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April 5, 2013
CONTACT: K.E. Schwab

SRU math and computer science major earns convocation speaker slot

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Michael Tasota, a Slippery Rock University computer science and mathematics major from Pittsburgh, is both the speaker for the University's annual Academic Honors Convocation and SRU's nominee for the Syed R. Ali-Zaidi Award for Academic Excellence presented by the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.

He will deliver his "The Brief But Magnificent Opportunity" address as part of the convocation at 2 p.m., April 7, in Morrow Field House. PASSHE will announce the Ali-Zaidi award recipients later this month.

TASOTAThe graduating senior was highly recommended for both honors by mathematics and computer science faculty along with Kurt Schimmel, dean of SRU's College of Business, Information and Social Sciences.

Ali-Zaidi nominees must demonstrate outstanding academic performance: be recognized by members of the university faculty; participate in extra/co-curricular activities; and submit an essay addressing how the university has prepared the nominee for the next step in their career.

Tasota will graduate in May with a 4.0 grade point average.

Nominations commended him for his campus involvement, including his participation and success in the Student Cluster Competition at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center, the international William Lowell Putnam Competition, the international Mathematical Contest in Modeling, the PACISE programming competition and the Carnegie Mellon University programming competition.

Tasota is also an active member of campus clubs focused on academic growth, including Kappa Mu Epsilon mathematics honorary; Upsilon Pi Epsilon, National Computer Science Honors Society, where he has served as an officer; the Slippery Rock University Computer Technology Club in which he has served as vice president; the SRU Gaming Group, where he is president; and the Slippery Rock University Math Club. SRU mathematics faculty voted him the Outstanding Mathematics Sophomore in 2011 and the Outstanding Mathematics Junior in 2012.

His professors describe him as "intellectually curious" and as "a natural team leader." He has worked with the SRU Tutorial Center, "an endeavor that indicates his interest in the success of his fellow students," wrote one nominator.

As a student, he has also donated time to multiple campus research projects, including one that led to more efficient routing of campus trash trucks. The project brought tangible financial and green benefits to SRU through gas savings and lessening of exhaust emissions.

Tasota also spends time in film scripting, video editing and music. He works at an off campus restaurant.

Following graduation, he plans to attend graduate school seeking a doctorate in applied mathematics.

His recommendation letters pointed out he was "one of the finest students to come through this department ever...He is an example of Slippery Rock University's academic best and the values represented by the Syed Ali-Zaidi Award." Another noted, "In the classroom Mike is thoughtful, engaging and participative. His work is complete, on time and in a most excellent manner. He is sought-after as a teammate by his peers for class projects. I have observed him helping and tutoring his peers simply because they naturally approach him with questions."

Others nominated to be the convocation student speaker were: Anna Sylvester, a special education and elementary education major from Latrobe; Janelle Krantz, a therapeutic recreation major from Quarryville; and Nicole Young, a dance major from Parma, Ohio.

Benjamas Jirasakuldech, associate professor in Slippery Rock University's School of Business, will be awarded the 2013 President's Award for Scholarly and Creative Achievement, at the convocation, and Thom Cobb, associate professor of dance, will receive the President's Award for Outstanding Service. The President Award for Outstanding Service will also be presented.

The convocation, which salutes SRU's academic success, draws more than 3,000 students, faculty, staff and parents. The event honors spring and fall semester 2012 dean's list students, presidential scholars, academic honoraries, scholar athletes, service learning scholars and scholarship recipients.

Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.