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This article appears in the Summer 2020 issue of Stetson University Magazine, soon arriving in mailboxes and now available online.

Extraordinary is the word.

In the face of rapid change that came with COVID-19, the Stetson community — from administrators and faculty to staff and students — responded in truly uncommon fashion.

Particularly the Class of 2020.

Extraordinary? Absolutely. Even historic. 

All students, including graduating seniors, were forced to complete the spring semes­ter remotely. For graduating students, however, it was their final undergraduate semester at Stetson. Also, the graduates’ 2020 Commencement was postponed, with the hope of rescheduling to later gather for two days of deserved recognition. 

So, while the students who successfully completed their coursework and other requirements within the prescribed period of time did become graduates of Stetson, their official celebration had to wait. (Approximately 750 undergraduate students graduated in May.)

And yet, they responded with grace and resilience. In retrospect, it was not a surprise — such poise, tenacity and drive had become earmarks of their education on campus.

The following is a compilation — in alphabetical order and not inclusive — of outstanding seniors across Stetson’s College of Arts and Sciences, School of Business Administration and School of Music.

Note: All students are pictured in the magazine.

College of Arts and Sciences

DANIELA ANANT / Communication and Media Studies and World Languages and Cultures 

Daniela Anant received the Michael McFarland Award for Outstanding Senior in Communication and Media Studies. The award recognizes a graduating senior, selected by the department faculty, who is outstanding in academics and who uses communication to contribute to the community, be it in the department, the university or the world beyond Stetson. 

A double-major, Anant also was named the Outstanding Senior among world languages and cultures students. She had a concentration in Hispanic studies. 

In addition, Anant was a member of Phi Eta Sigma Honor Society (American first-year students) and Lambda Pi Eta (National Honor Society for Communication Studies), along with the Phi Alpha Delta Law Fraternity, International.

Described by professors as diligent, insightful, tenacious and smart, Anant also exhibited a quiet confidence and intellectual maturity that are beyond her years, they added. Those characteristics were exhibited as an intern at the U.S. Senate and as a digital and news intern at Hearst Media’s WESH 2 News in Orlando. 

Anant plans to take a year off before applying to graduate school.

SLAVINA “SALLY” ANCHEVA / Economics and Political Science 

Sally Ancheva is a double-major in political science and economics. As an Edmunds Scholar, she came to Stetson with an exemplary record of achievement and lived up to that great potential. 

Ancheva was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Pi Sigma Alpha, Omicron Delta Epsilon and Phi Eta Sigma — all honor societies. While a student, she interned at the United Nations and at the European Parliament in Brussels. In May 2019, she worked on a campaign for the European Parliament elections in Bulgaria. In fall 2019, Ancheva was selected as a finalist for the Rhodes Global Scholarship and traveled to London for the elite competition. 

Her senior research project, “Economic Insecurity or Cultural Backlash? A Multilevel Analysis of the Reasons People Hold Populist Attitudes in Europe,” examined the factors that have led to an increase in populism in Europe. 

Ancheva plans to work as an accredited parliamentary assistant in the European Parliament for a year or two before pursuing graduate studies.

OLA BARTULA / Health Sciences 

During her time at Stetson, Ola Bartula was especially active as both a top student in the classroom and a leader on campus. 

Bartula was part of the Alpha Epsilon Delta Pre-Health Honor Society for four years, and as a senior she was chosen as the AED president for the 2019-2020 school year. Just prior to graduation, she received the Health Sciences Scholarship and Service Award for outstanding academic performance and research skills, and commendable service to the Department of Health Sciences, Stetson and the DeLand community. 

In addition, Bartula was president of the Good Samaritan Volunteering Club during her junior and senior years, and she volunteered at the Good Samaritan Clinic for four years. She was vice president of the Stetson Astronomy Club during her senior year and was a member of the Stetson University Honor Council Society. Further, she volunteered as a lab assistant for organic chemistry, and she shadowed medical students at the University of Central Florida College of Medicine. 

