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UC’s Top Graduates Prove They Can Lead and Succeed

The University of Cincinnati’s 2016 Presidential Leadership Medal of Excellence Awards recognize six of the most talented students representing the best in their respective fields.

Date: 4/11/2016
By: Melanie Schefft
Phone: (513) 556-5213
Other Contact: M.B. Reilly
Other Contact Phone: (513) 556-1824
Photos By: Andrew Higley/UC Creative Services
The University of Cincinnati's “2016 Presidential Leadership Medal of Excellence” winners have demonstrated their inspirational leadership skills throughout their campus careers.

Established in 2002, the medal is awarded by the university president to exceptional graduating students who best exemplify scholarship, leadership, character, service and the ideals of the University of Cincinnati.

The 2016 winners are Priya Chawla, Jeffrey Maler, Hannah Randolph, Caitlin Taylor, Andrew Griggs, and Zachery Tucker, and were recognized at the All-University Recognition Ceremonies in the TUC Great Hall on Sunday, April 10th. The winners will also receive special acknowledgment at the University of Cincinnati Commencement Ceremonies on April 29 and 30 in Fifth Third Arena.

Representing computer science, engineering, nursing, education, economics and international affairs, the six 2016 honorees were selected from 31 graduating senior applicants from across the university. A UC committee comprised of faculty, staff and student leaders reviewed the 13 Finalists.

The 2016 PLME medalists are:

portrait of Priya Chawla, 2016 UC PLME Award winner


Priya Chawla is from Dayton, Ohio, and graduated from Centerville High School. As a member of the ACCEND Program, Chawla will graduate this spring with simultaneous bachelor's of science and master's of science degrees in computer science from the College of Engineering and Applied Science. As an ambassador in the Darwin T. Turner Scholarship Program, she took it upon herself to not only lead within her major, but to create opportunities for women in computer science on campus and throughout the region. As one of the only women majoring in computer science, she took the experience of founding the “UC Invents Idea Competition” in 2013 and just one year later launched the Association for Computing Machinery––Committee on Women chapter (ACM-W). In two short years under Chawla’s leadership, that group has garnered attention and funding from local and outside supporters, notably Microsoft Corporation and Google. As a result, her chapter received the “Excellence Award for Outstanding Community Service” by their national organization last year, enhancing her college’s diversity and encouraging other women to take leadership positions in the organization. This fall, Microsoft brought the wildly successful Digigirlz coding and networking event for high-school females to campus thanks to Chawla’s tireless work. Her efforts brought dozens of young women to UC who might otherwise never have considered a career in computing. According to UC Provost Beverly Davenport, Chawla’s fluency in four languages, extensive study abroad and co-op experiences have helped her earn a full-time position in the very competitive Future Technical Leaders Program with Northrop Grumman Corporation after graduation, where only 25 spots are offered to new graduates from schools across the entire nation.

portrait of Jeffrey Maler, 2016 UC PLME Award winner


Jeffrey Maler is from Kettering, Ohio, and graduated from Bellbrook High School. While simultaneously completing the Reserve Officers' Training Corps and Honors programs, Maler will graduate in the spring of 2016 with a bachelor’s of science degree in nursing from the College of Nursing (CoN). As a member of the Ohio Action Coalition on Diversity in Nursing and as president of UC Men in Nursing, Maler works to increase the diversity of the Ohio nursing workforce through advocacy and the development of policy and legislation. Maler has traveled on five study abroad experiences to six countries: England, France, South Africa, China, Dominican Republic and Brazil. As a result, he was selected to serve as student ambassador to a college of nursing in Hong Kong to support efforts to build an international collaboration with the UC CoN. Maler has received local and national recognition for excellence in several areas, including receipt of the 2014 Cadet of the Year Award sponsored by the American Veterans and the 2013 German Armed Forces Military Proficiency Badge. Maler has further demonstrated the qualities of leadership at UC as nursing senior class vice president, student government director of veterans affairs, U.S. Army ROTC UC Bearcat Battalion platoon leader and public affairs officer, and numerous other positions on campus. Maler’s dedication to community service culminates in his involvement with Team Red White & Blue of the National Veterans Outreach Program and as director of veterans affairs, enriching the lives of veterans in Cincinnati. After graduation, Maler is being assigned to active duty in the United States Army and looks forward to the opportunity to practice his craft in a way he loves –– in the field. And at the end of his military tenure, Maler plans to go on to earn a doctorate in nursing.

portrait of Hannah Randolph, 2016 PLME Award winner


Hannah Randolph is from Toledo, Ohio, and graduated high school from Notre Dame Academy. As a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Pi Sigma Alpha, honorariums for arts and sciences and political science respectively, Randolph holds a 4.0 GPA. She will graduate in spring 2016 with a bachelor’s degree with a double major in economics and international affairs, and with minors in mathematics, political science, Asian studies and Spanish. Randolph has developed a legacy of leadership, academic achievement, community engagement and global awareness as an undergraduate student at UC. This has led to her nomination by UC for the Truman, Marshall, Schwartzman and Fulbright awards. As a Boren Scholar of the National Security Education Program, Randolph secured the funds to study abroad to focus on language and national security issues. While spending the 2014-15 academic year at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, Randolph studied women in China’s economy. This resulted in the preparation, presentation and publication of an independent paper on China’s housing market. She later weaved this research in with her studies on women’s property rights in China as a Taft Senior Undergraduate Research Fellow. In 2016 Randolph joined the Student Rights and Interests Committee of Student Government working to promote women’s issues and diversity on campus. This led to supporting RECLAIM as they work with members of Irate-8 to make reforms on campus. Upon graduation, Randolph will pursue a doctorate in economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and looks forward to a career in the United Nations, working with UN Women to evaluate and implement policies that benefit women and their role in the economies of developing nations.

