University of Rhode Island honors seniors at 17th annual Black Scholar Awards

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Students recognized for academic excellence, accomplishments, contributions

KINGSTON, R.I. – April 15, 2014 – They are engineering and nursing students, aspiring accountants and future scientists. But one thing they all share in common is their academic excellence at the University of Rhode Island.

Nine graduating seniors from Rhode Island and beyond were honored for their achievements during the 17th annual Black Scholar Awards ceremony April 7 in Ryan Auditorium at the Center for Biotechnology and Life Sciences.

Donald Cunnigen, professor of sociology and anthropology at URI and a member of the URI Black Faculty Association, established the awards program in 1998 to recognize and honor outstanding African-American seniors.

Here’s a list of the winners:

Kenny Adefiyiju, of Providence, R.I., received the Harvey Robert Turner Award for Outstanding Service to the University of Rhode Island Black Community. He is an accounting major. He had internships at Cardi Corporation of Warwick, Sodexho Food Services, and the Rhode Island Auditor General’s Office. On campus, he has been an active member of Brothers on a New Direction, a vice president of the National Association of Black Accountants, and a residential advisor. He won first place at the annual National Association of Black Accountants Minority Business Conference’s Case Competition.

Marcus Allen, of Plainsboro, N.J., received the Saint Clair Drake Award for Outstanding Scholarly Research. He is a mechanical engineering major. He was a research assistant in URI’s mechanical engineering department. He is a member of the National Society of Black Engineers; he volunteered as a peer tutor through outreach activities to motivate pre-college students.

Nilse Dos Santos, of Pawtucket, R.I., received the Estes Benson Award. She is a biological sciences major. During her years at the University, she worked with the Jumpstart Program of AmeriCorps, volunteered at Miriam Hospital, and was an archives assistant at the University of Massachusetts – Dartmouth Library. Her honors have included membership in the Golden Key Honor Society, as well as the Frickle Scholarship, Bingham Scholarship, CELS Scholarship, Ravin Scholarship, and Narasimhan Bio Scholarship.

Cecilia Igwe-Kalu, of Hyde Park, Mass., received the Martin Luther King, Jr. Award for Outstanding Leadership and Contribution to the University Community.

She is a nursing major. On campus, she has been a URI Nursing Ambassador and URI Student Nurses Association member. She has been inducted into three honor societies: Sigma Theta Tau; National Society of Collegiate Scholars; and Phi Eta Sigma. She was chosen as the 2013 Hausman Student Nurse Fellow. She has had eight clinical experiences, including at Newport Hospital, Boston Children’s Hospital, Miriam Hospital, and Kent Hospital.

Jennifer Jackson, of Providence, R.I., received the William Gould Award for All-Around Outstanding Achievement. She is a nursing major. She is president of the Golden Key Honor Society. In addition, she is active with Uhuru Sasa, the Newman Club, and the Student Philanthropy Council. Her service activities have included being a play guide for the Providence Children’s Museum and a volunteer for Walk for Cancer, Walk for Poverty in Jamaica, and Shake It for Sugar. She is also a resident advisor.

Christina Onassis Lewis, of Middletown, R.I., received the Noreen Coachman Award for Outstanding Achievement by an Older Student. She is a nursing major. Her activities include membership in four honor societies: the Golden Key Honor Society; Sigma Theta Tau Honor Society; Omicron Delta Kappa Honor Society; and Bloomsbury Honor Society. She is also a member of the URI Student Nursing Association and Alima International Dance Association. She has been a student nurse at Hasboro Children’s Hospital.

Kevin E. Lima, of Providence, R.I., received the Arthur L. Hardge Award for All-Around Outstanding Community Service. He is a microbiology/medical laboratory science major. At URI, he has volunteered with the General Corpsman URI Emergency Medical Services and the Rhode Island Hospital Ambulatory Surgery Center Recovery Room. At URI, he has been on the Leadership Team for URI’s Seeds of Success in the College of the Environment and Life Sciences and served as a member of the URI Minority Association of Pre-Medical Students. He has also been a resident advisor.

Charles Makoko Rushimisha, of Narragansett, R.I., received the Saint Elmo Brady Award for Outstanding Achievement in Science. He is a double major in chemical engineering and chemistry. He has been a residential counselor for the Talent Development Summer Program, a resident advisor, and an undergraduate research assistant. His affiliations include the National Society of Black Engineers, American Institute of Chemical Engineers, and Wellgates Honor Roll.

Jawaun Wynn, of New Brunswick, N.J., received the Estes Benson Award for Academic Achievement. He is a sociology major. He was a member of the varsity football team. He has been an intern in the URI Athletic Training Office and the South County Orthopedics Office.

Also honored at the ceremony were this year’s Rhode Island Onyx Senior Honor Society inductees. Membership in the honor society is based on academic excellence, community service, and cultural pride. The new members are: Margarida Costa; Megan Cruz; Evan Dacosta; Nilse Dos Santos; Olubunmi Elemo; Kimberly Ezeama; Marie Gabbidon-George; Cecilia Igwe-Kalu; Jennifer Jackson; Whitney Jones; Jahlana Kanye; Christina Lewis; Jared Monteiro; Monephia Nembhard; Marisha Okpala; Leyanne Oliveira; Samira Oukilane; Lissa Pierre; Jas Saygbe; Tashina Smith; Leanne Snead; Jasmine Souza; Kyle Thompson, and Jawuan Wynn.

The keynote speaker at the April 7 event was Carmen Fields, a longtime journalist who produces and hosts the public affairs show, “Higher Ground,” for WHDH-News 7 in Boston. Fields received the Tossie E. Taylor Jr. Community Spirit Award. Fields received her bachelor’s degree in journalism from Lincoln University in Missouri and a master’s degree in broadcast journalism from Boston University. She was part of The Boston Globe team that won a Pulitzer Prize for coverage of Boston’s school desegregation.

Photo above is of some University of Rhode Island students who were inducted into the Rhode Island Onyx Senior Honor Society this year. Front row, left to right: Marisha Okpala, Monephia Nembhard, Kimberly Ezeama, and Cecilia Igwe-Kalu. Back row, left to right: Jawaun Wynn, Charles Makoko Rushimisha, Jennifer Jackson, and Christina Lewis.

Photo above: Carmen Fields, a longtime Boston journalist and television producer, and Donald Cunnigen, professor of sociology and anthropology at the University of Rhode Island. Fields was the keynote speaker at the 17th annual Black Scholar Awards on April 7.

Photos by Michael Salerno Photography