Bartula is planning to attend medical school, beginning in fall 2021, with the hope of ultimately becoming a surgeon.

DAVID BERGSTRÖM / Physics 

David Bergström, originally from Södertälje, Sweden, arrived at Stetson after a year of studying mechanical engineering at Central Connecticut State University. He left Stetson as the recipient of the Jack Gibson Endowed Physics Research Award for excellence on his senior research project, “The Drag Coefficient and Trajectory of a Rocket.” 

The project included study of the aerodynamic properties of rockets and the mathematical modeling of their trajectories. 

Majoring in physics with a minor in business systems and analytics, Bergström also was part of the Hatters soccer team that won the 2017 ASUN championship. He was named to the ASUN All-Academic Team in 2018 and inducted into the Sigma Pi Sigma physics honor society in 2019 before closing his Stetson career with multiple other academic prizes, such as Outstanding International Student 2020. 

Bergström plans a return to Sweden this fall to pursue a master’s degree in business and management from the prestigious Stockholm School of Economics. He hopes to use that degree, along with the skills obtained from his bachelor’s studies, to eventually work in finance.

REILLY CASH / Russian, Eastern European and Eurasian Studies 

Reilly Cash’s interest in this dynamic, complex and culture-rich region of the world initially attracted her to Stetson’s Program in Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies (SPREES). Cash, however, didn’t simply become involved; she became a leader. 

Cash helped organize the program’s annual events, she served as a Russian tutor, and she advanced to Russian Club secretary/vice president. Her dedication led to winning Stetson’s Sergei Zenkovsky Prize in Russian Studies, reserved for the top student of Russian language and culture. 

In fall 2019, Cash spent a semester in Kyiv, Ukraine, and traveled to Russia and the Caucasus. Her study abroad honed her Russian skills and deepened her understanding of the Soviet Union, its aftermath and its lingering impact on international relationships in the Russian-speaking world, according to professors. Her senior project dealt with the complexity of those international relationships, focusing on the representation of the Russian-Ukrainian military conflict in documentary films. 

Cash plans to intern with the Armenian Volunteer Corps in Yerevan, Armenia. After a year or two working abroad, she hopes to pursue a position with the federal government in linguistics and/or international relations.

ABIGAIL (ABBEY) CRATER / Aquatic and Marine Biology and Religious Studies 

Abigail (Abbey) Crater was outstanding in two distinct disciplines, receiving bachelor’s degrees in aquatic and marine biology and in religious studies. 

Crater completed a senior research project in marine biology (“Synchronous Air Breathing as a Response to Hypoxia Exposure in Two Size Classes of Juvenile Armored Catfish, Pterygoplichthys disjunctivus”), as well as a senior research project in religious studies that combined her interests in marine conservation and religious studies (“Creatures of the Deep: Aquatic Myths and How They Can Contribute to Marine Conservation”). 

She was named an Outstanding Junior in Religious Studies in 2019 and was inducted into Theta Alpha Kappa, the religious studies honorary society. 

Crater was a member of Circle K International, Hatters Down Under: Scuba and Snorkel Club and the Women’s Chorale. Also, among other places, she volunteered at a St. Johns River cleanup, oyster bagging at the Marine Discovery Center and at the Samaritan Ministries Homeless Shelter Café.

EVA DEISA / Digital Arts 

Eva Deisa journeyed a long way to receive her bachelor’s in digital arts, literally and figuratively. Deisa is from Riga, Latvia, and professors commented that her art was something out of this world. 

As a student, Deisa was included in exhibitions that ranged from the “Juried Art Exhibition” at Stetson’s Homer and Dolly Hand Art Center to “The Cube Art Project” in Lincoln, Nebraska. Just prior to graduating, she created a virtual-reality experience for “Generational Shift 2020” at the Hand Art Center. The project featured stunning impressions played to music. Her works primarily were achieved digitally, inspired by her own everyday observations. 

