor and Alodie Keza on the left, and Danielle Rambuss and Victoria Tiranno on the right. Center are, clockwise from upper left, Katherine Gowing, Jeremy Tu, Michael Apollo, Sebastian Vidal, Mumen Bishawi, Heli Patel and Justin Camacho.

Great Dane pride.

ALBANY, N.Y. (May 5, 2020) — Eleven graduating seniors have won the Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence, SUNY’s highest award for academic achievement and service.

Michael Apollo

Hometown: New Rochelle. Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity, Journalism

Apollo’s dual disciplines — journalism and homeland security — and his varied internships helped him decide on his ultimate goal: to serve as a Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. Department of State. “Interning with the U.S. Department of State during my 2018 Semester in Washington, as well as my trip to Taiwan this past summer with the U.S.-Taiwan PIRE Project, helped me realized this,” he said.

Apollo also was part of a post-Hurricane Maria service learning trip to Puerto Rico and interned at Albany’s NPR-affiliate, WAMC. He was a contributing writer and photographer for the Albany Student Press and served as president of University at Albany IAEM.

The December 2019 graduate is an EMT with the Larchmont Volunteer Ambulance Corp, where he has been an active member since 2014, and is working as a medical logistician supporting a New York City COVID-19 field hospital, “utilizing concepts and strategies I learned while at UAlbany,” he said.

Apollo credits Thomas Palmer, a Journalism lecturer in the Department of Communication, with hands-on mentoring.

Mumen Bishawi

Hometown: Poughkeepsie. Accounting and Business Administration

Bishawi plans a future in non-profits and sees himself running his own business one day. After graduation, he plans a move to North Carolina to begin work as a consultant.

At UAlbany, he was a Purple and Gold Ambassador, resident assistant and an intern in Ernst & Young’s IT advisory practice. President of Omicron Delta Kappa, a member of the Muslim Student Association and the UAlbany Emerging Leaders Program, Bishawi is dedicated to serving his community and volunteering his time to help others. He was the recipient of UAlbany’s 2019-2020 Coupa Advantage Scholarship.

A standout UAlbany memory for Bishawi was when Joseph Meyer, an instructor in the Writing and Critical Inquiry program, came to his Emerging Leaders graduation ceremony during his freshman year. “Professor Meyer’s genuine investment and support helped me kick off my career at the University,” Bishawi said. “I am so grateful for the memories and experiences I made at the University, and it is a place I will always consider home.”

Justin Camacho

Hometown: Bronx. Biology

Camacho is a first-generation college student who has proven his scholastic abilities while serving as a first responder with Five Quad. A transfer student, Comacho minored in Russian, served as a resident assistant and worked with the Rangan Lab in Biological Sciences.

He is a member of many nationally recognized organizations, including Tau Sigma, Omicron Delta Kappa, and Phi Eta Sigma.

After graduation, Camacho will pursue an MBA in healthcare management and plans to attend medical school. “Ten years from now I see myself as a board-certified plastic surgeon working on developing more effective procedural methods to help those in the transgender community who wish to undergo a formal sex change,” he said, explaining that his goal is to help “instill confidence and provide those who feel out of place from a physical perspective with a solution that will greatly enhance both their mental and emotional well-being.”

Working in research in the Rangan Lab was a transformative experience for Camacho. “It is through my research that I have been able to enhance my diligence, passion and critical thinking skills,” he said. “It is with the help of my outstanding mentors and my brilliant principal investigator Dr. Rangan Prashanth that I have been able to contribute to the publication of two papers that are currently under review.”  

Katherine Gowing

Hometown: Houston, Texas. Political Science, Public Policy, Management

Gowing graduated summa cum laude, with a 4.0 GPA, in Political Science and Public Policy in two and a half years, while competing on UAlbany's Women's Soccer Team. She is a recipient of the 2019-2020 Gov. Mario Cuomo Scholarship in Public Policy.

She interned at the Rockefeller Institute of Government, was a volunteer with the Human Rights Campaign, and has earned several awards from the University and New York State for her accomplishments and research on the politics of reproductive health.

In the fall, Gowing will begin law school as a Graduate Opportunity Fellow at UCLA School of Law. “In the future, I hope to practice civil rights law, defending those who are wrongfully convicted, and direct a legal advocacy nonprofit organization,” she said.

A highlight of her time at UAlbany was being on the winning team at the America East Women’s Soccer Conference Championship, clinching a bid to the NCAA Tournament in 2018.

Alodie Keza

Hometown: Buffalo. Public Policy & Management

Despite experiencing displacement and homelessness at a young age as a refugee from Rwanda, Keza emerged as a first-generation American, graduating with a bachelor's degree. She earned the 2019 EOP Touhey Family Scholarship.

During her time at the University, Keza served in the student government, studied abroad in Cuba, mentored numerous peers, tutored several subjects and was among SUNY's representatives in a Model EU conference in Brussels.

Keza received the Spellman Academic Achievement Award and the Initiatives for Women scholarship.

Heli Patel

Hometown: Paramus, N.J. Biology

As an international student from India, Patel found studying in the United States offered multiple opportunities to grow personally, professionally and academically.

She worked in the Lednev Lab, was a founding member of University at Albany Students Stopping Trafficking of People (UAlbany SSTOP) — both key experiences that Patel said helped shape her as a person. Patel also served as a resident assistant, STEM tutor and peer advisor, and volunteered at Albany Medical Center. She was a recipient of the 2019-2020 Hope & William Cassano '80 Scholarship.

