Alfred University News

Pair of Alfred University students receive SUNY Chancellor’s Awards

Two Alfred University seniors are recipients of the 2024 State University of New York (SUNY) Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence. Olivia Gilbert and Emilia Donenberg Smith were among 193 students from 62 SUNY campuses to receive the award from SUNY Chancellor John B. King Jr. during an April 11 ceremony in Albany.

The Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence acknowledges students for outstanding achievements that have demonstrated the integration of SUNY excellence within many aspects of their lives in areas such as academics, leadership, campus involvement, community service, or the arts. It is the highest honor bestowed upon a student by SUNY.

Gilbert, from Ontario, NY, is set to earn a bachelor’s degree in materials science and engineering, with minors in chemistry and business administration. A participant in Alfred University’s Honors Program and a Dean’s List honoree, she is a member of several prominent honor societies, including Keramos, the ceramic engineering-based honor society; Omicron Delta Kappa, a national leadership society; and Phi Beta Kappa, the oldest academic honor society in the United States, celebrating excellence in the liberal arts and sciences; and is president of the University’s chapter of the Tau Beta Pi engineering honors fraternity.

“Olivia Gilbert represents everything we hope to achieve in preparing ‘T-shaped’ engineering students that have phenomenal technical depth but also incredible breadth of skillsets in other disciplines,” Gabrielle Gaustad ’04, dean of the Inamori College of Engineering at Alfred University and vice president for Statutory Affairs, New York State College of Ceramics, stated in her letter nominating Gilbert for the honor.

“She is quite passionate about passing down her love of engineering and materials science,” Gaustad wrote, noting that Gilbert was instrumental in reinvigorating the Alfred University chapter of the Society of Women Engineers in the wake of COVID. She has served as a student ambassador for the Enrollment Management Division, representing the School of Engineering during visits by prospective students and their families. “She has volunteered extensively with recruiting and outreach events and has served as a significant mentor to underclassmen.”

Gilbert is a successful student-athlete at Alfred, competing on the women’s soccer and track and field teams and serving as a captain of both. She has set three school record in track during her career at Alfred University and has been recognized for academic excellence, earning Saxon Scholar Honors and Empire 8 Conference President’s List recognition for academic achievement each semester. Twice she has been named to the Academic All-District Team by the College Sports Communicators.

Olivia was an intern at Optimax Systems, completing optics work in the lab, including data analysis, white light interferometry and microscopy. Her co-op in the spring of 2022 working with a small start-up working in the microwave sintering space earned her the McMahon Achievement award, given to a student with the most impactful co-op experience.

Smith, from Wilmette, IL, is set to receive a dual degree in art and physics. The recipient of a Presidential Scholarship, she participates in the Honors Program at Alfred University and is a member of the Dean’s List. She is the recipient of the 2023 Natasha Godowsky Renner Prize in Physics and a 2023 American Ceramic Society (ACerS) Scientific Creativity Award. She is one of two students named to receive the 2024 Marlin Miller Outstanding Senior Award, which recognizes scholarship, extracurricular achievement, personal character and conduct.

“Emilia is ambitious, resourceful, and               pursues her art and science practice and research with a high level of passion and sincerity,” Lauren Lake, dean of the School of Art and Design and Performing Arts Division, commented in her letter nominating Smith for the SUNY Chancellor’s honor. “She is self-driven, thoughtful, and demonstrates an uncommon level of maturity and ambition as an undergraduate student. She values her community, and consistently contributes to it an active and meaningful way.

In 2023 Smith earned a Corning Museum of Glass Scholarship to study under renowned glass artist Martin Janecky. In the summer of 2022, Smith was a glassblowing assistant/teacher at Urban Glass and Brooklyn Glass in Brooklyn, NY, and the previous summer was an intern at Los Angeles Glassblowing.

She has shown her art in numerous exhibitions at Alfred University. In 2022, she exhibited at the Pilchuck Staff Show at the Pilchuck Glass School in Stanwood, WA. She has also been active in dance, participating in the Performing Arts Division-organized “Evening of Dance” three years in a row. This fall Smith plans to work full at Wave Glass, a glassblowing studio in Murano, Italy.

Smith has served as a teaching assistant in the School of Art and Design, teaching glassblowing, and worked as a peer leader in mathematics in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Since August 2020, she has served as a volunteer firefighter and Emergency Medical Services first responder for the A.E. Crandall Hook and Ladder Company in Alfred.

“Emilia will leave a very positive legacy at Alfred- not only by the creation of new knowledges and objects through our glass program but also though her leadership, campus involvement and service to her community,” Lake commented.