For that effort, Deisa was the winner of Stetson’s Ethan F. Greene Award, which recognizes one student for significant achievement in the preparation and presentation of a digital-arts senior project.

In describing the approach to that project, “Are We Seeing?” Deisa explained: “Our lives are revolving around our phones, social media and other people’s perception of us. We are stuck in a routine, a pattern without realizing it. I question these ideas a lot, and I try to find answers from within myself. I do so by making art. … With my work I am trying to make my audience aware of the routine and break it.”

 Plus, for good measure, she was a standout on the volleyball team.

ADRIANNA DISLA / Biology 

Adrianna Disla, from Puerto Rico, obviously enjoyed novel research during her time at Stetson — she worked on projects that involved local rodent species and tick-borne disease carriers. 

Disla came to Stetson as the beneficiary of the university’s Presidential Scholarship, a merit award based on outstanding high-school test performance and community service. She also received an Impact Fund Award, enabling her to experience a summer 2019 internship that earned her two awards in the 2019 Stetson Internship Showcase.

As a result, Disla has left Stetson with a variety of career-related experiences in Florida, Puerto Rico and Costa Rica. They included shadowing veterinarians during consults with patients and surgeries; working on animal habitat maintenance, water quality testing and food preparations; and being a member of a rescue team for marine animals. 

Further, while she began at Stetson being a bit unsure of herself, according to professors, Disla put those academic and work opportunities to good use, making the Stetson Honor Roll and earning Phi Eta Sigma distinction for classroom achievement. Plus, she helped the university by serving as a student ambassador, scheduling on-campus visits and guiding tours for prospective incoming students, among other duties. 

“It was just the most amazing journey of watching her get more and more confident and assured as she went along through her career,” commented Melissa Gibbs, PhD, professor of biology and director of Aquatic and Marine Biology. “She’s just been one of the most interesting transitions.” 

Receiving a Bachelor of Science in aquatic and marine biology, Disla hopes to eventually become a veterinarian.

PHASIN GONZALEZ / Chemistry 

Phasin Gonzalez was the winner of the American Institute of Chemists Foundation Outstanding Senior Award. Gonzalez consistently performed at the top of his class across all of his chemistry/biochemistry courses at Stetson. In addition, he served in a valuable teaching capacity as a student peer instructor in Organic Chemistry I and II classes during the past two years. 

In summer 2019, Phasin participated in a prestigious Research Experience for Undergraduates appointment at the University of Kansas, where he studied “The Microfluidic Affinity Selection and Electrical Detection of Circulating Tumor Cells in Blood Samples from Metastatic Cancer Patients,” a topic he would later use for his senior research project at Stetson. Phasin presented that research at the National 2020 Pittcon Conference in Chicago. 

Phasin’s ultimate ambition is to become a medical doctor. Following a gap year, he plans to take the Medical College Admission Test and apply to schools.

JENNA NOEL PALMISANO / Aquatic and Marine Biology 

Jenna Palmisano won both the Dorothy L. Fuller Award and the Rachel Carson Environmental Science Award. The Fuller award is presented to the most overall outstanding senior in the areas of biology, aquatic and marine biology, and molecular biology. The Carson award recognizes the senior who has achieved exceptional academic standing and made extraordinary contributions through civic engagement on environmental issues. 

In addition to being a standout student, Palmisano was active in a wide variety of campus endeavors. Palmisano was a Stetson Peer Instructor for several years, and for the past year served as the lead peer instructor, supervising a staff of 17 other students. For her final three years on campus, she was a Gillespie Museum guide and Volusia Sandhill Ecosystem intern, helping with ongoing education and conservation efforts. 

Palmisano was a talented researcher, studying horseshoe crab ecology at the Marine Discovery Center and venomous snake biology at the Reptile Discovery Center. She received the “best student paper” award at the Southeast Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation for her investigation of lizards as host of an invasive parasite. 

Palmisano plans to apply to graduate programs next fall. For now, she is continuing her ecological research studies with Stetson research adviser Terence Farrell, PhD, with an eye on presenting and publishing their work.

