Northeastern University celebrated the highest achievements of students, faculty, staff, and alumni at the seventh annual Academic Honors Convocation on Thursday afternoon in East Village.
The event honored a select few who channeled their extraordinary talents into transformative research and scholarship, exceptional teaching and mentoring, and innovation in higher education.
“What we are celebrating today is the excellence of this place, the innovation of this place, the creativity of this place, and the boundless energy of this place,” Northeastern President Joseph E. Aoun said. “I am confident that Northeastern will generate for years to come and centuries to come the leaders of this nation and the world.”
The Presidential Medallion
The Presidential Medallion—Northeastern’s top honor—was bestowed upon Roger Marino, E’61, H’96, as a permanent symbol of his dedication to advancing the university.
A gifted engineer, visionary entrepreneur, and generous philanthropist, Marino has made a lasting impact on Northeastern and the world. In 1979, he and former roommate Richard Egan, E’61, H’95, co-founded EMC Corporation, transforming it into a Fortune 500 company. And thanks to his generosity, Northeastern built the state-of-the-art Marino Recreation Center in the 1990s. Since then, he has continued to champion the Northeastern community in numerous ways, sharing his wisdom with budding entrepreneurs at IDEA and the Entrepreneurs Club and becoming a leading supporter of Torch Scholars, a full tuition scholarship program for students who exhibit potential in nontraditional ways.
“Roger is a great human being,” said Aoun. “At heart, he represents what Northeastern is—dynamic, creative, and innovate but also humble.”
Marino, for his part, praised Aoun for transforming Northeastern into one of the nation’s most successful research universities. “As far as I’m concerned, you have taken this university far beyond where anybody thought it was going to go,” Marino told Aoun. “In your 10 years here, you’ve turned a very good university into a great university.”
In closing, he underscored the passion for learning that Northeastern students bring to class, co-op, and extracurricular activities every day. “When I come to Northeastern to give guest lectures, I can’t get through a presentation without students asking me questions,” he explained. “They want to learn. They want to squeeze as much [knowledge] as possible from you.”
Undergraduate student honors
Fifteen undergraduates, many of them inquisitive thinkers like those whom Marino extolled, were recognized for their academic accomplishments, including nine scholars who received national awards.
“Northeastern undergrads are entrepreneurial, engaged, and innovative,” explained Bruce Ronkin, vice provost for undergraduate education. “They are making their marks in established and emerging fields.”
Two scholars—Caroline Fried, SSH’17, and Sarah Sherman, S’17—earned Fulbright Fellowships, which provide grants for individually designed research projects or English Teaching Assistant Programs. As a Fulbright research fellow, Sherman will study how recent improvements to pathology labs in Botswana have affected the processing of samples to generate timely cancer diagnoses. Fried, for her part, will pursue a master’s degree in Asia Pacific Studies at Chengchi University in Taiwan with the goal of working at a foreign policy think tank.
Another two students—Benjamin Moran, S’18, and Hannah Tam, S’19—earned Goldwater Scholarships, the most prestigious undergraduate science scholarship in the country. Moran, a fifth-year marine biology major, also received the National Geographic Young Explorers Grant, which will help him complete an international co-op with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Oceanic Research. During the co-op, he will study the behavior, coloration, and genomics of Caribbean reef fish to better understand how evolution creates biodiversity in our oceans.
Miranda Beggin, DMSB’17, earned the Critical Language Scholarship, which offers fully funded overseas language and cultural-immersion programs for American students, while Tsun Wai Fu, DMSB’19, earned the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, which is awarded to U.S. undergrads to pursue academic studies abroad.
Madeline Seibert, S’16, earned the Schwarzman Scholarship, which prepares the next generation of global leaders to thrive in the geopolitical landscape of the 21st century. The program gives students the opportunity to develop their professional networks through a one-year master’s degree at Tsinghua University in Beijing, where Seibert had previously documented loss and waste in China’s food supply chain as part of a six-month co-op with the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Amina Ly, S’18, earned the Udall Scholarship, which honors sophomores and juniors for leadership, public service, and commitment to issues related to American Indian nations or the environment. Noelle Castilla-Ojo, S’17, earned the American Association for Cancer Research Thomas J. Bardos Science Education Award, which aims to inspire third-year students majoring in a scientific discipline to enter the field of cancer research. And Aneri Pattani, AMD’17, earned the James Reston Reporting Fellowship, which will allow her to work in The New York Times’ newsroom, reporting stories and learning from some of the world’s best journalists. In addition to this fellowship, Pulitzer Prize-winning Times columnist Nicholas Kristof chose Pattani to join him on an international reporting trip to cover social justice issues.
“Pattani has already impressed editors and mentors with her reporting skills,” noted Philomena Mantella, senior vice president and CEO of the Professional Advancement Network, “and is already on her way to being a seasoned journalist.”
Seven students received university-wide awards. Four scholars—Leen AlHajjar, SSH’17, Mohit Bhardwaj, E’17, Aleem Datoo, SSH’17, and Katra Laidlaw, S’17—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.