portrait of Caitlin Taylor, 2016 PLME Award winner


Caitlin Taylor is from Columbus, Ohio, and is a graduate of Olentangy High School. Taylor will graduate this spring with a bachelor's of science degree in middle school language and natural science education from the College of Education, Criminal Justice and Human Services. On her path toward the study of education, Taylor has channeled her passions into becoming a strong advocate for educational equality for children living in poverty. During her sophomore year, Taylor served as a leader on the UC team of the Ohio Student Education Policy Institute where she presented policy to the Ohio Senate Education Committee. She focused on deeply impactful “zero-tolerance” policies, which are punitive and prevent students of color, students living in poverty and students with disabilities from receiving an equal education. Taylor has dedicated over 100 hours of time in her junior and senior years to both the University Honors Program and the College of Education, Criminal Justice and Human Services Ambassadors program. During her junior year she was asked to highlight her story and passion for education and the university for promotional materials and was the featured student speaker at the TedxUCincinnati event on campus, speaking about being “young and empowered,” and how to become a young change agent in college. Taylor recently received the Alpha Gamma Scholarship for student teaching in the 2015-16 school year –– the only student in Ohio to receive the award. While participating in math tutoring research studies at Hughes STEM High School Taylor was accepted into the prestigious “Teach for America” and will begin teaching special education this fall in Southwest Ohio. Because of her many outreach efforts and high academic achievements, Taylor was recently accepted into the top ranked national graduate program at Johns Hopkins University. In conjunction with her first year of teaching in Ohio, she will begin her graduate studies online, focusing on urban education studies.

portrait of Andrew Griggs, 2016 PLME Award winner


Andrew Griggs is from Cincinnati and attended Indian Hill High School. Griggs is ranked first in his class at UC carrying a perfect 4.0 GPA and will graduate in the spring of 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and a minor in business administration. From the beginning of his freshman year at UC, Griggs hit the ground running, tackling leadership roles such as associate vice president of College of Education and Applied Science Tribunal, senator for CEAS, Senate Campus Life Committee Chair, Speaker of Student Senate and, most recently, vice president of the UC student body. Griggs’ campus responsibilities included the planning of the annual fall Technical Career Fair. There he managed an annual budget of $180,000 and coordinated the participation of 1,800 students and 400 company representatives. He has spearheaded several initiatives from textbook affordability to community and police relations and developed the UC AirportRide program that was used by more than 400 students last year. While student body vice president, Griggs helped launch a program that makes five free mental health counseling sessions available to every UC student –– resulting in a lasting impact on student life long after Griggs has graduated from UC. Griggs is a National Merit Scholar, Cincinnatus Excellence Scholar and was selected as the Freshman of the Year for CEAS. In 2016, the College of Engineering & Applied Science recognized his contributions with the CEAS Engineer of the Month award. In addition, Griggs is a member of the Omicron Delta Kappa National Honor Society and is in the University Honors Program. He is also a member of the Men of METRO Leadership Honorary, Sigma Sigma Men’s Honorary, Cincinnatus Honor Society, and has participated in the Accelerating Racial Justice Intensive Program. While completing four co-op terms at GE Aviation, he was awarded the GE Above and Beyond award. After graduation, Griggs will fill a role at GE Aviation in the Operations Management Leadership Program (OMLP).

portrait of Zachary Tucker, 2016 PLME Award winner


Zachary Tucker is from Lima, Ohio, and graduated from Shawnee High School. As a Cincinnatus Presidential Scholarship recipient, Tucker will graduate in the spring with a bachelor's of science degree in electrical engineering with a minor in biomedical electronics and computing from the College of Engineering and Applied Science. He will also earn a minor in German Studies from the McMicken College of Arts and Sciences. Tucker was one of three UC students to apply for the Marshall Scholarship at the national level and the only UC student nominated to apply for the Rhodes nationally. As a student in the University of Cincinnati Honors Program, Tucker earned the Mantei/Mae Academic Achievement Award and the Omnicron Delta Kappa and Eta Kappa Nu Honors. Tucker was the treasurer and president of the UC Rowing Team, and has served as a captain of the men's squad for the last three years. Tucker created a zero-based budget for the team, helped grow the team from 15 to 50 athletes and restructured the team's constitution and by-laws to create a more sustainable organizational structure. Tucker completed an eight-month co-op rotation in Stuttgart, Germany, learning about different cultures' approaches to problem solving. While in Germany, Tucker competed with the Stuttgart Rowing Community's High Performance Rowing Team, which made history as the first team to win their championship regatta in Breisach, Germany. Tucker demonstrated excellent leadership skills as a member of Engineers Without Borders (EWB) where he created a five-week intro to the EWB program to enable freshmen to become familiar with the Nyambogo community and water system in Tanzania. As the project lead, Tucker visited with the community in Nyambogo to discuss the needs of the community with them personally. Tucker also co-authored a paper in the field of materials science and is expecting to publish another paper soon in the field of medical imaging. Ultimately, Tucker is committed to a career in research because –– in his view –– innovating and advancing technology is an opportunity to have the broadest possible impact on the world and communities in need.

ABOUT THE AWARD Learn more about the Presidential Leadership Medal of Excellence, the selection criteria and previous winners online.

UC COMMENCEMENT April Commencement ceremonies celebrating the spring 2016 graduates will be held on April 29 and 30 in Fifth Third Arena.

CINCINNATI SMART This year’s Presidential Leadership Medal of Excellence honorees are among the best examples of what it means to be Cincinnati Smart.

2015 PLME Awards

Jeffrey Maler in UC Health News