Zero-Hour-Brunch-5Prior to the 209th Commencement ceremony, the Division of Student Life carved out time to honor several graduating seniors as recipients of the CLASS Awards. The students were recognized for their achievements during the annual Zero Year Reunion Brunch, held May 22.

In 2009, the Division of Student Life launched Clustered Learning, Advocacy, and Support for Students (CLASS) to provide support and co-curricular opportunities for students throughout their undergraduate years. Through CLASS, students are connected to a network of faculty, staff, and other students who lend support and guidance and help to build a strong community of learners as they strive to become the leaders of tomorrow.

“CLASS, your student experience, is one that has been filled with integrated services, opportunities, events, and interactions to promote student development through engagement across six core themes, resulting in confident, socially conscious, and multifaceted alumni and alumnae,” said Lisa Trahan, assistant vice president for the student experience. “The achievement awards are based on the following six core themes: personal development, professional development, leadership development, cultural development, community, and ‘communiversity.’”

This is the third year that the CLASS Awards were given to graduating seniors. “Faculty and staff were asked to nominate students in these core areas,” Trahan said. “This was no easy task, as many of the people in this room have reached outstanding achievements and embody the ideals of CLASS.”

A total of 14 students were presented with individual CLASS awards for a variety of personal attributes that demonstrate a commitment to excellence and the Rensselaer community. Following are the award winners:


Personal/Self Development

This award is given to a student who is a self-motivated problem-solver and an active member of the Rensselaer community—an individual who was able to explore and appreciate the values of others by defining her/his own personal strengths and ethical values and who has been able to identify the steps to achieving her/his goals while encouraging others to reach their highest potential. This year’s recipients have engaged in transformational opportunities, self-reflection, and discussion that nurtures an understanding of their self-motivation, learning style, interpersonal relationships, and problem-solving approach, and clarifies their personal goals. The award was presented to Arthur Simonds, mechanical engineering; and biomedical engineering majors Andrew Franks and Amanda Lynch.


Professional Development

This award is for a student who has achieved high honors in his/her chosen field of study. The student actively sought out opportunities for professional development through multiple pathways offered at Rensselaer. This year, through participation in undergraduate research, studying abroad, internship(s), co-op, and/or national fellowship/scholarship opportunities, these students were able to connect their talents and skills in unique ways with the goal of pursuing post-graduate work and/or career opportunities in their chosen field. The award was presented to Vienna Yee, chemical engineering; and Andy Lynch, computer and systems engineering.


Leadership Development

This award is given to a student who has engaged in experiences that have broadened his/her capacity for leadership. Through purposeful learning and focus, the students recognized have developed leadership capacity while demonstrating leadership qualities for the benefit of the university. This year’s recipients have engaged in experiences that develop a capacity for leadership, and understand leadership as a lifelong process of purposeful learning that focuses on facilitating collaborative and socially responsible change. The award was presented to Erin Amarello, dual major in mechanical and nuclear engineering who was elected to serve as the 125th President of the Rensselaer Union; and Elise Budd, environmental engineering.


Bhavna Patny

Bhavna Patny

Cultural Development

In recognizing the synergy between science, technology, and the arts, this award is for a student who embraces the arts both personally and academically. Being active participants in artistic performances, exhibits, and forums, students gained a better understanding of how to use art as a tool for personal, public, and professional expression in media. This year’s recipients have engaged in the process of integrating cultural diversity and pluralism into interactions with others, and have developed a broader understanding of social justice globally. The award was presented to Nwakaego Uzoh, chemical engineering; and Stacy Simental, mechanical engineering.



Several students have been involved citizens over the past four years at Rensselaer. These students contributed to and enriched the environment and culture of the university. In bringing diverse groups of individuals together with intersecting values, interests, and goals, these students have connected others in ways that benefit the world at large. The award was presented to Jacob Andrews, chemical engineering; Christina Gilliland, mechanical engineering; and Jessica Krause, chemistry.



Having developed a greater sense of responsibility for others, two students have taken strides to develop a greater sense of civic engagement and social responsibility with local, statewide, national, and international communities linked to Rensselaer. The students have demonstrated multicultural sophistication, participated in civic matters, and helped to create and/or improve partnerships between Rensselaer and its communities. The award was presented to Katherine “Rosie” Rickard, materials engineering; and Jordan Keefe, mechanical engineering.


The CLASS Award

While each of the graduating seniors has grown significantly through engagement in all six growth areas of CLASS, according to Trahan, as a result of one particular student’s work, the university has benefitted tremendously. This year, the CLASS award was presented to Bhavna Patny, mechanical engineering.