Senior Recognition Ceremony April 2020

Our "Virtual" Ceremony: April 24, 2020

Welcome to the 2020 Senior Recognition Ceremony here in the Frederik Meijer Honors College. We're so sorry that we're unable to celebrate our graduating seniors in person this year, but we're delighted to bring you this virtual version. We've done our best to include as much as possible of the usual in-person ceremony. So please take some time to look around--and enjoy! And most of all, congratulations to this year's graduating seniors!


The Mission of the Meijer Honors College is to inspire and empower motivated students to be intellectually-curious lifelong learners who make positive contributions to their local and global communities, and serve as capable leaders and active global citizens.

Welcoming Remarks:

  • Dr. Roger Gilles, Director, Frederik Meijer Honors College
  • Dr, Mark Schaub, Interim Dean, Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies
  • Dr. Coeli Fitzpatrick, Faculty Chair, Frederik Meijer Honors College

Honors Outstanding Student Awards:

  • Outstanding Senior Award: Jarod Collier
  • Outstanding Leadership and Service: Emily Zeliasko

Honors Senior Project Awards:

  • Outstanding Senior Thesis: Zachary Tenney
  • Outstanding Senior Project: Alaina White
  • Outstanding Creative Achievement: Jonathan Albrecht
  • Excellence in Collaborative Research: Caolan Keenan
  • Outstanding Civic Engagement Project: Ethan Boelkins


Senior Project Honorable Mentions:

  • Aubrey Boersen
  • Jacquelyn Bowling
  • Kendra Garcia
  • Kathryn Koning
  • Stephanie LaDuke
  • Tasman Mattox
  • Michelina Partiplio
  • Benjamin Scott-Brandt
  • Matthew Smith
  • Taylor VanDerLaan
  • Megan Wilcoxon

University-wide Student Award Winners

Slideshow of Images, 2016-2020

Graduating Senior Profile Book, April 2020

Welcoming Remarks

From our director, our dean, and our faculty chair

Director Roger Gilles introduces the web-based ceremony

Roger Gilles, Director of the Frederik Meijer Honors College

Welcome from Brooks College Interim Dean Mark Schaub

Mark Schaub, Interim Dean of the Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies

Remarks from Coeli Fitzpatrick, Faculty Chair

Coeli Fitzpatrick, Honors Faculty Chair

Honors Outstanding Student Awards

Each year, the Honors College faculty and staff name two students as our most outstanding. This year, they are Jarod Collier for academic excellence and Emily Zeliasko for leadership and service. We asked one of our faculty or staff to offer some introductory remarks about each student, and we also invited the students themselves to say a few words.

Jarod Collier

Jarod, a Computer Science major with a Mathematics minor, has been named by the Honors College faculty and staff as the 2020 recipient of the Outstanding Senior Award, which we give each year to the student we name for the university Excellence-in-a-Discipline Award. Jarod was one of 88 undergraduates so honored across the university as the outstanding student in their academic unit.

Jeremiah Cataldo talking about Jarod Collier

Professor Jeremiah Cataldo

Jarod Collier, Outstanding Senior

Jarod Collier, Outstanding Senior of the Honors College

Emily Zeliasko

Emily, a Biology major with a Business minor, has been named by the Honors College faculty and staff as the 2020 recipient of the Outstanding Leadership and Service Award. In her Honors career, Emily served as a peer mentor, then a member of the Honors Council, and finally president of the Honors Council.

Kelly McDonell on Emily Zeliasko

Kelly McDonell, Senior Academic and Enrichment Advisor

Emily Zeliasko, Outstanding Leadership and Service

Emily Zeliasko, winner of the "Outstanding Leadership and Service" award

Honors Senior Project Awards

Many excellent student projects were nominated this year, and we've included a list of honorable mentions in the program above. Here is a little about our five Honors Senior Project award winners. Each student's name will be engraved on the appropriate plaque and displayed permanently in the hallway outside the main Honors College office in the Niemeyer Learning and Living Center.

Zach Tenney

Zach Tenney, a double-major in Philosophy and Writing, is the winner of the Outstanding Senior Thesis Award for his paper, "Words, Wisdom,and Warren Zevon." His project advisor was Philosophy Professor David Vessey, who had this to say about Zach's paper: “The best part of Zach’s project is it’s not written for his honors senior thesis. It’s written for a broader audience. Zach has made the very rare shift from doing research and writing as an undergraduate fulfilling the expectations of a class or a degree requirement to doing research and writing as a part of a larger intellectual  community.”

