Breanna Washington ’19 and Natalie Lipari ’20 are two SUNY Cortland graduates who as students truly exemplified the SUNY system motto “to learn, to search, to serve.”
So it’s fitting that both women were among an inaugural, 100-member group of SUNY graduates to be announced on May 14 as recipients of Chancellor’s Undergraduate Scholarships and Graduate Fellowships for the State of New York.
This is a one-time, one-year non-tuition grant for $5,000 to be used to pursue an advanced degree starting in the Fall semester 2020.
Up to two graduates annually may be selected from each campus, vying with 415,500 students across the university system to win this prestigious grant to continue their academic pursuits at one of SUNY’s 64 campuses. Nominees can seek either a bachelor completion degree or graduate degree.
Washington of Queens, N.Y., is pursuing a full-time Master of Science in Geosciences with a concentration in Earth and Space Sciences at Stony Brook University. An inclusive childhood education major with a concentration in the social sciences at Cortland, she earned a bachelor of science in December 2019 and was honored with a 2020 SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence in 2020 for her academic achievements as well as her campus leadership role.
Lipari of Rochester, N.Y., graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and a biology minor. She was awarded a Graduate Fellowship to begin her doctoral studies this fall at Binghamton University’s doctoral behavioral neuroscience program. There, she will focus on investigating the neural/genetic mechanisms and potential treatments for Parkinson’s disease.
The chancellor congratulated the group of budding scholars for their hard work and dedication in completing their degrees.
“We are so pleased that you have chosen to further your studies and pursue a graduate degree at SUNY and can’t wait to see what the future holds for you,” Johnson said.
At Stony Brook, Washington plans to use the master’s degree program to extend her teacher certification concentration areas to adolescent education, grades 7-12. She holds initial certification in special education and childhood education, grades 1-6.
“The Chancellor’s Fellowship and Scholarship will serve as an equitable opportunity to pursue a master’s degree, as I single-handedly pay for my education,” Washington said.
“In addition, I will use this scholarship to dismantle gender and racial barriers in science,” she said, citing a Pew Research Center report that only 7% of the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workforce consists of Black women.
“There is a reprehensible disproportionality of women of color in STEM,” she said.
“One must question how can someone be what they simply can’t see?” Washington said. “A master’s degree in science is a chance to deconstruct stigmatized norms and provide my future students with exposure and autonomy to do the same. It’s an allegiance to myself, future scholars and society.”
A December 2019 graduate who completed her studies through Cortland’s Urban Recruitment of Educators (C.U.R.E.) program, Washington maintained a 3.87 GPA at SUNY Cortland.
She received numerous scholarships during her time at Cortland for her campus involvement, leadership and academic achievements.
While at Cortland, Washington also took an opportunity to embark on a month-long volunteer service project to Thailand. There, she taught English to children in grades 1 through 6. She taught five classes per day while achieving her goal of increasing English literacy abroad.
On campus, Washington was a member of multiple clubs. She is a chartering member of SUNY Cortland’s NAACP chapter and is a cofounder of Curly Kinky Coily, established in 2017.
In pursuing graduate studies, Lipari aims to learn the basic and applied significance of behavioral neuroscience, to participate and be actively involved in research that pertains to this dynamic and burgeoning field.
“The fellowship ensures that Natalie has the resources necessary to become an outstanding rising scientist within the SUNY institution,” said Joshua Peck, associate professor of behavioral neuroscience at SUNY Cortland, on the protégé he nominated to earn the award.
Since spring 2017, Lipari has served as a research assistant of Peck’s in the area of behavioral neuroscience, specifically, on drug and alcohol abuse and the implementation of a promising treatment strategy called environmental enrichment. She designed and ran experiments, presented her findings and wrote manuscripts for publication.
“Throughout her commitment, Natalie exemplified what is to be an outstanding researcher,” Peck said. “Natalie is intellectually curious, dependable, collegial and most of all, assiduous when carrying out research demands.”
Lipari earned a 2018 David F. Berger fellowship for summer undergraduate research at SUNY Cortland to examine how the exposure and loss of environmental enrichment mediates ethanol consumption in adolescent female rats.
“She chose this novel topic to investigate because female adolescent alcohol abuse is rising and she wanted to further her knowledge in this important area of research,” Peck said.
Lipari’s written research findings were recently published in a peer-reviewed, scientific journal.
She secured a 2019 summer undergraduate research fellowship at the University of Alabama at Birmingham to focus on various neurological interventions, such as deep brain stimulation, for neurodegenerative disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder. For her summer fellowship research commitment, she was awarded the Social and Behavioral Sciences Presentation Award at a national conference held by the University of Alabama.
Lipari has presented her research at several regional and national conferences. She completed a clinical internship at Crown Park Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Cortland, N.Y.
This year, SUNY Cortland recognized Lipari with the highest honor an undergraduate researcher can earn, this year’s sole President’s Recognition for Engaged Learning and Leadership Designation in Undergraduate Research Award.
New SUNY scholarship offered
The Undergraduate Scholarships and Graduate Fellowships for the State of New York were given to only 55 of SUNY’s top bachelor’s degree students in a new program that was announced in January during the chancellor’s third State of the University System address. Grants are funded through prior New York State investment in higher education to SUNY.
“We are immensely proud to recognize these exceptional students from across SUNY who have worked tirelessly to excel in their fields of study,” said Johnson.
“Their recognition today as the winners of the Chancellor’s Graduate Scholarship Award will no doubt inspire countless other students to pursue their educational path at SUNY, and in turn we will continue to provide access and opportunities to invest in tomorrow’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and leaders.”
Recipients must enroll full-time in their degree program prior to receiving the award which will be disbursed through their campus Bursar’s Office.
Eligible students are those who maintained a grade point average (GPA) of 3.3 or higher who are either graduates of SUNY’s community colleges who choose to pursue a bachelor’s degree at a SUNY college or university, or students graduating with a bachelors who will stay with SUNY to receive a graduate degree.
This non-tuition scholarship is by nomination only and is open to all students, including out-of-state residents, international students, and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients.
Awards will be made as grants for the students to help them defray room, board, books, technology, childcare or other eligible costs of attendance.
The largest comprehensive system of higher education in the United States, SUNY has across its system four academic health centers, five hospitals, four medical schools, two dental schools, the state’s only college of optometry. SUNY also manages one U.S. Department of Energy National Laboratory. SUNY oversees nearly a quarter of academic research in New York. Research expenditures system-wide exceeded $1.7 billion in fiscal year 2019, including significant contributions from students and faculty.