Meet the 2017 Scholarship Recipients

10 Oct

Every year, the Omicron Delta Kappa Foundation awards scholarships to more than 20 collegiate members to continue their educations through graduate and professional study.  Scholarship awards range from $1,000 to $2,500.  These recipients demonstrate exceptional academic performance and leadership abilities.

Meet the 2017 Scholarship Recipients


Jamie Allen
Foundation Scholarship
Roanoke College Circle
University of Virginia School of Law, J.D.

When Jamie Allen was two, her father died of a heart attack, and when she was 13, her mother was severely injured in an accident. Jamie cared for her mother, and when they learned that she might lose the ability to walk, Jamie helped her mother prepare for the Social Security Disability hearings, a process that taught her “that a person who is driven to understand the legal system and work within it has the ability to affect change.”

Jamie previously interned in the Assistant U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Department of Justice. She plans to attend law school and become an attorney to create positive change. As a Roanoke College student, Jamie served on the College Honors Program Executive Board and as Student Government senator, but her most passionate project was educating the campus on rights and resources available for students dealing with sexual assault.

As O∆K circle president, Jamie also helped bring the Witness to Innocence Project, an organization run by former death row inmates who were exonerated based on their innocence, to speak on campus about how their leadership led to justice.


Matthew Boward
Foundation Scholarship
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Circle
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Business

Through his college career, Matthew Boward checked-off many of his goals by serving as a residential leadership peer leader, Virginia Tech’s YMCA president, YMCA National Student Council student representative, and OΔK president. His roles with YMCA took him to an orphanage in Jamaica, and upon returning Matthew organized a clothing and supply drive to send things back to the children.

Matthew graduated with dual degrees in accounting and finance, and he intends to become a certified public accountant. He plans to pursue a master’s degree in business administration and provide pro bono consulting for nonprofits after graduation.


Mae Bowen
John D. Morgan Scholarship
Emory University Circle
New York University School of Law, J.D.

When the Deepwater Horizon disaster dumped nearly five million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, Mae Bowen discovered her passion for protecting communities from environmental disasters. As secretary-general of the Model United Nations, Mae led a team responsible for every detail of Emory’s 200-student event. She co-founded Emory University’s Climate Organization (ECO), a group focused on climate change advocacy and action, and she founded the Emory Alumni Environmental Network to connect alumni and students interested in sustainability.

She co-taught a course on climate negotiations and attended both the 2015 and 2016 United Nations Climate Change conferences. She’s enrolled in NYU’s law program to continue to turn her passions into action and advocate for people, wildlife, and places.

“Protecting the environment is important to me, and I believe climate change is the largest issue we face, not just in my coastal community, not just in the United States, but across the globe. I have found my voice and, with the help of a legal education, I am ready to use it.”


Tabbitha Bruck
Stephen D. Bisese (University of Richmond) Scholarship
University of Richmond Circle
Virginia Commonwealth University School of Pharmacy, Pharm.D

Tabbitha Bruck struggled with unhealthy eating early in life and overcame an eating disorder in high school. As an undergraduate, she worked as a personal trainer, helping people of all ages build strength and live a healthy lifestyle. Tabbitha plans to attend pharmacy school because as she writes, “Pharmacy would offer me patient contact where I can answer questions and play a role in helping the community.”

As the past president of the Best Buddies organization, which matches a UR student with a disabled person in the community, she planned Richmond’s first annual Best Buddies Games and raised $1,000 for the Special Olympics.


Andrew Caras
Diane and Tom Vukovich Scholarship
University of Akron Circle
University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences, M.D.

When Andrew Caras joined the University of Akron O∆K Circle, the circle welcomed his leadership. He immediately brought in new members and was elected vice president the following year, during which the circle had their most successful recruitment season in years.

As a member of Phi Delta Epsilon, Andrew helped raise more than $5,000 for Akron Children’s Hospital and organized a MCAT preparation workshop. He also co-authored an article in the journal Molecules and performed as first chair alto saxophone in the university’s jazz band.

Andrew has a deep desire to help others. While watching his grandfather suffer from lung and brain cancer, the diligence of the oncologists and neurosurgeons inspired him and left a lasting impact. His goal since childhood has been to attend medical school, which he began this fall.