Zach Tenney

Zach Tenney

Alaina White

Alaina. a Biomedical Sciences pre-med major with a minor in Anthropology, is the winner of the Outstanding Senior Project Award for her project titled "Menstrual Education in Ghana." Honors College Professor Karen Zivi was her project advisor, and she had this to say about Alaina's work: “Drawing on background ethnographic research (participant observation, interviews, and hands-on experiences) done while on a study abroad program in Ghana, Alaina wrote, illustrated, published, and distributed Ghanaian Girl: A Guide to Your Body, a book that not only teaches young girls how to make their own menstrual products but also teaches them about the changes that their bodies go through during puberty . Follow-up conversations with the educators she met in Ghana, who were also instrumental in helping Alaina making her book age- and culturally-appropriate, suggest that the girls are really enjoying the book.”

Alaina White

Alaina White

Jonathan Albrecht

Jonathan, a Biomedical Sciences pre-med student with a minor in Music, is this year's winner of the Outstanding Creative Achievement Award for his collection of piano recitals and materials. His project advisor, Professor Sookkyung Cho of the Music department, had this to say about Jonathan's project: “I am most proud of his layering of sounds in his Liszt Liebestraum - towards the end, Liszt uses four layers of lines at the same time, which makes it truly orchestral. Jonathan’s playing gives life to each and every line.”

Jonathan Albrecht

Jonathan Albrecht

Caolan Keenan

Caolan, a Biomedical Sciences pre-med student, is this year's winner of the Excellence in Collaborative Research Award for his project titled "Biochar as a Means of Water Purification in Haiti." His project advisor, Professor Peter Wampler of the Honors College, had this to say about Caolan's project: “Over two semesters Caolan undertook original research using bacterial analysis techniques to evaluate several different variables used to construct water filters using only sand and charcoal or biochar, both materials that are readily available in Haiti. Caolan completed a series of lab experiments and produced publishable results that show great promise for future application in developing countries…Caolan was accepted to medical school midway through the project and my hope is that the experiences he gained collaborative water treatment research will continue to inform and positively impact his future health care career.”

Caolan Keenan

Caolan Keenan

Ethan Boelkins

Ethan, a Mathematics major with a Digital Studies minor, is this year's winner of the Outstanding Civic Engagement Award. He conducted his senior project on the City of Grand Rapids Open Data Project. His project advisor was Professor David Austin of the Mathematics department. Professor Austin had this to say about Ethan's project: "This partnership [between the City of Grand Rapids and GVSU] has been valuable for the mathematics department and future Grand Valley students. The City is interested in continuing this work and, with Ethan as an example, sees great value in working with our students and providing them with meaningful opportunities of mutual benefit. We are also having ongoing conversations between the math department and the City about working together to improve the way that both organizations use data. Ethan’s project is the seed from which these additional benefits grow.”

Ethan Boelkins

Ethan Boelkins

University-wide Student Award Winners

Over 30 Honors students won special recognition as part of the annual Student Awards Convocation, which this year was held virtually. Please click here to visit our page that celebrates our Honors College award winners!

Slideshow of Images, 2016-2020

The majority of this year's graduating class entered Grand Valley in Fall 2016, so we've gathered together images from that year's Welcome Days, as well as a sprinkling of images from Honors College events from 2017 through 2020. The entering class of 2016, at over 500 students, was the largest ever in the Frederik Meijer Honors College and continues to be our high-water mark. This video shows that entering class participating in several of the traditions that remain important to us: the class photo, the scavenger hunt, the gathering in the outdoor theater behind Niemeyer, and the "dream clouds" students fill out as they look forward to their academic careers. There are also images that include two important people who are no longer active here at Grand Valley: former Director Jeff Chamberlain, or Dr. J, and former President Thomas J. Haas, or T-Haas.

Slideshow of images of 2020 graduating class

Entering class photo Fall 2016
Dream clouds

The entering class of Fall 2016 (left), and a sampling of the "dream clouds" students filled out.

Senior Profile Book

Please take some time to browse through our April 2020 senior profile booklet, which features photos and information about 130 of our more than 300 graduating seniors. Because of the "stay-at-home" order, we've been able to collect fewer profiles than normal. Still, this group represents the full class very nicely, and you'll see here our students' wide and impressive range of interests, activities, accomplishments, and future plans. Click here for full booklet.

Senior Profile book cover image

Please Share Comments and Memories on Facebook!

Please visit our FMHC Facebook page and share your memories about the Honors College and GVSU, as well as any comments you might have about our virtual ceremony, including the slideshow and the senior profile book. Thanks, and have a great summer!


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Page last modified February 2, 2022