Honors Student Profiles
Meet Our Honors Students
You will share your honors experience with many of the most gifted students at St. John's.
The best way to see all the advantages of the Honors Program is to visit us at St. John's University. Learn how you can contact the Honors Program and the Office of Admission. We look forward to hearing from you!
Let us introduce you to some of these outstanding young men and women. View the profiles below to see what they say about the Honors Program at St. John's:
When Adaora Aguoji entered St. John’s in the fall of 2011, she had several major goals. Looking back now, she realizes how many she has already accomplished. She wanted to work in a psychology laboratory. She accomplished this. She wanted to find a job on campus in which she felt as though she was making a contribution to the St. John’s Community. She accomplished this as well.
Adaora also wanted to become president of Voices of Victory, the choir in which she sings. She achieved this goal too. She wanted to strengthen her relationship with God. St. John’s helped her with this. Most of all, Adaora wanted to make friends with whom she could engage intellectually and help fulfill her spiritually. Both of these came to pass as well, principally through the University Honors Program.
While excelling in her psychology classes, Adaora was eager to gain practical field experience in her field. She has managed to do this by working in two different psychology settings, one in a psycho-physiological laboratory and the other as a psychology tutor in the University’s Learning Commons.
The proximity of the Learning Commons to the Honors Commons allows Adaora an easily reachable place to study, relax with other friends in the Honors Program from across the University, and even manage a to have a quick lunch or snack using the Honors Commons’ refrigerator and microwave. Adaora has gained valuable practical experience in psychology from both her research and from her honors professors and intends to continue in her field to the doctoral level.
Adaora’s role as president of her choir has given her the kind of balance that allows her pleasure, service, and administrative responsibility. In fact, it is this mix of experiences, a major in which she feels fulfilled, singing that gives her both pleasure and responsibility, and practical experience through her internship and tutoring that has made her college experience a positive one. The University Honors Program caps and unifies the whole structure.
As Adaora looks to the future, she feels confident. Her immediate goals include studying abroad for a semester and (she hopes, not unreasonably) summa cum laude graduation in her honors curriculum.
Olivia Cunningham is a Presidential Scholar majoring in journalism. She is a member of Chamber Music Society, the LEAD student leadership program, and a copy editor at the Torch newspaper. This list of extracurricular involvements would be enough to keep anyone busy, but somehow Olivia also finds time to devote to assisting at the Office of Alumni Relations and Student Support Services.
Oddly enough, the qualities that make St. John’s distinctive—its location in New York City and its strong Catholic and Vincentian identity—were exactly what Olivia wasn’t looking for, but these are the things that she has most come to love about her time here. She has enjoyed the spiritual aspects of St. John’s, regularly attending mass and campus ministry events at St. Thomas More Church on campus and spending her first spring break on a service trip to Appalachia. She plans on completing a minor in theology.
Going to school in New York City means than an adventure is always just around the corner. Olivia has explored Manhattan through various University and Honors Program events, including Dr. Forman’s walking tours, the annual Discover New York trip to Ellis Island, and guided tours of the Metropolitan Museum of Art conducted by several different faculty members.
Olivia knows that she will never forget her time at St. John’s University, no matter where she ultimately decides to direct her talents (perhaps marketing, print journalism, or homeschooling her children). Olivia will always appreciate the positive impact that St. John’s and the University Honors Program has had on her.
Cameron (“Cam”) Devlin is a sophomore in the Honors Program and is enrolled in a five-year program leading to a bachelor of science degree in Economics as well as a master’s degree in Finance. He chose St. John’s initially because of its location in New York City, the financial capital of the world. Once here, however, it was the Vincentian spirit that captivated him. He found it even on the cold February day of his first campus visit. It was clear to him right away: St. John’s was the place he should be.
Cameron hales from Watertown, New York. He enjoys soccer, swimming, and tennis, but also musical theater and acting; in short, he is versatile and has a wide variety of interests. Cam was a member of National Honor Society in high school, and has served as secretary for the Northern New York Community Foundation’s Youth Philanthropy Council. Anyone looking for Cam around campus will most likely find him kicking a soccer ball around Da Silva Field where he plays on the intramural team. He has also coached three and four-year olds for Kickstart Soccer Academy.
