Honored for excellence: Students recognized as speakers, Chancellor's Medallion recipients

April 27, 2014

Each semester, faculty choose Chancellor's Medallion recipients based on academic records, quality of character, vitality, intellect and integrity.

University of Michigan-Dearborn recognized two student speakers and five Chancellor's Medallion recipients during the university's commencement ceremonies April 27. Each semester, faculty choose Chancellor's Medallion recipients based on academic records, quality of character, vitality, intellect and integrity.

Zidong Li

Zidong Li. Photo by Millard Berry.

Student Speakers
Zidong Li earned a Master of Science in Engineering degree in mechanical engineering through the 3+2 Program, one of the university’s international programs. He came to campus as a senior undergraduate student, emigrating from China, where he studied at Xi'an Jiaotong University.

In addition to his regular studies, Li has served as both a teaching assistant for an upper-level mechanical engineering course and as a graduate student research assistant on a project involving microfluidics patterning design and fabrication.

Li has had a significant impact on the international student community. He was part of the organizing committee that helped to bring the University of Electronic Sciences and Technology of China (UESTC) Student Art Troupe to Dearborn. The performance, held at the Henry Ford Performing Arts Center, was attended by more than 1,000 people from UM-Dearborn and the surrounding community. He served as president of the Chinese Students and Scholars Association, helping to organize the 2013 Chinese New Year Celebration. Off campus, he serves as a board member of the North American Chinese Society of Automotive Engineers, from whom he received the Outstanding Contribution Award.

Although the transition to a new culture was at times difficult, those hardships motivated Li to improve his situation, and it inspired him to expand campus relationships among international students. His determination and work led to his being named a 2013 UM-Dearborn Difference Maker. He also received the Distinguished Student Leader Award in 2013, the first international student to receive this award.

Li plans to pursue a doctorate degree in biomedical engineering, which he hopes will further his mission to promote collaboration between the U.S. and China.

Wedad Ibrahim

Wedad Ibrahim. Photo by Millard Berry.

Wedad Ibrahim graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree with dual majors in political science and history, and a minor in Arabic studies. She successfully completed the requirements for the UM-Dearborn Honors Program and graduates with High Distinction. Ibrahim earned University Honors three times and earned placement on the Dean’s List every semester since Fall 2010.

Ibrahim served on Student Government since her freshman year, first as a senator, then as director of public relations, and finally, as president for 2013-14. She is co-president of the Political Science Association and is a member of the campus American Red Cross chapter. She has served on numerous campus planning and advisory committees, including Vision 2020 and the New Student Housing Steering Committee. Ibrahim has spoken on behalf of students at campus events ranging from the New Student Convocation to the Board of Regents Meeting to the Celebrating Victors Campaign Launch.

Ibrahim’s commitment to student life is one reason she was recently named a 2014 UM-Dearborn Difference Maker.

In addition to her academic and co-curricular activities, Ibrahim has worked her way through college. On campus, she worked as a University Center ambassador, an assistant in the Honors Program office and a research assistant in the History Department. Off campus, she works as a substitute teacher, a hostess at the Henry Ford Village Retirement Community and as an intern for State Representative Rashida Tlaib. Previously, she worked as a legal file clerk at the Detroit law firm Bodman PLC and volunteered as a city organizer with the Friends to Elect David Knezek for State Representative campaign.

Ibrahim will attend law school in the fall and plans to focus on international law.

Jonathan Suchara

Jonathan Suchara. Photo by John Gambotto.

College of Engineering and Computer Science
Jonathan Suchara graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in computer and information science, with High Distinction and a perfect 4.0 GPA. Based on his exemplary academic performance, he received University Honors in 2010, 2011 and 2012. He was awarded the William J. Branstrom Prize in 2011 and was named a James B. Angell Scholar in 2012 and 2013. Suchara was named to the Dean’s List seven times throughout his collegiate career.

Suchara is a member of a senior design team that developed the defensive player AI (artificial intelligence) for a football game released by Marvel Apps LLC in Detroit, which has had more than 20,000 downloads so far. His team has continued to refine this AI module for inclusion in a future Marvel Apps product.

Suchara has been an active presenter and volunteer at several campus open house and high school programming events held by the College of Engineering and Computer Science and the CIS Department. The goal of these outreach events is to help encourage young students to pursue both an education and career in the computer science and technology fields. He is an active member of the Association for Computing Machinery and Upsilon Pi Epsilon, the international honor society for the computing sciences.

After graduation, Suchara will seek a full-time position as a software developer and then pursue a master's degree in computer science.

Kelsey Wydendorf

Kelsey Wydendorf. Photo by John Gambotto.

College of Education, Health, and Human Services
Kelsey Wydendorf has earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in education with a focus on elementary education and specializations in science education and learning disabilities. She graduated with High Distinction, having compiled a near-perfect GPA of 3.96.

Wydendorf has earned multiple academic honors, including the William J. Branstrom Prize in 2010 and University Honors eight consecutive terms. She was named a James B. Angell Scholar every year from 2011-2014 and has earned a place on the Dean's List every term.

Wydendorf is a member of Pi Lambda Theta as well as the Golden Key International Honour Society. She also participated in the Blueprints Leadership Program, the Metro Scholars Leadership Program and the University Partners Leadership Program.

