Presidential medals honor the 'best of the best'
UC President Neville G. Pinto celebrates the next generation leaders
As the University of Cincinnati continues to mold the next generation of leaders, there are always the exceptions that leave an indelible mark on the campus, community and beyond.
UC President Neville G. Pinto celebrated six of the university's "very best of the best" among the 2022 undergraduate and graduate class who best exemplify scholarship, leadership, character, service and the ideals of the University of Cincinnati. In a celebration at Cincinnati's Queen City Club surrounded by family, mentors and university leaders, the four exceptional undergraduate students awarded "Presidential Leadership Medals of Excellence" included Maria Bobrowski-Artola, Shivane Chawla, Xiyanna Kellogg and Daniel Posmik. The university's two graduate students awarded the "Presidential Medal of Graduate Student Excellence" were Abdullah Bdaiwi and Christin Godale.
Each year, strong candidates show significant experience in one or more criteria that includes academic learning and discovery, innovation through leadership, community participation, supporting diversity, global engagement and the potential for future success and achievement. And this year's candidates were no exception.
Through battles with personal health, security issues in their homeland or financial hurdles, president Pinto made it clear that, "You are our NEXT! I'm confident that each of you will make us proud — continuing on your path toward success in your field of study, your careers and your nonprofit work."
[Roughly translated] juncta juvant means 'strength in unity' and alta petit 'seek the highest.' Throughout your years at UC, you have certainly lived those mottoes through your actions and endeavors. We look forward to seeing how you will continue to live those values in the years ahead.
President Neville G. Pinto UC presidential award ceremony, April 26, 2022
Presidential Leadership Medal of Excellence winners
As a child born in Mexico, Bobrowski-Artola immigrated to the U.S. at five years old. After being diagnosed with leukemia, Bobrowski-Artola’s father found comfort in bringing his family back home to his native Cleveland to seek his treatment at the nearby Cleveland Clinic.
Before graduating high school, Bobrowski-Artola had already developed an interest in the social determinants and deeper issues in health care that had impacted her family and the families of other immigrants.
As a Cincinnatus Scholar, Bobrowski-Artola hit the ground running by participating in several discussions on human rights. Before long, she was leading outreach efforts as a freshman volunteer for GlobeMed, an international organization that partners students with grassroots nonprofits around the globe to further health equity and human rights. Focusing on women and children’s issues, Bobrowski-Artola worked with local agencies as well as the Cincinnati GlobeMed partner in Thailand and became co-president of the Cincinnati chapter during the early pandemic in 2020.
It was her role as volunteer coordinator for UC’s Latinx en Accion, however, where she says she made the biggest impact. Serving the Hispanic and immigrant community in Cincinnati’s Price Hill led to her receiving an Annie Fitzgerald Rising Star Award, awarded each year to UC undergraduate students who have shown leadership and possess a passion for service.
“During the early part of the pandemic, we took innovation to the test as we joked that we were handed a sinking ship and asked to build a plane,” says Bobrowski-Artola. “But in that effort to continue to further the equity for women and refugees during the pandemic, it was the perfect place and time for me to explore where my passions really lie.”
Because she has a transnational background, Bobrowski-Artola chose to focus her academic path on public health and human rights.
As a volunteer coordinator at the Cincinnati municipal courts during her junior year, Bobrowski-Artola worked with the Change Court program organizing activities including meditation for women in the Cincinnati area who are victims of sex or human trafficking.
As part of her senior capstone project, Bobrowski-Artola looked at policies and laws that specifically impact unaccompanied migrant children who end up in the Midwest. Her completed project looked closely at the experiences they face as they begin their journey from Latin America to the U.S.
During her time at UC, Bobrowski-Artola received multiple awards including the Inclusive Excellence Award at the 2021 Celebration of Student Involvement Ceremony on behalf of GlobeMed. In addition, she recently received UC’s C-Ring award for the outstanding graduating senior woman who has demonstrated excellence in leadership throughout her undergraduate career.
Bobrowski-Artola plans to get a master’s degree in public health, public policy or law.
"By collaborating with organizations on a transnational level, I hope to work toward public policies and grassroots initiatives that will make health and racial equity a reality for marginalized communities here in the U.S.," she adds.
As a university honors student, Shivane Chawla earned a bachelor’s degree in medical sciences from UC’s College of Medicine. With a particular interest in women’s health, Chawla studied the role of environmental toxins on endometriosis with Katherine Burns, PhD, a leading researcher who mentored her as an undergraduate in Women in Science and Engineering (WISE).
“Empowered by researching a disease that has affected so many women in my life, including my mother, I was able to find purpose in Dr. Burns’ lab,” noted Chawla.
