Outstanding students, faculty and staff honored at York awards program

Nittany Lion with female student and female faculty member displaying an award.

Allison Lonkart, center, a sophomore at Penn State York, was named the recipient of the Eric A. and Josephine S. Walker Award during the awards program in April on campus.  Jessica Petko, associate professor of biology at the campus, right, presented the award along with a little help from the Nittany Lion.

Credit: Barbara Dennis

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Outstanding Penn State York students, faculty, and staff were honored for the 2022-23 academic year during the Annual Awards Ceremony on April 23 in the Pullo Family Performing Arts Center on campus.

To view more photos from the ceremony, visit Flickr.

The Walker Award

The Eric A. and Josephine S. Walker Award is the most prestigious student award on campus. This award is given annually to a full-time student who exhibits outstanding qualities of character, scholarship, leadership and citizenship. Each Penn State campus selects a recipient of this award. Allison Lonkart, Lewisberry, Pennsylvania, is the 2022-23 recipient.

It is not often that the Walker Award is given to sophomore students, but according to the committee, Lonkart has truly embodied the values of this award by demonstrating outstanding leadership, service, and academic excellence.  She is a graduate of Red Land High School, Lewisberry, Pennsylvania.

The award nomination noted, “Her stellar academic performance is truly remarkable, and her accomplishments are a testament to her hard work, dedication, and passion for learning. I am confident that she will continue to make positive impacts in all her future endeavors.”

As the president of the Penn State York Biology Club, she has breathed new life into the organization. Under her guidance, the club has hosted a variety of engaging and educational monthly meetings. For one program sponsored by the club, a visit from a local wildlife rehabilitation group, Lonkhart had to complete detailed paperwork in addition to promoting the event.

She has taken an active role in the newly formed Sustainability Council at Penn State York, and her commitment to sustainability led to her participation in this year’s alternative spring break trip to Puerto Rico where she completed community service projects ranging from disaster relief to environmental restoration. This summer, Lonkart will travel to Romania with the Penn State Chance program, an environmental education program that teaches conservation biology and global sustainability.

Beyond her contributions to the campus community, she has maintained a perfect 4.0 grade-point average (GPA), is a member of the campus honors program, and serves as a tutor for biology and chemistry courses in the Nittany Success Center.  She volunteers her time to run mock lab practicums and review sessions for introductory biology courses.

Clark E. Fisher Award

The Clark E. Fisher Memorial Award honors and recognizes outstanding achievement in engineering by a full-time undergraduate student. The award is named for the late Clark E. Fisher, a 1983 Penn State engineering graduate. Fisher’s family members, Precision Custom Components (PCC) — Fisher’s former employer — colleagues from PCC, and friends joined together to create an award in remembrance of Fisher. The award is given in the field that Fisher loved, engineering. Matthew L. Grasty, York, Pennsylvania, is the recipient.

Excellence in Teaching Award

The James H. Burness Award for Excellence in Teaching is given to one part-time and one full-time member of the Penn State York faculty based on nominations by students and other members of the campus community. The award is named in honor of the late James H. Burness, who died in December 1999, in recognition of his outstanding teaching and service to the campus. This year's recipients are Noel Sloboda, associate professor in English, York, Pennsylvania, for the full-time award; and Sara Shaw, adjunct lecturer in English, York, Pennsylvania, for the part-time award.

Noel Sloboda

Sloboda is commended for his work introducing students to classic literature and his passion for it. Students praised the lively discussions about the readings in the "Arts of Love" class. One student even admitted, “As someone who wasn’t expecting to be as interested in the topic of ‘love’ I can say that the way Dr. Sloboda teaches, and his personality, has made this my favorite class this semester.”

Beyond his enthusiasm for literature, many students have expressed gratitude for his supportive demeanor, citing several examples of how he has helped them not only better understand literature but has also helped them overcome challenges in earning their degree at Penn State. In the words of one student, “Dr. Sloboda is part of the reason I returned to this campus to finish my degree.  He is the kind of teacher all teachers should aspire to be.”

In addition to his work in the classroom, Sloboda is the driving force behind the student online publication, “Any Other Word,” and works with the Pullo Center to offer a creative arts competition each year.

Sara Shaw

Shaw is described by students as kind, caring, passionate and someone who strives to help them achieve things outside of our comfort zones, and is always elated to tell the class a story in connection to our learning or even listen to one of their stories.

After an observation of her class by a colleague, these qualities were noted as obvious: “Sara took the time to ease into class asking the students about their weekends and going over upcoming assignment details and due dates to ensure everyone was aware as they approached the end of the semester. She was very clear about her expectations for an upcoming term paper and even provided examples of potential comments to prepare the students.”