“Through my studies and experiences in college, I have found that medicine is much more than finding a cure. The multi-faceted nature of medicine, its ability to bridge the arts and sciences to impact a person’s life for the better, humbles me. I look forward to the day when I can lead a patient in regaining his normal life.”


Jordan Coiro
Foundation Scholarship
Grove City College Circle

Jordan Coiro has always been interested in cars, so a degree in mechanical engineering was a natural fit. He helped build and drive an all-terrain vehicle for international competition, and he served as president of Grove City College’s Society of Automotive Engineers and as the college’s SGA Senior Class president. Jordan chaired the Recognition Convocation, an event that celebrates excellence in academics and leadership, and served as media coordinator for Faculty Follies, a faculty event that also raises funds for circle scholarships.

Jordan accepted a position with Honda’s Research and Development department to design and test new vehicles, and he intends to pursue a graduate degree in the next several years.



Christine DeAndrea
Foundation Scholarship
Duquesne University Circle
Duquesne University, Physician Assistant Studies

Christine DeAndrea has helped her mother battle cancer throughout her life. During this time, she has discovered that “physician assistant medical professionals are the unrecognized humanitarians of the medical field because they give hope to people who are in the most impossible and hopeless situations.” After earning her master’s degree, she plans to pursue a career as a physician assistant in pediatric cardiothoracic surgery.

“Through countless hours shadowing in the operating room, I have come to realize that surgical medicine is at its core a highly complex craft and an age-old art form that takes a lifetime of experience to perfect—an art form that I intend on spending the rest of my career mastering.”

As an undergraduate student, Christine was her circle’s vice president, vice president of the Honors College’s student organization, and coordinated one of the largest community service projects on campus. She also created a website about local health care facilities and served as resident assistant, orientation leader, and community engagement scholar.


Katelyn Flood
Foundation Scholarship
Pittsburg State University Circle
University of Missouri, St. Louis College of Optometry, O.D.

While an undergraduate student, Katelyn helped organize O∆K’s service and membership events as her circle’s vice president. She served as president of the Newman Club, organizing service projects for her peers every month, and volunteered for the Special Olympics in her role as senior class representative of the Honors College Association. She led numerous service projects, such as serving at a local soup kitchen, and helped raise $1,500 to buy Christmas gifts for families in need.

Katelyn passionately described the impact of a volunteer trip serving a health care clinic in Argentina on her career and educational aspirations. She wrote, “I was inspired by the relieved glance from grateful parents, and the incomparable joy of the children we played with cemented my future serving as a medical professional.” She plans to pursue a degree in optometry and is currently an optometry technician.


Danica Garcia
John Karlem Riess Scholarship
Louisiana State University Circle

Danica Garcia’s passion is a desire to educate children about health as a pediatrician. She watched her grandmother fight lung cancer and her family struggle to provide the best care. Danica believes that if her grandmother had been more educated about the health risks of smoking, perhaps the disease could have been avoided. As an undergraduate, Danica researched the relationship between environmental exposure and our well-being, shadowed pediatricians, and served as a mentor to freshmen biology majors.

As O∆K circle vice president, Danica planned induction ceremonies, social gatherings, and service events, such as volunteering with the American Red Cross when a summer flood displaced many local families. She also served as circle president, president of the Student Christian Medical Association Baton Rouge, and vice president of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society. She will be enrolling in graduate school at a later date.

“The award would be a constant reminder that someone else believed that I am making a difference in the world. More importantly, it would be the first investment for me to save a life.”


Natasha Hongsermeier
Rupert Nelson Latture Scholarship
Morningside College Circle

Natasha Hongsermeier’s leadership titles include O∆K vice president, Tri-Beta honor society president, Spanish club vice president, team organizer of Morningside College’s community service day, mentor to Honors Seminar students, and co-captain of the tennis team. She was named all-conference athlete and helped the team win a conference championship. She worked during her entire four years at Morningside, eventually as apartment manager managing five buildings.

Natasha has a passion for both health and music and founded a nonprofit Musicians for Healing in 2015. This past school year, the organization partnered with Iowa College AmeriCorps to provide 300 service hours. She held a principal flutist seat in the college’s orchestra.