Patel plans to pursue a medical degree.

“Working as a research assistant is unquestionably one of the most valuable components of my undergraduate education,” she said, explaining that she worked with principal investigator Professor Igor Lednev on research to understand the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease. “Investing myself in the world of scientific research has further ignited my curiosity and humility to learn,” she said.

Working with UAlbany SSTOP helped her turn outrage about human trafficking into a way to increase awareness of the issue and find ways to help the survivors.

“These experiences at UAlbany have prepared me to become a physician and have motivated me to give back to the global community,” she said.

Danielle Rambuss

Hometown: Tonawanda. Psychology

Rambuss is the president of the Middle Earth Peer Assistance Program, a member of the Presidential Honors Society, a research assistant in multiple labs on campus, and a volunteer at Albany Medical Center. She received the 2019-2020 Harold Lossee Scholarship.

After graduation, she will attend the University at Buffalo's Jacobs Schools of Medicine. Becoming a doctor has been her goal since age 14, and while her interest now is in neurology, she’s open to exploring all fields in medical school.

Working for Middle Earth, the student-run crisis hotline, allowed Rambuss to support her community while developing skills, knowledge and confidence that she credits with helping her get into medical school. “I have met so many amazing, like-minded people through this organization, and I greatly credit it for helping shape me into the person I am today,” she said,

Rambuss singled out her pre-health advisor, Kimberly Kerker, as a person who lent her support through her four years at UAlbany and through the tough process of preparing for and applying to medical schools.

“My time at UAlbany has been the greatest four years of my life thus far, and with everything this university has given me I am confident in my abilities to handle whatever life might throw at me next and in my abilities to accomplish whatever crazy life goals I set out for myself,” she said. 

Max Sevor

Hometown: Brockport. Political Science

In addition to majoring in political science, Sevor is pursuing a Master’s in Public Administration. He serves as the Aging Committee Clerk for the New York State Assembly and after graduation will begin working for the Assembly as a legislative aide.

At UAlbany, Sevor was an orientation leader, a housing manager for Residential Life, and was elected to the Student Association Senate, where he developed a $25,000 scholarship program. He is a Purple and Gold Student Ambassador, a brother of Alpha Phi Omega, and received the President’s Award for Leadership.

Sevor plans to go to law school to pursue his interest in education and labor policy, and hopes to work in a role that would ensure that every child has an equal opportunity for a quality public education. “Ten years down the line, I hope to run for office and represent my home community,” he said.

Serving as an orientation leader and helping new students through the Orientation and Transition programs was a key experience for Sevor, who said the role helped him meet people and learn about the University. “I learned a lot about the importance of giving back to others so that they could have a rewarding experience, as I did at the University,” he said. 

Victoria Tiranno

Hometown: Smithtown. Business Administration, Economics, and Financial Market Regulation

Tiranno founded a women empowerment organization and serves as the President of Alpha Phi Omega, the community service fraternity on campus. She also serves on the advisory board of the Center for Leadership and Service, through which she participated in a service project in Puerto Rico. She received the 2019-2020 Esther Weilheimer Scholarship.

“An experience that stood out to me at UAlbany was the Future of Business Awards offered by the School of Business,” Tiranno said. “It ignited my interest in blockchain and allowed me to apply my knowledge outside of the classroom.” She has presented her research on emerging technologies, such as neuromarketing and blockchain, at conferences around the country.

After graduation she plans to continue her full-time job in grants management at the state Department of Health, and begin working toward her MBA in Finance at UAlbany in the fall. Long-term, her goals include working for a non-profit specializing in financially sustainable practices for countries in the developing world.

Jeremy Tu

Hometown: Brooklyn. Journalism

A Journalism major with minors in Globalization and Music, Tu participated in and held leadership positions in UAlbany’s Taekwondo Club, Society of Professional Journalists, the Honors College (including the newsletter he co-founded), and A-Plus.

Being a member of the Honors College was transformative for Tu, especially due to the support he got from colleagues and from Dean Hui-Ching Chang, who encouraged him to apply for the Honors orientation leader (POET—Person of Extraordinary Talent) position.

Tu plans to continue his education in the future, in a master’s program or law school, probably after working for a few years. “At some point in the near future, I would like to continue in some form of local journalism and teach students, since I liked doing those at the University,” he said.

Raul Sebastian Vidal

Hometown: Long Beach. Social Welfare and Psychology

Vidal is a member of Alpha Phi Omega National Service Fraternity, Presidential Honor Society, Psi Chi National Psychology Honor Society and Omicron Delta Kappa National Leadership Honor Society. He was a resident assistant, a peer career advisor, the vice president of the Baccalaureate Social Welfare Association and a mentor for Big Brothers Big Sisters. He is published in the inaugural Social Work Journal and was sponsored on a five-week summer internship in Dominican Republic.

This fall, Vidal will being working toward his MSW at the University of Michigan School of Social Welfare. He hopes to travel abroad in the summer of 2021 to complete a global field placement.

“I want to pursue global social work as a career, working with NPOs or NGOs focusing on educational equity and work with immigrant and refugee populations,” Vidal said, and his long-term goal is to be the director of such an organization. 

Vidal said that people and experiences that stand out in his UAlbany career include his field internship with the Albany International Center and the guidance and support he received from mentors Martha Jo Asselin, the director of the Center for Leadership and Service, and both Barbara Rio-Glick and Mary McCarthy of the School of Social Welfare.

“Being able to grow as a student and as a professional while serving the community is something I’m deeply grateful for,” he said.

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