Commencement 2017 Award Winners

May 21, 2017

MLitt/MFA Ariel Award: Tyler Bruce Dale

Recognizing outstanding program service and leadership to the Shakespeare and Performance program.

Known as a seemingly inexhaustible student who is always ready to step up when called upon, Dale is referred to by fellow students and faculty in the MLitt program as a “yes man.” This year, Dale responded to a plea just three days before the production of Romeo and Juliet when another actor was not able to participate. Everyone was prepared for him to need to refer to the script at least a little while performing,  but Dale surprised the cast by memorizing his lines in an astonishingly short amount of time. Those who know Dale best say this is typical of him; eager to lend a hand, while continuing to fulfill his own responsibilities flawlessly.


Andrew Gurr Award for Outstanding Thesis: Molly Beth Seremet

Molly Beth Seremet is the first ever two-time Gurr Award winner, earning the prize last year for her excellent MLitt thesis. This will also mark the first time MBU has awarded the thesis prize to a student in the MFA program. Professors in the program remarked that Seremet’s deeply felt, deeply researched, daringly innovative work, titled This Is and Is Not ‘Cressida’: Un-Writing the Un-Documented Object, “reset the bar for thesis writing in the program.”


Martha Stackhouse Grafton Award: Brooke Morgan Wiles

Given to the graduate with the highest cumulative grade point average.

Biology major and psychology minor Brooke Wiles worked in Paris as an intern at Institute Pasteur’s molecular retrovirology unit and served as president of MBU’s biological honor society. Wiles is also a Global Honors Scholar and member of Phi Beta Kappa. As a senior, Wiles took on two thesis projects. Her biology thesis “The Effects of SLPI Knockdown on Colorectal Cancer Progression,” was initially inspired by her interest in HIV research. For her honors project, “CRISPR and its Ethical Implications in Genetic Modification,” Wiles analyzed the ethical concerns surrounding the very same technology she used in her biology senior project, combining the two disciplines.With the future goal of working for the World Health Organization, she will continue studying this fall in New York University’s Master of Public Health program, which will take her to Washington DC, Ghana, and Abu Dhabi.


Mary Keith Fitzroy Award: Sharanya Rao

Recognizing high academic standing and exceptional leadership and citizenship.

A class marshal, Student Government Association secretary, peer mentor, writing center tutor, and president of the psychology club during her MBU tenure, Rao also developed an expertly researched senior thesis in her major — psychology with an emphasis in mental health — that draws attention to the need for legislation reform to protect sexual minorities in her home country of India. Rao received a $1,400 research grant from Psi Chi, an international psychology honor society, that allowed her to work with several non-governmental organizations in India to recruit participants for the study. A recipient of the Brenda Bryant Leadership Award, the Unsung Hero Award, and the Donald D. Thompson Memorial Scholarship for excellence in the field of psychology, Rao is also a Global Honors Scholar and member of Phi Beta Kappa.


Baldwin Online and Adult Outstanding Student: Robyn Evans

Evans regularly travelled to campus several times a week from her home in Bath County, Virginia, to complete her degree in math while raising two children with her husband, an MBU grad. Faculty, advisors, and fellow students alike admire Evans for her indomitable spirit. She found the courage to work through significant obstacles last year, and although it feels to her like she has earned her degree “in fits and starts,” this award is proof of her determination to see things through.


College of Education Outstanding Undergraduate: Hannah Walker

Walker jumped at the opportunity to major in Liberal Arts and Educational Studies when MBU introduced it in 2014. She recently completed her elementary student teaching placement, expertly showcasing what her professors and fellow teachers refer to as her “good teacher mojo.” Known by her peers as exceptionally bright, Walker has excelled in her classes, and was selected by the College of Education faculty to represent MBU at the Virginia Teachers of Promise Institute this year. Walker also served the university as a student worker in the admissions office, providing a welcoming face to campus visitors and prospective students alike.


College of Education Outstanding Graduate Student: Courtney Hallacher

Hallacher was recently recognized as teacher of the year at Riverheads High School in Augusta County, where she teaches ecology. Hallacher’s thesis  went well beyond a typical study, getting permissions from school divisions, teachers, middle school students, and their parents to study the Trout in the Classroom program in Virginia middle schools. In collaboration with Mary Baldwin’s unique Environment-Based Learning (EBL) program, Hallacher has maintained the Middlebrook Streambank service learning project with her students for the past four years. Hallacher extended the project’s reach with additional money from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and she and EBL director Tamra Willis have presented at two conferences..Whether it is obtaining her license to drive a bus for field trips, or helping her school win the US Department of Education blue ribbon, Hallacher goes the extra mile for her students.


Nancy Morse Evans Leadership Awards

The Nancy Morse Evans Leadership Award was created in 2017 through the generosity of Nancy Morse Evans, Class of 1970. This award recognizes one occupational therapy, physical therapy, and RN to BSN graduating student who demonstrates academic excellence, clinical distinction, and a record of service and leadership while in their program. The award includes scholarship funds as well as recognition on a special plaque housed at Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences.

Dylan Woodruff Fix (BSN)

Fix is an accomplished student who has logged more than 19,000 hours of experience as a registered nurse in the local community. In addition to returning to school for her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree, she demonstrated a commitment to lifelong learning in a variety of other ways, such as receiving and maintaining multiple professional certifications and continuing to serve on numerous task forces and committees in her work place while completing her degree.  A tireless patient advocate, Fixrecognized a problem in the hospital setting and developed a capstone project that validated the way in which evidence-based practice change can be implemented in the clinical arena to promote patient safety, care, and improved outcomes. While graduating among the top students in the RN to BSN class, she maintained a work-life balance that included the responsibilities of being a wife and mother of three, and assisting with  managing a family farm.

Amy Lynne Lehman (OT)

Lehman, who calls our Shenandoah Valley home, has a warm personality and a genuine ability to connect with others.  She has shared her talents by supporting other students and serving as a teaching assistant for anatomy, and was an MBU Honor Council representative.  Lehman volunteered at Camp Dragonfly, at the Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind, and in local public schools.  She is a member of both the American Occupational Therapy Association and the Virginia Occupational Therapy Association, and has attended state and national conferences.  As recipient of the prestigious Fred Sammons Scholarship awarded through the American Occupational Therapy Foundation, Lehman chose to complete her doctoral experience in a setting where the was no OT present.  She was able to create new programs within a local hospice organization and to advocate for occupational therapists to have a role in this setting.

Katherine Elizabeth Blatt (PT)

Blatt was one of 12 students who were the first group to travel to Haiti on the Global outreach project and was one of the student leaders to raise funds for this project. She participated in multiple service projects while in the program, including “Go Girls”, a program to foster physical activity in young girls in Waynesboro, conducted functional pre-employment screenings for Wintergreen ski resort, organized a day of activities at a local retirement community to represent the program as a PT Day of Service Activity, and participated in a fall screening program at Augusta Health. As a Virginia PT Association and American PT Association representative, Blatt attended district, state, and national PT meetings representing the PT program at Mary Baldwin and encouraged her classmates to participate in professional activities.