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President's Message | Reports & Announcements


May 4, 2011

 TO: Campus Community
 FROM: Neil Kerwin, President
 SUBJECT: 2011 President’s Award and Other University Student Awards


I am pleased to announce the selection of two students to receive the 2011 President’s Award at commencement—Alexander Priest and Cassandra Ricketts. The President’s Award is the highest award presented to undergraduate students and is presented to the senior (or seniors) whose accomplishments over the course of his or her undergraduate years are truly exceptional and reflect the highest ideals of American University. Ms. Ricketts and Mr. Priest will each receive $1,000 and an engraved medal, to be presented at our May 7 and 8 commencement ceremonies.

Ms. Ricketts will graduate summa cum laude, with a major in biochemistry and a minor in psychology. Her paper, “Aspartate Aminotransferase Substrate Specificity Alteration,” was one of six winners at the University Honors Program’s Honors Capstone Research Conference in April. She hopes to enter a postbaccalaureate program, followed by medical school and a career in orthopedics or pediatrics. Besides her academic pursuits, Ms. Ricketts is a successful scholar-athlete who was team captain of the volleyball team for the past two years. This year, the team was 29-3 and won its ninth Patriot League championship. Ms. Ricketts is a member of the Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society and has participated in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life, raised funds for cystic fibrosis, helped to conduct volleyball clinics for local students, and mentored girls participating in National Women and Sports Day. She has spoken to area youths about the importance of academics and athletics.

Mr. Priest will also graduate summa cum laude, with two bachelor’s degrees (communication and business administration) and a minor in statistics. His interest in social media led him to found AU’s Social Media Club—one of AU’s fastest-growing student organizations. In a short time, the club brought together students, faculty, and staff to encourage the use of social media to achieve personal and professional goals and to improve teaching. Through his leadership, the club helped to train faculty and staff and recently held a weekend-long conference addressing the use of 2 social media in education. He has honed his skills while completing six internships, including working for then-Senate majority leader Harry Reid, the Consumer Electronics Association, and the American Legacy Foundation. He recently accepted a job as director of marketing at Bethesda-based Genius Rocket. During his time at AU, he has studied in Copenhagen and has served as an Admissions Ambassador, president of the University Honors Program’s Student Honors Board, vice president of marketing for the Pep Band, and director of entrepreneurship and vice president of technology for Alpha Kappa Psi Professional Business Fraternity. While an intern at the Consumer Electronics Association, he tweeted about the 2011 International Consumer Electronics Show to 140,000 attendees.

At commencement, we will also recognize the recipients of 16 other student awards—honoring outstanding scholarship, outstanding service, and student achievement. These extraordinary students receive a monetary award and are celebrated at a special reception on May 6. A complete list of the awardees is on the University Awards Web site (

I hope you will join me in acknowledging the achievements of all of these students—their efforts to build community, their research and classroom contributions, and their examples of service and selflessness represent the best of AU.

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