Natasha conducted independent research on Alzheimer’s disease, co-authored an article in the peer- reviewed journal Sociology Compass, and studied heart regeneration with funding from the National Science Foundation. She plans to pursue M.D. and M.P.H. degrees in the fall of 2018.


Amy Leal
Foundation Scholarship
Texas Woman’s University Circle
Texas Woman’s University, Audiology

As a first-generation immigrant, Amy encountered adversity while growing up. She explains, “I did not understand the culture, the language, or the people. My parents, though undereducated with only a fifth-grade education, always encouraged me to believe in myself. They instilled [in me] the meaning of hard work and the importance of education.”

Through her past experiences, Amy developed an interest in speech-language delays and disorders in bilingual children with autism. She is currently a bilingual speech-language pathology assistant and seeks to prepare children with disabilities for further education, employment, and independent living. Amy recently earned a 4.0 GPA in her certification program, while volunteering for Fort Worth’s Stuttering Support Group Chapter.



James Franklin Lowe
Winton M. Blount Scholarship
Samford University Circle
The College of William and Mary, History, M.A.

From an early age Franklin sought, as he writes, “to study the people that history forgot. Throughout [his studies], I sought to elevate the voices buried in interviews, autobiographies, sermons, and diaries and to place them within the ever-expanding canon. After graduating, I have come to realize that the academic world is sorely in need of historians who are also avid story-tellers, willing to find these men and women, value their accomplishments, listen to their fears, and honor them with attention and scholarship.”

As an undergraduate, Franklin served as O∆K president, Phi Alpha Theta president, and Cadre Leader for underclassmen in the Fellows Program at Samford. His articles about his experiences as a gay man and activist have been published in Wide Angle, a peer-reviewed literary journal. Franklin was also a member of the A Cappella Choir and treasurer of the rugby team. After earning his master’s degree, he plans to teach at the high school level.



Rachel Lukowicz
Foundation Scholarship
Doane University Circle
University of Oregon, Ph.D.

In high school, Rachel Lukowicz slipped and fell, causing significant injury to her brain. She lost a majority of her speech and motor capabilities for several months. While in recovery, Rachel became aware of the immense capacity of the brain. Her personal experience has been a guiding force in her decision to pursue a career in neuroscience.

As student congress president, she led the larger student body to change food services and organized the first annual student leadership gala, a formal event focused on recognizing student leadership on campus. As O∆K circle president, she helped other student groups recognize leaders within their organizations.

Rachel led the creation of a student advisory committee on inclusion and advocated for student rights through the administration.


Erin Maxwell
Chellgren Family Endowed Scholarship
Texas Woman’s University Circle
University of Texas Medical Branch

When heavy rain at Disney World prevented Erin Maxwell from riding the “fun rides,” a chance trip through a food science ride ignited a spark. “I remember at eight I told my parents, ‘I found it, this is what I am going to do.’” She immersed herself in learning about healthy lifestyles and unearthed two specific passions: adding to the world of dietetic scientific evidence and dietetics for geriatrics.

In addition to her undergraduate research assistant position and degree, she served as historian for the Texas Student Dietetic Association and as O∆K circle president, during which she began a new tradition of discussing current events at monthly meetings. Erin was named Defensive Player of the Year in her school’s athletic conference for basketball. As vice president of the Student Athletic Advisory Committee, she led volunteer days at the local soup kitchen and collected 350 products to donate for hunger relief.


Garrett McDowell
Foundation Scholarship
Fontbonne University Circle
Southern Illinois University School of Law, J.D

Eagle Scout, mathematician, sports management major, college athlete, and teacher all describe Garrett McDowell, although he also prefers to define himself as “son, brother, friend, leader, scholar, and giver.”

Garrett thought he would be a teacher and coach, but sports management and business classes put him on a track to law. He has worked full-time jobs every summer while balancing full-time summer school.

As the O∆K circle vice president, Garrett executed the campus pillar programming, a program designed to bring education and entertainment to campus while focusing on the five pillars of O∆K. Past events have included a concert over the holidays with Javier Colon, former winner of The Voice; a lecture and reception with a campus professor; a movie and speaker on cyber security; a volleyball tournament; and a Rock the Vote event.