On the other hand, it’s just as likely to find him hard at work as student receptionist in the Honors Commons. Having two older brothers and a lot of close friends during high school is what influenced Cam to look for something more than just friendship at St. John’s. He wanted brotherhood, and that is why he pledged to the Rho Beta Chapter of Kappa Sigma Fraternity.
Cam loves attending five- star events around campus with his brothers and, with his brothers, has honed the Vincentian Spirit by logging countless hours of community service. He delivers food to the needy in upper Manhattan and the Bronx through the Coalition for the Homeless. He has also helped the priests of the nearby Passionist Monastery of the Immaculate Conception with its restoration projects.
The Honors Program has played an important role in Cam’s experience at St. John’s. Living in the Honors Wing of Donovan Hall, Cam was surrounded by other Honors Program students. Indeed, they were his first friends at the University. Immediately being involved, being part of something, made an important difference for him. He found the Honors Program professors especially helpful. “Right from the start, you could tell that those professors really took great interest in what they taught and even more importantly, you could tell that they seriously wanted, more than anything, to see all of their students succeed,” Cam recalls.
The Honors Program, in addition to the great professors, also provides its students with smaller class sizes and more personal attention, which Cam greatly appreciated. Study abroad, likely in Australia, is among Cam’s future plans, as he moves ultimately toward a career in banking.
After visiting St. John's on a campus tour, Ada Lee fell in love with St. John's. Even so, her acceptance into the University’s Honors Program is what sealed the deal for her. In fact, Ada believes that the Honors Program has enabled her to succeed even beyond what she had hoped.
A Marketing major with a minor in International Studies, Ada does not compromise when it comes to her studies. She has taken full advantage of almost every honors class her schedule has allowed, including the special honors business options offered through the University's Peter J. Tobin College of Business.
Ada plans on pursuing a five-year combined Bachelor of Science - Master of Business Administration degree program in Marketing. She likes the Honors Program particularly because of the smaller class sizes. “In almost all of my classes, I’ve had between fifteen to twenty classmates,” she noted. “The Honors Program here at St. John’s is unique and amazing. I have personal attention. I learn more and bond more with my fellow students. The professors are very helpful and knowledgeable, and you can tell they really have passion for the subjects that they teach. I feel this passion when I’m in the classroom, and it gives me incentive to strive for more.”
Ada also has taken advantage of every extra curricular opportunity that St. John’s has offered her. “St. John’s is an amazing university. It offers so many extracurricular activities to choose from! But it is through these activities that I have found my niche here and feel part of the SJU community.”
Ada is also an Orientation Leader, and this allows her to meet with and mentor incoming freshmen while acquainting them with campus services and resources. Her envolvement as Project AIM Peer Mentor connects her directly with Asian and international students on cultural assimilation and leadership development.
Ada took an Honors Discover New York class in her freshmen year with Dr. Robert Pecorella, who taught the class the history of New York through an international socio- economic perspective. She enjoyed this class so much that she decided to become a DNY Peer Leader.
Vincentian Service is what lies at the core of Ada’s multitude of activities. She is involved in a variety of Campus Ministry events, including the Music Ministry Church Choir and V.I.T.A.L. She has also participated in a variety of service projects including Midnight Runs, Relay for Life and St. John’s Bread and Life soup kitchen. She is the President of Circle K International, an international service organization that promotes friendships and leadership through service, as well as a Rendu Freshmen Plunge Leader. Ada is also active in Student Government Inc, works on campus and is involved in a multitude of school clubs.
Ada considers the Honors Program an invaluable part of her St. John’s experience. She is grateful for the opportunities it has provided her, both inside and outside the classroom. Whether it was attending the Honors Program social events, such as “Tea and Sympathy” with Dr. Forman, the historical walking tours of Manhattan or going to the New York City Ballet and Metropolitan Opera with free tickets offered through the Honors Program, Ada feels the program has enriched her education in every way.
Lin Lin might be found at the hospital pharmacy at which she volunteers spiking IV bags, or gliding her fingers across piano keys as the melodies of romantic-era composers resonate across the concert hall. Maybe she is hiking on slick rocks of national park trails in the Mid-west. Considering Lina’s packed schedule and wide variety of interests, the permutations are infinite.
