Meet the 2022-2023 cohort of Fellows

By: Ellen O'Neill

The Mortar Board Fellowship Committee awarded a total of $37,000 in fellowships to 8 exceptional Mortar Board members. Fellowship recipients are chosen based on academic excellence, recommendation, promise, financial need and Mortar Board involvement. Since the establishment of the Mortar Board fellowship program in 1941, more than $1.5 million has been awarded to assist members in pursuing further study in graduate or professional school. The recipients this year possess rich experiences ranging from serving in the U.S. Army, to working in hospitals during the pandemic, to studying abroad in Korea, China, Mexico, and much more. We are very proud and excited for our 2022-2023 cohort! Learn more about our fellowship program here.

Jason Baker is a 2020 initiate from the University of Nebraska at Kearney where he majored in Family Science and minored in Criminal Justice. During his time as an undergrad, he was the alumni chair for the Xi Phi chapter from 2020-2021 and he participated in undergrad research for two years studying veteran’s experiences transitioning from the military to higher education. Jason is a former U.S. Army Sergeant who served from 2006-2014, and he was also the president of the University of Nebraska at Kearney’s Student Veterans Organization. He is pursuing a master’s degree in Higher Education Student Affairs at the University of Nebraska at Kearney and is the 2022-2023 Washington State + Zelma Patchin-Oklahoma State Fellow.

Jason shares, “In the future, I want to work with adult learners, those typically over the age of twenty-five who have few resources on college campuses that are designed to meet their needs to be successful in higher education. By helping students to cope with the anxiety and stress that many adult learners face returning to school after often a long absence, I believe will help them be successful in higher education.”

Victoria Bui is a 2017 initiate from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa where she triple majored in Psychology, Political Science, and English. During her time as an undergrad, she served as the historian of the Hui Po’okela chapter from 2017-2018 and she was a founder and president of The Write Club, a creative writing club on campus. Victoria studied abroad at the research Institute of Korean Studies (RIKS) at Korea University where she focused on editing translations from Korean to English. She also interned at the Office of the Public Defender serving as a liaison between criminal defendants and their attorneys. She is pursuing a master’s degree in Psychology at New York University and is the 2022-2023 Ramier + Katherine Wills Coleman Fellow.

Victoria says, “I have two main goals for graduate school: (1) To understand and further investigate the impact of processes such as acculturation and enculturation on the emotion regulation strategies of immigrants, focusing on Asian Americans, and (2) to acquire the clinical experience necessary to develop and adapt culturally-sensitive treatment plans for immigrant parents and their children.”

Sally Burkley is a 2021 initiate from the University of Mary Washington where she majored in Political Science, Communications and Digital Studies and minored in Computer Science. During her time as an undergrad, she was the secretary of the Cap & Gown chapter from 2021-2022 and president of the Student Conduct Board. Sally volunteered with refugees through the organization Catholic Charities, and worked with impoverished children in Fredericksburg, Virginia. She also was a legislative affairs intern at the Federal Communications Commission. She is pursuing a Juris Doctorate at the College of William and Mary Law School and is the 2022-2023 Diane Selby Fellow.

Sally shares, “I would like to take all of these experiences, all of who I am, and apply it to studies in law school. I have been accepted to and intend to attend William & Mary Law School in the fall and cannot wait to dive into the legal, ethical, and policy issues surrounding today’s evolving technology landscape with my peers.”

Cadence Ciesielski is a 2021 initiate from Kansas State University where she double majored in Spanish and Philosophy and minored in Leadership and Conflict Resolution. During her time as an undergrad, she served as the vice president of service of the XIX chapter from 2021-2022 and served as president of the Pre-Law Ambassadors promoting legal careers and service by working daily with students, law school representatives, and legal professionals. She studied abroad in Oaxaca, Mexico working as an intern for a nonprofit where she wrote a poem in both English and Spanish about a young girl from one of the communities she worked in. Cadence also interned with a refugee resettlement organization helping people prepare for their naturalization exams. She is pursuing a Juris Doctorate at the University of Nevada Las Vegas William S Boyd School of Law and is the 2022-2023 Ruth Weimer Mount Fellow.

Cadence says, “Given my previous experiences and goals, I aspire to serve as an attorney in the sector and advance the quality of service in immigration and human rights areas of the law.”

