Meet the College of Arts, Sciences, & Letters, the College of Education, Health & Human Services Medallion recipients

April 11, 2022

To acknowledge the number of strong medallion candidates among UM-Dearborn's top graduates, three medallions recipients are awarded per college — with one of those students receiving the top Chancellor's Medallion.

Photo of Commencement celebration balloons

Each semester, UM-Dearborn honors a very select group of students with a medallion. Chosen by faculty from their respective colleges, graduates are recognized for their outstanding quality of character, vitality, intellect, integrity and academic record. Three medallions recipients are awarded per college — with one of those students receiving the top Chancellor’s Medallion.

Meet the College of Arts, Sciences, & Letters, the College of Education, Health & Human Services recipients — including the Chancellor’s Medallion awardee, who is a CASL grad.

The awardees from the College of Engineering & Computer Sciences and the College of Business can be seen here.

Chancellor's Medallion recipient Zenon Sommers, College of Arts, Sciences, & Letters

A headshot of Zenon SommersZenon Sommers is receiving a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a Bachelor of Science in Behavioral and Biological Sciences, with three minors in German, Women’s and Gender Studies and Sociology. He has earned certificates in both LGBTQ Studies and Professional Language and Cross-Cultural Competency, and is in both the Psychology and UM-Dearborn Honors Programs. During his time at the university, he has completed 167 semester hours and earned the Chancellor’s Scholarship for four years. In 2021, Zenon was selected as a UM-Dearborn Difference Maker and Honors Scholar for Psychology. He has also been on the Dean’s List for seven consecutive semesters and been named a James B. Angell Scholar for six consecutive semesters. 

Zenon has outstanding research experience. He completed his honors thesis, “Cognitive elaboration and the formation of false memories from fake news,” with Professors Pam McAuslan and Marie Waung, and presented his findings at 2021 APA and APS conventions. He also worked in Associate Professor Harmony Reppond’s Social Psychology and Economic Justice Lab on a research project related to food insecurity. Currently, Zenon is working with Associate Professor Arlo Clark-Foos to investigate cognitive processing and fake news, and with Associate Professor Robert Hymes on COVID-19 conspiracy belief measurement. He has received the Student Independent Research Grant (2021), the Undergraduate Student Research Grant (2021), and the Undergraduate Student Research Travel Grant (2019). He is also part of the Research Advisory Committee at UM-Dearborn Faculty Senate as a student representative.

Since 2019, Zenon has been a peer tutor at the Office of Academic Success and provided individual support for ESL students and students with severe disabilities. He also works in the Kochoff Foreign Language Media Lab as a German tutor and lab assistant. Moreover, Zenon has been a supplementary instruction (SI) leader since 2018 and provided 570 student hours of support to 131 different students across 163 SI sessions. 

Zenon has also contributed tremendously to the operation of the SI program during the pandemic. He almost single-handedly transformed the pre-pandemic procedure into an online format for the hiring and training of new SI leaders. Zenon has been an assistant SI supervisor, developing and leading online training for 60 SI leaders in 2020 and 80 SI leaders in 2021. As Lecturer Deborah Roundtree commented, “Without Zenon, SI wouldn’t have been able to negotiate the technological mountains they were forced to conquer throughout the pandemic.”

Outside of the classroom, Zenon has participated in a wide variety of campus and community activities. He is the co-host and producer for the Pre-Occupied podcast about careers in psychology. He has interviewed 22 professional psychologists in practice, industry and academia from Stanford University, Harvard Medical School and the University of Michigan. He is also the co-host and producer of the Nonbinary Gender: Scholarship and Experience podcast. He founded Ratio Christi as well as the Photography Club at UM-Dearborn and is the president of the German Club and the Locke and Lewis Society for the Integration of Faith and Reason. He is also a passionate volunteer for Joy2Read.

After graduation, Zenon plans to pursue a Ph.D. in psychology and a career in academia.

Dean’s Medallion recipient Tejas Athavale, College of Arts, Sciences, & Letters

A headshot of student Tejas AthavaleTejas Athavale is receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry with a minor in Hispanic Studies, and is graduating with high distinction. Tejas has appeared on the Dean’s List every semester of his UM-Dearborn career, has received University Honors in five different terms, is a three-time James B. Angell Scholar (2020, 2021, 2022), and is a William J. Branstrom Prize recipient (2019). Tejas was chosen as the 2022 Honors Scholar in the Biochemistry program. 

Faculty who have taught Tejas across several disciplines consistently cite his academic talent, enthusiasm and propensity for serving as a peer mentor in the classroom. Professor Jorge Gonzalez del Pozo says Tejas’ energy and desire to learn positively affects the Hispanic Studies program, noting his “optimistic and productive impact” on both classes and classmates. Chemistry Professor Krisanu Bandyopadhyay describes him as belonging to the “top 1%” of students. 

