Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Presents Graduating Seniors With Newly Created CLASS Awards


Media Relations

May 23, 2013

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Presents Graduating Seniors With Newly Created CLASS Awards

As Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute prepared to host the 207th Commencement ceremony, the Division of Student Life carved out time to honor several graduating seniors as the first recipients of the newly created CLASS Awards. The students were recognized for their achievements during the annual Zero Year Reunion Brunch that was held on May 23.

In 2009, the Division of Student Life launched the Clustered Learning, Advocacy, and Support for Students (CLASS) initiative that is designed to provide support and co-curricular opportunities for students throughout their undergraduate years. Through CLASS, students are connected to a network of faculty, staff, and other students who lend support and guidance and help to build a strong community of learners as they strive to become the leaders of tomorrow.

“College is a time of transition, and with transitions come challenges,” said Timothy E. Sams, vice president for student life. “We understand that the rates at which students adjust to academic demands or integrate into social groupings can vary widely. The CLASS program is designed to foster personal growth and develop a cohesive community for Rensselaer students.”

“The Division of Student Life is truly honored to have an opportunity to celebrate the many accomplishments that several members of the CLASS of 2013 have made in order to support the CLASS program,” Sams added. “By giving the newly created CLASS Awards to graduating seniors, we are not only recognizing our first class to move through four years of our innovative residential educational model, we are also honoring many of the student leaders who led the transformation of our student experience at Rensselaer.  They will forever be among those who blazed a new trail at Rensselaer.”

Personal/Self DevelopmentThese students are self-motivated problem-solvers who are also active members of the Rensselaer community. They were able to explore and appreciate the values of others by defining their own personal strengths and ethical values. These students have been able to identify the steps to achieving their goals while encouraging others to reach their highest potential. The award was presented to Christopher Newhard, a biochemistry and biophysics major; and Shawn Nelson, a chemistry major.          

Professional DevelopmentThis student has achieved high honors in his/her chosen field of study. She/he actively sought out opportunities for professional development through multiple pathways offered at Rensselaer. Through participation in undergraduate research, studying abroad, internship(s), co-op, and/or national fellowship/scholarship opportunities, this student was able to connect her/his talents and skills in unique ways with the goal of pursuing post-graduate work and/or career opportunities in their chosen field. The award was presented to John Miner, a civil engineering major who will also receive his master’s in environmental engineering.  

Leadership DevelopmentThese students have engaged in experiences that have broadened their capacity for leadership. Through purposeful learning and focus, they developed their leadership capacity while demonstrating leadership qualities for the benefit of the university. The award was presented to Nikki Gallant, a chemical engineering major; Nick Timakondu, a computer and systems engineering major; and Rebecca Exley, an architecture major.

Cultural DevelopmentIn recognizing the synergy between science, technology, and the arts, this student embraces the arts both personally and academically. Being an active participant in artistic performances, exhibits, and forums, this student gained a better understanding of how to use art as a tool for personal, public, and professional expression in media. The award was to Howard Lien, a business and management major.

CommunityThese students were involved citizens over the past four years at Rensselaer. They contributed to and enriched the environment and culture of the university. In bringing diverse groups of individuals together with intersecting values, interests, and goals, they have connected others in ways that benefit the world at large. The award was presented to Andrew Chung, a mechanical engineering and design, innovation and society major; and Brian Nock, a civil engineering major.

CommuniversityHaving developed a greater sense of responsibility for others, this student has taken strides to improve the various Rensselaer connected communities whether they are local, statewide, national, or international. He/she has demonstrated multicultural sophistication, participated in civic matters, and helped to create and/or improve partnerships between Rensselaer and its communities. The award was presented to Corey Marshall, a mechanical and aeronautical engineering major.

The CLASS AwardThese graduating seniors have grown significantly through their engagement in all six growth areas of CLASS: Personal, Professional and Leadership Development, Culture, Community and Communiversity. As a result of their work, the university has benefitted tremendously.  The award was presented to Jon Stack, an aeronautical engineering and economics major, and Michael Villardi, an architecture and philosophy major.


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Founded in 1824, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is America’s first technological research university. Rensselaer encompasses five schools, over 30 research centers, more than 140 academic programs including 25 new programs, and a dynamic community made up of over 6,800 students and 104,000 living alumni. Rensselaer faculty and alumni include upwards of 155 National Academy members, six members of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, six National Medal of Technology winners, five National Medal of Science winners, and a Nobel Prize winner in Physics. With nearly 200 years of experience advancing scientific and technological knowledge, Rensselaer remains focused on addressing global challenges with a spirit of ingenuity and collaboration. To learn more, please visit