Buffalo State College is pleased to recognize six of its most exemplary student leaders during the college’s virtual 148th Commencement celebration on Saturday, September 26.
Vanessa C. Schieble will receive the President’s Medal for Outstanding Undergraduate Student, and Christine J. Garas will receive the President’s Medal for Outstanding Graduate Student. Schieble will deliver the baccalaureate student address during the undergraduate ceremonies at noon, and Garas (pictured above) will deliver the graduate student address during the graduate ceremony at 2:00 p.m. All ceremonies will be conducted virtually because of ongoing coronavirus restrictions.
The highest student award bestowed by Buffalo State College, the President’s Medal recognizes outstanding academic achievement, community service, leadership, and creativity. Read more about Schieble and Garas below.
Four Buffalo State students who received the 2020 SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence (PDF, 560 KB) in May will also be honored at this weekend’s virtual Commencement ceremonies: Rakia Akter, a childhood education major; Jennifer Briones, an international relations major; Bryanna S. Marshall, a speech-language pathology major, and Esmeralda Sierra, a graduate student who earned a master of public administration.
The highest student honor bestowed by SUNY, the Chancellor’s Award recognizes students who have integrated academic excellence with distinguished achievement in areas such as community service, campus involvement, creative and performing arts, athletics, entrepreneurship, leadership, and career achievement.
Vanessa Schieble has earned a bachelor of arts in psychology, attaining a 4.0 GPA while transitioning to academia after serving in the United States Air Force.
Schieble is a standout student who has pushed herself to an extremely high level of academic excellence and proved to be someone of great character through her record of service to Buffalo State College, the Western New York community, and the country. Her academic performance has been nothing short of stellar, and she carries herself in a humble, unassuming way. She sets a tone of intellectual curiosity and academic conversation among fellow students.
Schieble began building her research experience when she was chosen for the MindCORE Undergraduate Summer Fellowship, a program focused on brain and behavior studies at the University of Pennsylvania. In line with this honor, she earned a position as lead student researcher in Buffalo State’s physiological psychology laboratory. She presented her research at the college’s Student Research and Creativity Conference. Along with her instructors, she is crafting a manuscript detailing findings that will be submitted to a peer-reviewed journal.
In 2018, she was selected as the senior supplemental instruction leader in the Academic Success Office, guiding a group of students in the pilot program for peer teaching of introductory-level classes. In addition, she was chosen to serve as the first teaching intern in the Psychology Department, leading tutorial sessions, creating review materials, and teaching parts of the curriculum under the guidance of the course instructor.
A dean’s list student, she was inducted into Psi Chi, the international honor society in psychology, and the National Society of Leadership and Success. She is especially proud of her work with the Student Conduct Board this past semester and is a member of the college’s Student Veterans Association. In the community, she has been actively involved with Prisoner of War and Missing in Action remembrance events in association with the Air Force Sergeants Association.
Christine Garas has earned a master of science in education in the literacy specialist (birth–grade 12) program, attaining a 4.0 GPA. She has distinguished herself throughout her undergraduate and graduate studies at Buffalo State College through her relentless pursuit of excellence, her unmatched devotion to education and literacy-related service, and her success as a leader at the local and national levels.
Garas has engaged in numerous scholarly activities. She has conducted research locally, nationally, and internationally and presented her results at four national and seven local conferences, including multiple presentations at the National Association for Professional Development Schools (NAPDS) Conference. Her research has focused on the use of music as a tool for second language instruction, among other topics. She was awarded the 2019 Emerging Leader Award by NAPDS.
She has embraced international professional growth experiences by participating in International Professional Development Schools (IPDS) trips to Santiago, Chile, and Torremaggiore, Italy, to widen her knowledge of teaching strategies. As the graduate assistant in the Elementary Education, Literacy, and Educational Leadership Department and the Professional Development Schools (PDS) Consortium at Buffalo State, she helped coordinate conferences and meetings, mentored undergraduate students in their research, and recruited prospective new PDS members.
She has served in a variety of leadership positions on campus, including as president of the college’s chapter of the Student Council for Exceptional Children, vice president of Kappa Delta Pi, the international honor society in education, co-leader and facilitator of the edTPA Jump Start program, and graduate student representative on the Teacher Educational Council. She has volunteered with the Anne Frank Project and Bengals Dare to Care Day. She is a passionate and capable young leader who uses her natural talents and acquired skills to inspire others.
Rakia Akter has completed her bachelor of science degree in childhood education (grades 1–6) in social studies, attaining a 3.88 GPA while participating in research, international experiences, and social justice initiatives. Highly motivated, she continually challenges herself and was accepted into Buffalo State College’s 4+1 pathway to begin her master’s degree in TESOL (teaching English to speakers of other languages). A dean’s list student throughout her college career, Akter was inducted into Kappa Delta Pi, the international honor society in education. She participated in a Myanmar study-away program, conducting an analysis of classroom engagement techniques at a partner school in Yangon, Myanmar. Read more about Akter.
Jennifer Briones has earned a bachelor of arts degree in international relations, attaining a 3.54 GPA while serving as a respected peer and civic leader. Her interest in academic research integrates with the Political Science Department’s emphasis on student scholarship. A dean’s list student, she and her team received the Honorable Mention Delegation Award at the 2019 National Model United Nations in New York City. On campus, Briones served as chief justice of the United Students Government (USG) Judicial Council and as a member of the Student Conduct and Community Standards hearing board and the President’s Task Force on Campus Safety. Read more about Briones.
Bryanna S. Marshall
Bryanna Marshall earned a bachelor of science degree in speech-language pathology, attaining a 3.44 GPA while serving in numerous leadership roles across campus. She is a founding member of the Buffalo State chapter of the National Black Association for Speech-Language and Hearing and a member of the National Student Speech Language Hearing Association. To further her progress in her major, she self-funded a trip to a school in Accra, Ghana, to study how certain cultural beliefs hamper the education of children with speech difficulties. She presented her findings at Buffalo State College’s Student Research and Creativity Conference, the SUNY Undergraduate Research Conference, and the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP) Statewide Student Conference, where she won the first-place award for best presentation. Read more about Marshall.
Esmeralda Sierra earned a master of public administration, attaining a 3.72 GPA while working as a professional in the organ donation and transplantation field. She participated in an academic trip to Rajasthan, India, where she studied the Manjari Foundation’s microfinance and women empowerment programs. As a member of the Buffalo State College delegation, she traveled to New York City to participate in the SUNY Model European Union. She has served as president of Buffalo State’s chapter of the Global Society for Public Affairs and Public Administration and as a senator for the Graduate Student Association. Sierra has also served as vice president of the Near East and West Side Task Force and as treasurer of the Hispanic Heritage Council of Western New York. Read more about Sierra.
Pictured top: 2020 Commencement graduate student speaker, Christine Garas, recording her student address
Photographs by Bruce Fox, Campus Photographer
PRESIDENT’S MEDAL FOR OUTSTANDING UNDERGRADUATE STUDENT
Vanessa C. Schieble
PRESIDENT’S MEDAL FOR OUTSTANDING GRADUATE STUDENT
Christine J. Garas
SUNY CHANCELLOR’S AWARD FOR STUDENT EXCELLENCE
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