Tejas has been very active in academic research with Professor Bandyopadhyay and Assistant Professor Dr. Elena Zhang, including as a 2021 SURE researcher. His project is focused on the study of the efficacy of nanoparticles used for delivery of drugs to treat traumatic brain injuries. Tejas has presented preliminary results of this work at the Fall 2021 American Chemical Society national meeting and has had an abstract accepted to present at the 2022 National Neurotrauma Society Symposium. A manuscript based on this work is also in progress.

Tejas is the president of the campus Biochemistry Society and, in this role, has provided valuable student perspectives on topics relating to the Biochemistry degree program, including a recent faculty search. He is also active in the campus Spanish Club, La Mezcla, and is a regular presence in the Language Laboratory. Off campus, Tejas’ service-oriented outlook took him to Nagpur, India, where he spent time completing an internship in local hospitals. After graduation, he intends to attend medical school.

Dean’s Medallion recipient Katarina Moore, College of Arts, Sciences, & Letters

A headshot of student Katarina MooreKatarina Moore is receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree with a double major in English and Secondary Education and a minor in Speech. She is also graduating with an Honors Program certificate and with high distinction. Katarina was named a James B. Angell Scholar, was awarded University Honors, and had a four-year run on the Dean’s List. Her scholarships include the CASL Alumni Affiliate Scholarship, Descendants of Vietnam Veterans Scholarship, Sidney Warschausky Scholarship, Jeanette P. Myers Scholarship, John J. Brownfain Honors Scholarship, Dr. Carole A. and Mr. Anthony C. Fielek Scholarship, a Phi Delta Kappa Prospective Educator Award, Michigan Speech Coaches Grant, and an Honors Program Stipend. 

Katarina has been an award-wining student in the Honors Program, where she served as an Honors Program mentorship team leader. Her research essay in COMP 220 received First Place in the Honors Category of the UM-Dearborn Writing Awards in 2019, and is now housed in the public collection of the Royal Oak Public Library. In 2021, she was named a UM-Dearborn Difference Maker. 

Katarina was involved in the Writing Center After Dark creative writing club on campus and she read from her poetry at the One Mic: Student-Faculty Reading Series in Fall 2019. She received the Branstrom Book Prize in 2019. In 2020, she participated in the Poetry in the Classroom, Project VOICE in New York City, led by Phil Kaye and Sarah Kay, two award-winning spoken word poets and authors. These activities are a testament to her participation in the campus poetic and creative writing community and beyond.

She is actively engaged in the local theatrical arts community, demonstrating impressive leadership skills. Between Jan. 2019 and Jan. 2022, Katarina served as a children’s drama teacher and assistant at the Dramakids of Oakland County in Birmingham, where she taught extracurricular elementary grade classes in drama and speech and summer camp activities. Since Jan. 2022, she has been serving as director of education at the Shakespeare Royal Oak/Waterworks Theatre Company.

During the same time, she began work at Mason County Central High School. As a part of the secondary education program at UM-Dearborn, she provides emotional and mental support to nearly 100 students, teaching 9th grade English/Language Arts classes, a 9-12th grade Script Analysis elective, and an extracurricular Forensics program. 

She also volunteers at the University of Michigan Forensics organization, of which she is a founder and executive board member, and at TEDx UM-Dearborn as head of communications and volunteer coordinator.

Katarina’s academic excellence, her versatility, and immediate application of her academic skills in a real-world environment are truly exemplary. After graduation, she plans to enter the education field.

Dean’s Medallion recipient Amani Abuelenain, College of Education, Health, & Human Services

A headshot of student Amani AbuelenainAmani Abuelenain is receiving a Bachelor of Science in Health and Human Services with a concentration in Pre-Health Professions. She was named a James B. Angell Scholar in 2021 and has been on the Dean’s List every semester starting from Fall 2019 through Fall 2021. Amani was the recipient of the Victor’s Scholarship as well as the Burger King Scholarship.

As an undergrad, Amani has been an active member of the Student Activities Board, Pre-Dental Association, Engaged Scholars, and the Talent Gateway. Amani also serves as the vice president of the Public Health Society (PHS), where she helped lead a panel of public health UM-Dearborn alumni that provided PHS members with advice and insight about their future career paths. Amani also helped facilitate a partnership with ACCESS and Henry Ford Health Systems on the NIH All of Us research initiative, which is attempting to collect data from a wide range of individuals to help move the U.S. healthcare system to a precision medicine format.

Amani serves as the project coordinator for the MA Foundation, which works to boost the morale of cancer patients at Karmanos Cancer Center and Beaumont Hospital by providing head scarves for those enduring chemotherapy. She also volunteers with her local mosque, working with refugees to identify needed items, collect donations, and distribute them. In addition, she secures supervision for children when parents attend doctor’s appointments and job interviews.

During the Summer 2021 semester, Amani participated in the SURE program and worked with Associate Professors Carmel Price and Natalie Sampson on the Environmental Health Research-to-Action Project. Through this opportunity, she assisted in designing and running the summer youth academy, led a panel discussion with community experts and partners, constructed an air monitoring infographic, and gave a presentation on community air monitoring. Following the summer of 2021, she assisted in adapting the summer youth academy curriculum and has been working on a research project that seeks to interview Arab American female environmental activists in the metro Detroit area.