In an award nomination, a student wrote, “Professor Shaw is exceptionally kind and passionate about everything she does. She motivates her students to be in class each and every day, provides individualized attention to us whenever we need it, and always recognizes our hard work as we apply ourselves to learning English. I will confidently say I never had a better English professor than her and truly hope her dedication to teaching is recognized through this award and the many others she deserves.”

Academic Advising Award

Anne Vardo-Zalik, Lewisberry, Pennsylvania, associate professor of biology, is the winner of the Penn State York Advising Award. The Penn State York Advising Award, given by the campus Academic Advisory Council, was established in 1991 to recognize the importance of advising students. This committee operates separately from the teaching award committee.

Students called Vardo-Zalik caring and empathetic about students’ long-term goals. One student said, “Dr. Vardo-Zalik was supportive both academically and mental-health wise during a difficult time in my family life.” She further noted her appreciation of that extra care.

Others noted Vardo-Zalik’s capacity to go above and beyond when it comes to students’ needs, and has a long-standing track record of this type of support. It was evident from the comments that Vardo-Zalik is considered kind and is deeply respected.   

Faculty Scholarship and Research Award

The Faculty Scholarship of Research and Creative Accomplishments Award recognizes outstanding achievements in research and/or creative accomplishments within the prior three years in the context of sustained record of scholarship. Haiduke Sarafian, professor of physics and the John T. and Paige S. Smith Professor of Science, York, Pennsylvania, is the 2022-23 recipient. 

The committee, as in the past, shared that they faced a difficult decision again this year given the outstanding portfolios provided by nominees.  The committee recognized Sarafian’s most recent accomplishment in a prestigious record of 19 published papers in the last three years and for the coming edition of his collected papers in the field of software applications in teaching and research. 

The Academic Achievement Award

The Academic Achievement Award is given to a student or students in recognition of distinctive academic accomplishments. The award is intended to recognize students who may not have won an award based solely on overall grade-point average (GPA) but who may have done a special project or otherwise done outstanding academic work in a particular area. Minimum qualifications include second year standing by the spring semester of the year in which the award is presented, and a 3.5 or higher cumulative GPA. Hannah M. Wicker, York, Pennsylvania and Hunter Haggett, York, Pennsylvania,  are the recipients.

The Academic Achievement in the Biological Sciences Award

The Academic Achievement in the Biological Sciences Award is presented to students earning a bachelor of science in Biology or Science and completing their degree at Penn State York. Students must be in their final two years of study and have demonstrated excellence in course work, independent studies, and/or extracurricular activities related to their field. The award recipients are chosen by the biology faculty. Hunter Haggett, York, Pennsylvania; Logan Z. Coomes, Stewartstown, Pennsylvania; and Cassidy M. Martin, York, Pennsylvania, are the recipients.

The Freshman Chemistry Award 

The Freshman Chemistry Award is presented to a freshman based on outstanding academic achievement in chemistry. Caira R. Whitney, York, Pennsylvania, is this year’s recipient.

The Penn State York Campus Honors Program 

The Penn State York Campus Honors Program provides challenging opportunities for academically superior students. Those who maintain a 3.3 overall minimum GPA and a 3.2 GPA in their honors courses are recognized for each 9 credits of honors work completed. Additionally, students who complete 24 credits of honors work will graduate with honors. Honorees are Logan Z. Coomes, Stewartstown, Pennsylvania; Jordyn M. Creamer, New Park, Pennsylvania;  Braden Reese De Mesa De Leon, York, Pennsylvania; Kaiden Loder, York, Pennsylvania; Allison Lonkart, Lewisberry, Pennsylvania; Tanner B. Marchant, York, Pennsylvania; Robert M. McGill, Temple, Pennsylvania; Tyler J. Muessig, Vineland, New Jersey; Lena Pham, York, Pennsylvania; Michael Place, Red Lion, Pennsylvania; Pierce R. Ragland, Stewartstown, Pennsylvania; Jenna Rowe, York, Pennsylvania; Brett A. Stevens, Columbia, Pennsylvania; Jacob Whitacre, York, Pennsylvania; and Joseph P. Wolf, York, Pennsylvania.

The Evan Pugh Scholar Award

The Evan Pugh Scholar Award is presented to juniors and seniors who are in the upper 0.5 percent of their respective classes and have completed at least 48 graded Penn State credits at the end of the fall semester of the academic year the award is given. Candidates are eligible if they have been full-time undergraduate students for at least four semesters prior to selection. Recipients are Logan Z. Coomes, Stewartstown, Pennsylvania and Brynn D. MacDonald, York, Pennsylvania.

