Students honored as Chancellor's Medallion recipients, speakers during commencement ceremonies

December 14, 2013

Speakers include: Brendan Gallagher, Pamela Yaacoub, Vijay Natarajan, Andrew Schigelone, Talal Alriyashi, Sarah Pinto, Elizabeth Bastian, and Joseph Miszcak.

University of Michigan-Dearborn recognized six students as Chancellor’s Medallion recipients and two student speakers during the university's commencement ceremonies December 14.

Student speakers
Brendan Gallagher
earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in science studies. He earned a place on the Dean’s List for Fall 2011 and graduated with Distinction.

Gallagher served as vice president and president of the UM-Dearborn Student Activities Board and as a senator for Student Government. He also worked with the campus chapter of Amnesty International and as a teacher assistant at the Early Childhood Education Center. Through his work with the UM-Dearborn CIViC (Community Involvement and Volunteerism Center), Gallagher helps to coordinate logistics for six Alternative Spring Break sites nationwide.

Gallagher’s commitment to student life is one reason he was named one of 50 UM-Dearborn Difference Makers in 2012. Nominated by faculty and staff, recipients are recognized for academic achievement, integrity, leadership and creative contribution in and out of the classroom. That same year, he also received the UM-Dearborn Service Learning Award and in 2013 received the UM-Dearborn Leadership Legacy Award and the Heart and Soul Award from the Michigan Campus Compact.

Gallagher’s passion for student life inspired him to pursue a career in education.

Pamela Yaacoub graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in international studies. She successfully completed the requirements for the UM-Dearborn Honors Program and graduated with High Distinction. Yaacoub earned University Honors in 2011, 2012 and 2013, was named a James B. Angell Scholar in 2012, and earned placement on the Dean’s List every term since Fall 2010. She has received several departmental awards for excellence in Spanish and is a recipient of the Chancellor’s Scholarship.

Since 2012, Yaacoub has participated in the Immigrant Memoir Group, recording family history, personal immigrant experiences and insights about current events. Upon completion, these memoirs will be published at the Bentley Historical Library at UM-Ann Arbor.

Yaacoub is a past president of La Mezcla Spanish Club and was a participant in the 2013 Model Arab League, where she was selected as the Outstanding Delegate in the Joint Defense Council. In May, Yaacoub presented a paper exploring the status of LGBT rights in the Middle East at the Meeting of the Minds undergraduate research conference. She won two awards at the 2013 UM-Dearborn Writing Awards, one for best writing in the Honors Writing category, and second place for her story “What It’s Like to Be a Woman.” During the summer of 2013, Yaacoub participated in the BCA Study Abroad program to Valladolid, Spain.

Yaacoub is currently applying to law school and plans to focus on international law.

College of Engineering and Computer Science
Vijay Natarajan
graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Engineering with dual degrees in electrical engineering and computer engineering. He graduated with High Distinction. Natarajan received University Honors in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 and was named to the College of Engineering and Computer Science Dean’s List five times. He is a recipient of the Dependent Tuition Scholarship.

Faculty members in the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Department describe Natarajan as a bright, mature student with creative ideas. Faculty and staff commend him for his willingness to help other students whenever needed. Natarajan has worked in the Mathematics Department at UM-Dearborn for the last four years, helping students in Calculus classes to use Mathematical computational software. He also wrote and reviewed student lab assignments for a Mechanical Engineering course.  In addition, he has contributed his time and problem-solving skills to faculty research projects in the college.

Upon graduation, Natarajan will earn the CECS Co-op Program Certificate. He completed two full-time co-op assignments at Vector CANtech in Novi in 2011 and 2012. He has accepted a full-time position as a project engineer at Vector CANtech.

Andrew Schigelone graduated with High Distinction with a Bachelor of Science in Engineering with dual degrees in mechanical engineering and engineering mathematics. Schigelone received University Honors in 2011, 2012, and 2013 and was named to the Dean’s List eight times. He is a recipient of the Chancellor’s Scholarship and an Eagle Scout Scholarship, the latter in recognition of earning every Boy Scout merit badge.

Schigelone has been a research assistant on a National Science Foundation grant for more than a year, working with Oleg Zikanov, faculty member in the Mechanical Engineering Department. His duties include running simulations, post processing and analyzing results, and participating in group discussions about research.

According to Zikanov, Schigelone made a substantial contribution to the development of a mathematical solution for quasi-two-dimensional convection flows in strong magnetic fields and created the MATLAB algorithm that compares the solution with his computational results. He currently is preparing a research paper with faculty on the subject.

