Four SUNY Cortland seniors recently earned SUNY Chancellor’s Awards — the highest student honor presented by New York’s public university system — at a ceremony held April 26 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
The Chancellor’s Awards are given each year to students from SUNY’s 64 campuses who have demonstrated academic excellence while balancing leadership roles, campus involvement, community service and achievements in the arts, athletics or career-related pursuits.
The university’s recipients of the 2022 SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence are:
Jenna Kratz, a physical education major from Cochecton, N.Y.
Lauren Roberts, an exercise science major from Clarence Center, N.Y.
Melissa Safford, a community health major from Rochester, N.Y.
Kasey Vaughan, a sport management major from Fayetteville, N.Y.
Each year, SUNY campus presidents establish a committee to review and select outstanding graduating seniors. Nominees are reviewed by the Chancellor’s Office and winners are selected. Each honoree receives a framed certificate and medallion to wear at Commencement in May. This year, 180 students from across the SUNY system were recognized.
Including this year’s honorees, 103 SUNY Cortland students have earned the Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence since the program began in 1997.
Here’s a more in-depth look at each 2022 SUNY Cortland recipient:
Kratz excelled as a leader in the classroom and the community. She was one of two Cortland students — and just eight in New York state — named a Major of Year by the Society of Health and Physical Educators (SHAPE). Kratz also showed a penchant for helping others and stood out through involvement with the university’s Institute for Civic Engagement. Most notably, she led several projects during the COVID-19 pandemic focused on student mental health concerns, from talks to awareness campaigns to a virtual 5K run.
Activities at Cortland: Alliance of Physical Education; SUNY Cortland Emergency Medical Services (SCEMS); Colleges Against Cancer; Institute for Civic Engagement action intern; Admissions Office tour guide; resident assistant; COR 101 teaching assistant
Why you chose to attend Cortland: “I chose SUNY Cortland because so many amazing physical educators I know went here. Between the numerous ways to be active on campus, professional development opportunities and the reputation of the physical education program, I knew Cortland would be the place for me. I am extremely fortunate.”
Advice for new students: “My biggest piece of advice for students would be to get out there. Try that club you are interested in, ask that professor for help or even have a simple conversation with them, and ask those people to lunch. You have to push your comfort zone a little to grow.”
Favorite class: Either Motor Behavior or Anatomy and Physiology
Proudest Cortland accomplishment: “My proudest accomplishment was being able to represent SUNY Cortland at the National Society of Health and Physical Educators (SHAPE) America Convention as SHAPE America Major of the Year.”
Interesting fact about me: I have miniature animals, including miniature donkeys and Nigerian Dwarf goats.
Future plans: “At the moment, I plan to complete my master’s in health education and teach for a few years. Then I plan to potentially obtain a doctoral degree in motor behavior/ development and go into higher education to teach future generations of physical educators. I am still trying to figure out what specific path I will take in my future careers.”
Clarence Center, N.Y.
Undergraduate research helped shape Roberts’ Cortland experience. Her main work in the university’s exercise physiology lab measured air pressure in an AlterG treadmill, a machine that helps rehabilitation by allowing individuals to exercise at a lower percentage of their body weight. A member of the Dean’s List every semester, Roberts presented her work at the Mid-Atlantic Sports Medicine Regional Conference as well as Transformations, Cortland’s annual research conference.
Activities at Cortland: President of the Kinesiology (FIT) Club; member of SUNY Cortland Emergency Medical Services (SCEMS); sport clubs, including tennis and soccer; Student Life Center lifeguard
Why I chose to attend Cortland: “I chose to attend Cortland because of everything I heard about the school throughout my childhood. My mom and aunt both went here and would talk my ear off when I was younger about how amazing of a school Cortland is, so it was a no-brainer for me. The positive atmosphere, welcoming community and active lifestyle are what makes Cortland such an amazing school.”
Advice for new students: “I would tell incoming students to not be afraid to get out of their comfort zone. There are plenty of opportunities to be a part of here and I would tell first-year students to join clubs because they’re an incredible way to build friendships.”
Favorite class: Exercise Physiology with Professor Jim Hokanson
Proudest Cortland accomplishment: “My proudest Cortland accomplishment was presenting my research on behalf of SUNY Cortland in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in a room full of undergraduate students at the Mid-Atlantic Sports Medicine Regional Conference.”
Interesting fact about me: “An interesting fact about me is that I am a spin instructor here and I enjoy running in my free time as well as training for marathons.”
Safford’s dedication in the classroom helped her earn the university’s Top Graduating Senior Award, which recognizes the student with highest grade point average — 4.05 in her case. A four-year Honors Program member, Safford also excelled as a leader across campus through Eta Sigma Gamma, a national honorary for health education and promotion, as well as in her advocacy work, helping to address topics such as student food insecurity and mental health concerns. She also served as a teaching assistant in multiple classes and an active member of New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), a student-directed, non-partisan political organization.
Activities on campus: Honors Program member, with a thesis project titled “Filling in the Gaps: LGBTQ+ Inclusive Sexual Health Education for College Students”; clubs and organizations include Eta Sigma Gamma and New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG); Student Government Association involvement as coordinator of student advocacy; committee work on Sustainability Coalition, Academic Grievance Tribunal and Cortland Auxiliary Services Board of Directors
Why I chose Cortland: “I was lucky enough to attend an Accepted Students Day and meet some of the faculty from the Health Department and fell in love with their passion. That’s what ultimately made me decide on Cortland and I couldn’t be more pleased with that choice.”
Advice for new students: “Jump in with both feet. College can be about so much more than classes, but you have to reach out and make it happen for yourself.”
Favorite class: Human Sexuality Education
Proudest Cortland accomplishment: “Becoming the Top Graduating Senior. It was a culmination of the work I put into every single class from day one.”
Interesting fact about me: “I’m a bit of an adventure seeker – I’ve been sky diving, white water rafting, parasailing and more.”
Future plans: “I am on the job hunt at the moment, though I intend to pursue a graduate degree after a few years of experience in my field.”
A familiar voice for Cortland Red Dragon sports fans, Vaughan earned her reputation through a tireless work ethic and valuable professional training. Her off-campus experience included a position with the X101 Always Classic radio station in Homer, N.Y., where she worked as a high school football broadcaster and later in a news director position. Vaughan also excelled in various event management roles for SUNY Cortland’s Athletics Department, achieving recognition as a broadcaster for the Red Dragon Sports Network and through a podcast she launched about the sport industry, with a fitting title: “Other Duties as Assigned.”
Activities at Cortland: Broadcaster for the Red Dragon Sports Network and host of the “Other Duties as Assigned” podcast; Sport Management Club; SUNY Cortland Athletics Department event manager and event operations intern
Why I chose Cortland: “I chose to attend Cortland for its well-known sport management program and the close distance to home. I’ve always dreamed of working in sports, and I felt that Cortland was the best place to pursue that dream.”
Advice for new students: “Take advantage of the many opportunities here on campus, especially students studying sport management. Cortland has so much to offer, even as a Division III school. Put yourself out there and try to meet a new person every day.”
Favorite class: Strategic Management of Sport Organizations with Professor Ryan Vooris
Proudest Cortland accomplishment: Broadcasting the 2021 Cortaca Jug game at SUNY Cortland
Interesting fact about me: “I love to play golf and I somehow hit a hole in one last summer at Drumlins Country Club in Syracuse.”
Future plans: Earn a master’s degree in sport management from Cortland beginning in the fall.