Northeastern University celebrated the highest achievements of students, faculty, and staff at the fifth-annual Academic Honors Convocation, which was held in Blackman Auditorium on Thursday afternoon.
The event honors a select few who channel their extraordinary talents into transformative research and scholarship, exceptional teaching and mentoring, and innovation in higher education—both on campus and across the globe.
“This university has a great momentum,” Northeastern President Joseph E. Aoun told the audience, which included awardees’ family and friends. “We have achieved what no other university has achieved because of this great alignment in the community between students, faculty, and staff, who are all pulling in the same direction and thinking big.”
He added: “We’re here to thank those members of the community who are role models at the national level and here on campus.”
Fifteen undergraduates were honored for their academic accomplishments, including five who received national awards and 10 who received university-wide awards. Those who received national awards were: Erin Bourque, SSH’19, who earned a Critical Language Scholarship, a fully-funded overseas language and cultural-immersion program for American students; Julia Ebert, S’15, who earned a Marshall Scholarship, which allows up to 40 intellectually distinguished American students to study in the United Kingdom each year; Emma Kaeli, E’18, who earned a Goldwater Scholarship, the most prestigious undergraduate science scholarship in the country; Benjamin Moran, S’18, who earned the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship; and Olivia Nguyen, DMSB’15, who earned a Fulbright U.S. Student Award, which will allow her to serve as an English teaching assistant in Vietnam.
Among those who received university-wide awards were Christie Civetta, SSH’15, Neel Shah, E’15, and Lindsay Weigel, BHS’15, who earned the Harold D. Hodgkinson Award, one of the highest honors bestowed upon graduating seniors. Civetta—along with Katie Braggins, SSH’16, Sam Manning, SSH’15, and Marco Muzio, S’15—also earned the designation of Presidential Global Fellow, an honor given on the basis of students’ academic standing, leadership qualities, and understanding of the importance of the global experience.
Six graduate students received awards for their outstanding accomplishments in research, teaching, community service, and experiential learning. Among them were Leah Dickens, a doctoral student of psychology, who received the Outstanding Graduate Student Award for Teaching, and James McGrath, a doctoral candidate in English, who received the Outstanding Graduate Student Award for Community Service.
Dickens regularly receives outstanding ratings as a teaching assistant and as a primary instructor for undergraduate classes. She has organized multiple graduate teaching workshops, compiled teaching resources for new teaching assistants, and mentored undergraduates for graduate school applications. McGrath has been the linchpin in building a robust digital humanities community at Northeastern. His leadership of the Our Marathon digital archive has made it a model public humanities project that contributes to the university’s, the city’s, and the nation’s conversations on the role of archives as public memorials and platforms for civic outreach.
Ten faculty members received awards. “The faculty,” said Stephen W. Director, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, “is the true backbone of the university. The honorees represent the very best in scholarship, teaching, and mentoring, and are inspired leaders in their fields. The depth and breath of their accomplishments are impressive and we salute their unwavering commitment to excellence.”
The Bernard M. Gordon Prize for Innovation in Engineering and Technology Education, which is presented annually by the National Academy of Engineering, was bestowed upon two faculty members: Simon Pitts, the director of Northeastern’s Gordon Institute of Engineering Leadership and professor of the practice in engineering leadership, and Michael B. Silevitch, the Robert D. Black Professor of Engineering and Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
Eight other faculty members received university-wide awards. Two faculty members—Alexandros Makriyannis, professor of chemistry and pharmaceutical science, and Jonathan Tilly, professor and chair of the Department of Biology—were appointed to the rank of University Distinguished Professor, the highest honor Northeastern can bestow upon a faculty member.
Another two faculty members—Elizabeth Dillon, professor of English, and Alessandro Vespignani, the Sternberg Distinguished University Professor, who holds joint appointments in the College of Science, the College of Computer and Information Science, and the Bouvé College of Health Sciences—received the Excellence in Research and Creative Activity Award.
Dillon—a recent recipient of the American Council of Learned Societies Digital Innovation Fellowship and the founding co-director of the NULab for Texts, Maps, and Networks—has played a key role in making Northeastern a leading institution in digital humanities. As the leader in the studies of spreading and diffusion processes in complex networks, Vespignani has had a profound impact on physics, epidemiology, and computer science. His network-based predictive tools have become a game-changer, potentially saving lives and reducing the economic impact of epidemics.
Excellence in Teaching Awards were bestowed upon three faculty members: Amy Briesch, an assistant professor in the Department of Counseling and Applied Educational Psychology, John Engen, a professor of bioanalytical chemistry, and Nader Jalili, a professor of mechanical and industrial engineering.
Kara Swanson, associate professor of law, was honored for being selected to deliver the 2015 Robert D. Klein Lecture. Her talk, which was based on her 2014 book Banking on the Body: The Market in Blood, Milk, and Sperm in Modern America, delved into the history of human body product regulation.
Fifty-seven staff members were honored. Northeastern’s snow removal team, which is comprised of 53 members, received the Outstanding Teamwork Award. The team braved the brutal elements to keep students, faculty, and staff safe during the recent spate of storms, removing 7,200 tons of snow and laying down more than 250,000 pounds of ice melt throughout campus.
Four staff members—Jane Brown, the vice president for enrollment management, Michael Dwyer, university police lieutenant, Doreen Hodgkin, associate dean of administration and student affairs in the College of Computer and Information Science, and Jonna Iacono, the director of the University Scholars Program—received the Outstanding Service Award, which recognizes individuals who have demonstrated a commitment to advancing the student, staff, or faculty experience.
The final award of the evening was bestowed upon Bernard M. Gordon, H’07. He received the Presidential Medallion, the university’s top honor and a permanent representation of his dedication to advancing Northeastern. A pioneering engineer and entrepreneur, Gordon is one of Northeastern’s leading benefactors. His recent $10 million gift launched the Gordon Institute of Engineering Leadership and builds on the success of the Gordon Engineering Leadership Program, which he created with a $20 million investment in 2007.
“There are few people who have impacted the university, academia in general, and the world of engineering leadership at large, and Bernie is absolutely the most impactful of them all,” Aoun said. “He is an innovator, a doer, a leader, and a visionary,” he added. “He invested in us, he believed in us, and he doubled down on his belief and on his investment.”