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2018 Chambliss Student Academic Achievement Awards

April 13, 2018

Kutztown University presented the Chambliss Student Academic Achievement Awards on Friday, April 13.  Faculty members nominate students after they have met one or more of the six areas of achievement. Areas in which achievement can occur include: successfully completed research projects, original artwork of high quality, artistic performances (music, chorus, drama, etc.) of high quality, original writing in literature or meritorious writing in other fields, noteworthy athletics, and outstanding service to the KU community.

The Academic Achievement Award was established through a donation provided by Dr. Carlson Chambliss, KU faculty member from 1970-2003. The purpose of the awards is to recognize the exceptional individual achievements of a select group of KU graduating seniors. Specially designed coin medallions of gold, silver and copper were presented to the students.  

Gold Medals

Tiffany Visgaitis Tiffany Visgaitis, a senior physics and astronomy major from Whitehall, Pa., has been awarded the Gold Chambliss Student Academic Achievement Award in the category of successfully completed research projects. Tiffany used the on-campus observatory telescope to co-discover two new exoplanets as well as co-authoring two peer reviewed professional publications detailing the discoveries. Tiffany also attended a conference where she presented her research and participated in workshops intended for graduate students. She also recently traveled to Italy where she worked on a computer code used in exoplanet discovery and presented the work she did there at the winter meeting of the American Astronomical Society. Her work on exoplanet detection has been ongoing for three years now since spring of 2015. She has been on the Dean's List every semester since fall 2015, received the KU College of Liberal Arts & Sciences Dean's Scholar Award in spring 2016, and is the recipient of the Deborah A. James Women in Physics Scholarship for the 2017-2018 school year. In the future, Tiffany plans to attend graduate school and earn a Ph.D. in astrophysics and has already been offered a position in the Case Western Reserve University program.

Silver Medals

Shannon Golden Shannon Golden, a senior mathematics and secondary education major from Allentown, Pa.,  has been awarded the Silver Chambliss Student Academic Achievement Award for successfully completed research projects. Shannon has conducted research as a part of the Research Experiences for Undergraduates program at Lafayette College. She has presented research related to her work at the Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program and at the Algebraic and Extremal Graph Theory, an international conference held at the University of Delaware. Shannon has also presented her work in San Diego at the Joint Mathematics Meeting. She has also worked with others to prepare a paper which will be submitted to a peer reviewed journal, Discrete Mathematics. She is a member of the Kappa Mu Epsilon National mathematics Honor Society as well as the Phi Kappa Phi National Honor Society.  In the future, Shannon plans to attend graduate school where she will pursue a Ph.D. in mathematics.
Matthew Harris Imagine Not Available Matthew Harris, a senior history major from Pine Grove, Pa., has been awarded the Silver Chambliss Student Academic Achievement Award for successfully completed research projects. Matt wrote a paper focused on the topic of what would happen to freed slaves after the Civil War. He is also completing research that examines U.S. military burial ceremonies and customs. Matthew has presented four papers, at local, regional, and national conferences and has also held an internship with the Kutztown Area Historical Society where he digitized and indexed its publications. He is also a part of the honors program and the National History Honorary Society, Phi Alpha Theta. In the future, Matthew plans to obtain an advanced degree in history and has already been accepted into Temple University's program.
Sara Wingert Image Not Available Sara Wingert, a senior anthropology major from Lehighton, Pa., has been awarded the Silver Chambliss Student Academic Achievement Award for successfully completed research projects. Sara's research allowed her to replicate stone and wooden tipped spears to assist her in learning about past cultures way of life. The research was done to aid archaeologists with documentation of bow and arrow use in different parts of the world. Sara has also completed the Pennsylvania German Studies Minor and was one of the first recipients of the KU Bears research grant. She has served as a Presidential Ambassador and in the fall of 2016, gave a presentation about the summer archaeological field school to the Kutztown University Council of Trustees. She is Kutztown University's nominee for the Syed R. Ali-Zaidi Award for Academic Excellence in the PaSSHE system, an award granted to one graduating senior within the PaSSHE system. In the future, Sara plans to attend University College Dublin, where she was awarded a scholarship, for their program in experimental archaeology and material culture.
Fikir D. Wordofa Fikir D. Wordofa, a senior biology and psychology major with minors in bio-chemistry and bioethics, from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, has been awarded the Silver Chambliss Student Academic Achievement Award for successfully completed research projects. She is currently working on a historical/ biological research project focused on the efficacy of Ethiopian traditional medicine. Fikir held an internship with Reading Hospital during which she played a key role in a research project. She started her long term research project while she was still in high school. The research could have a major impact on medical care in Ethiopia where traditional medicine is commonly used. She has been a member of the Kutztown University Honors Program, on the Dean's List, and a KU Health Ambassador since fall 2014. In the future, Fikir plans on attending medical school and has already been accepted into Temple University's program. Once becoming a doctor, she plans to set up programs that combine traditional and western medicine to best treat the ill in Ethiopia.

