Outstanding Graduates to be Honored as 21st Century Leaders at UMass Amherst Commencement

Two seniors to be recognized as Welch Scholars

AMHERST, Mass. – The University of Massachusetts Amherst will honor the exemplary achievement, initiative and leadership of some of its most talented and accomplished graduating seniors during Undergraduate Commencement on Friday, May 11 at McGuirk Alumni Stadium beginning at 4:30 p.m.

Ten members of the graduating class will be honored as 21st Century Leaders at Undergraduate Commencement:

  • Nargis Aslami of Worcester, majored in women, gender, sexuality studies. As a student, Aslami organized two national conferences on reproductive justice and served as a counselor-advocate at the university’s Center for Women & Community. She was also a legal assistant at the Student Legal Services Office. She plans to attend law school and pursue a career as a public interest or social justice lawyer.
  • Shuaib Balogun is a chemical engineering major from Lagos, Nigeria, and a member of Commonwealth Honors College. Balogun completed an internship with 3M and was named an American Chemistry Society Scholar. He plans to conduct graduate studies in materials science and engineering at Georgia Tech and be an active participant in social justice issues in his homeland.
  • Nicolas Blaisdell, from Peabody, majored in English, finishing his bachelor’s degree a year early with a perfect 4.0 grade point average. In 2016, he founded the Peabody Volunteer Tutoring Organization, a free tutoring program for K-12 students in his hometown. After graduation, he will attend the UMass College of Education’s TEACH180 Days in Springfield teacher preparation program. He plans to be a public high school English language arts teacher and pursue a doctorate.
  • Stephanie Castro, an accounting major from Plainville, was active in several groups in the Isenberg School of Management, including the annual holiday toy drive for Springfield elementary school students and the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. She served as a teaching assistant, student coordinator for diversity recruitment and enrollment and as president of the Association of Latino Professionals for America, a club focused on academic and career support for minority students.
  • Jessica Furtado, from Dubai, United Arab Emirates., is a double major in biochemistry and molecular biology and public health. She was a teaching assistant, a student mentor and one of the first participants in the STEM Ambassadors Program designed to improve retention rates for diverse groups in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. She also was co-manager of People’s Market, a student-run business. Next year, she will begin graduate studies in biochemistry at Yale University. 
  • Charlotte LaPlante, a biology and English major from Brookline, published two research papers on her study of the effects of two environmental chemicals on pregnant and lactating mice and presented the research at a national conference. An honors student, she also served as an academic tutor and an emergency medical technician on campus. She plans to attend medical school.
  • Xin Liu, a computer science major from Nanchang, China, earned recognition as a UMass Amherst Rising Researcher for his work on optimizing algorithms for understanding and quantifying hand use with data obtained from wearable sensors. The honors student was the first author of a paper published in a top-tier scientific journal. He also earned a National Science Foundation Student Travel Award to attend a national conference. He will pursue a Ph.D. in computer science at the University of Washington.
  • Caroline Qin of Winchester is a microbiology major whose work earned her a Commonwealth Honors College research assistant fellowship in 2015. She served as a peer mentor and tutor at the Learning Resource Center and was a teaching assistant in the microbiology department as well as a local high school. Qin was also a volunteer at hospitals in Northampton and Worcester. Elected to Phi Beta Kappa as a junior, she plans to attend the UMass Medical School to become a physician.
  • Tenzin Thargay of West Roxbury majored in political science and Chinese language and literature who plans to pursue a career in international affairs and public service. As an honors student, he created and organized a Five College conference on compassionate leadership and a panel on the future of Tibet after the Dalai Lama. He was recognized by the UMass Amherst Alumni Association with a Salute to Service Scholarship. Next fall, he will conduct research in South Korea with a Fulbright Scholarship.
  • Hadiya Williams is a psychology and anthropology major from Mansfield. She completed an honors thesis on inequalities in black health. In 2016, she was named a Baccalaureate M.D. Scholar at the UMass Medical School, a program that provides provisional acceptance to medical school and special academic offerings to select students. She was president of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority and a Student Government Association senator. She will return next fall to complete an accelerated master’s degree in public policy and plans to attend law school.

Two graduating seniors will be recognized during the commencement ceremony for their leadership and executive ability as Jack Welch Scholars. They are:

  • Enda O’Shea, from West Newton, a finance major who has accepted employment with Ernst & Young in Boston.
  • Lina Wu, of Burlington, a chemical engineering major who plans to pursue a Ph.D. in the field.

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