Academic Honors and Student Leadership Convocation kicks off SRU’s “Celebration of Excellence” activities


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Feb. 26, 2018

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Slippery Rock University will honor thousands of students, and present the winners of the President's Awards for Excellence in Teaching and Outstanding Academic Advising, as part of the University's Academic Honors and Student Leadership Convocation. The annual event, which kicks off the University's month-long "Celebration of Excellence," will take place at 1:30 p.m., April 7 in Morrow Field House.

Among the categories of students to be honored are:

-Presidential Scholars: SRU Presidential Scholars represent the top 20 students in their class based on overall GPA and meeting the minimum required credit hours earned at the University. Required: Sophomores, at least 28 credit hours earned at SRU; juniors, at least 40 credit hours earned at SRU; seniors, at least 52 credit hours earned at SRU. Students must have successfully completed a minimum total of 12 credit hours during 2017.

-Honors Program Graduates: The University Honors Program offers students an opportunity to gain the most from their undergraduate careers. Students enrolled in the Honors Program take 21 credit hours of special course work in limited enrollment classes that emphasize extensive reading, critical thinking, intensive writing and group discussion. In order to earn recognition as program graduates, students must maintain a 3.25 GPA or higher and participate in various honors activities, including community service, leadership and extracurricular requirements.

-Outstanding Students in Research, Scholarship or Creative Activity and Outstanding Student Academic Leader: Students in each of the four colleges (College of Business, College of Education, College of Health, Environment and Science, and College of Liberal Arts) are involved in many research, scholarly and creative projects as well as academic leadership activities. In recognition of the importance of student scholarship and leadership at SRU, each college has recognized an outstanding student in the area of research, scholarship and creative activity and an outstanding student academic leader.

-Dean's List Students: Dean's list students for spring and fall semester 2017 are those who have excelled in their course work and have earned semester averages ranging from 3.5 to 4.0 on at least 12 newly-earned credits.

-Scholar Athletes: Scholar athletes, recognized by the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference, must achieve a 3.25 cumulative GPA or higher while competing in a varsity sport.

-Student Leadership: A number of individuals from a variety of groups will be recognized including: Student Government Association board members, Service Leadership Coordinators, First Year Leader Scholar Program Peer Mentors, Jump Start Peer Mentors, Community Assistants and Rising Stars.

AVI Fresh, Inc. sponsors 10 stars in the International Star Registry to honor and recognize students who have exemplified outstanding leadership. Seven of these stars are awarded to "Rising Stars." One is awarded to the Student Leader of the Year, one to the Silent Inspiration Award Winner and one to the Student Community Service awardee. The award winners will be announced at the Rising Star Award Ceremony at 5 p.m., April 25 in the Smith Student Center Ballroom.

-Academic Scholarship Winners: Each academic scholarship is established with certain criteria. Students must meet these requirements to be eligible for a particular scholarship.

The President's Award for Excellence in Teaching will be presented to Jonathan Helmick, as assistant professor of music. The award honors a faculty member whose primary responsibility is teaching. Those nominated must demonstrate an exemplary commitment to teaching and student learning and must maintain a classroom that promotes high student engagement while pursuing scholarly growth that enhances teaching.

"I commend Jonathan on his accomplishments as an outstanding teacher and am proud that he is a member of our faculty," said Philip Way, SRU interim president. "The decision to award Jonathan this honor was based on many factors, including his commitment to teaching beyond contractual obligations, a participatory and engaging pedagogy, developing and using innovative classroom practices and his commitment to scholarly growth."

Bruce Boliver, assistant professor of Hospitality, Event Management and Tourism, is being honored for his dedication and outstanding service to students with this year's President's Award for Outstanding Academic Advising.

Boliver, who joined SRU in 1977, is the chair of the Hospitality, Event Management and Tourism Department. He also serves as the department's internship coordinator and has supervised more than 1,500 interns. During his time at SRU, Boliver has also served as chair of the PREE Department (15 years), associate athletic director (five years), intramural director (nine years) and assistant football coach (14 years).