DAKOTA JOHN FIGUEROA / History 

Dakota John Figueroa’s professors praised him for being “a model of liberal arts inquiry” and making “intuitive connections between ideas from different courses.” Not coincidentally, Figueroa was presented with the Gilbert L. Lycan History Award from the Department of History. He was a co-recipient with Dylan James Croup, who graduated in December 2019. 

Figueroa, a history major with a minor in American studies, was particularly well-rounded at Stetson. He was vice president of Stetson’s chapter of Alpha Zeta (first and oldest collegiate society for agriculture), a member of Phi Alpha Delta (pre-law chapter) and a member of the Stetson Honors Program. Other academic accolades included a Stetson Undergraduate Research Experience Grant and an Evans Johnson Research Grant from the history department. 

Both of those grants were used to research his senior thesis, “From Archenemies to Allies: Reassessing the Birth of the United States-Japan Alliance, 1945-1960.” Figueroa analyzed the factors that transformed the United States and Japan into staunch allies. He shared his findings at the prestigious national conference of Phi Alpha Theta, the undergraduate history honor society. 

Following a gap year, Figueroa is planning to attend law school with a concentration in either international or human-rights law.

EMILY MAULE / Art

In her work “Unsettling Binaries,” art major Emily Maule explored grotesque vs. dreamy, dark vs. light, the sinner vs. the saint. 

“These opposites in life are what drives my creativity,” Maule described. 

That work was displayed at the Homer and Dolly Hand Art Center on campus as part of the Generational Shift 2020 Creative Arts Senior Exhibition. 

Shortly afterward, Maule received the Ed Hamill Award for “outstanding senior,” presented by the creative arts, art, art history, digital arts and theatre departments. 

In “Unsettling Binaries,” as a view inside Maule’s world, she morphed the original images appropriated from the works of old masters (for example, the “Last Supper” by da Vinci) into either grotesque, neon creatures or more naturalistic humans with impressionistic brush strokes. “In a world seemingly black and white,” she concluded, “one realizes there’s bound to be a bit of color and thus complexity.” 

Maule plans to pursue an MFA and eventually work in either arts in medicine or in teaching.

JACOB MAUSER / English 

Jacob Mauser excelled in his studies as an English major, receiving the Byron H. Gibson Award, the most prestigious honor bestowed by the English Department for scholar and university contributions. Also, he minored in philosophy and Russian language and culture. 

During his sophomore year, Mauser began working as a staff member at Touchstone, Stetson’s literary and arts journal. He eventually became executive editor and greatly helped to grow Stetson’s artistic community. He is a member of Sigma Tau Delta, English honorary society. In addition, he has served as master of ceremonies and photographer for Uncouth Hour, Stetson’s weekly open mic night, and worked as a photographer for the Hatter Network on campus. 

Mauser’s senior research was on John Donne’s Holy Sonnets. Also, his interest in Stetson’s Program in Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies (SPREES) led to study in Ukraine during summer 2019.

MACKENZIE NALVEN / Psychology 

Mackenzie Nalven studied all over the Stetson campus. She completed two majors — psychology and management — and minored in music as a violin player. Also, Nalven served as a writing tutor and was a member of the Business Ethics team. 

Nalven received an honorable mention at Showcase 2019, and the senior research project she designed as an extension of that work was accepted for presentation at the Southeastern Psychological Association (SEPA) meeting. Although the meeting was canceled, Nalven’s senior research professor noted that hers was “the best written project in our class.” Another of her manuscripts was under review by the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology. 

For those accomplishments and others, she was awarded the Outstanding Researcher in Psychology Award 2019-2020. 

Nalven will attend Vanderbilt University to pursue a Master of Education in leadership and organizational performance.

TIFFANY OMS / Philosophy 

With the early understanding that the study of philosophy was excellent preparation for law school, Tiffany Oms pursued such study at Stetson with great passion. 