Though she enjoys a variety of exotic diversions, as a Doctor of Pharmacy major Lina is a highly ambitious student. She engaged in pharmaceutical research while in high school at the highly-esteemed Garcia Materials Research Science and Engineering Center at Stony Brook University. Her work was honored with many prestigious awards, most notably being one of the fifteen national finalists in the BioGENEius Challenge and a Semi-Finalist in the revered Siemens Science and Technology Competition.
Lina maintains a near-perfect GPA even as she completes a rigorous pharmacy curriculum while balancing two jobs. During the school year, she works as a microbiology lab assistant and as a pharmacy technician. She is already a certified pharmacy technician accredited by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy.
During the summer, Lina volunteered in the Pharmacy Department at North Shore LIJ-Syosset Hospital. In spite of her demanding study and work schedule, Lina is highly active on-campus and in the community. Selected to be a DNY Peer Leader, she mentors freshmen unfamiliar with college life and New York City. She is the President of the Chamber Music Society, and plays piano and violin. She also serves as Secretary of the campus Drug Information Association. In whatever free time she has left, Lina plays Intramural softball and tennis, and performs traditional Chinese fan dance.
For Lina, the Honors Program is the shining pearl of St John’s. She has found the courses stimulating and energizing. “Honors courses are a valuable opportunity,” she asserts. “These classes enable you to connect with professors on a much more personal level and radically alter your methods of creative and practical thinking. Dr. Robert Forman, the Honors Program Director, cares deeply for his students and always fervently advocates for them. It was daunting starting at a bustling school like St John’s, but Dr. Forman went above and beyond to do everything possible to help me succeed,” Lina recalls.
The Honors Program is virtually a VIP pass to everything cultural New York City has to offer. Lina particularly enjoys gratis tickets to the New York Philharmonic at Lincoln Center. Want a private tour of the Metropolitan Museum of Art? Attend the walking tour led personally by Dr. Forman. Lina exclaims, “Dr. Forman’s knowledge is so vast! I have lived in the metropolitan area my entire life, but the amount of history Dr. Forman endowed in the few hours of a walking tour was many-fold more than I ever knew.”
Lina feels the Honors Program immensely enriched her time at St John’s. “I have developed so many relationships and connections through the program,” she says. “At the Annual Softball games, Tea & Sympathies and Uncommon Hours, I have met so many people who share my interests and passion for learning. I truly feel privileged to be a student in the Honors Program. It is a life-changing opportunity not to be missed.”
Michael Lipari, class of 2015, is a junior from Long Island, New York who is majoring in Adolescent Education with a concentration in Social Studies. His minor is Classics. He holds a Presidential Scholarship, the most prestigious scholarship award the University grants. Michael enjoys New York City, and this too figured in his decision to attend St. John’s. The Honors Program and the opportunities it offers sealed the deal for him.
As an avid student of history, Michael took full advantage of the many historical walking tours the Honors Program provides during his freshman year, exploring New York City from the Lower East Side to Fort Tryon Park and the Cloisters. Michael also discovered a love for opera when he attend Verdi’s Don Carlo, one of the Manhattan theatre events the Honors Program offers free to its members.
Michael has been able to take a number of Honors courses during his tenure at St. John’s and appreciates the reduced class size and the attention professors can give to individual students. Often, these classes have fewer students to comparable regular sections of the same course.
Using the Honors Commons provides Michael a special quiet place to study, relax, or catch up with other students in the program. It directly connects with the University Learning Commons, where Michael is a tutor assisting students in history and philosophy. As a student in the School of Education and a future teacher, Michael is gaining confidence and practical experience even before acquiring his formal practice teaching field experience. No surprise, but Michael has discovered already that he greatly enjoys teaching, the profession in which he intends to make his life’s work.
Michael has also found satisfaction in St. John’s Vincentian tradition of service by joining the Vincent and Louise House. Named for St.Vincent DePaul (founder of the Vincentians) and St. Louise de Marillac (who founded the community of sisters known as the Daughters of Charity), the “House” is a group of fourteen St. John’s students who strive to embody the four pillars of faith: simple living, spirituality, community, and service. Through this community, Michael has acquired what amounts to a second family while serving at sites such as St. Nicholas of Tolentine’s men’s shelter and the Church of Our Lady of the Isle in Long Beach, New York. His service began after Hurricane Sandy and continues.