Copper Medals

Jacob Christ Jacob Christ, a senior physics and mathematics major from New Tripoli, Pa., has been awarded the Copper Chambliss Student Academic Achievement Award in the category of successfully completed research projects. For his research project, Jacob spent three years studying aspects of the Quantum Hall effect and was able to create optimal conditions to create the best reproduction of the Hofstadter butterfly, a famous fractal pattern which has never been created in experiments until now. Jacob has worked on this project for three years with Professor Kunal K. Das and has presented his research at the Division of Atomic Molecular and Optical Physics annual meeting, an international conference focused on atomic physics. In 2017, he was the only student to present his research at the KU Faculty Recognition Ceremony for grants and sponsored projects.  Jacob has a 4.0 GPA and in the future plans to pursue his Ph.D. in physics.
Allison Landino Allison Landino, a senior communication design major from Gilbertsville, Pa., has been awarded the Copper Chambliss Student Academic Achievement Award for original artwork of high quality. Allison designed a 28 page branding manual for Blum Garden & Teahouse which has received recognition from the Flux AIGA Blue Ridge student competition by being selected as a winner by a panel of external professional designers. Aside from the creation of the branding manual, Allison has been the photography editor for the Keystone Newspaper and held internships with the Vanguard Group as well as the Kyle David Group. She has been on the Dean's List every semester since she arrived at KU, and has also received the Board of Governor's Scholarship as well as the Presidential Award for Academic Excellence. Allison hopes to work for firms specializing in branding new companies and is also considering furthering her education at the graduate level.
Carly Plesic Carly Plesic, a senior history and anthropology major from Harrisburg, Pa., has been awarded the Copper Chambliss Student Academic Achievement Award in the category of successfully completed research projects. Carly will present her work on how universities and local historical societies can work with one another at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference this month in Hershey. In April of 2017 she presented research at the 82nd meeting of the Society of American Archaeology in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada and has also presented at Undergraduate Research Day in Harrisburg, Pa. She has made the Dean's List every semester since her freshman year and was the recipient of the Ester Willits scholarship, a highly competitive scholarship bestowed upon students with superior GPA's, in Spring 2017. In the future, Carly plans to attend graduate school with a focus in history or anthropology. 
Brandon Raguz Brandon Raguz, a senior marine biology major from Chalfont, Pa., has been awarded the Copper Chambliss Student Academic Achievement Award in the category of noteworthy achievements in athletics. Brandon is an All American pole-vaulter that in May 2017, qualified for nationals and earned All American second team honors. He has five consecutive top five finishes at the PSAC Championships. Brandon is also a four time All-Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) honoree and has also been named to the All-Academic Team selected by the coaches association.  This season on the indoor circuit, Brandon posted a career-best mark and NCAA provisional mark of 16-4.75. It was the best mark of his indoor career by more than four inches to rank fourth in school history.
Joseph Ritzko Joseph Ritzko, a senior mathematics and physics major from Auburn, Pa., has been awarded the Copper Chambliss Student Academic Achievement Award in the category of successfully completed research projects. Joseph alongside his research partner have worked on a project that could save the Borough of Kutztown up to $18,000 over the span of five years. Working with the Kutztown Wastewater Treatment Plant, Joseph and his research partner determined a way to utilize the Methane produced at the plant and use the methane to fuel the operations of the plant. Joseph has presented this research at Math Fest, an annual summer meeting of the Mathematics Association of America, held in Chicago in July 2017. He plans to pursue a career in mathematical research in industry work. 
Jenna Ruoss Jenna Ruoss, a senior biology and environmental science major from Wernersville, Pa., has been awarded the Copper Chambliss Student Academic Achievement Award for successfully completed research projects. Jenna has worked with two professors on different projects. In her research, Jenna explored what terrestrial vertebrates were visiting local streams and contributing to the diversity of parasitic worms cycling through the animal community. In March 2018, she presented the results of her research at the 7th International Symposium on Cecidology in Taiwan and is also one of two students to present at Undergraduate Research Day at the Capitol in Harrisburg. Jenna has been on Dean's List every semester she has been here at KU. In the future, she plans on continuing her education and has applied to the PhD program at Ball State University.
Margot Shrift Margot Shrift, a senior environmental science and biology major from New Philadelphia, Pa., has been awarded the Copper Chambliss Student Academic Achievement Award for successfully completed research projects. Her research was focused on species richness and diversity of plant-dwelling spiders which won an award for the quality of the presentation at the Commonwealth of Undergraduate Biologists Conference in April 2017. In the summer of 2017 she earned a position at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem, Millbrook, New York. Margot has also volunteered at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary and has assisted in the removal of invasive understory plants. She has been awarded the KU Star Student Award as well as the National Science Foundation KU STEM Tuition Scholarship Award.