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

Three 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 12 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:

  • Meghan Berry of Petersham is a public health major. As a student, Berry made three trips as a volunteer to the Mamelodi township in South Africa, where she taught English, math and entrepreneurship to disadvantaged teens. She also wrote her honors thesis on health perceptions and knowledge among youth in the Mamelodi area. She plans to work at MERCYhouse, an Amherst church, and continue collaborating with UMass Amherst faculty on public health projects.
  • Ryan Boyden, a double major in physics and astronomy from Leominster, was the lead author of a scientific paper on stellar feedback published in the Astrophysical Journal. Last summer he was a research intern at UCLA and worked with a scientist studying star clusters in the Milky Way. He was also a resident assistant, a New Students Orientation leader and secretary of his fraternity. He plans to pursue a Ph.D. in astronomy and astrophysics and a Ph.D. minor in astrobiology at the University of Arizona.
  • Victor K. Champagne III, from Dudley, majored in mechanical engineering and was recognized by UMass Amherst as Rising Researcher in 2016. As a student, he conducted research at MIT, Harvard and Worcester Polytechnic Institute and presented his findings in California and Washington, D.C. He was also awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and will attend MIT to earn a Ph.D. in materials science.
  • Lauren Coakley, a political science major from Leominster, served as speaker of the Student Government Association for two terms and was a member of the inaugural class of UMass Women into Leadership, where she was later elected to the board. She also served on numerous campus committees, task forces and advisory boards. After completing a graduate fellowship with the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission, she will return to UMass Amherst to complete a master’s in public policy.
  • Bailey Ingalls, from Laguna Niguel, Calif., a double major in chemistry and biochemistry and molecular biology, was a Division I ice hockey player, a captain and emergency medical technician with the student firefighter force of the Amherst Fire Department. She plans to attend Harvard Medical School’s health sciences and technology program, a five-year research-oriented M.D. course of study offered in collaboration with MIT.
  • Karen Li, an operations and information management major from Winchester, worked in a biochemistry research lab and was awarded a Research Experience for Undergraduates grant by the National Science Foundation. She was a supplemental instructor in chemistry and calculus and served as a resident assistant. She also volunteered for three years with the Boltwood Project, a service learning program, and was a member of the Student Conduct Hearing Board for all four years of her college career.
  • Heather MacLean, a psychology major from Danvers, is the first member of her family to go to college and earn a degree. A distance runner on the cross country and indoor and outdoor track teams, she was named an NCAA Division 1 All-American in 2016. MacLean was elected to the executive board of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee and plans to pursue graduate studies in higher education administration at UMass Amherst.
  • Miguel Angel Paredes of Amherst is a theater major who has expanded the scope of multicultural theater on campus. As a junior, he was a cast member of a production invited to perform a festival in South Africa. Paredes also directed two plays, including Dysfunctioning Just Fine, a one-woman musical addressed diversity through the lens of disability. This summer he will direct and produce the play at the True Colors Fringe Festival in New York and plans to return to South Africa to study protest/applied theater at the University of Cape Town.
  • Rebecca Kim-Hong Toohey of Worcester is a microbiology major whose work as a research assistant in a microbiology lab provided the basis of her honors thesis. She started the organization Medicine, Education, and Development for Low Income Families Everywhere (MEDLIFE) and held a leadership role in the Phi Sigma Pi national honor fraternity. She also studied the effects of anesthesia on patients with Williams-Beuren syndrome during an internship at Boston Children’s Hospital. Toohey plans to volunteer in areas with diverse patient populations and work in clinical settings before applying to medical school.
  • Jessica Alice Cierra Williams of Rockport, a double major in communication and philosophy with a minor in sociology. She served as a senator in the Student Government Association and a peer advisor in communication. She worked with the TEDxAmherst team to organize a 750-person conference on campus, interned at WGBH in Boston and PBS in Arlington, Va. She also took part in Alternative Spring Break working on service projects in El Paso. Williams plans to work in television research or programming, and with the goal of working in content strategy at a television network.

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

  • Victor K. Champagne III, from Dudley, a mechanical engineering major who will attend MIT to earn a Ph.D. in materials science as a National Science Foundation graduate research fellow.
  • Elizabeth M. Imbrogna, of Littleton, a marketing and communication major, who plans to volunteer for year before attending law school.
  • James M. Prescott, an electrical engineering major from Mashpee, who plans to pursue a career in his field.