The President Walker Award

The President Walker Award is presented to undergraduate students who have earned a 4.0 (A) cumulative grade-point average (GPA) based on at least 12 Penn State credits completed during their first semester of admission. Candidates are eligible for this award if they have fewer than 36 Penn State credits earned. During the presidency of Eric A. Walker (1956-70), and with the approval of the Board of Trustees, the number of awards was increased and in 1960, the President’s Freshman Award, as this award was formerly known, was established to recognize high-achieving first-year students.

Recipients are Sanaa K. Doweary, York, Pennsylvania;  Angelica Hanson, York, Pennsylvania;  Samuel G. Johnson, Camp Hill, Pennsylvania; George M. Keene, York, Pennsylvania; David Lin, Brooklyn, New York; Jack O. Miller, Mount Joy, Pennsylvania; Thy Thi Phuong Nguyen, York, Pennsylvania; Logan L. Optiz, Seven Valleys, Pennsylvania; Neeraj V. Patil, York, Pennsylvania; Gabriel J. Ragland, Stewartstown, Pennsylvania; Brandon T. Ritchey, Stewartstown, Pennsylvania; Bryce A. Thoman, Spring Grove, Pennsylvania; Kevin M. Truong, Shrewsbury, Pennsylvania; Caira R. Whitney, York, Pennsylvania; and Madison T. Wise, Lebanon, Pennsylvania.

The President Sparks Award

The President Sparks Award is presented annually to those undergraduate candidates who have earned a 4.0 (A) cumulative grade-point average based on at least 36 graded Penn State credits completed by the end of the fall semester of the academic year the award is given. The President Sparks Award recipients are Braden Reese De Mesa De Leon, York, Pennsylvania; Zachary M. Kemper, Hanover, Pennsylvania; and Allison Lonkart, Lewisberry, Pennsylvania.

Keystone Honor Society Awards

Keystone Honor Society Awards are presented to full- and part-time students with the highest GPA at or above a 3.5 in each associate and baccalaureate degree program offered at the campus. Part-time students are eligible to receive the award one time in their major. There are also requirements for the time in the degree. Honorees are Tyler S. Earnest, York, Pennsylvania; Gavin R. Franz, Dallastown, Pennsylvania; Desiree Garcia Hernandez, York, Pennsylvania; Nakhaiya R. Jacobs, Hanover, Pennsylvania; Alexander L. Kurtz, York, Pennsylvania; Jaylen T. Martinez, New Oxford, Pennsylvania; Olivia K. Miles, York, Pennsylvania; Alex W. Roppelt, York, Pennsylvania; Jenna Rowe, York, Pennsylvania; Sadie M. Schantz, York, Pennsylvania; Tyler K. Scheuing, Lutherville Timonium, Maryland; Julianne M. Stealey, York, Pennsylvania; Steven P. VanderDonk, York, Pennsylvania; Avery E. Volz, Wrightsville, Pennsylvania; Jordan A. Wolf, Hanover, Pennsylvania; and James Ye, York, Pennsylvania.

The Dr. Harriet Darling Award – Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS) 

The Dr. Harriet Darling Award – Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS) is presented to an outstanding student who shows commitment to learning and critical thinking, is compassionate, understands issues and opportunities in the lives of children and families, contributes to and advocates for the well-being of others on campus or in the community, and has shown the most improvement through personal growth. Johnathon T. Gillespie, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, is the award recipient.

The Professor Orsay Kucukemiroglu Business Award

The Professor Orsay Kucukemiroglu Business Award is presented to graduating seniors majoring in business who have the highest GPAs in their major. Victor P. Sciukas Jr., York, Pennsylvania, is the award recipient.

The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Student Award

The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Student Award is presented to the student who best honors the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion as expressed in the campus’ diversity statement:  Penn State York is committed to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion. We celebrate individual uniqueness and are committed to a culture of inclusion that promotes intergroup dialogue, understanding, and respect. A diverse campus community enriches and engages it members and serves as a core component of our educational mission. The recipient will have participated in and promoted diversity, equity, and inclusion related activities on the campus and within the University, as well as in the community-at-large. Students must have a 3.0 GPA or higher. Srishti Singh, York, Pennsylvania, is the recipient.

The Tutor of the Year Award

The Tutor of the Year Award is presented to the tutor who has made the greatest impact on students who came to the Nittany Success Center for extra help with their course work. Braden Reese De Mesa De Leon, York, Pennsylvania, is the winner.