An undergraduate in the School of Education, Michael is a member of the Kappa Delta Phi Honor Society, the STAR group (which pairs upperclassmen with incoming freshmen to guide them through their first year at St. John’s) and Dean’s Scholars, an elite group of student ambassadors who embody what it means to be a student at St. John’s.
Elise Martin majors in both Asian Studies and Anthropology. She enjoys studying East Asian culture in general, but especially folklore and religion and hopes that one day her research will contribute to the anthropological record of East Asia. She is also currently the Student Coordinator for English Language Table, a Project AIM program that seeks to help international students feel more comfortable speaking English and interacting with Americans.
St. John’s draws students in from all over the world, and Elise decided to attend St. John’s for this reason. She especially wished to study Korean. Halfway through her undergraduate years, she can confidently say it was a good decision. Initially, St. John’s location and the opportunities the Asian studies program offered were the primary reasons she chose to come to St. John’s, but there are dozens of reasons why she has thrived here. One is the Honors Program.
When Elise originally joined the Honors Program, she did not know much about it. She assumed that it was just going to consist of some challenging courses and perhaps some intimidating professors. She was pleasantly surprised to find out that it was so much more than that. The Honors Program has been for Elise a set of wonderful opportunities to expand her knowledge, to meet some incredible people, to experience different facets of New York, and to have some unexpected fun.
Beyond its courses, one of Elise’s favorite aspects of the program is that it is possible to be involved in its activities, theatre events at the Metropolitan Opera, New York City Ballet, and New York Philharmonic, museum visits to the Met and MoMA, and walking tours of Manhattan to whatever degree one’s schedule allows. Even if one comes only to its “Uncommon Hours,” its monthly luncheon for members from across the University, the Honors Program welcomes its students with open arms.
Sai Phyo, class of 2015, is an international student from Burma majoring in biology. He came to the United States in the fall of 2011 to pursue his dream: to become a pediatrician. He holds the Presidential Scholarship, the most coveted scholarship award that the University confers. Opportunities offered by the Honors Program were deciding factors in Sai’s decision to attend St. John’s.
“The best part about the Honors Program is that the classes are small. In my molecular biology class, there were only sixteen students, and in my organic chemistry class we had only twenty. For science majors, this is very important because the professor can give each student immediate attention" Sai notes.
"Another great thing about taking honors classes is the opportunity to make close friends. I still have the same friends who were in my first biology, general chemistry, and organic chemistry classes. We really have gotten to know each other, and I think that this is very important, especially for international students like me.”
Living alone in some regions of the United States would have been a problem for many international students, but for Sai, because of St. John’s location, living alone in New York City has been a truly rewarding experience. One of the University’s core classes, Discover New York, complemented by walking tours run through the Honors Program has enabled students who are not familiar with New York City to appreciate its fascinating history and to navigate the city with ease.
“The United States is nothing like Burma," Sai observes. "Such differences can be overwhelming; however, New York City is so international that virtually everyone feels at home. No one is international because everyone is. I have done many things that I never thought I would ever do because of the Honors Program. I have visited museums, attended the opera and ballet, and even gone to a concert at the New York Philharmonic. I never even dreamt that I would ever go to a ballet but so far I have attended two and thoroughly enjoyed them.”
Before coming to St. John's, Sai did not have any knowledge about what research really was. However, because of the accessibility of professors at St. John’s and immediately following his taking Honors Molecular Biology with Dr. Timothy Carter, he has been able to work as a volunteer in the immunology laboratory headed by Dr. Ivana Vancurova since his second semester.
Sai’s active participation in his lab has led to publication as co-author in the Journal of Immunology of an article entitled “ Proteasome Inhibition by Bortezomib Increases IL-8 Expression in Androgen-Independent Prostate Cancer Cells: The Role of IKKα.” He has also been accepted as one of ten students to the University’s Graduate Admission Assistance Program (GAAP).
After two years of working in his research lab, Sai has found a new passion that will complement his life goal. He wants to pursue a combined M.D./Ph.D. program and become a physician scientist.
Della Rao, from Levittown, Long Island, was blessed to be raised in a family that encouraged her to pursue her scholastic goals. She has always been especially drawn to English, reading voraciously even as a child and even having her own written work published.
