SRU honors campus community members at 2022 Celebration of Achievement


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Emma Yoder, a Slippery Rock University senior mathematics major from Marietta, Georgia, is SRU’s finalist for the Syed R. Ali-Zaidi Award for Academic Excellence. She was recognized, along with many other award recipients at SRU’s Celebration of Achievement, April 5.

April 6, 2022

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. — Slippery Rock University hosted its annual Celebration of Achievement awards ceremony April 5, at the Smith Student Center, recognizing faculty and students for their outstanding contributions in the areas of academics, research, scholarship, creative activities and more.

The highlight of the annual event is the announcement of SRU's finalist for the Syed R. Ali-Zaidi Award for Academic Excellence, which is given to a graduating senior in Pennsylvania's State System of Higher Education who exemplifies academic excellence and involvement. SRU's 2022 finalist is Emma Yoder, a senior mathematics major from Marietta, Georgia.

"This is a big honor because there are a lot of talented students and I'm grateful to be selected and nominated by my professors from the Math Department," Yoder said. "Throughout my time at SRU, I've learned to be more resilient, hardworking and kind, and I've learned these things by watching other people set that example, including my professors, coaches, classmates and teammates."

As with all nominees, Yoder excelled in academics, meeting the award's 3.8 GPA requirement, but she was also successful in athletics, as co-captain and starting goalkeeper for The Rock's women's soccer team. She was named second-team, all-PSAC and conference tournament MVP in 2019 while leading SRU to the PSAC championship, this after she came back from a knee injury during her freshman year in 2018.

Being a varsity athlete did not prevent Yoder from finding other ways to become active and serve the campus community. She was a peer statistics and mathematics tutor, notably working with special needs students and serving as an online tutor during the University's move to online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"This time was stressful for all of our students, and Emma had her own transition to address," wrote William Behre, SRU president in his recommendation letter to the Ali-Zaidi Award selection committee. "Regardless, she developed an online tutoring approach early in the pandemic that was effective and responsive to student needs. She has a knack for helping other students understand difficult information, which is a hallmark of a strong tutor."

"I just really like helping people, and because it's important to me, I always try to make time to do that," Yoder said. "Our coaches encourage us to do things outside of the team and be involved on campus. Through my tutoring, I was able to practice and refine teaching strategies as well as observe and assimilate different styles of teaching in regards to math and special education."

After graduation, Yoder will enroll in SRU's master's program in education with a math/science concentration. She plans to become a teacher and coach.

Yoder received $500 for being named SRU's Ali Zaidi Award finalist and she is among 14 finalists from other State System universities, a list from which a winner will be selected later this year.

Other awards presented as part of the Celebration of Achievement were:

  • Outstanding Students in Research, Scholarship or Creative Activity: This award recognizes a student from each of SRU's four colleges -- College of Business, College of Education, College of Health, Engineering and Science and College of Liberal Arts -- based on their involvement in a variety of research, scholarly and creative projects. Winners were Kelsey Burger, a senior communication major from Girard; Tim Houk, a 2021 graduate with a degree in health and physical education from Ellwood City; Brianna Santucci, a senior park and resource management major from Gettysburg; and Monica Yost, a senior dual biology and modern languages and cultures major from Slippery Rock.
  • Outstanding Student Academic Leader Awards: This award recognizes a student from each of SRU's four colleges based on their outstanding leadership within an academic department or college. Winners were Natalie Glenn, a senior resort recreation and hospitality management major from Clarion; Lisa Jablonski, a 2021 graduate with a doctoral degree in special education from Waterford; A.J. Sumser, a senior recreational therapy major from Avon, Ohio; and Amanda Reichert, a senior dual psychology and interdisciplinary programs major from Erie.
  • Student Engagement and Leadership Awards: Michael LaBella, a junior music education major from Glenshaw, received the Board of Governors Scholarship as an SRU student who successfully graduated from the Emerging Leadership Experience Program with consideration given to their campus leadership experiences. Ashley Farrell, a sophomore communication major from Springdale, received the Sheryl Smith Leadership Award, which is awarded to the student who successfully graduated from the Emerging Leadership Experience Program with consideration given to their campus leadership experiences.
  • Global Engagement Award (International and Domestic): These awards are presented to students who exemplify the desire to grow from 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. Beatriz De Araujo Barros Cardoso, a senior management major from Sao Sebastiao, Brazil, was named the international awardee. Courtney Cudia, a senior health and physical education major from Bohemia, New York, received the domestic honor.
  • President's Awards for faculty, staff and community partners included Shawn Davis, assistant professor of parks, conservation and recreational therapy, receiving the President's Award for Excellence in Teaching; Molly Mistretta, assistant professor of counseling and development, and Qi Chen, associate professor of chemistry, receiving the President's Awards for Scholarly and Creative Achievement; Tami Micsky, assistant professor of public health and social work, and Jennifer Willford, associate professor of psychology, receiving the President's Award for Advising Excellence; and the President's Awards for Civic Engagement, which included Cassandra Eisenreich, assistant professor of music, receiving the Civic Engagement Ambassador Award; Austin Shaffer, a graduate student majoring in occupational therapy from Erie, receiving the Student Civic Leadership Award; and Slippery Rock Middle School receiving the Community Partner Award.

Also recognized at the event were the Presidential Undergraduate Scholars, a designation awarded to the top 20 seniors, juniors and sophomores based on overall grade-point average of those who meet a minimum credit hour requirement at SRU.

More information about the Celebration of Achievement is available on the SRU website or contacting 724.738.4191 or

MEDIA CONTACT: Justin Zackal | 724.738.4854  |