UMass Amherst Commencement to Honor Exceptional Student Leadership and Achievement

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

Thirteen graduating seniors have been named 21st Century Leaders and will be honored for far-ranging achievement, initiative and social awareness. Twelve of those being recognized are members of Commonwealth Honors College. This year’s 21st Century Scholars are:

Hannah "Rivka" Dolberg Barrett of Lexington, a psychology major with a research interest in the stereotyping and the social and personal consequence of hearing loss who will attend Australian National University in Canberra as a Fulbright Postgraduate Scholar.

Daniel K. Burke, a double major in accounting and psychology from Sandwich who, as a Big Brother/Big Sister volunteer, ensured that the family with whom he had worked was provided for after they lost their home and possessions in last October’s snow emergency.

Maheen Chaudhry, a double major in biology and psychology from Hadley, whose research projects included quality of life issues for people with Huntington’s disease and early indicators of Alzheimer’s disease.

Caitlin R. Ellis, a double major in legal studies and political science from Billerica, who served as an intern and later as office manager for the Massachusetts Appeals Court and who will attend Suffolk University Law School under a Trustees Merit Scholarship.

Andrew Erwin of Mansfield, a mechanical engineering major, runner and resident assistant who, as a first-year student, was part of a team that modified a Faraday flashlight so that it could charge a battery and be attached to a user’s shoe to recharge an electronic device with energy generated by walking.

Tara A. Mahendrarajah, a microbiology major from Framingham whose research focused on plant-degrading bacteria and applications in biofuels development. She also received a Goldwater Scholarship for Excellence in Education, the nation’s most prestigious award for undergraduates in the sciences.

John I. Mange, Jr. of North Andover, a music major with concentrations in trumpet performance, music education and music theory who was the founding president of the campus’s chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Music Fraternity and who received 2010 Presser Award for outstanding achievement in music.

Michael McDonough, a finance major from Woburn who received the Isenberg School of Management’s 2012 Faculty Award for Excellence in Finance and is a co-founder of the Isenberg Advancement Program, created to foster community within the school.

Yevin Roh of Dorchester, a public health sciences major, sociology minor and resident assistant who is the outgoing president of the Student Government Association and who was a major contributor to the Code of Student Conduct’s hate crime and hate speech policy.

Erica Rothschild of Riverdale, N.Y., who pursued a degree in social justice education and conflict resolution through the Bachelor’s Degree with Individual Concentration program. Her volunteer initiatives spanned political and cultural causes, and she will work with the Jewish Service Corps next year.

Christopher M. Roy, a microbiology major from Berlin, N.H., whose Marine Corps service included deployment in Iraq. He helped form Bacteriotix, a small biotech startup, whose goal is to identify and develop novel antimicrobials active against bacterial pathogens, which led to his team winning the $30,000 Isenberg School of Management’s Innovation Challenge.

Jose Enrique Torres-Cooban of Marietta, Ga., who majored in civil and environmental engineering and minored in geology after receiving a bachelor’s degree in music from New York University and completing the first year of a master’s degree program at the New England Conservatory of Music, and who has been deeply involved in Engineers Without Borders.

Chia-Ying Wu, a dual major in music and psychology from Taiwan and gifted violinist who combined her interests in music and psychology in the campus’s developmental disability and human services program.

In addition, six graduating seniors will be recognized for their leadership and executive ability as Jack Welch Scholars. They are:

Daniel K. Burke, also a 21st Century Leader Award winner, whose studies have taken him to Ireland, Italy, Brazil, Australia, Hong Kong and Cuba, and who has led the Isenberg School of Management Undergraduate Leadership Council and Commonwealth Honors College’s Student Advisory Board.

Kevin Cunningham, a chemical engineering major from Braintree who has conducted materials engineering research at UMass Amherst, MIT and Harvard and who, as a brother in Pi Kappa Phi, helped build wheelchair ramps in the Amherst area.

Rebecca F. Guihan of Melrose, a civil and environmental engineering major whose independent research honors thesis evaluated the quality of the Climate Forecast System model and its usefulness in systems operational planning, and who, elected to the board of the Society of Women Engineers, created a mentoring program for first-year and transfer women students.

Nicholas Jacek, a computer systems engineering major from Tyngsboro, whose senior thesis on vehicular networks and collision-warning systems helped to develop an adaptive algorithm for driver-reaction time.

Laura Surdek of West Roxbury, an operations and information management major who served as fundraising co-chair for the Isenberg School of Management’s Honors Council and as vice president of corporate liaisons for the campus chapter of the operations management association APICS.

Patrick Witz, a double major in accounting and economics from East Longmeadow, who was a lead financial analyst for the Minutemen Equity Fund, helping to manage the student-run portion of the UMass endowment.

The student speaker at the Undergraduate Commencement will be graduating senior Isaac Himmelman of Santa Monica, Calif., a political science major with a minor in Judaic and Near Eastern studies. An enthusiastic boxer and pianist, Himmelman’s passion for performance led to his involvement with the Daniel Pearl Foundation, where he helped coordinate the organization’s second annual world-music festival.