More than 100 members of University of San Diegoâ€™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 theyâ€™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 bachelorâ€™s degree in computer science and has already begun an internship with San Diegoâ€™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 Tuesdayâ€™s event was another reminder that his time as a USD student is dwindling.
â€œI have mixed feelings about graduating,â€ Kelchev said. â€œIn the four years Iâ€™ve been here Iâ€™ve achieved a lot and Iâ€™ve experienced a lot. I know Iâ€™m ready to move on, but Iâ€™ve had a really great time.â€
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 Whoâ€™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 programâ€™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.
â€œI knew how good the students were, but this has reinforced it for me,â€ Bolender said. â€œTheyâ€™re very devoted to their work. If I didnâ€™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 appliedÂ â€” why itâ€™s important to understand military science or international relations or anything like that. Itâ€™s broadened my perspective of whatâ€™s considered scholarly work.â€
â€” Ryan T. Blystone