The Outstanding Student-Veteran Award

The Outstanding Student-Veteran Award is given to a student-veteran demonstrating academic achievement, strength of character, and commitment to service. The award recognizes an extraordinary student-veteran who has overcome challenges in reaching this academic milestone, has been involved on campus or in the local community, and has helped make a positive difference for students. Lance Fishel, Spring Grove, Pennsylvania, is the recipient.

The Penn State York Student Veterans of America (SVA) Leadership Award

The Penn State York Student Veterans of America (SVA) Leadership Award recognizes a student-veteran who has been involved with and made significant contributions to the Student Veterans of America, York Chapter.  The award is given to a student-veteran demonstrating leadership through the SVA, academic achievement, strength of character, and a commitment to serve. The award recognizes an extraordinary student, one who has overcome challenges as a student-veteran and advocates or assists others with their integration into non-military settings.

The award recipient is selected by members of the SVA Club. The winner of this new award is Jared M. Posedenti, York, Pennsylvania.

The University Libraries Outstanding Student Employee Award

The University Libraries Outstanding Student Employee Award recognizes and honors the top student employees who have contributed to the libraries. The student supports the daily work of the libraries and provides insight and inspiration for enhancing services and creating new programs.  The recipient is an imaginative leader dedicated to supporting and promoting the values of the University Libraries. Students are selected for this award based on foundational values, work ethic, and leadership. This is a University-wide award with just four students selected from throughout the Penn State system.  Liz Herrera Reynoso, York, Pennsylvania, is recognized for her work at the Lee R. Glatfelter Library at the York campus.

The Tau Alpha Pi National Honor Society

The Tau Alpha Pi National Honor Society recognizes high standards of scholarship among associate degree engineering seniors. Campus engineering faculty select the award recipients. Chris Soukas, Mount Joy, Pennsylvania and Karl Johann, Seven Valleys, Pennsylvania, are this year’s award recipients.

The Edward M. Elias Award

The Edward M. Elias Award is presented to the first- and second-year baccalaureate students moving to a campus within the Penn State system with the highest GPA. Bryce D. Logan, York, Pennsylvania and Samuel G. Johnson, Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, are the award recipients.

Service Awards

The Student Government Association (SGA) Campus Service Award is given annually to students whose services have benefited the campus. The award recipient is chosen by the student body. Avery E. Volz, Wrightsville, Pennsylvania, is the winner.

The Student Appreciation Award is given to a faculty or staff person for outstanding service to students. The award recipient is Sarah L. Bender, Leola, Pennsylvania, mental health counselor at Penn State York.

The Award for Excellence in Club Advising

This award, newly created in 2023, recognizes a faculty or staff member for their outstanding work as a student organization adviser.  The recipient is selected by the members of the Student Government Association (SGA).  The first recipient of this award is Barbara H. Dennis, Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, director of strategic communications at Penn State York and long-time adviser to Penn State York Benefiting THON.  The award has been named in her honor in recognition of her service to students, and in the future the award will be known as the Barbara H. Dennis Award for Excellence in Club Advising.

Gary L. Collison Community Service Award

Gary L. Collison Community Service Award winners are Ameer-Uddin A. Maniar, Jacobus, Pennsylvania, and Julianne M. Stealey, York, Pennsylvania. The service awards are named to honor the late Gary L. Collison, professor of English and American Studies at Penn State York, whose idea it was to recognize students for their volunteer service. In addition to community service, recipients must have a minimum of a 2.5 GPA.

The Unsung Hero Award

The Unsung Hero Award recognizes a Penn State York faculty or staff member for unselfishly providing outstanding service to the campus and its students, often with limited recognition. Selection is made through student, faculty, and staff nominations. The recipients are Barbara Eshbach, head librarian at the Lee R. Glatfelter Library at Penn State York, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and Shirley Humberd, who works in technical services, York, Pennsylvania.

The Rotary Club Award

The Rotary Club Award is presented to a student who has completed a minimum of three semesters with a 3.0 GPA and has made significant service contributions to the campus and/or community while a student at Penn State York. Sweeta Rasiyan, York, Pennsylvania, is the recipient.

The Student Leadership Award

The Student Leadership Award is presented to an organization or club officer based on outstanding leadership within the organization, achievements while in office, and service as a role model and motivating force within the organization. Xiomara N. Larkin, York, Pennsylvania, is the award recipient.

Penn State Alumni Association (PSAA) York County Chapter Award

Penn State Alumni Association (PSAA) York County Chapter Award is presented to any Penn State York student who possesses outstanding qualities of scholarship, leadership, and service to the campus. Students must have a minimum 3.0 GPA and participate actively in the Blue & White Society and/or Lion Ambassadors. Hannah E. Knight, Bluff City, Tennessee, is the recipient.