During her time in WISE — now rebranded as UC UPRISE — Chawla learned how to approach research in an environment that was supportive and nonjudgmental, something she found extremely valuable while learning on the ground level.
As a medical sciences student, Chawla served as the director of community building for the UC chapter of GlobeMed, was on the Ambassador Leadership Team within the University Honors Program and was a communication and project manager with Cincinnarti's Crossroads Community Health Education Program, part of a faith-based nonprofit serving patients of all economic levels. There, she and the team made a strong impact in local Dohn Community High Schools where she presented to students on human anatomy, aspects of reproductive health and how to navigate other useful resources.
She also serves as the digital operations coordinator for Girls Rock Cincinnati, a local nonprofit that uses art, music and activism to encourage young people to explore gender identities in a safe space during a summer arts camp for young girls and gender expansive youths ages 12 to 18.
Before applying to medical school, Chawla will spend one year at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, where she will work toward a master’s degree in science, communication and public engagement.
“It’s a broad study of how people interface with science in different settings,” says Chawla. “Science communication plays a role in how we perceive the information we consume each day that affects our own understanding of knowledge. I aspire to use the tools of science communication to empower people to make informed decisions about their health.”
As a high school student interested in news broadcasting and film, Xiyanna Kellogg had the opportunity to intern with Cincinnati’s local WCPO Channel 9 TV station before entering UC as a freshman in both the College-Conservatory of Music media production program and UC's College of Arts and Sciences film and media studies program.
As part of the Cincinnati Public School Ambassador Program with UC and as a first-generation college student, Kellogg received UC’s Gen-1 housing scholarship before traveling to Munich, Germany, in UC’s study abroad program.
Later, during an internship with the Cincinnati educational television public broadcasting tation CET, Kellogg helped build sets and set up cameras to gain further hands-on experience in TV production.
While participating in UC’s McNair Scholars Program, which assists first-generation college students to obtain a graduate degree, Kellogg completed research with the nonprofit Village Life Outreach project where she created a short documentary film about two African UC students on full-ride scholarships.
Among her awards and campus activities, Kellogg was named a Village Life Outreach Project Rafiki Award recipient in 2021, for going above and beyond to help transform the organization.
As a mentor in UC’s African American Cultural & Resource Center, Kellogg was known as Mamma Xiyanna because she helped build a positive atmosphere that encouraged students to exhibit uncompromising character and academic excellence.
Kellogg currently works as a digital marketing intern for a Cincinnati digital marketing firm and will leave for Tanzania in June on a full scholarship to gather interviews and produce videos.
In the fall, Kellogg will attend UC’s Carl H. Lindner College of Business graduate program to pursue a master’s degree in marketing and hopes to eventually come full circle and teach at UC.
As an aspiring pioneer in the digital media space, specifically film, Kellogg’s passion is to advocate for racial equality in the film industry. And as a woman of color, she says her desire to create more opportunities for marginalized minorities is imperative.
As an international exchange student from Germany, Daniel Posmik came to the U.S. in 2016 as an athlete to play football at a Cincinnati high school. While there, Posmik’s acumen in sports more than made up for his lack of interest in academics. But his love for everything sports soon turned to a desire to learn more about the business world, especially economics and statistics.
After spending his first two years at one of the university's regional campuses, UC Blue Ash, he was inspired by UC student adviser Mike Roman to establish the UC Blue Ash Sustainability group. Posmik combined his passion for the human face of climate change with his newfound talent for economics where in his own words, “the rest is history,” after transferring to UC’s Carl H. Lindner College of Business.
Posmik’s interest in climate economics opened a whole new confidence he never felt before.
“As I became more invested in climate policy, I started learning about real inequality in America,” says Posmik. “I became aware that while I had to overcome obstacles myself, my journey was in no way indicative of the struggles faced by other individuals.
"I am a white man existing in a system that is designed to uplift people who look like me, and to suppress those who don’t.”
On UC’s main campus, Posmik founded Neo — a collaborative effort to assist minority-owned small businesses with data analytics consulting. Posmik's primary motivation behind Neo helps make the privilege of education more accessible, which eventually led to collaborating with some entrepreneurs in Cincinnati. Today, Neo is collaborating with over 14 black-owned small businesses and is engaged in a flourishing partnership with the Ohio Department of Development.
His additional independent research project on the relationship between financial aid and international student enrollment was accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal last December.
Posmik plans to pursue a doctorate in economics as a climate economist. He plans to focus on the connection between humans and climate change and improving the impact climate change has on the economy, “Especially the impact metrics have on poverty and inequality around the world,” he adds.
Posmik looks forward to his doctoral degree as an opportunity to do the research and to educate and communicate the findings. He especially hopes to eliminate the ambiguity between research and climate policy.