In announcing the award, SRU Interim President Philip Way told Boliver, "You have gone above and beyond to dedicate the time to make sure every student receives the assistance they need to be successful at Slippery Rock University and in the future.

"The decision to award you this year's honor comes as a result of the enthusiastically strong recommendations from several of the students you have advised. It is obvious from that show of support, the difference you have made in their academic and personal lives."

Matthew Heffelfinger, an exercise science major from Emmaus, has been selected as the Convocation's student speaker.

Heffelfinger, who will graduate in May, has a 4.0 grade point average. He has been named one of Slippery Rock University's Top 20 Presidential Scholars three times; and is the recipients of a variety of scholarships, including: Dr. Bob Murray Endowed Scholarship for Exercise Science (spring 2015); Honors Program Student Scholarship (fall 2015); Highmark Healthcare Scholarship (spring 2016); and APSCUF Faculty Scholarship (spring 2017).

A student researcher, Heffelfinger has worked alongside Qi Chen, assistant professor of chemistry, to design and synthesize L-Neplanocin analogues as antiviral agents. In doing so, the pair have explored, modified and designed organic/synthetic pathways regarding nucleoside analogues and their drug action mechanisms. They have presented their research at the SRU Symposium for Student Research (March 2017) and the National Honors Collegiate Conference in Atlanta (November 2017).

Heffelfinger, an Honors Program student, is widely involved on campus with a variety of extracurricular activities, including: Pre-Med Club where he organized and managed fundraising for the club's St. Jude "Up 'til 2" team and served as a mentor to guide younger students through the undergraduate and medical application process; has traveled to Antigua and Barbuda, West Indies, to experience the challenges of health care in the Caribbean; and serves as a senator on the Slippery Rock Student Government Association.

He has years of volunteer experience with the Institute for Hand & Upper Extremity Rehabilitation in Allentown, where he developed a 160-exercise Home Therapy Program, which is customizable and prescribed to patients by registered/licensed occupational therapists.

On campus, Heffelfinger has worked as a student teaching assistant in the Department of Chemistry and as an academic tutor at Bailey Library, specializing in biology, chemistry and exercise science courses, while teaching other students about time management, teamwork and study habit skills.

SRU will also recognize Grascen Shidemantle, a biology major from Slippery Rock, as the University's nominee for the 2018 Syed Ali-Zaidi Award. Pennsylvania's State System of Higher Education board of governors presents the award.

Shidemantle's nomination followed rigorous internal procedures that included nominations from across the University's academic community.

She will graduate in May with a major in physics and a minor in Spanish. An active member of the University Honors Program, she serves as the program's executive board president, while immersing herself in academics, research, international study and leadership opportunities at SRU.

Shidemantle has earned the Norton Undergraduate Research Grant; the George Smith Research Grant; the Student Research, Scholarship and Creative Activities Grant; and the Summer Undergraduate Research Experience. She has also been awarded an impressive eight scholarships throughout her undergraduate career and was named the 2017 Commonwealth of Pennsylvania University Biologists Outstanding Research Student. Shidemantle is an active member of Beta Beta Beta, the biology national honor society; a member of the SRU Green Fund Grant Advisory Board which reviews grant proposals for sustainability projects in amounts up to $20,000; and a member of The Awesome Spirit of Wildlife, a nonprofit organization that rescues and rehabilitates neglected exotic pets. Through her international travels, she gained Spanish fluency and served as a goodwill ambassador, including delivering professional presentations on U.S. culture in Spanish.

Shidemantle has earned Dean's List status in every semester she been enrolled at the University, carrying a 4.0 GPA in her major, as well as her minor. In addition to excellence in the classroom, she is also a devoted researcher, having spent the last three years working with Paul Falso, assistant professor of biology, in his aquatic lab exploring how pesticides impact amphibian development. As a result of this work, she has presented at regional and national conferences and has been awarded numerous

grants to continue her work, including an opportunity to intern at the Center for the Integrative Study of Animal Behavior at Indiana University.

These laboratory experiences have help shape her future, as she will be attending graduate school and pursuing a research career in biology and ecology.

MEDIA CONTACT: Robb King | 724.738.2199 |