A young man and SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry alumnus (Class of 1967) killed in Vietnam more than 50 years ago is being honored and remembered this week in a lasting and meaningful way. A high school senior…
Peña, Williams to Lead Class of 2016 as Senior Class Marshals
Alexis Peña and Tatiana Williams will be the senior class marshals for the Class of 2016, according to the Division of Student Affairs. Peña and Williams will continue this longstanding tradition and will carry the Class of 2016 banner to open Syracuse University’s 162nd Commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 15, 2016.
As senior class marshals, Peña and Williams will have the opportunity to help select the Commencement speaker; engage with the Office of Alumni Relations, Division of Student Affairs and Office of Special Events; meet with senior-level administrators to discuss their experience and offer insights; and lead their class during the Commencement ceremonies. Senior class marshals are among the most prestigious honors at Syracuse University. These students have excelled during their time on campus and exemplify the spirit of the senior class. The selection committee assesses the nominees on scholarship, academic honors, student organization involvement and campus and community service.
Junior James Yu has been selected as an alternate senior class marshal. He is dual major in art in the College of Arts and Sciences and policy studies in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.
“Every year, I am in awe of the caliber of our student applicants,” says Sylvia Langford, associate vice president for student affairs and the chair of the selection committee. “We had an excellent pool of applicants, making it a difficult task for the selection committee again this year. Congratulations to Alexis and Tatiana on this well-deserved honor.”
Peña, a native of Durham, N.C., is a biomedical engineering major in the College of Engineering and Computer Science. In addition to earning dean’s list honors, Peña is a member of the Renée Crown University Honors program, a REM Scholar in the Department of Chemical and Bioengineering, and an LSAMP Scholar. She currently conducts research in the Syracuse Biomaterials Institute under Professor James Henderson.
For the span of her academic career, Peña has applied her skills and coursework to many research areas, including computational investigation of tight junction proteins, cell tracking analysis and tissue engineering. Her research projects have earned her the Poster Presentation Award at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students, the LSAMP Excellence Award and the third place poster presentation at the Louis Stokes Midwest Center of Excellence Conference Roadmap to Action. She also spent time as an Atlantis Project Fellow in Sao Miguel, Azores, Portugal, interning under an anesthesiologist and observing firsthand medical technology in Europe. This fueled her passion for creating innovative medical technology.
Peña believed in cultivating experiences in and out of the classroom during her time here at Syracuse University. She is a resident advisor and serves as an ambassador for the College of Engineering and Computer Science as an LC Smith Excelerator. She is also an alumna of the WellsLink Leadership Program. Peña currently serves and has served in a leadership capacity for the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and the 4-H Junior Leadership of Durham.
With a strong commitment to mentoring and education, Peña got involved with Say Yes to Education as an enrichment specialist, as well as Bishop Foery on the South Side of Syracuse as a volunteer and tutor. Her role with the Kid’s Voting of Durham project also gave her hands-on experience in educating youth about the importance of voting. In addition to these commitments, she has also served as a Shadow Day Program volunteer with Seymour Elementary fifth-graders and an Own the Dome volunteer with prospective students.
“Being able to represent my senior class is such an incredible honor,” says Peña. “Ultimately, I want to give back to the University as a marshal as my last thanks during my senior year for all the wonderful opportunities SU has allotted me thus far.”
“With this honor, I have the opportunity to make an impact and leave a lasting legacy on this campus,” she adds. “This honor will push me that much further in continuing on as a lifelong learner, a mentor and seeker of excellence. This honor will also mean my mom’s tears of utter joy and pride as I lead the Commencement procession, and that means everything to me.”
Williams, a native of Rochester, N.Y., is a social work major in the David B. Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics, with a minor in psychology. Williams is also a Renée Crown University Honors student whose senior thesis and honors capstone is focused on integrating social work theory and practice into the legal setting. She has earned dean’s list honors and is a member of the Phi Alpha National Social Work Honor Society. Williams also serves as one of two student representatives on the Baccalaureate Social Work Program Committee.
Williams has spent her time at Syracuse University building connections and taking advantage of learning from her every encounter both inside and outside of the classroom. She is actively applying her social work experience and legal interests as an intern with the Hiscock Legal Aid Society, where she assists with case management, conducts social justice research and drafts grants. She is also a member of the University Conduct Board and the Pre-Law Chapter of the National Black Law Student Association. Her on-campus involvement also includes her role as a resident advisor and member of the Black Celestial Choral Ensemble.
Williams has also grown as an orator and spoken word poet while on campus, earning first place at the 2014 Martin Luther King Showcase and the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. Frederick Douglass Oratorical Competition. She is passionate about using speech and poetry to address social justice issues that impact our country.
“Being a student at Syracuse University has meant becoming a member of the larger Syracuse community,” says Williams. “Taking the knowledge and tools bestowed upon me and applying that to my work and interactions with the members of the University and Syracuse communities has been so valuable.”
“I connected to Syracuse more than I ever expected to and I value every moment of my experience here,” Williams adds. “Applying to be a senior class marshal made so much sense to me, as this role only honors and culminates my connection to Syracuse.”
In addition to her commitments on campus, Williams has dedicated much of her time to community service. She founded a nonprofit volunteer organization called Making a Difference for You (MAD4U) that supports teen moms, and also designed an interactive learning program on argumentation, debate and trial skills for youth in the City of Syracuse. Her impact on her local community also earned her the Rochester Police Department’s Do The Right Thing Award, the Outstanding Youth of the Year award from the Urban League of Rochester and a two-time Young Citizen of the Year by the Monroe County Legislature. Williams has also earned the Princeton Prize in Race Relations from Princeton University for her volunteer activity.
“To me this honor means that I will be able to stand proudly before a class of innovators, visionaries, leaders and dedicated individuals that are destined for greatness, and lead them with that same vision and that same dedication,” says Williams. “Most importantly, this honor is my mother’s honor. It is proof of her faith in me, her dedication to my success and her sacrifice for my future.”