Diana Mikula
Foundation Scholarship
Georgian Court University Circle
University of Scranton, Physical Therapy, Ph.D.

Diana Mikula developed a passion for physical therapy because, as an athlete, she sympathizes with the experience of suffering from injuries. She writes, “I know I have the energy and motivation to change people’s lives through the rehabilitation process.”

Diana has invested more than 400 hours of work experience in a range of physical therapy settings. In this work, she strives to make every patient smile—even playing 1960s music to encourage one patient to get through an obstacle course on a tough day.

Diana was a member of the GCU soccer team and was also an academic development peer tutor and a Healthy Campus peer educator. She participated in the Soccer Arc Program for children with special needs and mentored young athletes through the Soccer Sister Program. As a member of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee, she organized the Women in Sports Day, and as O∆K circle president, she planned Thanksgiving food drives, the induction ceremony, and many service events.

“Above all, these leadership positions and activities have taught me the true definition of being a leader: leading by example with compassion and integrity.”


Fathima Mohamed
Hamline University Circle
University of Minnesota School of Medicine, M.D., Ph.D.

Fathima Mohamed’s dual majors in biology and English, plus minors in French and Francophone studies, satisfied her interest in medicine, literature, and language. Fathima moved to the U.S. from Somalia as a child, and “had to learn to adapt and work harder to get to where I needed to be.”  She noted that as the eldest child of immigrants, “I was unfamiliar with the system and what I needed to do to succeed. However, with my determination and the guidance of family, faculty, staff, mentors, and fellow students, I have been able to thrive.”

Fathima is pursuing an M.D. and a Ph.D. to become a physician-scientist, which allows her to clinically treat patients while also researching the underlying biological mechanisms of disease. She hopes to become a pediatric oncologist and engage in immunology and cancer biology research. She won a grant for neurobiology research at Harvard University for the last two summers.

As a leader in the undergraduate honors program, she organized events, elections, and lectures. She also served in Hamline’s student congress, helping to organize student-led projects including Relay for Life events and homecoming. For the O∆K circle, Fathima planned several service projects as well as leadership programs such as a speed mentoring workshop and power brunch.

“This generous OK Foundation Scholarship will help me to fund my studies, and this award will also help take me one step closer to fulfilling my dream to help people through a career in both medicine and research.”


Hannah Moss
Katharine Cater (Auburn University) Scholarship
Auburn University Circle
Auburn University, Audiology,

Hannah Moss considered health care and pathology before finding a passion in audiology. She balanced her studies with a position on the Tiger Paws Dance Team, as a leader of Camp War Eagle, and as president of the International Buddy Program.

Hannah has planned undergraduate research study, including an investigation of the relationship between Spanish speech intelligibility and pupillometry (measurement of pupil reactivity). She credits her self-discipline and work ethic to many years of studying dance—she also performed at every Auburn home football and basketball game during her college career.

Hannah cultivated a friendship with an industrial engineering major from Brazil through the buddy program. She writes, “This organization has opened my eyes to the universality of friendships, even with communication barriers. While we seek degrees, titles, and success throughout our careers, we must not lose sight that people matter most.”

“I strive to surround myself with goal-oriented and disciplined peers who will sharpen and encourage me in my ambitions; O∆K provides me with just that. By linking arms with other campus leaders and academic achievers, I am inspired and motivated to work harder in my endeavors.”


Victoria O’Brien
Foundation Scholarship
Grove City College Circle
Trinity School for Ministry, Pittsburg Fellows Program

Victoria excelled as an honors student, radio director, and staff writer for her college newspaper. She writes, “I believe that quality communication is the means to success in business, ethics, and thought leadership.”  This fall, she joins Pittsburgh Fellows, a leadership development program that partners each fellow with a Pittsburgh business and includes graduate level courses.

As an undergraduate, Victoria was marketing chair of an entrepreneurial initiative that won first or second place in business plan competitions at three different colleges. She directed numerous service projects as O∆K secretary and held a variety of leadership positions with the radio station. She also served as co-chief editor for a website geared toward prospective students.

Last summer, Victoria was elected marketing chair of the American Enterprise Institute’s Executive Council, and the previous summer she interned for the Hurricane Sandy Relief Campaign, which raised $1.6 million. She was captain of the women’s basketball intramural team, served as SGA senator, and was first violinist in the Symphonic Orchestra.