Ultimately, under the guidance of Melinda Hall, PhD, associate professor of philosophy, Oms’ senior project centered on disability, stigma and the law. A primary focus was ways in which discrimination, both outright and de facto, have negatively impacted the lives of disabled people. 

Additionally, Oms regularly offered insightful suggestions for strengthening legal protections for people with a disability, and she kept a keen eye on reforms. Faculty members were impressed by her dedication, intellectual curiosity and sense of social justice, along with her friendliness. 

In law school, Tiffany wants to represent those who face disability-related obstacles. Also, she hopes to educate the community about disability rights, and break down stereotypes and stigmas that act as barriers to a more equitable society.

KORINNE PATTERSON / Public Management 

Korinne Patterson envisions a career in public service, and she’s off to a good start. Patterson earned the William Amory Underhill Award from the political science and public management in international studies departments. 

The Underhill award is given to the student who has most demonstrated the discipline, integrity and desire to pursue public service and is most likely to have a positive impact on government. 

Patterson was a member of Phi Eta Sigma National Honor Society, the nation’s oldest and largest honor society for first-year college and university students in all disciplines, whose three Greek words appearing on its crest form the organization’s motto: “Knowledge is Power.” During fall 2019, she interned for Orlando City Commissioner Regina Hill. Her senior research project, “Descriptive Districts: Minority Representation on City Councils,” focused on how descriptive representation for minorities on city councils is impacted by the way city districts are drawn. 

Now, Patterson plans to work in city government for a year before pursuing graduate study.

JASMINE SANTIAGO / Education 

Jasmine Santiago interned in a fourth-grade classroom, where, Santiago said, she will always remember her student teaching experience — when the COVID-19 pandemic forced schools to move to an online teaching environment. 

During that time, Santiago diligently worked alongside her cooperating teacher to help their students continue learning from home. For such commitment, plus for many other reasons, Santiago earned the Ray V. Sowers Elementary Education Award as the most outstanding graduate in elementary education.

Santiago’s professors described her as an exceptional student who has a heart for marginalized children. Her senior research project focused on protecting and serving undocumented students in public education. She is a member of Kappa Delta Pi, the international honor society in education, and a student in the Stetson Bonner Program. 

Her plan is to teach in the intermediate grades, where she hopes to continue to ‘inspire students to demonstrate kindness and empathy.”

CHELSEA SEAVER Public Health 

Almost since day one at Stetson, Chelsea Seaver demonstrated all the qualities of an accomplished student who is well-prepared to join the world as an intellectual mind and a responsible citizen.

Seaver was engaged in high-impact research, working with a local neighborhood to preserve history and enrich the lives of residents in the future. Through that research, she learned the importance of place, and how the interdisciplinary nature of public health, history, sociology, urban theory and local politics intersect to impact the overall health and well-being of a community. She minored in sustainable food systems.

Seaver became a Newman Civic Fellow, part of a group of students recognized by their universities nationwide for their commitment to social change and for being known as public problem-solvers. She committed herself to research not for the purpose of résumé-building, but in genuine service to the community. She volunteered in the Dominican Republic, working on hygiene and sanitation projects, and was a proactive member of the Stetson wellness team, educating the campus community about healthy lifestyle practices.

Further, Seaver mentored other students, displaying exemplary academic competence, leadership, community service and personal growth with the desire to be a change-maker.

Her words: “My goal is to make a difference in the lives of others — whether I become a national public health leader, developing nutrition-based programs and enacting policies, or simply by being a helping hand in my community.”

School of Business Administration

FINN BUSMANN / Marketing and Sport Business 

Finn Busmann was among the many students at Stetson who personified the term student-athlete. Busmann played on the Hatters soccer team for four years, becoming team captain as a junior. He made the ASUN All-Academic Team in 2017 and 2019. Also, he was part of the student-athlete advisory committee. 

A native of Marburg, Germany, Busmann worked on campus as a German language tutor and in special events, and he assisted University Marketing on special projects, among other roles. 

