Chancellor Malatras Honors 135 SUNY Students for Academic Excellence and Leadership

April 14, 2021

Introduces Four New Award Categories: Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion; Military Service; Overcoming the Odds; and Special Service/COVID-19


Albany, NY
– State University of New York Chancellor Jim Malatras today honored 135 students from across the state as recipients of the 2021 Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence (CASE). This year’s CASE ceremony introduced four new award categories: Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion; Military Service; Overcoming the Odds; and Special Service.

Hosted virtually, SUNY students, their families and friends, campus leadership, and faculty and staff congratulate this year’s awardees today. A complete listing of student recipients is available online.

"Our students have sacrificed so much over the last 13 months. Now more than ever, it is imperative that we mark the milestones and celebrate the brilliance, vision, resilience, and community stewardship of SUNY’s best and brightest," said Chancellor Malatras. "It is my great honor to present the Chancellor’s Awards for Student Excellence to these truly incredible students. Undeterred by the challenges of a once-in-a-generation health crisis, they have all overcome significant odds to pursue their academic passions, become campus and community leaders, help and inspire others, and foster a better world for us all. Congratulations to all the winners, and a heartfelt thank you for making the SUNY system proud."

Senior Advisor to the Chancellor and Student Advocate, Dr. John Graham served as the emcee for this year’s event, along with Assemblymember Alicia Hyndman, a SUNY New Paltz graduate, as the keynote. Additional speakers included four notable alumni, who all gave remarks to this year’s special award winners: SUNY Board Trustee Camille Varlack, who co-chairs the Board’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee; Upstate Medical’s Dr. Frank Middleton, who led the team that created the number one worldwide COVID-19 saliva test; General Ann Dunwoody, SUNY Cortland alum and the first woman in United States military and uniformed service history to achieve a four-star officer rank; and John Dau, human right activist and University at Albany alum.

For each new award category, one student was honored: Raven Baxter, University at Buffalo, Special Service (2020-COVID-19); Joseph Clark, SUNY Schenectady County Community College, Military Service; Victoire-Grace Karambizi, Buffalo State College, Overcoming the Odds; and Darrien Hunt, Farmingdale State College, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

Raven Baxter, who is a recipient of the prestigious Arthur A. Schomburg Fellowship and recognized in Fortune magazine’s "40 Under 40" list for 2020, has reached over four million viewers through sharing best practices in science education. Creator of Black in Science Communication, she has worked to educate the community about the facts related to COVID-19 and safety.

University at Buffalo President Satish K. Tripathi said, "We are delighted that Ms. Baxter is being recognized with this richly deserved honor. A nationally recognized science communicator who is passionate about sharing her knowledge with others—particularly children in underserved communities—she has demonstrated a deep and abiding commitment to serve the greater good. By embodying UB’s, and SUNY’s, mission and vision of excellence, Ms. Baxter, along with all of UB’s 2021 student Chancellor’s Awardees, inspire our students to follow their remarkable example."

Joseph Clark entered the U.S. Army MP School following high school graduation. His military background includes multiple deployments (Operation Just Cause in 1989 and Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm from August 1990 to March 1991). He has volunteered to tutor his fellow student Veterans and other students, has presented on his experience with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in conjunction with VA Medical Center clinicians, and he is an officer of the Student Veteran’s Organization.

SUNY Schenectady County Community College President Steady H. Moono said, "We are extremely proud of Joe, and just as we are grateful to him for his service to this country, we are also proud of the many ways in which he has contributed to our College community while he has been a student at SUNY Schenectady. He has assisted and inspired fellow student veterans while working in our Veterans Resource Office and as President of the Student Veterans Organization. We congratulate Joe on being the recipient this first-ever SUNY award."

Victoire-Grace Karambizi, a former Rwandan refugee, is a student-researcher in Roswell Park Cancer Institute’s Pathology Department, and works alongside professional scientists in the lab. A survivor and child refugee, she came to the U.S. without speaking English, and has previously completed a B.A. in chemistry and a M.S. in medicinal chemistry. Ten years later, she has completed a M.A. in biology.

Buffalo State College President Katherine Conway-Turner said, "We at Buffalo State College are so very proud of Victoire-Grace and all of the she has accomplished. Her story is an inspiration—she epitomizes all the Buffalo State strives to be. Congratulations to Victoire-Grace and all of the award winners."

Darrien Hunt is the founder of the Farmingdale State College (FSC) student chapter of the NAACP. Following the murder of George Floyd, he planned and led the virtual event "Student Voices: The Systematic Oppression of Black Lives," which brought together the FSC community, leading to education, discussion, and healing. Hunt has also led a student effort to create a display of Black authors and artwork, and worked alongside the campus’ police chief regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts within the University Police Department.

Farmingdale State College President John S. Nader said, "Darrien has been instrumental in advancing the campus conversation around diversity and inclusion. He has used national events to forge broad and honest conversations that involve students, faculty, and staff."

The Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence was created in 1997 to recognize students who have best demonstrated, and have been recognized for, the integration of academic excellence with accomplishments in the areas of leadership, athletics, community service, creative and performing arts, campus involvement, or career achievement, and with this year’s awards, the addition of diversity, equity, & inclusion; military service; perseverance; and special service in relation to COVID-19.

Each year, SUNY campus presidents establish a selection committee, which reviews the accomplishments of exemplary students. Nominees are then forwarded to the Chancellor’s Office for a second round of review. Finalists are then recommended to the Chancellor to become recipients of the award.

About the State University of New York
The State University of New York is the largest comprehensive system of higher education in the United States, and more than 95 percent of all New Yorkers live within 30 miles of any one of SUNY’s 64 colleges and universities. Across the system, SUNY has four academic health centers, five hospitals, four medical schools, two dental schools, a law school, the state’s only college of optometry, and manages one US Department of Energy National Laboratory. In total, SUNY serves about 1.3 million students in credit-bearing courses and programs, continuing education, and community outreach programs. SUNY oversees nearly a quarter of academic research in New York. Research expenditures system-wide are nearly $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2021, including significant contributions from students and faculty. There are more than three million SUNY alumni worldwide, and one in three New Yorkers with a college degree is a SUNY alum. To learn more about how SUNY creates opportunity, visit suny.edu.


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