Outstanding undergraduate students were selected for the Ward Melville and H. Lee Dennison Valedictorian Awards. The recipients were awarded these recognitions based on extracurricular activities and leadership positions alongside exceptional academic results.
Here is the list of recipients:
Ward Melville Valedictorian Award
This is the University’s most distinguished undergraduate honor named for the first chairperson of the Council of Stony Brook University. The Ward Melville Valedictorian Award goes to the graduating senior or seniors who have attained the most outstanding academic record during four years at Stony Brook. This year, nine seniors were recognized with this distinction.
Hana Ghobashy graduated in 2.5 years with a Bachelor of Science in Applied Mathematics & Statistics. At Stony Brook University, she was part of the WISE honors program and was president and co-founder of the Applied Mathematics Committee. Hana was a data analyst at the Career Center and completed her thesis on utilizing linear programming in higher education. In the fall, she will start her role as a risk assurance associate at PwC.
Allison Occhiuto maintained a 4.0 cumulative GPA during her time at Stony Brook, graduating Summa Cum Laude with a BA in Psychology. Allison also minored in English and Health, Medicine, and Society. Allison was a member of University Scholars and participated in a Summer Session Study Abroad at Florence University of the Arts as well as the Disney College Program. Allison will be returning this summer to begin Stony Brook’s Occupational Therapy Program.
Deanna Bassaragh graduated from the Stony Brook Honors College with a BA in Psychology and in Political Science. During her undergraduate years she became heavily involved within her campus community by serving as an RHA senator and working with SEA as an involvement coach. She was also treasurer for the Stony Brook Bhangra team as well as a member of the Sigma Beta Honor Society. She would like to thank her family and friends for supporting her through all of her academic endeavors
Taylor Esposito graduated from the Stony Brook University Honors College with a double major in Political Science and Philosophy as well as a double minor in Professional Writing and U.S. History. She will be spending the next year in Estonia as she has been selected as one of two people in the U.S. to win an English Teaching Award to Estonia through the Fulbright Program.
Justina Mounir Henein was a member of the University Scholars Program and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a minor in International Studies. Some of her undergraduate activities include volunteering with Global Medical Brigades, conducting research at Stony Brook Medicine and tutoring BIO 203 at the ASTC. After graduation, Justina plans to pursue a career in medicine.
Kimberly W. Lu graduated in three years with a BS in Biology and WISE Honors. As part of the VIP Program, Kimberly conducted 3D skin bioprinting research under her mentors Drs. Rafailovich, Simon and Singh. She was a Stony Brook Young Investigators Review editor, a violinist/violist for Music and Medicine, a Badminton Team member, and an Organic Chemistry UGTA. As part of the eight-year BS/MD Scholars for Medicine Program and MBA Fast-Track Program, Kimberly will be attending the Renaissance School of Medicine and College of Business.
Anita Rescia is proud to be a 2021 Stony Brook graduate. Over the past four years, her accomplishments include earning a New York State teacher’s certification, being named to the Dean’s list, winning the Hispanic Languages and Literatures Department’s best undergraduate essay award two years in a row, receiving the Dr. Michael De Luca Italian award, and writing an undergraduate honor’s thesis. Anita is very excited to continue studies at SBU as a master’s student this summer.
Margaret Ross graduated with a BA in Sociology and a minor in Health and Wellness. She was a member of Stony Brook’s D1 Cross Country and Track programs and spent much of her time working at the Center for Prevention and Outreach and as an undergraduate research assistant in the Sociology Department. She plans to continue her academic and athletic careers this coming fall at Stony Brook pursuing her Master’s in Public Health.
Nita Wong graduated from the Honors College with a degree in Biochemistry. She served on the executive board of the student organization Music and Medicine and as an associate editor for the Stony Brook undergraduate research journal. Nita also conducted research on host-parasite interactions under the guidance of Dr. Nolwenn Dheilly and wrote her senior thesis on the cognitive and physiological mechanisms of narrative medicine under the mentorship of Dr. Peter Khost. She will begin her medical training at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine this August.
Another student recognized with this prestigious award was Chester Huang, Computer Science major.
Lee Dennison Valedictorian Award
Five students earned the H. Lee Dennison Valedictorian Award, named in honor of Suffolk County’s first chief executive. This recognition is presented to the graduating senior or seniors who entered Stony Brook as a transfer student, completed at least 60 credits of letter grade work at Stony Brook and attained the most outstanding academic record at Stony Brook in that work.
Gabrielle Freund graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Social Work, Summa Cum Laude. She was a member of the Phi Alpha Honor Society and maintained a 4.0 GPA during her time at Stony Brook University. During Gabrielle’s internship as a BSW senior, she provided therapy interventions targeting severe mental illness symptoms in adults. Since March 2020, Gabrielle has been working with the NYS Contact Tracing Initiative as a contact tracer, then was promoted to a supervisor position, where she has assisted the community of Long Island with preventing the spread of COVID-19. Gabrielle hopes to utilize her experience in the mental and public health field while she begins a Master of Science in Social Work Advanced Standing Program, with a concentration in Integrated Health.
Angela Rizzo graduated Summa Cum Laude with a BSW degree and was recently initiated into Phi Alpha, the national honor society for social workers. Angela has been accepted into SBU’s MSW program and will be studying under the family, youth and transition to adulthood specialization. As an undergraduate, Angela interned at Hope For Youth where she worked with foster care youth and their families to fulfill her goal of working with children and adolescents.
Samantha Lange majored in English and minored in History and Creative Writing. During her time at Stony Brook, she served on the executive board of Alpha Nu Zeta, the University’s English Honors Society, first as secretary, then as event coordinator, and participated in the English Honors Program. This spring, she graduated with a cumulative GPA of 4.0 and was granted the honor of giving the student address to those graduating in the English Department.
Emily Rankin majored in Biology and graduated Summa Cum Laude. Throughout her undergraduate years, Emily participated in research, tennis, and various activities, becoming a role model for her younger siblings. One of her greatest accomplishments has been continuing her studies to complete her degree despite the hardships of the pandemic.
Lauren Taglienti earned the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence as a second year student and has accumulated a total of 23 awards and scholarships during her college career. She has had over 40 original articles published and was one of five winners of the 2020 SBU Student New Works Theatre Arts Festival. Lauren also interned for bestselling author and filmmaker Adriana Trigiani and currently volunteers for the National MS Society and The ALS Association.