Within the School of Business Administration, he was stellar as a member of the prestigious Roland George Investments Program and one of its four student public trustees. In 2019, he was inducted into Beta Gamma Sigma, an international business honor society. 

This spring, he was studying remotely to take the Chartered Financial Analyst Level 1 exam. On average, successful candidates report spending approximately 300 hours preparing for that exam, according to the CFA Institute, a global association of investment professionals. 

Busmann, who also minored in finance, plans to attend graduate school.

REBECCA “BLAKE” CREWS / Professional Sales and Marketing 

On campus, Blake Crews said she was “most proud” of being a student-athlete — not only competing for Stetson in academic clubs and competitions, but also as a catcher for the Hatters in softball. Crews started all 47 of the team’s games as a junior. This spring, she was named to the ASUN Preseason all-conference team. 

“As a student-athlete, I learned so many valuable skills that helped me perform at a high academic level and in my sport,” Crews commented. “I know that those skills I learned will serve me well in the future.” 

Her classroom performance was special, too. She made the ASUN Honor Roll from 2017 to 2019. And this spring, she received the Business School Foundation Merit Award for Professional Sales, what she called her “biggest achievement at Stetson.” 

“For me, it was a representation of the hard work that I put in academically over my four years,” she noted. 

Crews’ sales career is already in bloom. For personal privacy reasons, she withheld the name of her employer, but her job is in Boston as a business development representative.

WYATT PECK / Entrepreneurship 

While still a student at Stetson, Wyatt Peck started a business, Dynamic Galleries, which brings new, curated photography exhibitions to business offices, lobbies, waiting rooms and other locales on an alternating basis, providing attractive displays while also helping local artists. He opened a first location at Daytona Beach International Airport. 

In addition, Peck was (and continues to be) a freelance photographer, specializing in commercial interiors/exteriors. 

Mostly, those achievements were away from the Lynn Business Center on campus, where Peck shined as a student — becoming the recipient of the Business School Foundation Merit Award for Entrepreneurship. 

Peck also was involved in the Prince Entrepreneurship Leaders Program, composed of a small group of select students who are serious about launching their own scalable businesses. And Peck was a frequent participant in student competitions, such as the Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization Online Student Marketplace Simulations and the Capsim Management Simulations’ Capstone 2.0, where he and three other students helped Stetson finish in the global top-10 percentile. 

His next competition: the open market of entrepreneurship.

TARA TOVKACH / Management 

In February 2020, Tara Tovkach put her management studies to the test in what she labeled “one of the most rewarding ways I was able to give back” on campus. Under Tovkach’s leadership as executive director, Hatterthon — a student dance-marathon fundraising event that is part of a national campaign to aid hospitals — raised a school-record $84,407. 

In the same role in 2019, she helped to raise $62,000. Also, as part of that effort, Tovkach helped first- and second-year students become more confident in their abilities. 

Tovkach began working for the University of Florida’s Dance Marathon while she was a high school student in Gainesville, and she was a member of the team that founded Hatterthon. This year, she oversaw a total of 60 students, and now Hatterthon is a top-five program nationally for year-over-year growth of the event. 

In addition, with minors in environmental studies and marketing to go along with her major study in management, Tovkach chaired the 2019 Homecoming Committee and was a student event coordinator for the university. Further, she earned memberships in Beta Gamma Sigma, a business honor society; Alpha Chi Omega, a national women’s fraternity; and Omicron Delta Kappa, a national leadership honor society. 

Now, Tovkach is actively seeking roles in development/event planning.

School of Music

MATTHEW BALDERSON / Music Education – Instrumental 

When Matthew Balderson started at Stetson, he said his personal goal was to focus on academics. He did, and he was rewarded. 

A music education – instrumental (saxophone) major, Balderson won the Phi Mu Alpha Scholastic Sinfonia Award, completing his studies on campus with a 3.80 GPA. (A sinfonia is an orchestral prelude to a vocal work. The Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity of America is an American collegiate social fraternity for men with a special interest in music.) 

