SRU recognized several students for research, academic leadership and more at 2024 Celebration of Achievement


student receiving an award

From left, Kelli Galbraith was recognized for being Slippery Rock University's  finalist for Syed Ali-Zaidi Award for Academic Excellence by Michael Zieg, SRU’s provost.

April 3, 2024

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. — Slippery Rock University recognized several students at its annual Celebration of Achievement awards ceremony, April 2, in the Smith Student Center Ballroom, highlighted by the announcement of SRU's nominee for the Syed Ali-Zaidi Award for Academic Excellence.

Kelli Galbraith, a senior mathematics major from Gibsonia, is SRU's finalist for the Ali-Zaidi award, which is given to a graduating senior in Pennsylvania's State System of Higher Education who exemplifies academic excellence and involvement. A selection committee appointed by the State System chancellor reviews all nominees' accomplishments and selects a winner. The winner will receive $1,000 and will be announced later this month. The award was established by Syed Ali-Zaidi, a charter member of the PASSHE Board of Governors.

Galbraith has a 4.0 grade-point average who presented two research projects in three states earlier this year, including a presentation on fractal dimension applied to human iris recognition, presented at the 2024 Joint Mathematical Meeting, and a case study for support vector machines, decision tree and random forest, presented at the 2023 North American Power Symposium. Last summer, she was an intern with the U.S. Department of Energy Omni Technology Alliance at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.

Galbraith is also involved with the SRU Honors College and the Math Club and Delight Christian Ministries at SRU.

She plans to pursue her master's degree at SRU in secondary education and enter a teaching career in education at the secondary or college levels.

Other awards presented at the Celebration of Achievement included:

The Outstanding Students in Research, Scholarship or Creative Activity. These awards recognize students from each of SRU's five colleges -- College of Business, College of Education, College of Engineering and Science, College of Health Professions and College of Liberal Arts -- based on their involvement in a variety of research, scholarly and creative projects:

  • Jessica Stroh, a graduate student majoring in business administration from Monroeville. Stroh authored a research paper titled "Breaking Through Barriers: Women in Finance" which she presented as a poster during the Spring 2023 Student Research Symposium. This paper explored the lack of female representation in the upper echelons of the finance industry. Stroh furthered her research by looking into careers in the financial services industry over the following summer and through Fall 2023.
  • Mitchell McCleary, a senior physical and health education major from Slippery Rock. McCleary has been the most active and accomplished physical and health education undergraduate student in both grant acquisition and scientific research for the last three years. During the 2022 spring semester, he won a $1,500 SRU Student Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activities Grant to research "The Effects of Muscular Power versus Muscular Strength for Upper Body Strength of College Aged Students." He followed that with another grant in the Spring of 2023: the Summer Collaborative Research Experience grant for Community Strength Training: Muscular Power versus Muscular Strength Upper Body Training, for more than $4,000. Mitchell's research has been presented at the SRU's research symposium and nationally at the SHAPE America convention.
  • Olivia Kaminski, a junior biology major from New Castle. Kaminski started an extracurricular research project with Stacey Hrizo, professor of biology, in March of 2022, in which they examined if a commonly used pesticide activates stress responses in three different human cell lines. They received an SRU SCORE grant that enabled them to work in the lab during the summer of 2022. Kaminski presented her research at a national meeting, Discover Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, in Seattle, Washington, in March of 2023, and at the SRU Research Symposium in April 2023. During the summer of 2023, Kaminski completed a summer undergraduate research experience with the cardiac program at Washington University of St. Louis Medical School, completing 10 weeks of research on ultrasound data collection for a cardiac research program at the medical school. She then presented her research results at an international cardiac research meeting in Seattle in October 2023.
  • Riley Page, a junior recreational therapy major from Windber. Page has assisted in the SRU faculty-student research project comparing the effectiveness of education and seated yoga for fall prevention. His research poster won the 2023 Best Research Poster at the American Therapeutic Recreation Association annual meeting and he is working with SRU faculty members on a full-length research article for the Therapeutic Recreation Journal. Last summer, Page worked in an undergraduate research fellowship at the University of Utah where he was paired into biking buddies to complete shared rides using a side-by-side adaptive bike. He presented a poster at the University of Utah student symposium, and published his research, in an Undergraduate Research Journal.
  • Michael LaBella, a senior music education major from Glenshaw. LaBella has received more than $10,000 in grant money while at SRU, including a $1,500 SRU Student Research, Scholarship and Creative Activities Grant for the implementation of SRU Bassoon Day that addressed gaps in teachers' knowledge. During the summer of 2022, LaBella secured a $5,000 SRU SCORE grant for a project titled "Music Education in Urban, Suburban, and Rural Schools," in which he conducted Zoom interviews with music educators, and he presented his research at the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association conference in April 2023. He also did research through a SRU Faculty-Student Research grant, worth $5,000, for a field experience immersion in music project in New Mexico. He is currently working on a book about the history of the Shaler Area School District Band Program.

