Inside USD

Students’ Academic Excellence, Service Work Honored at Convocation

Thursday, May 7, 2009

More than 100 members of University of San Diego’s Class of 2009 were honored for their academic excellence and service work Tuesday at Shiley Theatre.

The annual Undergraduate Honors Convocation ceremony recognized students who carried a 4.00 grade-point average (freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors were honored), presented Honors Program graduates with the gold stoles they’ll wear at the May 24 graduation ceremony and welcomed the newest inductees into their respective academic Honor Societies. Academic awards were presented to students in College of Arts and Sciences (20 disciplines), School of Business Administration (business and engineering disciplines) and the School of Leadership and Education Sciences (American Humanics and its Learning and Teaching Program).

One honoree, Boyan Kelchev, came to San Diego four years ago from Bulgaria on his first journey to the United States. The 22-year-old student, recipient of the prestigious Vessela Zaykova-Smolin Memorial Scholarship, carries a 4.00 GPA, is soon to have a bachelor’s degree in computer science and has already begun an internship with San Diego’s Forward Slope, Inc. On Tuesday, the Department of Math and Computer Science honored him for outstanding scholastic achievement. The recognition meant a lot to Kelchev, but Tuesday’s event was another reminder that his time as a USD student is dwindling.

“I have mixed feelings about graduating,” Kelchev said. “In the four years I’ve been here I’ve achieved a lot and I’ve experienced a lot. I know I’m ready to move on, but I’ve had a really great time.”

In addition to academic awards, USD also honored students for their service work. Maria Nguyen was named Student Employee of the Year. Other award presenters included Community Service-Learning, University Ministry, the Chet Pagni Outstanding Student Service Award and the St. Catherine Medal. Fifty-four students were honored for making the Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges list. Student Affairs honors were given for outstanding service in student government, Residential Life, university-sponsored student activities, multicultural awareness and understanding, and for service to the entire campus.

Two faculty members, Eren Branch and J. Michael Williams, each received a special award. Branch, an associate professor in the English Department, is the inaugural winner of the Patrick F. Drinan Award for Distinguished Service. Williams, a political science and international relations professor, is the Lowell Davies Award recipient for teaching excellence.

Following the Honors Convocation, the Honors Program held a luncheon at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice. Fifty-nine students who came in as freshmen four years ago and will comprise the program’s largest graduating class, were presented with a certificate of achievement by Honors Program Director James Bolender and Mary Boyd, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. Students in the Honors Program, which has many components they must complete during their four years at USD, finished their commitment by recently turning in an intensive research project in their field of study.

Bolender, who was named director in the fall, is also a USD chemistry professor. He said his participation in the Honors Program has been a learning experience, but he credits international cross-collaboration opportunities with professors and students from marine science, nursing, sociology and English with giving him a greater appreciation for his new role.

“I knew how good the students were, but this has reinforced it for me,” Bolender said. “They’re very devoted to their work. If I didn’t do the work that I do in Mexico or Uganda, I would have been very lost for sure. It gave me enough of a worldly perspective to see how some of these areas were applied — why it’s important to understand military science or international relations or anything like that. It’s broadened my perspective of what’s considered scholarly work.”

— Ryan T. Blystone

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