This brought academic ambitions and the desire to help others, oddly enough strengthened by the bullying that she experienced as an adolescent. Rather than remain a victim, Della decided to use what she had experienced in order to help others. Through her work in youth ministry, Della discovered that she was using her passion for linguistic expression as a tool to help struggling teens find their voices. This brought her to the School of Education and her career decision to teach and counsel students.
Della graduated from General Douglas MacArthur High School in her native Levittown at the top of her class. She could not wait to join the St. John’s community and was especially excited to take her place in the University Honors Program. The School of Education’s philosophy that every student matters dovetailed perfectly with her own and has made a perfect fit.
Since beginning her collegiate career, Della has earned induction into Kappa Delta Pi (the International Honor Society in Education), a mentorship in the Students Teaching Academic Responsibilities (STAR) Program, and a place on the School of Education’s Dean’s List.
Della believes that the most important asset of the Honors Program is its ability to make every student feel appreciated and significant and that this is one important element of the educating process. With each encouraging e-mail and caring conversation, Della continues to be reminded that the Honors Program has become her academic second home.
Della has fully dedicated herself toward fulfilling her high goals. She is currently enrolled in a five-year program leading to a Bachelor of Science in Education Degree as well as a Master’s Degree in Literacy, all of which will culminate in a license to teach English at the secondary school level. She also hopes some day to become an adjunct professor and to further pursue writing professionally.
Nothing pleases Della more than knowing that she is using her love for English as a tool to influence and inspire others. She holds firm to the belief that if she can use her passion for academic service to make a difference in just one young person’s life, then she has truly become the best educator, and person, she can be. Overall, she cannot thank the directors and faculty of the University Honors Program enough for reinforcing that dream and for being prime examples of what great educators can create.
Originally from Munich, Germany, Sabine Stamer is a sophomore who, inspired by St. John’s excellent five-year BS/MS Accounting program, has recently decided to change her major from Economics to Accounting. Sabine is a Presidential scholar, a member of the Earth Club, and a Discover New York Peer Leader. Though it took her a while to get accustomed to living in NYC, Sabine loves studying at St. John’s University and the Honors Program is a big part of that.
Sabine always knew that she wanted to attend university in the United States. She chose St. John’s University because she enjoys metropolitan cities (having lived in both Shanghai and Dubai), fell in love with the beautiful Queens campus, and because the Presidential Scholarship generously covers full tuition.
To Sabine, a university education is, “not just a piece of paper required to get a good job, but the opportunity to grow academically, professionally, and socially.” The Honors Program has played a significant part in actualizing her goal of developing these three aspects of her life.
Regarding academics, Sabine endorses the honors courses, “If I have the choice between a regular and an honors course- I always choose the Honors course.” According to Sabine, Honors courses are the most challenging and enriching available, because the Honors faculty belongs to the best at St. John’s, the classes are smaller, and the students are motivated and some of the smartest on campus.
Outside of the classroom, Sabine enjoys the Walking Tours with Dr. Forman, free tickets to various performances, activities, Movie Nights, and luncheons organized by the Honors Program. Sabine also met some of her very best friends through the Honors Program.
Though she does not know where life is going to take her yet, Sabine is excited to take the skills she learns at St. John’s and apply them to her future career and personal life.
Tamara (known to all as Tami) Terzian, a life-long resident of Queens, New York, has looked forward to attending St. John's University since she entered high school at St. Francis Prep. The close bond between the two schools made St. John's the perfect next step in continuing her education, and when she received the offer of a Presidential Scholarship, her decision was clear. As salutatorian of her high school class, Tami gave the opening speech at her graduation ceremony which, appropriately enough, was held in Carnesecca Arena. She had no inkling of the myriad of opportunities that lay in store for her in her first year at St. John's.
The two years Tami spent as editor-in-chief of St. Francis Prep's newspaper, The Seraph, sparked her interest in journalism, leading her to enter the College of Professional Studies, in which she has learned much about the field. She is currently exploring her interests in journalism and public relations, hoping to make use of and foster her skills and passion for writing and working with people.