Wydendorf has volunteered her time and talents to causes through UM-Dearborn’s Community Involvement and Volunteerism Center (The CIViC), including the Detroit Rescue Mission and Forgotten Harvest, and twice (2012 in Kentucky and 2013 in West Virginia) for the UM-Dearborn Alternative Spring Break program. As a volunteer for the university's Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, she has twice served as site leader. She recently became a member of the AAUW and the Collegiate Healthy Living Association. She has served as a valued member of the support staff at the university’s Early Childhood Education Center and as a tutor at the Student Success Center.

Wydendorf aspires to work in learning disabilities as a classroom teacher and to pass on to her students her passion for learning and her compassion for others. She plans to continue her education with a view toward obtaining a master’s degree in environmental education.

College of Business

Aaron Iwaniec

Aaron Iwaniec. Photo by John Gambotto.

Aaron Iwaniec will receive a Bachelor of Business Administration degree with a concentration in accounting. He graduates with High Distinction, achieving a 3.91 GPA and a place on the Dean’s List every semester since the fall 2011 term. He earned University Honors three times and was named a James B. Angell scholar in 2013.

Iwaniec’s path to his degree was a non-traditional route. After graduating high school, he enlisted in the United States Air Force. He served on active duty from 2002-2011, working as an analyst. He deployed to Iraq for one year and, during that time, performed 125 combat missions. He completed his active military service on September 23, 2011. Since that time, he has served in the Air Force Reserves, working as an analyst and attending school full time.

During the Winter 2013 semester, Iwaniec participated in the College of Business Internship Program. He gained valuable professional experience at Plante Moran while working in the assurance and tax department.

Iwaniec is a member of Beta Alpha Psi – Kappa Sigma business honor society. Through his involvement with Beta Alpha Psi, he volunteered his time delivering meals through Meals on Wheels, teaching business concepts to second grade students through Junior Achievement, serving meals at the Detroit Soup Kitchen and preparing taxes for low-income individuals with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance organization. Outside of his involvement with Beta Alpha Psi, he volunteered with Habitat for Humanity, Boy Scouts of America and the Salvation Army in Dearborn Heights.

Iwaniec began taking courses toward a Master of Science degree in accounting this semester and anticipates finishing his degree by Winter 2015. He also began studying for the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam and anticipates passing all four components by Summer 2015. He accepted a full-time position with Plante Moran, starting August 2015, working in the tax department.

CASL Chancellor's Medallion recipients

Miriam Bukhsh and Walaa Tout. Photo by Millard Berry.

College of Arts, Sciences, and Letters
Miriam A. Bukhsh will graduate with High Distinction, earning both a Bachelor of Science degree in biology and a Bachelor of Arts degree in health policy studies. She earned the William J. Branstrom Prize in 2011 and was named a James B. Angell Scholar in 2014. In addition, she has received University Honors three times and has earned a spot on the Dean’s List six times.

Bukhsh has become an integral member of Cecilia Speyer’s laboratory at the Karmanos Cancer Institute. She co-authored a research abstract titled “Exploring anti-oncogenic properties of riluzole in breast cancer” for presentation to the American Association of Cancer Research’s annual meeting. During her health policy studies internship, Bukhsh conducted a survey on hookah use in the local community.

On campus, Bukhsh has served as an Mpressions member for the Office of Admissions and Orientation since her freshman year. In this role, she works at recruitment events, makes phone calls to prospective students, and leads campus tours for students and families.  She is also a member of the National Society of Leadership and Success and was elected vice president of finance of the Phi Delta Epsilon Medical Fraternity, where she organized a large-scale fundraiser to benefit the Children’s Miracle Network.

In addition, Bukhsh participates in various off-campus community service projects including volunteering at the Cass Clinic in Detroit, assisting weekly at Gleaner’s Food Bank and serving as a camp counselor at the Maplegrove Rehabilitation Center. Her recent Alternative Spring Break trip to Flint involved helping in food banks and soup kitchens.

Bukhsh will attend medical school in the fall.

Walaa Tout graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and a Bachelor of Science degree in biology. Graduating with High Distinction, Tout was named a James B. Angell Scholar in 2013 and 2014, has received University Honors four times and earned a spot on the Dean’s List every semester since Fall 2010. She has won many departmental awards, including Distinguished Senior in Biology in 2012 and Spanish Honors Top Student in 2012 and 2013.

Tout excelled in the Psychology Honors Program. For several years, she has served as a supplemental instructor in numerous classes, including Introductory Psychology, Introductory Sociology and Statistics. This year, she was assistant to the Behavioral Science Supplemental Instruction program coordinator, leading staff meetings, holding additional office hours, being an “on call” SI replacement leader, and sharing and discussing the various classes with their respective professors.

An active student leader, Tout recently participated in a performance of The Hijabi Monologues, a collection of stories that portray the experiences of American Muslim women. She is the IT chair of the Muslim Students Association and the current vice president and former secretary of the League of Extraordinary Poets. This year, she is the public relations chair of the Psychology Club, where she helped to organize a campus-wide event for students to discuss the psychological impact of prejudice.

Off campus, Tout has volunteered at University of Michigan’s C. S. Mott Children’s Hospital and American Red Cross—where she also completed an internship—and is the head mentor of the Youth Mentor program at her mosque.

After graduation, Tout will be applying to medical school.