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Northeastern community’s highest achievements honored

Photo from the 2015 Academic Honors Convocation in Blackman Auditorium

CSSH students and faculty members were honored at the university's annual celebration of scholarly achievements.

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.”

-By Jason Kornwitz

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