Christopher Pudenz
Foundation Scholarship
Hillsdale College Circle
Iowa State University, Agricultural Economics, Ph.D.

Christopher Pudenz is pursuing a Ph.D. in agricultural economics at Iowa State University. He is fascinated by “the remarkable ability economics has to reveal truths that remain obscure to other disciplines.”

Christopher grew up on a 2,000-acre family farm and has firsthand knowledge of production techniques and modern cattle operations. He hopes to navigate the challenges and opportunities that changes from globalization, biotechnology, and “big data” have had on the agriculture industry.

As O∆K circle president, he fostered the relationship between Hillsdale College and the town from which the college draws its name, such as hosting lunch events with local business owners. Christopher served as head resident assistant, and during his two years of leadership, the residence hall cohosted the most successful blood drive in the college’s history.


Bradley Roberts
Foundation Scholarship
St. Mary’s College of Maryland Circle
University of Oxford, Physiology, Anatomy, and Genetics, Ph.D.

“The most remarkable gift that human beings have . . . is the ability to uncover answers to complex scientific questions, which pave the way for significant medical advancements, saving and changing the lives of others,” Bradley Roberts wrote about his career in a doctoral program at the University of Oxford Parkinson’s Disease Center.

As a St. Mary’s undergraduate, Bradley organized LIFT OFF, a two-day emerging leadership conference, and established the O∆K Seahawk Alumni Circle, a networking system to connect our O∆K members with current students to help facilitate career advice, job postings, service events, and networking brunches and panel discussions. In addition, Bradley led the men’s varsity rowing team as team president and was a student teacher in the BrainSTEM program, which introduces neuroscience topics to high school students.


Rachel Salinger
Foundation Scholarship
University of Miami Circle
University of Delaware, Ph.D.

Rachel Salinger’s commitment to helping children benefit academically and socially from a quality education has led her to work with children in many ways including as a tutor, camp counselor, assistant in an art program for children with a variety of learning disorders, mentor for elementary school girls in low socioeconomic areas, and supervised school psychologist.

Throughout her psychology studies, Rachel has researched individuals with disabilities, helped with the behavioral analysis of children with autism, and researched the effects of educational programing. Rachel plans to, as she writes, “give children the best possible chance to learn and grow regardless of their personal hurdles in learning or social environments.”

As an undergraduate, she served as a mentor at multiple organizations working with children and adults with autism as well as in a variety of leadership positions, including fundraising, administration, and philanthropy chairs. In the University of Delaware’s doctoral program in education, she serves as vice president of the Education Graduate Association and as the University’s National Association of School Psychologists Student Leader.


Samantha Selikoff
Foundation Scholarship
The College of New Jersey Circle
The College of New Jersey, M.Ed.

As an education major, Samantha Selikoff learned of the iSTEM program, which allows students to reduce anxiety in the classroom by creating and learning through what students see as play, and she loved this approach to education. She writes, “As an educator … you never know what will inspire a student’s learning … [or the] potential of the students in your classroom and what the future holds for them.” Samantha is pursuing a master’s degree in iSTEM to “encourage creativity in young people and support them in using their creativity to solve problems … and help reduce anxiety and stress with [English as a second language] students.”

Samantha established several creative programs as a student teacher, and she was selected to represent the New Jersey Education Association at the National Teacher Leadership Summit in Dallas, Texas. In addition, when she discovered that the elementary school where she student taught did not have a library, she started a book drive and collected more than 400 books. She founded The College of New Jersey’s indoor cycling program and was photo editor of the school paper.


Stephanie Strong
Foundation Scholarship
East Carolina University Circle

When Stephanie Strong was a child, her little brother fell inexplicably ill and was diagnosed with epilepsy after a year of tests. The experience taught her that “there will be moments when a doctor’s skills are challenged past the point of current scientific understanding, and they must rely on the miraculous capabilities of the human body and extensive research.”

This experience inspired her to pursue medicine; she earned a 3.8 GPA with dual majors in biology and chemistry. She served as lead teaching assistant in the chemistry laboratory, presented at the 2016 Experimental Biology conference in San Diego, and was awarded a clinical research internship at Vanderbilt University.

