Three SUNY Cortland seniors and one recent graduate will be honored with one of the State University of New York’s top student awards in Albany, N.Y., on Wednesday, April 2.
The College’s recipients of the 2014 SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence were:
• Khalia Brown ’13, a communication studies major from Brooklyn, N.Y.
• Michael Rosenthal, a senior political science major from Cortland, N.Y.
• Kyle Shea, a senior physical education major from Wallkill, N.Y.
• LeighMarie Weber, a senior speech and hearing science major from Williston Park, N.Y.
The award is given each year to students from SUNY’s 64 campuses whom have demonstrated academic excellence while balancing leadership roles, campus involvement, community service and achievement in the arts, athletics and/or career related pursuits.
The College’s 2014 recipients exceeded those criteria.
Each year, SUNY campus presidents establish a committee to select and review outstanding graduating seniors. The nominees are forwarded to the Chancellor’s Office for a second round of review and a group of finalists is selected. Each honoree received a framed certificate and a medallion to wear during Commencement.
Including this year, 72 SUNY Cortland students have earned a Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence since the program was created in 1997.
Here’s a more in-depth look at each 2014 SUNY Cortland honoree:
An unforgettable face and voice on the campus, Brown loaned her beautiful vocals to key College events and her time and talent to numerous campus activities and community service fundraisers.
Her talent as a performer earned her a Dorothy Shatzky Gospel Choir Award and she was selected for a character role in the musical “Violet.” Brown sang the National Anthem at both the 2012 and 2013 Commencement ceremonies.
The president of the Black Student Union, Brown also served as a Women’s Path of Success panelist, a member of the SUNY Cortland Gospel Choir, the public relations representative for the Student Government Association, a radio show host on WSUC 90.5 The Dragon, an orientation assistant, a resident assistant, and a tour guide.
She assisted with the annual Coat Giveaway drive on behalf of the Cortland County Community Action Program, Inc., (CAPCO), collecting donated hats, scarves, gloves and coats on and off campus for those in need. She also was a team member of SUNY Cortland’s Relay for Life, which raises money for the fight against cancer. Brown’s outstanding dedication and service to the Cortland community earned her the SUNY Cortland Educational Opportunity Program’s Fraser Stokes Exemplary Service Award.
On campus, her academic excellence and leadership were rewarded with the EOP’s Gold Academic Achievement Award. Brown was presented the Challenge for Success Leadership Award, reserved for students who balance high academic achievement with cross-campus involvement. SUNY Cortland President Erik J. Bitterbaum and his cabinet chose her to receive the Outstanding Senior Award.
The Division of Student Affairs also selected her for its Vice President for Student Affairs Merit Scholarship.
Brown earned a Study Abroad Award to travel as a teaching assistant to the University of Ghana in Africa.
Rosenthal wasn’t sure exactly what the future held in store after high school, or even if college was in his plans. Several years later, he’s a SUNY Cortland President’s List scholar with a 4.11 grade point average.
“As someone who never thought they’d even get their bachelor’s degree, I am so happy to be going to graduate school to further my studies,” said Rosenthal, 25, who once put academics on hold before earning his general education diploma. “I love what I do and look forward to every day.”
After earning an associate’s degree from Onondaga Community College, Rosenthal returned to his hometown of Cortland, N.Y., in 2013 to study political science at the College. He not only wrapped up his undergraduate coursework in a year and a half, he made the most of that time and excelled with each new opportunity.
Rosenthal saw the world by traveling to Costa Rica on the strength of the Willi A. Uschald Study Abroad scholarship. That award goes to students who balance a high GPA with extracurricular activities. In Costa Rica, he took in a new culture and completed a six-week immersion program at La Escuela de Idiomas in San Jose.
Rosenthal’s recognition at the College reflects the work of a true renaissance man. He won the best video award from SUNY Cortland’s International Programs Office, saw his written work published in the College’s international student magazine and even has read his own poetry at competitions.
Currently a research assistant in the College’s Modern Languages Department, Rosenthal plans to attend graduate school for public policy and hopes to eventually establish a career in politics.
One could say that Shea has spent the duration of his college career taking advantage of every opportunity that has come his way.
“Get involved in as many clubs and organizations as you can manage,” says Shea. “The people who love their college experience the most are those who spend their time being as productive as possible.”
Shea, a physical education major, has displayed his hard work and leadership skills ever since he arrived on campus.
He has maintained a cumulative 3.8 GPA, made the Spring 2012 and Fall 2013 President’s List of the College’s top scholastic achievers, and the Dean’s List multiple times by maintaining at least a 3.3 GPA.
A resident assistant since his sophomore year, Shea acted as president, vice-president and spokesperson of the SUNY Cortland National Residence Hall Honorary (NRHH), representing the top one percent of the student leaders who lived on campus. He was recognized by NRHH for creating the honorary society’s first new Executive Board position, public relations, since its constitution was written.
In Fall 2013, he coordinated Adopt-A-Family, serving as a liaison between the YWCA and Residence Life and Housing to provide gifts for 21 needy families in the Cortland community. Due in part to his dedication, $9,000 was raised for those families.
Shea demonstrated two programs, “Expose Yourself” and “In the Box,” at the regional conference of the North Eastern Affiliate of College and University Residence Halls (NEACURH). The association honored him for those programs with the Top Ten Program certificate for Spring and Fall 2013, which is awarded to the top 10 rated programs presented at the conference. His “Expose Yourself” was recognized as the best-rated out of the more than 75 programs with the Excellence in Programming certificate.
It seems there’s nothing that Weber can’t do: from serving as president of the Student Government Association (SGA) for the past two years to participating actively in 14 different committees, she makes time for it all.
She even took her energy abroad this past summer as a scholar at the University of Ghana in Africa. Weber now informs students about educational opportunities in other countries as a study abroad promoter. She also has gained professional experience through three on-campus internships, with the International Programs office, Campus Activities and Corey Union, and the Multicultural Life and Diversity Office.
As the SGA president, Weber advises and governs more than 60 clubs, directs and guides eight executive members of SGA, oversees a $1.2 million budget, ensuring that funds are allocated properly, and has planned, organized and created countless community service events held by the College.
These events include: the Karaoke Night fundraiser for the American Heart Association, where donations were made in memory of Michael C. Holland, executive assistant to the vice president for student affairs; the SGA Holiday Party for Children, which provided gifts for the grandchildren/children of Auxiliary Services Corporation employees; and the Cortaca Clean Up, which helps clean up the Cortland community after the annual football game between SUNY Cortland and Ithaca College each November.
Weber has chaired the Michael C. Holland Scholarship Committee. She also has served on committees, including the Carnegie Award Committee, the Academic Grievance Tribunal, the Student Health Advisor Committee, the ASC Board of Directors/Operations Committee, the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Faculty Service and Scholarship, and the Search Committee for the Director of Counseling.
For her academic excellence, leadership and campus involvement, Weber was honored with the Unity Celebration Award, the Excellence in Outstanding Student Leader Award, the Student Government Association Scholarship, the Class of 1985 Scholarship, and a Study Abroad Scholarship.