“It’s nice to have a concrete reminder of my efforts,” he said about the award, which goes to the graduating sinfonian with the highest overall grade-point average. 

Also, Balderson spent a semester as a student-teacher, for which he is “most proud.” “It’s incredibly gratifying to see musical, academic band social growth in students, and to be able to have a direct, positive role in said growth,” he commented. 

Balderson would like to continue teaching, working with a middle school or high school band in Central Florida “for a few years before I tackle further education.”

JAIDA HAWKINS / Music Education – Instrumental 

Jaida Hawkins’ exceptional talent as a violinist was easy to see, and hear, throughout the School of Music. So, as no surprise, she was named Outstanding Senior in Music Education – Instrumental, emblematic of distinguished performance in student internship and promise for a strong professional future.

Also, as a senior, Hawkins was inducted into Pi Kappa Lambda, the national music honor society. 

Yet, it was away from the stage where Hawkins perhaps made her greatest impact — as a student teaching intern at Seminole High School, not far from campus. 

“It was an incredible experience in which I was fortunate enough to interact with a variety of wonderful students,” she said, calling it her greatest achievement as a student at Stetson. “I loved watching [the young students] improve and become a little more self-sufficient each day, all while making music together.” 

Similarly, Hawkins made a difference on campus in a variety of helpful roles. 

“I’m glad that I was able to serve my peers as a music theory tutor. I loved serving the orchestra as a concert master and as the librarian,” she said. “I appreciated all the music I was able to make with my peers in all of the ensembles I participated in, especially the symphony orchestra and the small chamber ensemble. I’m proud that I was able to pour into the School of Music community all while creating beautiful music and memories.” 

More opportunities to teach are in her immediate future, when she begins her first teaching job in August as an orchestra director at Hinson and Ormond Beach middle schools in nearby Volusia County.

LAUREN PRESTIFILIPPO / Voice

The academic year’s winner of the Scholastic Award from the School of Music was Lauren Prestifilippo, who majored in voice and finished with a 3.99 GPA in the Honors Program. The Scholastic Award recognizes the graduating Sigma Alpha Iota collegiate member with the highest overall GPA. 

Yet, excuse anyone who might call her Cleopatra.

One of her biggest achievements at Stetson, said Prestifilippo, was her performance as Cleopatra in Handel’s opera “Giulio Cesare” to start the 2019-2020 season for Stetson opera theatre students. 

It was her first full study of a lead opera role, and the production was directed by Russell Franks, MM, director of Stetson Opera Theatre, and conducted by Anthony Hose, ARCM, associate professor of music, orchestra.

“I am very proud of the progress I made as a singer through my completion of this,” Prestifilippo said about her performance, which was in authentic costumes. 

While standing out individually, Prestifilippo was “incredibly proud” of the close collaboration that occurred at Stetson among the student musicians.

“From programming recitals with my outstanding accompanist and performing in small ensembles at downtown and on-campus events, to performing with the university choirs and opera theatre program, I have had the privilege of experiencing this time and time again,” she said. “I have grown so much from working with my wonderful peers in the School of Music and the Honors Program.”

Following a gap year or two to spend time with family and to work more on her craft. Prestifilippo plans to pursue a master’s degree in voice performance and pedagogy.

LIKE MOTHER, LIKE SON.

Sue Moyer and her son, Nick Moyer, both earned MBAs in May from Stetson’s School of Business Administration. They are shown here in June on campus. Sue, who has a career background in information technology, always had wanted to complete her MBA, but family — as in raising Nick — got in the way. She graduated in 1997 from St. Cloud State University in Minnesota with a major in psychology and a minor in business computer information systems. Going full time, she completed the Stetson MBA program in one year and now is seeking to re-enter IT project management or the IT training field. Nick, 22, who was home-schooled in nearby Apopka, was a first-year undergraduate student at Stetson in August 2016. He’s looking for a position in the finance, management or marketing sectors. Note: Special thanks to The Apopka Chief for providing information.

-Michael Candelaria