Thursday, April 17, 2014

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Class of 2013: Sullivan Awardees Genda, Snyder, Pearson Among Those Honored at Valediction

An engineering student who helped extend mentoring programs for young girls interested in science and math and who conducted research in Mexico and India, a standout collegiate wrestler who volunteered at the University of Virginia’s Children’s Hospital, and a renowned researcher of tropical and infectious diseases who has mentored medical students for 24 years as an associate dean of the School of Medicine are the recipients of U.Va.’s 2013 Algernon Sydney Sullivan Awards.

Camrynn Leigh Genda, Matthew Thomas Snyder and Dr. Richard D. Pearson, respectively, were honored during Saturday’s Valedictory Exercises in John Paul Jones Arena, along with several graduating students selected by their 2013 classmates for special recognition.

The Algernon Sydney Sullivan Foundation presents annual awards to graduating seniors, faculty, alumni and community members of 61 universities and colleges in the South who are determined to have demonstrated notable character, integrity and service. The awards are presented each year to two distinguished U.Va. fourth-year students and a member of the University community in memory of the awards’ namesake, a New York lawyer, businessman and philanthropist.

The head resident of the Lawn this year, Genda is a Rodman Scholar graduating on Sunday with bachelor’s degrees in systems and information engineering from the School of Engineering and Applied Science and economics from the College of Arts & Sciences, with minors in business and science and technology policy.

Last summer, she carved out six weeks to volunteer as the summer program director at an orphanage in Tijuana, Mexico.

In 2012, Genda also studied abroad in Delhi, India. She plans to work after graduation at a church in Mussoorie, India on the “India Impact Initiative,” a program geared toward educating children who are rescued from Delhi brothels and placed in safe homes.

With a partner, she also is launching a start-up business in India developing a cell phone-to-Web communication platform, pursuing clients such as the U.S. Department of State, the African Development Bank and the Asian Development Bank.

“My mentors have shown me how true fulfillment comes from committing everything we’ve been given – from talents to time – to serve the underserved, alleviate suffering, love those who experience hate, and provide for the impoverished,” said Genda, who also is scheduled in the fall to begin work with the U.S. Department of Defense as a “SMART Scholar” helping to design a new fleet of amphibious tanks for the Marine Corps. “I hope we might all refuse to remain bystanders when those around us are in need and we have tools or abilities at our disposal to help.”

An ACC champion wrestler headed to medical school after a one-year internship with the Athletes in Action sports ministry, Matthew Thomas Snyder volunteered regularly at the University Children’s Hospital. A bone-marrow transplant saved his life as a young child, and the experience has served as motivation to pursue a career in medicine.

He began shadowing a doctor in U.Va’s Department of Family Medicine after his second year and began volunteering at the Children’s Hospital, where he befriended a young cancer patient who later passed away, in 2012.

Snyder, a two-time Atlantic Coast Conference Wrestling Scholar-Athlete of the Year, earned an ACC Postgraduate Scholarship to complete a master’s degree in kinesiology, with a concentration in exercise physiology.

“I realized that life is a little short to focus just on my life. Over the last five years I tried to pour more and more into the community around me,” Snyder said. “Whether it’s my teammates on the wrestling team, my peers in Athletes in Action, the people in my Curry School program or my involvement with the Children’s Hospital community.”

Pearson’s scientific research into tropical and infectious diseases has taken him across the world, and he has shared his internationally recognized expertise with thousands of medical students as a well-respected member of the faculty and a beloved dean.

Of his 33 years at the University, he spent 24 as the School of Medicine’s associate dean for student affairs. Pearson has been credited with strong student advocacy, initiating student support programs and promoting diversity in the Medical School. Students praise him as a warm and thoughtful mentor who organizes group dinners at his home to foster a spirit of community within each class.

“After nearly a decade of research, patient care and teaching, I had the unique opportunity to ‘give back’ further as associate dean for student affairs at the best medical school in the country, working with extraordinary mentors,” said Pearson, Harrison Distinguished Professor of Medicine and Pathology. “There is no greater joy or reward than helping students, residents, faculty, patients, family, friends and others in the community.”