To her delight, Tami immediately found many extracurricular activities at St. John's similar to those she had participated in at St. Francis Prep. Happy to discover something similar to the liturgical ensemble she had sang in at the Prep, she joined the Music Ministry Choir, and now sings for the student masses at St. Thomas More Church on campus on Sunday evenings. She is grateful for the spiritual growth she has experienced this year and for the Christian community she has found through St. John's Campus Ministry and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.
When she became one of the first flutes accepted into the St. John's Pep Band this year, Tami gained a new appreciation for sports and more specifically the St. John's athletic tradition. Playing in the Pep Band has broadened her horizons from a high school auditorium stage to the world-famous Madison Square Garden. She even got to travel with the band this past March to play in Oklahoma and California during the Women's NCAA Basketball Tournament, watching St. John's history in the making as the women made their first "Sweet 16" appearance.
Tami considers the Honors Program an invaluable part of her St. John's experience. She is grateful for the opportunities it has provided her, both inside and outside the classroom. Whether it was developing relationships that would span beyond the semester with honors students and professors in her first semester speech, theology, and Discover New York classes; attending various honors social events, such as "Tea and Sympathy" meetings with Dr. Forman, the Honors Freshman Welcome luncheon, and the Valentine's Day cookie decorating party; or taking honors trips such as the one where she learned about marine wildlife with fellow students aboard a schooner on Oyster Bay, Tami feels the Honors Program has deeply enriched her education from all angles. As a student worker in the honors office, she is happy to be a part of what she considers "the heart of the program," constantly meeting new honors students and benefiting from the guidance of the Honors Program administrators.
Tami is eager to begin her newly received student ambassador position in the fall, so she can give tours of the campus and show future students all of the opportunities St. John's has to offer them, just as it has offered her.
Stacey Thomas, a student in the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, is well into her challenging six-year program of study toward a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) degree. She was born and raised in Queens, New York and so only a stone’s throw from the University’s main campus, Stacey has nevertheless journeyed miles intellectually since she began her pharmacy studies three years ago.
Stacey credits her successful academic journey (with so much accomplished in such a short time) to the large number of opportunities that have opened to her through her PharmD studies as well as through the University Honors Program. She was a founding member of the National Society of Leadership and Success, into which she was inducted last spring. She has also become a member of many pharmacy related organizations, such as the Student Society of Health-System Pharmacists and the American College of Clinical Pharmacy. Her long-term goal is to pursue a career in the field of clinical pharmacy and promote the role of pharmacists in New York State.
Stacey is also actively involved in her church, located in Hicksville, NY. On Sunday mornings, she helps coordinate the "Children’s Church" and teaches religious studies to children between the ages of five and eleven. She is also a leader in a boys and girls club. There, she helps mentor children to understand the teachings of the Bible. She participates as well in various community projects such as blood drives that are held at her church and fundraising events for charities and mission trips around the world.
Stacey looks upon the Honors Program and its Commons as a second home in lieu of a room in the residence halls. As she describes it, “Since I’m a commuter, it’s difficult travelling with a heavy backpack without having a dorm room to rely on. That’s why the Honors Commons, a lounge provided by the Honors Program, has become an essential part of my college experience.
"The Honors Commons is a place exclusively for Honors students to meet with friends, have lunch and unwind after class. I call it my home away from home because I am able to leave my lunch in the fridge and use the cabinets and microwave as though they were my own. This is particularly convenient on days when I have late labs or a long day of classes.”
The Commons is just one of the perquisites of the Honors Program that Stacey uses frequently. She also takes advantage of the many cultural events and tickets the Honors Program provides for its students. As she says, “It had always been a dream of mine to see a major world orchestra play at Lincoln Center. Because of the Honors Program, I was able to get free tickets and see the New York Philharmonic play Mahler’s Second Symphony (The Resurrection). It was a transforming experience that I will never forget!” She has also been on many walking tours of New York City given by Dr. Forman as well as gallery tours at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
As Stacey puts it, “Some first-year Pharmacy students are afraid to accept the Honors Program invitation thinking that the workload might be too overwhelming. However, as a pharmacy student in the Honors Program, I have found not only that the courses are no harder than regular sections of the courses all undergraduates take. The main differences are the smaller class sizes, honors professors, and the atmosphere of the Honors community. I’m proud to be part of the St. John’s Honors Program and look forward to the years ahead!”