Top seniors to be honored as 2014 Presidential Scholars

Contact: Jeanne Baron
Photo of a WMU sign.

The 2014 Presidential Scholars will be honored at a March 20 reception.

KALAMAZOO—Forty-seven students will be recognized as Western Michigan University's top seniors for 2014 during the 34th annual Presidential Scholars Convocation starting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, March 20, on campus in the Bernhard Center.

Each year, faculty members from across the University select the most outstanding senior in their various academic schools, departments and programs to represent their units as a WMU Presidential Scholar. This year, 47 scholars were chosen from a senior class of 6,313 students.

The Presidential Scholar designation is the highest academic honor that WMU can bestow on its undergraduates. Selection is based on the students' general academic excellence, academic and artistic excellence relative to their majors, and intellectual and artistic promise.

The 2014 Presidential Scholars Convocation, which is by invitation only, will include a program at 7 p.m. featuring a keynote address by Dr. John M. Dunn, president of WMU. Also making remarks will be Dr. William G. Rantz, president of the WMU Faculty Senate, and John-Mark Cuarto, president of the Western Student Association.

After each of this year's scholars are recognized and awarded certificates, a dessert buffet reception will be held while the scholars have their pictures taken with Dunn and Rantz.

Long list of talented students

This year's Presidential Scholars include a major in mechanical engineering as well as in biomedical sciences who is developing a device that will assist premature babies with their breathing and can be used easily in rural areas and a biology major who has jump started her planned career in research by working with two faculty mentors from WMU on bacteria that have a symbiotic relationship with an important agricultural crop.

In addition, the list includes a top scholar studying synthetic organic chemistry with the help of grants from WMU and the National Science Foundation who has been admitted to graduate programs at institutions such as Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley, and a former computer engineering intern who has improved touch screen interfaces at the Whirlpool Corp. as well as developed mobile device applications for Landscape Forms in Kalamazoo, where she has a job waiting for her after graduation.

The 2014 class of Presidential Scholars also includes an accountancy major whose volunteer efforts earned her the Michigan Campus Compact 2012-13 Outstanding Student Service Heart and Soul Award, one of this year's 10 students nationwide to receive the prestigious R. Gene Richter Scholarship for supply chain management students, and an acclaimed operatic soloist and jazz singer who was named West Michigan's leading young soprano in 2013 by Opera Grand Rapids.

Presidential Scholars for 2014

  • Accountancy—Casey N. Mejeur of Kalamazoo
  • Anthropology—Matthew J. Ftacek of Niles, Mich.
  • Art—Erica S. Barajas of Livermore, Calif.
  • Aviation sciences—Craig A. Scalpone of White Lake, Mich.
  • Biological sciences—Olivia N. Walser of Kalamazoo
  • Business information systems—Russell J. Hildensperger of Fenton, Mich.
  • Chemical and paper engineering—Jin Y. Woo of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  • Chemistry—William B. Thayer of Parchment, Mich.
  • Civil and construction engineering—Jordan R. Van Eerden of Byron Center, Mich.
  • Communication—Bryleigh B. Loughlin of Lowell, Mich.
  • Comparative religion—Xandra E. Duelge of Kalamazoo
  • Computer science—Lars C. Hoffbeck of Shelbyville, Mich.
  • Dance—Connor L. Cornelius of Oak Park, Ill.
  • Economics—Christopher L. Thayer of Portage, Mich.
  • Electrical and computer engineering—Amy M. Valley of Standish, Mich.
  • English—Paige A. Van De Winkle of Clinton Twp., Mich.
  • Environmental and sustainability studies—Kylie E. Merrow of Kalamazoo
  • Family and consumer sciences—Sarah K. Price of Holland, Mich.
  • Finance and commercial law—Derek J. Schrauben of Lake Orion, Mich.
  • Gender and women's studies—Amanda M. Shelton of Detroit
  • Geography—Jonathon D. Lovely of Grayling, Mich.
  • Geosciences—Raneem A. Binismail of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
  • History—Tyler A. Wilson of Pittsford, Mich.
  • Human performance and health education—Jason P. Schut of Grand Rapids, Mich.
  • Industrial and manufacturing engineering—Jacob A. Griffioen of Hartland, Wis.
  • Integrated supply management—Hanna M. Downs of Novi, Mich.
  • Management—Keith A. Jordan of Galesburg, Mich.
  • Manufacturing engineering—Jasen A. Biczak of Muskegon, Mich.
  • Marketing—Kathryn A. Kick of Iron Mountain, Mich.
  • Mathematics—Joshua H. Withee of Kalamazoo
  • Mechanical and aerospace engineering—Stephen C. John of Portage, Mich.
  • Music—Chelsea A. Helm of West Bloomfield, Mich.
  • Music theatre performance—Allison N. Hunt of Indianapolis, Ind.
  • Occupational therapy—Catherine M. Abele of Cincinnati
  • Philosophy—Adam M. Griffin of Shelby, Mich.
  • Physics—Enrique A. Gamez of Portage, Mich.
  • Political science—Christopher F. Sudol of Brooklyn, N.Y.
  • Psychology—Derek C. Seelbinder of Clarkston, Mich.
  • Social work—Christina L. Hayes of Grand Ledge, Mich.
  • Sociology—Sara M. DeRaud of West Bloomfield, Mich.
  • Spanish—Amanda J. Mills of Portage, Mich.
  • Special education and literacy studies—Lisa M. Valler of Portage, Mich.
  • Speech pathology and audiology—Anna P. Larner of Canton, Mich.
  • Statistics—Tiffany L. Hotrum of Portage, Mich., and North Port, Fla.
  • Teaching learning and educational studies—Jamie L. Keyser of Rockford, Mich.
  • Theatre—Robert J. Johnson II of Grand Rapids, Mich.
  • World languages and literatures—Christopher G. Miller of Brighton, Mich.

The Presidential Scholars Convocation is sponsored by WMU's Faculty Senate and Office of the President.

For more information, contact Janice Anderson, convocation committee chair and Faculty Senate administrator, at or (269) 387-3310, or Elena Gaudio, convocation committee member and executive secretary to WMU's president, at or (269) 387-2351.