First Dean's medalists honored in liberal arts and sciences

2012 Dean's Medal

Honoring academic achievement, Dean’s Medals will adorn 18 of the 4,000 ASU seniors graduating with degrees in natural sciences, humanities and social sciences this spring. The medal was created by Robert E. Page, Jr., dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, to recognize the top graduating student in each of the degree-granting schools and departments in the college.

This is the first year this highly competitive award will be given.

Those honored are ASU seniors Michael Kenney, Mirna Hodzic, Christopher Swift, Deanna Stover, Christopher Jelen, Bryan Rock, Gina Mazza, Stevie Louise Dunn, Sean Cohmer, My Huynh, Amanda Willman, Latanya Hatahli, Chelsea Patchen, Briana Tyson, Cindy Quintero, Sebastian Paz, Catherine Loden and Alexandra Tsontakis.

“I congratulate each of these students for their academic success and their drive to embrace the many opportunities that a liberal arts and sciences college offers,” says Dean Page, who is also the ASU vice provost and a Foundation Professor in the School of Life Sciences. “These are exceptional pioneers, with vision to translate the skills they’ve sought out at ASU into tools to change the world.”

The medalists come from a diversity of backgrounds. Some students, like Loden, grew up in small towns. Originally from White Oaks, Texas, with a population of 5,600, Loden double-majored in sociology and psychology at ASU. She was also a member of First Team PAC-10 All-Academic Women’s Cross Country and has pursued work with refugees from Nepal. Other medal winners arose from immigrant roots, such as Alexandra Tsontakis.

Tsontakis will leave ASU with three bachelor’s degrees in global studies, political science and economics. She is bound for medical school and “motivated to improve the lives of people,” notes Patrick Kenney, incoming dean of social sciences in the college.

Three medal winners, Kenny, Hodzic and Swift, will also receive the ASU Alumni Association Outstanding Graduate Award, in natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities.

Outstanding social science graduate Hodzic will complete a degree in global health and two minors: one in speech and hearing science and the other in sustainability. She is a member of ASU’s Barrett Honors College and served as a peer mentor with the President Barack Obama Scholars Program. She was chosen as a Dean’s Medalist for her academic excellence, her extensive undergraduate research activities in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change, and her service with the ASU Global Health Student Association, where she served as co-president. Hodzic came to ASU from North Canyon High School, was awarded an ASU Presidential Merit Scholarship, and will pursue her interests in public health in a graduate program in the fall. 
Swift, the outstanding humanities graduate, will receive three degrees: history, economics and political science. A senior in ASU’s School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies, Swift came to ASU from Gresham, Oregon. He is a member of the Barrett Honors College, an ASU Gammage Scholar, a J.P. Morgan Chase Scholar and also a recipient of an ASU National Merit Scholarship. Swift has been accepted to Stanford Law School as a candidate for Juris Doctor.

The third double-awardee, Kenney, graduates with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and is the outstanding natural sciences graduate. Also a member of Barrett Honors College, he received a highly coveted Goldwater Scholarship in 2011 for his undergraduate research with Devens Gust, a Foundation Professor in ASU’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. In addition, Kenney served as a peer mentor with the Obama Scholars program.

“Doing well in traditional academic course work does not always correlate with being a creative, productive experimental scientist, and many students can excel in one of these areas but not the other. Michael Kenney is one of those few individuals who has great talent in both,” says Gust, who is also the director of ASU’s Center for Bio-Inspired Solar Fuel Production. “Michael’s research is directed towards finding new ways to harvest solar energy in order to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. In the laboratory, he can solve problems creatively, he works hard, and he has developed a wide variety of skills in both organic synthesis and the use of different kinds of instrumentation. Michael will be attending graduate school in chemistry next fall, and has the tools and ability to make major contributions to the discipline, and to society.”