Another three scholars—Pattani, Travis DeLano, S’17, and Kaitlyn Elliot, SSH’17—earned the Harold D. Hodgkin Award, one of the highest honors bestowed upon graduating seniors. Colleges nominate their top students on the basis of academic and experiential performance, and a faculty committee makes the selections.
Ten graduate students, soon-to-be graduate students, and young alumni were also recognized for their achievements, including four who received national awards.
Three scholars—DeLano, who will attend graduate school at the California Institute of Technology, as well as Kelsi Furman and Andrea Unzeuta Martinez, doctoral candidates in ecology, evolution, and marine biology at Northeastern—earned National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships. The fellowships support outstanding graduate students who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering, and math disciplines.
A young alumnus, Terrell Hunt, DMSB’13, earned the Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Fellowship, a U.S. Department of State program that seeks to prepare outstanding young people for careers as Foreign Service Officers. Hunt will work for a member of Congress on international issues before going overseas to work for the U.S. embassy. He will earn his MBA along the way—a requirement of the fellowship—and become a U.S. diplomat upon graduation.
Six scholars were honored with Outstanding Graduate Student Awards. Two students—Meenupriya Swaminathan, a doctoral candidate in computer engineering, and Ishabel Vicaria, a doctoral candidate in psychology—received the Outstanding Graduate Student Award for Research. Recipients of this award have shown their ability to conduct high-level research and make contributions to the scholarly literature in their field.
Another two students—Jennifer Greenwich, a doctoral candidate in biology, and Firuzeh Shokooh Valle, a doctoral candidate in sociology and anthropology—received the Outstanding Graduate Student Award for Teaching. Recipients of this award have demonstrated an exceptional ability to communicate ideas and concepts in the classroom.
William Tomlinson, a doctoral candidate in computer engineering, received the Outstanding Graduate Student Award for Community Service. Recipients of this award have modeled a deep commitment to giving back to members of the greater community.
Joanne DeCaro Afornalli, MA’17, received the Outstanding Graduate Student Award for Experiential Learning. Recipients of this award have shown an extraordinary capacity to integrate academics and professional work and establish themselves as emerging leaders in their field.
Seven faculty members were honored. “Todays honorees represent the best in scholarship, teaching, and mentoring,” said Debra Franko, vice provost for academic affairs. “They exemplify Northeastern’s creative spirit by finding novel ways to advance research and help students learn. The depth and breath of their accomplishments are impressive and bring honor and recognition to the university.”
Nadine Aubry, dean of the College of Engineering, was honored for being inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of the nation’s oldest independent policy research centers. Aubry has made notable contributions to fluid dynamics, developing innovative techniques for low-dimensional modeling of turbulent flows, with applications in aerospace, ships, submarines, and turbomachinery. As dean of the College of Engineering since 2012, she has overseen the development of a new department as well as many new centers and programs. Under her leadership, the college has hired nearly 60 new faculty members and more than doubled the number of students in master’s degree programs from 1,300 to over 2,600.
Two faculty members—Margaret Burnham, professor of law and founding director of the Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project, and Ravi Ramamurti, Distinguished Professor of International Business and Strategy—were appointed to the rank of University Distinguished Professor. This is the highest honor Northeastern can bestow upon a faculty member.
Jennifer Dy, professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, received the Excellence in Research and Creative Activity Award, which is presented to a full-time faculty member to honor outstanding research and creative activity of national and international significance. The president and the provost determine the award on the basis of a report submitted by a committee of five faculty members.
Stacy Marsella, professor of psychology and computer science, was honored for being selected to deliver the 2017 Robert D. Klein Lecture. In his talk, he explained how his work is being applied to the design of virtual humans—software entities that look human and can interact with humans in a virtual environment.
Another two faculty members—Benjamin Lerner, a lecturer in the College of Computer and Information Science, and Brooke Foucault Welles, assistant professor in the Department of Communication Studies—received Excellence in Teaching awards. Students nominate their professors for this award, considering several criteria, including depth of knowledge in the subject and ability to provide effective links to course content, research, and experiential learning.
Welles, who studies how social networks shape and constrain human behavior, delivered the convocation’s faculty address. “In this room we have assembled the best of the best that Northeastern has to offer,” she said. “We can individually accomplish great things, but together we can change the world.”
Nineteen staff members were honored. Northeastern’s Center for Student Involvement—including assistant dean Jason Campbell-Foster and 15 of his colleagues—received the Outstanding Teamwork Award. Most of the co-curricular opportunities on campus that provide students with experiential learning and community-building experience occur in collaboration with the CSI team. Members of 450 clubs and organizations work with the center and learn how to manage budgets, host events, recruit members, collaborate on projects, and build leadership skills.
“CSI consistently puts the needs of students front and center,” said Thomas Nedell, senior vice president for finance and treasurer. “The team is committed to engaging students in innovative ways, from large concerts to community service projects.”
Three other staff members—Jennifer Boyle-Lynch, senior associate director of finance and operations for the Center for Research Innovation, Tony Erwin, associate vice president of enrollment management, and David Navick, associate vice provost for budget and planning in the Office of the Provost—received the Outstanding Service Award. This award recognizes individuals who have demonstrated a commitment to advancing the student, faculty, or staff experience. Recipients are ambassadors of the university who demonstrate extraordinary service and represent institutional excellence.