Class of 2018 Top Five Earn Donald A. Morris Academic Excellence Award

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Left to right: President Corey, Jenna Benvenuti, Julie Crone, BreAnne Rudlaff, Isabelle León and Victoria Monterusso

The University of Olivet recognized nearly 200 graduates during Commencement ceremonies May 19 at The Cutler Event Center. Prior to the ceremony, a reception was held to honor the top five graduating seniors. Each graduate received the Donald A. Morris Award Academic Excellence Award, and the professor whom each student deemed the most influential in his or her academic career were also honored.

The Class of 2018 top five graduates are:

Jenna Benvenuti

Jenna Benvenuti, a business administration and insurance and risk management major, will complete an internship with the Wholesale and Specialty Insurance Association after graduation before beginning the Master of Business Administration program at Walsh College. She says she will most remember the relationships she’s built at The University of Olivet, especially with her mentor, Mike Oyster ’77, department chair and assistant professor of business administration.

Jenna said of Professor Oyster, “Mike Oyster is a professor that has gone out of his way to help me succeed and grow as a person. He is someone I can trust and turn to for advice with anything that is going on in my life. Professor Oyster holds a wealth of knowledge and always encourages me to express my thoughts and ideas in the classroom. He further challenges me by pushing me to think of different solutions and look at situations from other angles.”

Julie Crone

Julie Crone, a biology and environmental science major, is spending her summer as a field and lab technician at the Kellogg Biological Station, and is hoping the experience will help her gain research knowledge that will contribute to her succees in graduate school. She is interested in studying the human impacts on biodiversity or agroecosystems, and credits OC’s Earthbound Environmental Awareness Organization in helping her explore new topics and connect with other likeminded individuals.

Julie added that Leah Knapp, D.V.M., professor of biology and biology program director, was a constant supporter through her time on campus, naming Dr. Knapp her most influential professor. “Dr. Knapp has been integral not only to my academic success at The University of Olivet, but to my personal growth and development. Dr. Knapp possesses an infectious sense of scientific inquiry and a general excitement toward the natural world. She inspired me to reassess what I truly hoped to gain from my college experience and where I want to see myself in the future. She has been my confidant, my mentor, and one of my greatest friends. Dr. Knapp truly has a gift for inspiring a love for science and learning in her students. She wholeheartedly and selflessly commits herself to the guidance of her students, and I can say with absolute certainty that my aspirations have changed for the better under her influence.”

Isabelle León

Isabelle León, a criminal justice major, has a passion for working with young men and women and will be serving the Eaton County Youth Facility. She says her college journey was shaped by the opportunity to play sports while earning her degree, and the paired support from professor and coaches helped her succeed.

Isabelle named Phil Reed, associate professor of criminal justice, her most influential professor. She especially appreciated his encouragement in reaching her goals – academically, athletically and personally. “As my adviser and professor, Professor Reed made a strong impact on my learning experience at The University of Olivet in many ways. Whether we were in the class, his office, passing by in the halls of Mott, or he was supporting me at one of my soccer games, Professor Reed made a point to check up on me, make sure I’m doing well and ask about my goals,” Isabelle said. “It is a lot easier to enjoy school and class when you know that your professor really cares about your success. If you miss Professor Reed’s class one day, you can be sure he will stop you wherever he sees you next to ask where you were and to make sure everything is alright. He made it so that every single person in his classroom was important. Not just the smart ones or the motivated ones, but everyone. He also made the classes very interesting. It helps to have a professor who hasn’t just learned about the criminal justice system, but one who has also experienced being a police officer or detective and has witnessed criminal justice topics first-hand.”

Victoria Monterusso

Victoria Monterusso focused her studies in actuarial science and will begin her career as an associate software developer at Auto-Owners Insurance after graduation. Victoria says her favorite memories from her time at The University of Olivet include service trips to South Carolina, Louisiana, Texas and Puerto Rico, and attending national insurance conferences with Gamma Iota Sigma.

Victoria named Janine Peters, mathematics and computer science department chair and associate professor of mathematics, her most influential professor. She said, “Professor Peters truly cares about the success of her students, and she is always available to help her students. She has consistently supported and motivated me throughout my four years at The University of Olivet.”

BreAnne Rudlaff

Psychology major BreAnne Rudlaff graduated in December 2017, and has already begun her career at the Logan Autism Learning Center as a behavioral technician using applied behavior analysis therapy techniques. She says she will always remember and appreciate the support from the entire campus community at The University of Olivet, adding that she never felt lost or out of place.

BreAnne named John Moore, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology, her most influential professor. “I cannot thank Dr. Moore enough for everything he did for me while I was a student. As my adviser and professor, he was incredibly helpful, knowledgeable, and such an interesting professor,” BreAnne said. “Dr. Moore was always willing to sit down and talk with me anytime I was concerned throughout my academic schedule. He was a major impact on my ability to graduate early. He taught me how meaningful and versatile a degree in psychology could be. I can honestly say that without him, I would not be in the wonderfully life changing position that I am in today. Because of his dedication to teach lessons of psychology and the impact he made on my life, I have already begun the path into changing others’ lives for the better. I owe a great deal of my success and experiences at The University of Olivet to Dr. Moore.”

The Donald A. Morris Award was named after a former president of the college. Morris served Olivet from 1977-92.

Attend an upcoming admissions event or visit campus to learn more about becoming a Comet and begin building relationships with OC’s outstanding professors. Contact the Office of Admissions at 800.456.7189 or admissions@uolivet.edu for questions.


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