Six exceptional members of SUNY Cortland’s chapter of Phi Kappa Phi, the honor society for all academic disciplines, have set high standards for future student scholars through excellence in discipline, dedication and time management.
The students, named “Scholars of the Year” by the Cortland chapter, were recognized April 20 in the Corey Union Function Room.
The scholars also each received $50 and were acknowledged later that same day during SUNY Cortland’s annual Honors Convocation ceremony in the Park Center Alumni Arena.
The accolades were based on academic accomplishments as well as leadership and volunteer involvement at the College and in the community.
Founded in 1897 at the University of Maine, Phi Kappa Phi annually initiates about 30,000 new members from nearly 300 campuses in the U.S., Puerto Rico and the Philippines.
Here’s a closer look at each Phi Kappa Phi scholar:
A senior physical education major, Sara Koppenhaver of Kenmore, N.Y., is a very active member of the Residence Hall Association.
The daughter of Lesa Fichte and Thomas Koppenhaver, she has participated in several national residence life conferences and served as the National Residence Hall honorary president.
She also has maintained a 3.90 GPA.
Koppenhaver is a champion of volunteerism and charity work within the Cortland community. In addition to student teaching in Syracuse, the honors student manages the Judson H. Taylor Leadership House.
“Challenging myself has always been something I have worked towards, and as a professional I will make it a goal to continue learning and developing,” Koppenhaver said. “I want to incorporate the experiences I had as a resident assistant into my physical education curriculum.”
The daughter of John and Sharon Leslie of Ossining, N.Y., Suzanne Leslie is a senior physical education major with a concentration in adapted physical education. With her 3.87 GPA, she ranks among the top 5 percent in her class and has been named to the Dean’s List every semester.
“I have learned if I wanted to have a great grade point average, I needed to work hard for it and earn it on my own,” Leslie said.
She stays busy with activities such as the SUNY Cortland Club Softball Team, Alliance of Physical Education Majors, and Ossining Volunteer Fire Department.
Leslie was honored with excellent professional dispositions letters, was a candidate for the National Association for Sport and Physical Education Major of the Year and was accepted into the New York State Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (NYSAPHERD).
“I know that in my educational career at Cortland the professors who shared with me their knowledge and experiences were able to inspire me,” she said. “I hope to encourage future Cortland students to become physically educated people, and to have them keep this great profession growing strong in the years to come.”
As one of the first in her family to attend college, Bridgette Metzinger from Kenoza Lake, N.Y., has maintained a 3.89 GPA, high enough for her to be inducted into three honor societies.
The senior adolescence education: English major has received various awards, including the Sigma Delta Phi Scholarship and Father Edward J. O’Heron Scholarship. She also is involved with the Academic Support and Achievement Program (ASAP) as a tutor.
“I care about my education and want to improve myself,” Metzinger said. “I have reached out to my resources, taken on big responsibilities, and faced many challenges that have allowed me to test myself and grow as an individual.”
A member of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and English Club, she aspires to teach the language to high school students.
“As an educator, my overall goal is to give students the skills and knowledge they need to not only thrive, but become leaders in the world in which they live,” said Metzinger, the daughter of August and Faith Metzinger.
A senior early childhood/childhood education major with a concentration in environmental studies from Farmingville, N.Y., Aimee Ris is a recipient of the Overseas Academic Programs Scholarship. This summer she will student teach in Australia.
“Australian schools are much more actively involved in the environment,” said Ris. “I hope to bring back many techniques and strategies from Australia to use in my classroom.”
The daughter of Gary and Faye, Ris has made the Dean’s and President’s lists consistently and maintains a 3.80 GPA. She currently is president of the Kappa Delta Pi National Honor Society, one of the three academic societies to which she belongs.
In addition to developing a program with the local library to help children explore the beauty of nature in their own backyard, she coordinated a trip as a volunteer teacher to children in Costa Rica.
“After teaching abroad, I want to complete my graduate degree in early childhood special education,” said Ris.
A senior community health major and native of Cortland, N.Y., Chelsea Tollner maintains the perfect balance between academics and extracurricular activities.
The daughter of Wes Tollner and Margaret Sweeney, she actively was involved with promoting well-being on campus as a member and vice president of the Eta Sigma Gamma Honor Society.
“I want to help improve the health and welfare of individuals within various community settings,” Tollner said.
Tollner maintained a 3.83 overall grade point average (GPA) and was consistently named to the Dean’s List and President’s List during her time at Cortland — all while working five part-time jobs.
“Learning to balance all of the areas in my life has made me a person that I am proud to be,” said Tollner. “Within the past four years, I have become stronger, more responsible, and attentive to the needs of myself and those around me.”
A senior dual major in adolescence education: social studies and history, Tara Vasilakopoulos spent her time at Cortland by staying involved in affairs on campus as well as in the community.
A former vice president of the Student Government Association (SGA), Vasilakopoulos has held other leadership positions with campus organizations and routinely participates in community service projects, including Relay for Life and SGA’s annual Toy Drive.
The aspiring social studies teacher strives to one day tell stories relating to history in ways that are memorable and captivating in order to keep students on the edge of their seats.
“Sharing my passion for history with others through tales and events, then observing how they relate, is fascinating,” said Vasilakopoulos, the daughter of Bill and Patricia Vasilakopoulos.
A SUNY Cortland Past President’s Scholarship and the SUNY Cortland Outstanding Student Leader Award are among her accolades.
“Every day I strive to actively pursue my special interest in history, and continue to cultivate my unique story-telling talents and natural leadership,” said Vasilakopoulos. “I hope to use these talents to be inventive and innovative in my methods, fearless in the work that is awaiting me, and determined in the career I chose to pursue.”