The Outstanding Student Academic Leaders. These awards recognize students from each of SRU's five colleges based on their outstanding leadership within an academic department or college:

  • Bhodie Cummings, a junior dual finance and economics major from Warren. Cummings is co-president of the Finance and Economics Club at SRU. He and other executive board members have revived the club, holding bi-weekly meetings, coordinating field trips, and organizing activities including guest speaker events and Google certificate signups.
  • Heaven Jacoway, a junior elementary education/early childhood major from Sharon. Jacoway has demonstrated leadership in the Jump Start Program, as a peer leader for the FYRST seminar, and a RockTeach Ambassador who actively goes to schools, presents research, and leads groups of students on campus. 
  • Daniel Miller, a senior mathematics major from Pittsburgh. Miller is the president of the Pre-Service Teachers of Mathematics Club at SRU. As president, Miller has both continued the success of the Math Family Nights and organized new outreach opportunities for the club. Miller and several other club members led three mini-mathematics lessons for students at Slippery Rock Elementary School. He has also served as a FYRST Seminar peer leader, tutor in the Mathematics and Statistics Assistance Center and worked as a supplemental instruction tutor.
  • Leanne Digman, a junior recreational therapy major from Denver. Digman is the secretary of the Recreational Therapy Club at SRU and has served as a FYRST seminar peer leader for two years. Leanne is the founder and inaugural president of the Interprofessional Education Club, and she ensures the Brain Injury Support Program runs smoothly for participants and their families, as well as the student volunteers. In the RT Research Lab, she has helped organize and facilitate the research process for the falls prevention for older adults research grant. Her research poster won the Best Research Poster Award at the ATRA conference.
  • Ericka Morton, a senior dance major from Pittsburgh. Mortan has served as student leader of the Palenque, the SRU Dance Department's outreach and touring company. She currently leads rehearsals, participates in the production of the company's many performances throughout the academic year, and she helps coordinate the touring aspects of the company and serves as the main liaison between the students and the artistic director. She is one of two student directors for the SRU Dance Theatre company, and she served as the student rehearsal director for Martha Graham's historic work "Steps in the Street," and she is currently serving as a student rehearsal director for guest artist Nathan Trice's "Their Speech is Silver, Their Silence is Gold."

The Global Leader Awards. These awards are presented to students who have demonstrated the desire to pursue a truly global education, through committed involvement in the opportunities provided by SRU for global learning, global experiences and meaningful engagement with people from other countries and cultures. The recipients include:

  • Kaylee Villanueva Santos, a graduate student in the TESOL program from Kissimmee, Florida. Villanueva Santos participated in a short-term program abroad to Sweden with the College of Education in May 2023 and then took part in a summer 2023 language and culture program in South Korea. She also completed her studies at SRU by student teaching in Madrid, Spain.
  • Hailie Moggee, a senior accounting major from Spanish Fort, Alabama. Moggee, who was born and raised in South Africa until age 7, has participated in campus and community initiatives, highlighting her commitment to fostering diversity, inclusion, and mutual respect among her peers. Moggee has served as an International Club Executive Board member at SRU, an international orientation student worker, and a contributor to the Office for Global Engagement.

SRU President's Award recipients, consisting mostly of SRU employees, were also recognized at the Celebration of Achievement.

MEDIA CONTACT: Justin Zackal | 724.738.4854  |