Amani completed an internship with Trinity Health’s Community Health and Wellbeing Department in the fall of 2021. As part of this experience, she constructed a patient satisfaction survey to connect individuals with resources. She also co-facilitated a presentation called “Racism: A Public Health Crisis” with their Diversity and Inclusion Department. In addition, Amani worked with Associate Professor Nick Iannarino in the fall to review transcriptions from interviews with cancer patients.

In her future career, Amani hopes to bridge public health with primary care to mitigate health inequities, especially in the immediate and surrounding community. She plans to take the next year to work in an organization that aligns with these goals to gain experience and determine whether to pursue a graduate program in public health or dentistry.

Dean’s Medallion recipient Miraaj al-Haque, College of Education, Health, & Human Services

A headshot of Miraaj al-HaqueMiraaj al-Haque is receiving a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education with a concentration in Early Childhood Education. He was on the Dean’s List in Fall 2018, Winter 2019, Fall 2019, Summer 2020, Fall 2020 and Winter 2021. Miraaj was also the recipient of the Academic Internship Tuition Scholarship.

As an undergrad, Miraaj has been an active member of the South Asian Students Association and the Michigan Journal. In addition, he has served as a peer advisor for the Peer Advisors for Learning and Success (PALS) program, which provides UM-Dearborn students with a peer-to-peer professional connection to augment current advising practices.

Miraaj has participated in several different internship and field experiences while at UM-Dearborn. As part of his teacher preparation program, he completed practicums in a third-grade classroom at the Dearborn Academy and in a preschool room at UM-Dearborn’s Early Childhood Education Center. In 2019, he was a summer research intern at Aurora International School in Dhaka, Bangladesh, where he conducted research and initial planning for a character education program and created a digital media and technology course for first and second graders. During the summer of 2020, he served as an intern for Child’s Hope in Detroit, where he assisted with fundraising, adapting an after-school program to adhere to COVID-19 protocols, and introducing new online learning tools. Most recently, Miraaj spent the summer of 2021 working as a teaching fellow for Uncommon Schools in Brooklyn, New York. During the fellowship, he learned different teaching taxonomies, participated in rigorous professional development sessions, and taught lessons via Zoom.

After graduation, Miraaj plans to work as an elementary school teacher in Brooklyn for Uncommon Schools, while also pursuing his master’s degree. After three or four years of teaching in Brooklyn, he would like to teach internationally, travel the world, experience new cultures, and live in new environments. Eventually, he wants to take his knowledge and experience to his home country of Bangladesh and open schools for underprivileged children.

Dean’s Medallion recipient Ranya Srour, College of Education, Health, & Human Services

A headshot of Ranya Srour Ranya Srour is receiving a Bachelor of Science in Health and Human Services with a concentration in Pre-Health Professions and a double minor in Psychology and Biology. She was named a James B. Angell Scholar in 2021 and has been on the Dean’s List every semester from Fall 2019 through Fall 2021. Ranya also earned University Honors each semester from Fall 2019 through Winter 2021 and was the recipient of the Impact Wolverine Scholarship.

Ranya has been an active member of the Pre-Professional Health Society, Engaged Scholars, and the Talent Gateway. She also serves as the secretary for the Society of Microbiology and Immunology Club. Ranya has worked as a student mentor through the Wolverine Mentor Collective, providing guidance and support to first-year students. In addition, Ranya joined the Cruise to Success Program as a freshman and later supported the program by serving as a facilitator.

Ranya has volunteered extensively while at UM-Dearborn. She has served in the emergency room at Beaumont Hospital in Dearborn and worked as a STEM tutor for K-12 students through Dearborn Tutoring. In addition, she gives her time to the UM-Dearborn Food Pantry. During finals week, she put together care packages filled with snacks and hygiene items to pass out at the library. During the pandemic, she helped organize a no-contact food drive with her peers. This effort generated over 400 pounds of donations for the food pantry in the summer of 2020.

Ranya works as a research assistant with the Emergency Medical Research Associates Program (EMRAP), which explores health inequities and system flaws in the Saint Mary Mercy Hospital emergency room. As a result of this research, she has worked closely with the malnutrition team and the hospital dieticians to implement strategies that can improve the elderly’s access to complete care. In addition, Ranya recently began microbiology research in Assistant Professor Christopher Alteri’s lab.

Ranya interned with the C-ASSIST free clinic and outreach organization through her HHS 402 class. As an intern, she served as a grant writer and helped write a winning grant awarded by the CDC Foundation. She also wrote newsletters addressing the pandemic and organized and facilitated a mobile clinic at Capuchin Soup Kitchen in Detroit to provide general health screenings and vaccinations to the community. On top of all her other responsibilities, Ranya found time to work as a medical assistant at a primary care office. There, she collected patient vital signs and translated Arabic for patients as needed. 

After graduation, Ranya plans to take a gap year and devote more time to her outreach work and research on geriatric malnutrition, and contribute more to the microbiology lab. She plans to apply to medical school in the next cycle, with the ultimate goal of returning to her community as a physician.