As ECU’s O∆K circle president, she led leadership development sessions, hosted socials for cancer patients, and coordinated the Rising Leaders Circle, a program to support and encourage leadership among underclassmen.

After seeing the challenges people faced during a medical mission trip to rural Honduras, Stephanie established and serves as president of Persistent Pictograms, a nonprofit devoted to educating communities about preventative measures for mosquito-borne illnesses. She plans to attend medical school.


John Ukenye
Foundation Scholarship
Florida International University Circle
Washington University School of Law, J.D.

John’s parents were both immigrants. His shy nature and self-consciousness about his unique background led him to join the United Nations to learn about public speaking and global affairs. Little did he know, he would build one of the top-ranked high school delegations in North America. His leadership was just beginning. At FIU, he was elected leader of the Residence Hall Association, which was named the top residence hall association in the state of Florida. He also served as SGA executive cabinet member and O∆K circle president.

John has two main lessons and drivers in his life. He writes, “First, service can lead one to become a more focused and culturally aware leader in my community. Second, I learned firsthand how one’s ethnicity or race can be a motivator, not a barrier, for success. I aim to use my legal skills to work for equal opportunities for all to make strides toward eliminating inequality in our nation and our world.”

Through O∆K, John organized many service events, including setting up 25 sites for the MLK, Jr. Day of Service and fostered a partnership with a local homelessness relief organization. He led O∆K recruitment efforts and inducted more than 100 student leaders—the largest group in the entire 32-year history of the circle. “My experience in O∆K has not only continued to fuel my desire to become a lawyer but also [has inspired me to] use my legal skill-set to build a more just community.”


Rachel Zemel
University of Maryland, College Park Scholarship
University of Maryland, College Park Circle
George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, M.D.

George Washington University’s medical school program aligns with Rachel Zemel’s goals of “intertwining top-notch science education with an interdisciplinary approach to medicine that encompasses a compassionate understanding of the diverse individuals comprising our society.”

Rachel became fascinated with the nervous system in biology class, and with her grandmother’s affliction with multiple sclerosis, she knew she would devote her career to neurological health care. From studying neurobiology to working in a hospital emergency room, a pediatrics clinic, and a National Institutes of Health research facility, Rachel absorbed that “the communication, teamwork, compassion, and patience to provide high-quality health care to our fellow human beings of all cultures and backgrounds” is paramount.

As the great-granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, Rachel plans “to contribute to the engineering of intercultural bridges that can make our society more healthful and inclusive.”  She is a founding member and performer of the Avirah Dance Troupe, and instructed Rikudei Tzav dance classes for the campus community. She served as a peer tutor, an Honors College ambassador, and a Portz Scholar, and she received a top award for University Honors Best Student Essay. Rachel served on the SGA Governance Board, baked and donated challah every week as a board member of Challah for Hunger, and delivered food baskets for the Jewish Social Service Agency for 12 years.


Melanie Zheng
University of Maryland, College Park Scholarship
University of Maryland, College Park Circle

Yale University School of Medicine, M.D.

Melanie grew up watching her grandparents who were physicians, provide invaluable insight to their sick patients. She believes that “some of the best doctors … accept that the best treatment for any patient is a result of collaboration and communication. I realize that some of [my grandparents’] answers did not come from an equation or a textbook but were instead collected from the complex experiences of real people and the communities in which we live.”

Her most rewarding college experience was with the Gemstone Honors Program, which creates student teams who work together to build a thesis. She was selected as a leader to teach underclassmen about the process and how to build positive team dynamics. She was also an author at the 2017 annual neuroscience conference.

As director of health and wellness for the SGA, Melanie led an initiative to compile mental health resources, and through her work, the university created a website to help students discover and utilize resources. She led the development of a program to subsidize farmers market produce for students.  Also, while volunteering at a local retirement home, Melanie learned that the elderly often benefited from gardening. Inspired by this experience, she raised money through a university grant to fund a garden and gardening club at the retirement home, which has been carefully maintained ever since.

“Receiving this scholarship will allow me to lessen the considerable financial burden of medical school, which I am paying for myself through savings and loans.”