Pearson will complete his tenure as associate dean in June. Next academic year, he will continue his current activities in medical education, teaching, patient care and research, assume a new leadership role in clinical skills development and direct the infectious diseases fellowship program.

Clark, Nemitz and Noh Receive Class Awards

The Fourth-Year Class Trustees presented their Cultural Fluency, Community Service and Spirit of Ingenuity awards.

Hallie Clark, who participated in the Workers and Students United for a Living Wage campaign and served as a mentor for African-American students through the Office of African-American Affairs’ Peer Advisor Program, was the recipient of the Cultural Fluency Award recognizing a graduating student who has demonstrated an understanding of and appreciation for cultural and intellectual diversity.

A distinguished major in political and social thought with a second major in African-American and African studies, Clark also chaired Minority Squared, an LGBTQ resource group for people of color who identify themselves as queer or questioning. Clark was credited with working to connect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students to other prominent organizations and resources on Grounds.

The Community Service award, which recognizes a graduating student who enriched the University and Charlottesville community through service, was presented to Amelia K. Nemitz. An Echols Scholar and distinguished history and Spanish double major in the College, Nemitz served as president of Sexual Assault Peer Advocacy, an organization that seeks to create a community of support for survivors of sexual violence and to raise awareness about the issue. She worked with a variety of people to educate the larger community on the sexual misconduct policy and resources available to survivors.

Nemitz, a 2012 recipient of a Harrison Undergraduate Research Award, will attend the U.Va. School of Law this fall, preparing for an intended career specializing in prosecuting gender violence.

Andrew Noh, a systems and information engineering major in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, was the recipient of this year’s Spirit of Ingenuity award, which recognizes a graduating student who pursues an innovative way to contribute to the University community.

As a photographer for The Cavalier Daily student newspaper, and as the Boylan Heights Special Events Promoter, Noh shared his professional photos from a variety of University athletic and social events on his photography website and other online platforms. He also was credited with assembling students and Dean of Students Allen Groves for a popular “UVA Harlem Shake” video recorded on the steps of the Rotunda.

Also honored Saturday:

• The Society of the Purple Shadows presented its Gordon F. Rainey Jr. Award for Vigilance to the Student Experience to Kenneth Elzinga, Robert C. Taylor Professor of Economics. Calling the longtime student favorite “one of the most successful and beloved educators at the University,” the society cited his support for undergraduate research and the honor system and his living out of his Christian values in making the award, which was presented on the society’s behalf by Elzinga’s colleague, economics professor Lee A. Coppock.

• Jarmere Antonio Jenkins was recognized with the Louis A. Onesty Memorial Scholar-Athlete Award from the Seven Society. The third tennis player in U.Va. history to make four NCAA singles championship appearances, Jenkins was recently named the University’s top male athlete for the 2012-13 academic year. An anthropology major in the College, Jenkins is ranked third nationally in singles and was captain of the men’s tennis team for two years while also helping lead other athletes through the Student Athlete Advisory Committee and the Student Athlete Mentor program.

• The Seven Society also recognized the Memorial for Enslaved Laborers Committee with the James Earle Sargeant Award. Initiated by the Diversity Initiatives Committee of Student Council and launched in the fall of 2009, the committee has developed a close partnership with the University and Community Action for Racial Equity as it raised awareness for the need to establish a more adequate memorial to the University’s enslaved laborers.

It formed an advisory committee consisting of expert faculty, staff and community members and organized an educational forum on the intricacies of race relations in the University’s history, with a special focus on slavery. It then distributed a University-wide survey that received more than 900 responses to gauge community knowledge of the history. The movement has organized focus groups on and off Grounds to get community feedback on the need for a memorial, the form it should take and its effect on the community.

Scheduled to accept the award was Edna Turay, the incoming chair of the Memorial for the Enslaved Laborers Committee.

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