“As a climate economist I plan to pass this knowledge on to the next generation of economists while also empowering marginalized voices to overcome whatever is holding them back,” adds Posmik.
Presidential Medal of Graduate Student Excellence awards
As a native Iraqi, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of Tikrit, Abdullah Bdaiwi’s life was suddenly turned upside down. Shortly after earning his master’s degree in physics at UC in 2017, ISIS terrorist groups invaded Iraq and took over almost a third of the country, including his hometown.
After his family quickly left their home and fled to the north, Bdaiwi’s choices for where to go were now limited. That is when he decided to stay in Cincinnati and enter UC’s doctoral program in biomedical engineering from the College of Engineering and Applied Science.
As a stalwart student used to making the best of a stressful situation, Bdaiwi persevered through research focused on the development of quantitative magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the respiratory system’s structure and function in patients with lung diseases.
Already possessing a background in physics with a focus on nuclear MRI, Bdaiwi took advantage of his research at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center (CCHMC) to focus on bridging the gap between basic science and clinical applications with specific training in pulmonary MRI.
More recently, Bdaiwi’s graduate studies are focused on the Center for Pulmonary Imaging Research at CCHMC, where physicists, chemists and engineers work with biologists and clinicians to perform functional and structural imaging of the adult and developing lung using a highly specialized MRI.
In addition to developing expertise in the MRI system, Bdaiwi has been actively involved in establishing a potential imaging method to quantify lung microstructure at Children’s.
From 2018 to 2021, Bdaiwi successfully published MRI research in three peer-reviewed journals on mapping normal and abnormal pediatric and adult lung and brain conditions.
As Bdaiwi prepares to defend his doctoral dissertation in July, 2022, he will present his findings on MRI imaging specifically using Xenon gas to quantify the function and structure of the human lungs.
Diagnosed with epilepsy at the age of two, Christin Godale grew up to be both a patient and scientist — and has spent her academic career chasing after a cure.
Growing up, Godale understood all too well both the stigma and exclusion that can result from a condition defined by recurrent, unprovoked seizures. But early support by her neurologist helped Godale accept her diagnoses and work toward turning her challenge into a career.
After earning her bachelor’s degree with a double major in biology and neuroscience, Godale sought out UC to pursue her doctorate in neuroscience, particularly to work alongside UC’s leading epilepsy researchers.
"I am ecstatic to receive this distinct presidential honor,” claims Godale. “At UC, my doctoral research experience has been outstanding. The neuroscience graduate program, the College of Medicine and the UC administration have all been extremely supportive throughout this journey.”
As a grad student working long hours in Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center’s Danzer Lab directed by Steve Danzer, associate professor in UC’s department of anesthesiology and CCHMC’s department of anesthesia, Godale looked closely at identifying new therapeutic targets for at-risk epilepsy patients, particularly how treatments might inhibit the development of epilepsy in the brain.
Since then, Godale has had a number of peer-reviewed publications, presented her research at several prestigious neuroscience conferences and secured several grants for her research on temporal lobe epilepsy.
Passionate about neuroscience and honing her skills in academic research, Godale is also known nationally as an advocate for neuroscience funding, particularly around epilepsy.
While not only serving on UC Epilepsy Center’s Community Advisory Board, Godale also served as a graduate student trustee on UC’s Board of Trustees from 2018 to 2020.
Early in the COVID-19 crisis, Godale’s scientific research shut down. During that time, she used the time to focus on enhancing ways scientists can, and should, improve science communication to the general public — a critical issue she says is needed to battle misinformation and pseudoscience.
Currently, Godale works with the U.S. Society for Neuroscience as an early-career policy ambassador where she meets with policymakers, maintains relationships with the offices of elected officials and contributes to collaborative advocacy.
Because Godale understands epilepsy on both a mechanistic and personal level, she is making an impact on local and national initiatives including CURE, the leading nongovernmental agency committed to promoting and funding patient-focused research.
In addition, Godale is presently making an impact as a part time consultant with CincyTech, a venture firm partner in the Cincinnati Innovation District and active seed fund in the Midwest.
After defending her dissertation in June, Godale will begin her full time position with CincyTech as director of life sciences where she will help manage the company’s life science investment activities.
“In my new role, I'm excited to contribute to UC's Next Lives Here initiative,” says Godale. “I'm proud to be a part of CincyTech's outstanding team, and I'm looking forward to assisting in the development of meaningful, next-gen life science enterprises that will help improve our region's economy and culture while also assisting in the retention and development of talent. Go Bearcats!"
- More about UC's PLME and PMGSE
Featured image at top: UC's 2022 PLME/PMGSE awardees with president Neville G. Pinto in center. photo/Joe Fuqua/ UC Creative + Brand
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