Andrew Cochran is a 2019 initiate from Ohio Northern University where he majored in Electrical Engineering and minored in Spanish. During his undergrad, he served as the historian of the Aurora chapter from 2019-2020 and volunteered as a peer tutor in Chemistry after testing out of the class. Andrew was the president and chapter chair of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) where he increased overall attendance by combining with the Association for Computing Machinery since membership for both was hurt because of the pandemic. He interned as a project manager at Schaeffler managing ordering and distribution of packaging, and he also developed an optimization program to calculate packaging requirements and proposed delivery schedules, thus eliminating shortages. He is pursuing a Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering with a concentration on Micro-Electromechanical Systems (MEMS) at Carnegie Mellon University and is the 2022-2023 Ellen North Dunlap Fellow.

Andrew shares, “I plan to focus on joint government and industry projects to address relevant needs in the areas of precision agriculture, sustainability, and safety systems. I would also like to teach courses in microelectronics and automation to share my passion with the next generation of engineers. I know that my personal impact is limited by the time I have here on earth but investing in students much like myself will exponentially expand my ability to give back to my community and world.”

Hannah Giannini is a 2020 initiate from the University of South Alabama where she majored in Chemistry and minored in Biology. During her undergrad, she served as the Committee Chair for the Last Lecture Committee (2020), as a member of the Reading is Leading Book Drive Committee (2020), as Vice President (2020-2021), and as President from 2021-2022 for the Sally Steadman Azalea chapter. She worked in the lab of Dr. Richard Honkanen at the University of South Alabama, which belongs to an international research collaboration that aims to cure Jordan’s Syndrome, a phosphate-related disorder. Hannah has volunteered as a tutor with Education 4 Life helping K12 students from minority and disadvantaged backgrounds and at the Chemotherapy Infusion Suite at the Mitchell Cancer Institute (MCI) assisting families and supporting them throughout treatment. Hannah is pursuing a M.D. and a Ph.D. in Cancer Biology at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and is one of the 2022-2023 Mortar Board National Foundation Fellows.

She says, “I am excited for the opportunity to earn an M.D./Ph.D. so I can meet students, scientists, and physicians from across the world to learn how they have perceived their own lives and listen to what lessons they have to share. Likewise, I look forward to learning from my patients because my life has taught me that my best teachers are often those without MDs or PhDs.”

Sydney Popsuj is a 2018 initiate from Agnes Scott College where she majored in Biology. During her undergrad, she served as president of the HOASC chapter from 2018-2019 and she studied abroad in China through Duke Kunshan University, learning in English-Mandarin hybrid courses about Environmental Policy and Maternal and Reproductive Health. She is a teaching assistant for 156 students at Georgia Tech creating adaptable teaching methods and ensuring access to learning accommodations especially during the pandemic. Sydney is also a mentor to five undergraduate students at Georgia Tech, concentrating on creating an equitable lab environment. She is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Biology at Georgia Tech and is one of the 2022-2023 Mortar Board National Foundation Fellows.

Sydney shares, “Thinking of how many people are sieved out of science who face analogous and often far greater obstacles than I did, I know I want to devote my life to ensuring every student is given the opportunity to do their best on their own terms in biology. I want to be the professor who instills their worth and value in the scientific community; I want to be the professor who hears them asking fascinating questions and invites them to join her lab; I want to be the professor who finally helps a student make the connections with their passions and life experiences to their higher purpose and path.”

Sydney Wong is a 2019 initiate from the University of San Diego where she majored in Biology and minored in Chemistry. During her undergrad, she served on the Reading is Leading committee and the Scholarship, Fundraising, and Outreach committee from 2019-2020 and chaired the Faculty Appreciation Dinner committee from 2020-2021 as a member of the Judy Lewis Logue Alcala chapter. She is an AmeriCorp Education Fellow tutoring and working with students in English Language Arts and Math. As a fellow, she initiated a change in the English Language Arts tutorial curriculum structure to update the content and make it more engaging for students. Sydney was a Loer Lab Researcher where she learned and was challenged by a mentor to think about the broader implications of results and to think ahead about the next steps while learning from mistakes and thinking critically. She worked as a patient transporter at Bellingham Hospital learning the behind-the-scenes at a hospital and interacting with patients firsthand during the pandemic. Sydney is pursuing a M.D. at the University of Washington School of Medicine and is the 2022-2023 Purdue University Barbara Cook Fellow.

“Science has been at the forefront of my educational interests, and a career in medicine would allow me to combine my passions for service and science into one profession. Defining moments in my swimming career hugely contributed to my character development and became the foundation for my career aspirations; they taught me more about life and myself than anything else as I persisted to overcome every obstacle that I faced. I also know that much of my success in swimming is owed to the physicians who showed me that my goals were possible. I now hope to pay that positive impact forward by becoming a physician.”