Meet Our Presidential Scholars for 2013-2014

SUNY Plattsburgh awards over $4 million in merit-based scholarships each year, but only one percent of all applicants will be nominated for the prestigious, full-tuition Presidential Scholarship. Last year, four of our best incoming students were selected to receive this award; let’s hear a few of their stories:

Grace DeSantis

Photo of Grace DeSantis

List five words that describe your personality: Loyal, Adventurous, Diligent, Honest, Ambitious.

Why did you choose SUNY Plattsburgh? I decided to go to SUNY Plattsburgh because of the location and campus. Being in close proximity to a small city, the Adirondack Mountains, and Lake Champlain has allowed me to enjoy the surrounding community, appreciate the outdoors, and study up close the topics of my science classes.

Name one favorite or memorable academic experience you have already had during your first semester on campus: The most memorable academic experience I have had is definitely the outcrop fieldtrip for Geology 101 Laboratory. It is great having the opportunity to apply what we learn in class to the surrounding area. Plus, it was a fun way to explore some of the Adirondacks.

What clubs, organizations, and/or activities are you involved in at SUNY Plattsburgh? What has been your favorite experience in these activities to date? I am an environmental chairperson for the Wilson Hall Council, a member of the Uke-A-Dooks (Ukulele club), Environmental Action Committee, Outing Club, and WQKE “The Quake” Radio Station. So far, my favorite activity has been a rock climbing trip in New Paltz with the Outing Club. It was an amazing experience and a weekend that I will never forget!

Describe how the Honors Program is positively shaping your academic experience and what you are enjoying most about being in the program: Being in the Honors Program has introduced me to a new form of learning. The open style of the Honors Seminars create an intellectual dynamic of discussion and a sharing of knowledge and opinions. There are a variety of seminars to choose from, all of which have intriguing and unconventional topics. I am looking forward to taking “Culture and Philosophy of Yoga” next semester!

What are your career aspirations after college? After college, I plan on going to graduate school for sustainability. Although I am unsure of exactly what employment I want to have in the future, lately I have been considering working with alternative energy. I would love to travel as much as possible.

What is the one item you are thankful you brought with you to school this year and couldn’t imagine living without? I cannot imagine living at college without my memory box. Moving away from home is a drastic change, so it is comforting to reminisce over old pictures and memoirs.

Jenette Dziezynski

Photo of Jenette Dziezynski

List five words that describe your personality: Persistent, Caring, Dedicated, Outgoing, Thoughtful.

Why did you choose SUNY Plattsburgh? I chose Plattsburgh because I loved the area and the town, and I was very impressed by the CDS department here. The atmosphere was very friendly and fun, and overall it just seemed like a good fit.

Name one favorite or memorable academic experience you have already had during your first semester on campus: A memorable experience for me was going on a hike with the Honors Program. A bunch of us climbed a mountain and then had lunch afterwards. We even slacklined on top of the mountain! It was a fun day, and definitely one to remember.

What clubs, organizations, and/or activities are you involved in at SUNY Plattsburgh? What has been your favorite experience in these activities to date? I am involved in the NSSLHA (the club for CDS majors on campus). I like that the club presents CDS students with so many opportunities to attend lectures given by different speakers; you can really learn a lot! I also take Zumba classes in the Memorial Gym, which are awesome!

Describe how the Honors Program is positively shaping your academic experience and what you are enjoying most about being in the program: I love the Honors Program. We do a lot of fun activities, which allows you to meet so many cool people. It's also nice to have such a supportive community of peers and the professors are great as well. I especially like all the diverse classes offered to the honors students.

Name the person/people who have been most influential in your life and the impact they have had on who you are today: Of course, all of my friends and family have helped me get to where I am today, but my parents have been the most supportive of all. They always encourage me to do my best, but what I'm most grateful for is that they make sure I know that it's okay to not be perfect and to fail, so long as you pick yourself back up and try again.

