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Student Award Winners and Speaker to Be Honored at Commencement

Student Leaders and Exceptional Scholars Recognized

Our student Commencement speaker and award winners epitomize the message emblazoned on the t-shirts the Class of 2017 received when they arrived in the fall of 2013: “Your Only Limits are Self-Imposed.” They are student leaders, exceptional scholars, and active community members.

Dylan Healy, Janet Zapor, and Lyla O’Brien will receive awards during the Undergraduate Commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 21. Julia Piri will deliver the student Commencement address.

Dylan Healy ’17, John G. Lee Medal 

Dylan Healy '17The John G. Lee Medal is awarded annually to a graduating senior from Greater Hartford who has excelled academically while demonstrating a deep commitment to community. The psychology major in the University’s College of Arts and Sciences achieved academic excellence by earning a cumulative 3.95 GPA. During his first semester, Dylan made a positive impression on academic advisor Jessica Nicklin, associate dean of student academic services and the Belle K. Ribicoff endowed professor in the College of Arts and Sciences. Nicklin invited Dylan to join her research team during his second semester.

Dylan is a member of the Alpha Chi, Psi Chi, Sigma Alpha Pi, and Alpha Lambda Delta honor societies, and he completed several research projects that earned authorship at Eastern Psychological Association conferences in Philadelphia, New York, and Boston.

He is assistant program director for the University’s Orientation program for incoming students, director of the University’s Accessible Transportation Program through the Center for Community Service, a teaching assistant for the First-Year Seminar program, and a tutor in the Student Success Center. As a musician and member of an on-campus a cappella group, Dylan’s passion for music led him to also earn a minor in performing arts management and serve as music director of student-run radio station WSAM.

Janet Zapor ’17, Belle K. Ribicoff Prize

Janet ZaporAs a biomedical engineering major with a pre-med concentration in the University’s College of Engineering, Technology, and Architecture (CETA), Janet serves as a role model for young women pursuing careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). She prides herself on reaching her academic goals through hard work and intellectual curiosity, qualities that make her the ideal candidate for the Belle K. Ribicoff Prize, which is awarded for academic excellence.

For her honors thesis on the development of a blood vessel detection system designed to reduce patient pain during the intravenous (IV) insertion process, Janet drew on her experiences as an emergency medical technician. Her research findings were presented at the University’s 2016 Undergraduate Research and Creativity Colloquium.

Janet plans to apply her medical training to a career in humanitarian response medicine, helping victims of natural and man-made disasters. She will enter the U.S. Air Force as a second lieutenant attending the F. Edward Hébert School of Medicine at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in August 2017, following officer training in July.

In addition to being a resident facilities assistant at the University, where she performs monthly inspections of fire safety equipment, Janet completed an internship at Smiths Medical in nearby Southington, Conn., and is a member of the Society of Women Engineers, Alpha Chi National College Honor Society, and Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society.

Lyla O’Brien ’17, John G. Martin Scholarship

Lyla O'BrienA biology and environmental studies minor in the College of Arts and Sciences, Lyla is the first University of Hartford student to receive a prestigious Greater Research Opportunities Fellowship from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The program provided financial support for her junior and senior years, as well as funding for environmental research with the EPA in Narragansett, R.I. Her work involved a wetland restoration project on Martha’s Vineyard and the study of long-term water quality in Narragansett Bay.

The University presented Lyla with awards for excellence and outstanding achievement in the courses Molecular Cellular Biology and Developmental Biology, as well as the Rachel Carson Award for Ecology. Her academic advisor, Associate Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies Program Director Bin Zhu, recruited her to work on a study funded by the University’s Women’s Advancement Initiative on “flipped” classes in life sciences.

Other research projects include one with Zhu on water quality and the biodiversity of aquatic plants, and another with Assistant Professor of Biology Adam Silver that focused on identifying the virulence factors of staph aureus, a strain of bacteria. In addition, she worked as a tutor and a chemistry lab teaching assistant. Lyla served as a course assistant for a marine debris policy class taught by Katharine Owens, associate professor of public and environmental politics and director of the All-University Curriculum.

Through the John G. Martin Scholarship, O’Brien will pursue a degree in Biodiversity, Conservation, and Management at the University of Oxford this fall.

Julia Piri ’17, Student Commencement Speaker

Julia PiriJulia will deliver the Charge to the Graduating Class of 2017.  A business management major in the Barney School of Business, Julia is the president of the Student Government Association (SGA). She has been a part of the SGA since her sophomore year, when she served as the senator for the Barney School. She later went on to serve on the executive board, being elected public relations vice president in her junior year. She is also a former resident assistant, as well as an orientation leader, serving as the assistant director of orientation in the summer of 2016.

“Julia has natural leadership abilities,” says Susan Fitzgerald, SGA advisor and senior advisor to University President Walter Harrison. “She wants to be the best leader that she can be and is willing to learn different approaches and communication styles to get there. Julia is also creative and fun and doesn’t get easily discouraged. She enjoys a good challenge and works hard to find a solution.”

Julia is also one of the recipients of this year’s Dean of Students Recognition Award.