Schigelone’s future goals are to attend graduate school and to continue a career in science.

College of Business
Talal Alriyashi
graduated in August 2013 with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree with a concentration in accounting. Alriyashi graduated with High Distinction. He is the recipient of the UM-Dearborn Community College Transfer Scholarship and the J. Stewart Linden Scholarship.

Alriyashi took a nontraditional path to UM-Dearborn. He earned his General Education Diploma at the age of 24 and then continued his studies at Henry Ford Community College, working full time while attending school in order to support himself and his wife. He then transferred to UM-Dearborn, where he maintained a perfect 4.0 GPA.

During the Winter 2013 semester, Alriyashi participated in the COB Internship Program, gaining valuable experience at DTE Energy in corporate accounting and finance. Also during this time, he and his wife welcomed a new daughter into the family.

Alriyashi is a member of Beta Gamma Sigma international business honor society, and a member and former deputy treasurer of Beta Alpha Psi-Kappa Sigma business honor society.  He also is a student affiliate of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and a student member of the Michigan Association of Certified Public Accountants. He has volunteered for the Accounting Aid Society, Gleaners Food Bank, the Detroit Agency on Aging (Meals on Wheels) and Forgotten Harvest.

After graduation, Alriyashi accepted a full-time position with DTE Energy as a senior business associate. He plans to sit for the CPA exam in 2014 and return to UM-Dearborn to pursue an MBA.

College of Education, Health, and Human Services
Sarah Pinto
earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in education with a focus on elementary education, graduating with High Distinction. Pinto earned University Honors in 2011 and was on the Dean’s List eight consecutive semesters. She received the Kachaturoff Scholarship, the Michigan Competitive Scholarship, the Dean’s Scholarship, the Barnes and Noble Book Scholarship and the General Merit Scholarship.

In recognition of her sustained excellence, Pinto has been nominated to join Pi Lambda Theta, and she is an active member of the Golden Key International Honour Society.

In her spare time, Pinto enjoys volunteering with her neighborhood Girls Scout troop, assisting during regular meetings and other activities and field trips. She has volunteered weekends to assist at events at the UM-Dearborn Early Childhood Education Center (ECEC) and has worked as a support staff member there. She was promoted to teacher assistant at the ECEC due to her commitment and sustained success at the Center.

Pinto aspires to work as a lower elementary school classroom teacher and to pass on to her students her passion for learning and her compassion for others. As an aspiring life-long learner as well, Ms. Pinto plans to continue her education with a view toward obtaining a master’s degree in early childhood education or math.

College of Arts, Sciences, and Letters
Elizabeth Bastian
received a Bachelor of Arts degree with double concentrations in anthropology and urban and regional studies, and earned a certificate in geographic information systems. She successfully completed the requirements for the UM-Dearborn Honors Program. Graduating with High Distinction, Ms. Bastian was named a James B. Angell Scholar in 2012 and received UM-Dearborn Honors in 2013. In addition, she has received University Honors five times and has earned a spot on the Dean’s List every semester since Fall 2010. She is a recipient of the Chancellor’s Scholarship.

Faculty members extol Bastian’s academic performance as well as her contributions to the university both on and off campus. Bastian has served as editor of the campus newspaper, the Michigan Journal, and as the volunteer coordinator for the recent TEDx event. She was a Student Government representative and Cross Country Club president.

Bastian takes great interest in community affairs, working with the advocacy group Transportation Riders United of Detroit and interning at the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation. She plans to pursue a graduate degree in urban planning.

Joseph Miszcak received a Bachelor of Arts degree with concentrations in political science and philosophy. Miszcak has earned a place on the Dean’s List four times and graduatedwith High Distinction. He is a recipient of the Public Affairs Internship Scholarship and the Community College Transfer Scholarship.

Miszcak has been recognized by his professors for his outstanding work in the classroom, for his self-direction in undertaking directed-study in academic areas outside the classroom and for his contributions to the community. He was a member of UM-Dearborn’s Model Arab League delegation and won an Outstanding Delegate award. He is a member of Pi Sigma Alpha national political science honor society and Tau Sigma national honor society for transfer students.

In addition to assisting on one professor’s research project, Miszcak has volunteered at the Hamtramck Drug Free Community Coalition and at the East Central European Community Organizing Network, where he has earned a reputation for his attention to detail, his willingness to develop new skills, and his significant contributions to increasing the organization’s data sets.

After graduation, Miszcak plans to attend law school.