Watch the virtual Cellebration of Achievement here

Celebration of Achievement

SRU recognizes students and faculty with Celebration of Achievement


April 27, 2020

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. — In previous years, Slippery Rock University conducted a Celebration of Achievement with an awards ceremony that recognized faculty and students for their outstanding contributions in the areas of academics, research, scholarship, creative activities and more. While the celebration will continue this year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, it will come in the form of a video presentation rather than an on-campus ceremony. But that alteration won't deter from the tremendous achievements of the group of honorees.

Highlighting the awards is the selection 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. Nikol Damato, a senior dual history and interdisciplinary programs major from Ellwood City, was selected as the University's nominee by SRU President William Behre. The winner will be selected by the board of governors later this year.



Damato has already won a variety of scholarships and awards while at SRU, including the President's Civic Leadership Award and as a Board of Governors Scholar. An Honors College student, Damato was active in a variety of roles on campus including a Student Government Association senator, a First-Year Leader Scholar Mentor, a student worker for the Office for Community-Engaged Learning and an intern at the Macoskey Center for Sustainability Education and Research.

Among her roles with OCEL, Damato helped coordinate global service learning programs, including a program in Cochabamba, Bolivia. With the Macoskey Center, she organized a food justice workshop series for students and formed a coalition with campus and community leaders to address student food insecurity on campus. She also completed a service-learning project in Puerto Rico through the nonprofit organization Caras con Causa.

Damato also excelled in research, as her poster "Suburbs and Scholarship: Women in Higher Education in Bellevue, PA, 1904-1914," won second place at the Pennsylvania Historical Association Annual Meeting in 2019.

"Nikol exemplifies the gifts and qualities that I wish for every undergraduate student in the State System," Behre wrote in her recommendation letter. "Clearly, she is not satisfied with getting by, and she lives to maximize all opportunities available to her. I maintain that her greatest quality is using those opportunities to improve and enhance the world around her. She is a model of SRU's academic best and the values represented by the Syed Ali-Zaidi Award for Academic Excellence."

Damato plans to pursue a law degree after graduating.

Also being recognized are the Presidential Undergraduate Scholars, which are given 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. Recipients will receive a Wendell August Forge coaster, ribbon and certificate in the mail.

Other awards included as part of the celebration are:

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 include Addison Winterhalter, a senior management major from Venetia; Madeline McCleary, a graduate student majoring in elementary education from Slippery Rock; Melanie Hook, a senior physics major from Greensburg; and Christian Skinner, a senior English major from Valencia.

Outstanding Student Academic Leader Awards: 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 outstanding leadership within an academic department or college. Winners include: Hope Crimbchin, a senior accounting major from Cabot; Katlyn Allison, a senior early childhood/special education major from Carmichaels; Bradley Schweitzer, a senior mathematics major from Spartansburg; and Antoinette Zappia, a senior corporate security major from Freedom.

Service Leader Awards: These awards are presented to students that demonstrate social responsibility, commitment to addressing social issues and the capacity and commitment to work collectively and collaboratively with others to address common priorities. The awards this year recognize the three interns in SRU's Bonner Leader program: Jacqueline Routhier, a junior early childhood/special education major from Rocky Mount, North Carolina; Montanna McClue, a sophomore neuroscience major from Spartansburg; and Edward Quinones, a junior homeland security major from Easton.

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. Anali Silva Puentes, a senior early childhood education major from Pittsburgh, has been named the International awardee. Rebecca Krawczak, a senior psychology major from Pittsburgh, has received the Domestic honor.

First Year Leader Scholar Program Board of Governors Scholarship recipients: This award is presented to SRU students who have successfully graduated from the FYLSP with consideration given to their involvement as a leader in a student club or organization. This year's recipient is Rebecca Parry, a junior computer science major from New Castle.

President's Awards for faculty include Pedro Salas Camus, an instructor of modern languages and cultures, recognized for Scholarly and Creative Achievement; and Laura Kelley, assistant professor of elementary education and early childhood, for Excellence in Teaching.

All certificates, plaques and ribbons will be mailed to the recipients.

MEDIA CONTACT: Justin Zackal | 724.738.4854 |