What is the one item you are thankful you brought with you to school this year and couldn't imagine living without? I'm thankful that my roommate brought a printer! It's perfect when you don't want to walk all the way to the library in the winter to print out an assignment

Hope VanBrocklin

Photo of Hope VanBrocklin

List five words that describe your personality: Motivated, Intelligent, Competitive, Determined, Intuitive.

Why did you choose SUNY Plattsburgh? When I first visited SUNY Plattsburgh's campus, I immediately fell in love with its natural beauty and with the school's science department. I also had the opportunity to play collegiate softball.

Name one favorite or memorable academic experience you have already had during your first semester on campus: The most memorable experience I've had during this semester definitely has to be in my Honors Seminar with Dr. Cohen. During the "Science, Evolution & Human Origin" course, he taught us to go into depths of thought that I have never experienced before. He also guided each person individually, showing incredible dedication and care to all of his students.

What clubs, organizations, and/or activities are you involved in at SUNY Plattsburgh? What has been your favorite experience in these activities to date? I am currently involved in the Honors Student Association and am on SUNY Plattsburgh's softball team. My favorite memory by far has to be the softball team's fall play date. There is nothing better than softball, food, and family!

Describe how the Honors Program is positively shaping your academic experience and what you are enjoying most about being in the program: The Honors Program has allowed me to take an Honors Seminar that has by far been my most challenging course. With this, though, I have expanded my base of knowledge tremendously and found a passion for all types of sciences.

Name the person/people who have been most influential in your life and the impact they have had on who you are today: My parents have always been the most influential factors in my life. My father and mother have supported me in everything I do and also push me to become better in all aspects of life. Their guidance is the main reason why I was awarded this prestigious scholarship!

What are your career aspirations after college? My goal is to join the Environmental Protection Agency so I can protect, conserve, and make our future environment a healthier place for all.

What is the one item you are thankful you brought with you to school this year and couldn't imagine living without? That key item definitely has to be my Keurig coffee maker that I got as a graduation present from my parents. I would not be able function in those early morning classes without a dose of caffeine!

Genevieve Dakota Balunis

List five words that describe your personality: Eccentric, Diligent, Insightful, Adaptable, Loquacious.

Why did you choose SUNY Plattsburgh? I chose Plattsburgh because of its academic rigor. Plattsburgh is one of those schools that keeps you academically engaged while still leaving you time to pursue extracurricular activities. The location and overall feel of the college was also a bonus. There’s plenty to do both on-campus and in the surrounding area, so you're never at a loss for a way to spend an afternoon or weekend.

What clubs, organizations, and/or activities are you involved in at SUNY Plattsburgh? I'm a member of the Honors Student Association and an active member of Zombie Defense League (ZDL) club on campus. This last October, ZDL helped sponsor an annual Zombie Walk, which was most definitely a memorable experience. Seeing a mob of zombies walking down the main street in downtown Plattsburgh isn't something you forget easily!

Describe how the Honors Program is positively shaping your academic experience and what you are enjoying most about being in the program: One of the best things about being in the Honors Program is that you get to take an Honors Seminar course each semester. The seminars are small and very tight-knit with excellent professors leading the discussions. You can learn a lot and really change the way you think about the world at large. It’s always engaging and entertaining and the topics are different than what you would traditionally take for your major or minor.

Name the person/people who have been most influential in your life and the impact they have had on who you are today: I owe a lot to my father, who's guided me and really given me the impetus I've needed to apply myself. It's always been the two of us and most of my work ethic and worldview have been modeled off of what he taught me when I was younger.

What is the one item you are thankful you brought with you to school this year and couldn’t imagine living without? While my laptop gets special mention almost by default, I'd have to say that one of the most valuable things I've brought with me this year has been a small desk lamp. When you're staying up late finishing assignments- or you're staying up late in general - it helps to have a small source of light that won't keep your roommate up while still allowing you to see what you're doing.

 

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