SRU’s Academic Honors and Student Leadership Convocation kicks off “Salute to Excellence” activities


Academic Honors and Student Leadership Convocation

March 3, 2016

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Slippery Rock University will honor more than 2,900 students, as well as present the winners of the President's Awards for Excellence in Teaching and Academic Advising, as part of the Academic Honors and Student Leadership Convocation at 1:30 p.m., March 19 in Morrow Field House. The event is the first in a series of activities focusing on excellence at SRU.

Included among the student honorees are:

  • Presidential Scholars: SRU Presidential Scholars represent the top 20 students in their class based on overall GPA and meeting minimum required credit hours earned at the University. Required: Sophomores, at least 28 credit hours earned at SRU; juniors, at last 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 2015.
  • 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.
  • Deans' List Students: Deans' list students for spring and fall semester 2015 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.
  • Community Service Learning Scholars: Community Service Learning Scholars, recognized by the Corporation for National Service, must earn a minimum overall GPA of 3.5 or higher and have volunteered a minimum of 100 hours of registered service through the Center for Student Involvement and Leadership.
  • Student Leadership: AVI Foodsystems, 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 recognized at the Rising Star Award Ceremony at 5 p.m., April 27 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.
  • Norton Undergraduate Research Scholarship Winners: The Norton Undergraduate Research Scholarship is a scholarship program designed to assist undergraduate students in their pursuit of academic research or creative activity. The Scholarship program is open to sophomore or junior status undergraduate students who have demonstrated a 3.0 grade point average both cumulatively and in the major in which the research will be conducted.
Jennifer Willford


The President's Award for Excellence in Teaching will be presented to Jennifer Willford, an assistant professor of psychology. 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.

"Without question, Jennifer Willford meets all of these requirements," said SRU President Cheryl Norton. "It is a pleasure and source of pride to see faculty so strongly dedicated to making themselves, their students and the SRU community a pillar of higher education."

Willford's nomination received staunch support from current, former and international students alike. More than 20 letters of recommendation were submitted in support of her nomination.

Jeananne Nicholls


Jeananne Nicholls, associate professor in SRU's School of Business, is being honored for her dedication and outstanding service to students with this year's President's Award for Outstanding Academic Advising.

Nicholls, who joined SRU in 2011, was one of 12 faculty members to receive three or more student nominations for the award. In total, more than 185 students nominated 91 faculty members.

Norton said of Nicholls, "(She has) gone above and beyond to dedicate the time to make sure every student receives the assistance they need to be successful at SRU and in the future.

"The outpouring of support from her students in recognition of her nomination speaks volumes to the care and depth of feeling she put into her work with them."

Kaisha Jantsch


Kaisha Jantsch, an English: creative writing major from Zelienople, will serve as the event's student speaker.

Jantsch, who will graduate in May, is a 4.0 GPA student, has twice been named one of the Top 20 Presidential Scholars at SRU (2014 sophomore class, 2015 junior class), as well as outstanding English major for the 2015-16 academic year.

She has been a recipient of the Bass Outstanding Junior Award, and has been awarded the PASSHE, APSCUF, Meiping Chen and Razzano scholarships. She has served as the historian for the Eta Delta chapter of Sigma Tau Delta.

Jantsch has performed volunteer work and community service with Salvation Army, Act One Annual Charity Gala, Reading for the Cure, Relay for Life and Passavant Retirement Home.

Samantha Passarello


She will graduate with a dual minor in political science minor and film and media studies.

SRU will also recognize Samantha Passarello, an information systems and information technology dual major from North Huntingdon as the University's nominee for the 2016 Syed Ali-Zaidi Award. Pennsylvania's State System of Higher Education board of governors presents the award.

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

Passarello, who will graduate in May, received multiple faculty nominations based upon her academic abilities and leadership qualities. She has been named to the Dean's List on six occasions and is also in the Honors Program.

A reception in the GrassTex area of the field house will immediately follow.

MEDIA CONTACT: Robb King | 724.738.2199 |