UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Schreyer Honors College recognized three Scholar alumni and two Penn State faculty members at its annual awards ceremony at the Nittany Lion Inn Oct. 22. The awards for Outstanding Alumnus and Alumna, as well as the Outstanding Scholar Alumni Mentor Award, were presented to Dr. Andrew ElBardissi, Jenna Knapp and Matt Garrison, respectively, by Christian Brady, dean of the Schreyer Honors College, and Pratima Gatehouse, immediate past president of the Schreyer Alumni Society Board.
The faculty members receiving honors were John Sanchez, who was honored with the 2015 Excellence in Teaching Award, and Richard Robinett, who received the 2015 Excellence in Honors Advising Award.
ElBardissi and Knapp were chosen as the Schreyer Honors College 2015 Outstanding Scholar Alumnus and Alumna based on nominations from their peers, while current Schreyer Scholars submitted nominations for Garrison for the Outstanding Scholar Alumni Mentor Award.
ElBardissi, who graduated from Penn State in 2003 with a degree in biology, has directly impacted society on both an individual and global level, using his medical education and training as a cardiothoracic and general surgeon and mastery of statistics and clinical trial design to place him at the forefront of research in cardiothoracic surgery. Credited with more than 30 published articles, ElBardissi combined his astute understanding of thoracic medicine with a degree from Harvard Business School to link health care, analytics and technical expertise to support startup health care companies. It is in this arena where he will help build the next generation of medical technology to improve the outcomes of patients today and tomorrow as a vice president at Longitude Capital.
As the director of production at Thread International, Knapp’s job is a very literal translation of the Schreyer mission, as it encompasses global perspective and civic engagement. Thread uses job creation to help some of the poorest countries transform trash into useable products. Knapp, a 2002 education alumna, helps the organization move millions of pounds of material from the recyclers’ machinery to customers’ shelves. Her dedication to the company is a result of its commitment to “finding waste, unused talent or material resources, unrealized opportunity in unexpected places and turning it into actionable, sustainable solutions to real problems.”
Garrison, the Schreyer Honors College 2015 Outstanding Scholar Alumni Mentor Award recipient, has provided Scholars with views into his world, his projects and his career path since graduating with his bachelor's and master's degrees in aerospace engineering from Penn State in 2005. He has mentored several Scholars in engineering and helped open doors at NASA for on-site shadowing opportunities for Schreyer Scholars and members of the Lunar Lion team, which allows them to take those steps outside the classroom and see their future. In their nominations, his mentees noted how much they value his guidance and advice as they hope to follow in a path similar to his. Garrison is currently the lead engineer on NASA’s ICESat-2, the second generation of the laser altimeter mission, with a planned launch in 2017.
Sanchez, associate professor of journalism in the College of Communications, received the Excellence in Honors Teaching Award and Robinett, professor of physics in the Eberly College of Science, the Excellence in Honors Advising Award. Brady, along with Nichola Gutgold, Schreyer Honors College associate dean for academic affairs, presented the awards as a result of nominations submitted by Scholars recognizing them for their efforts.
Sanchez’s nominators recognized his passion and commitment to students and his discipline that shines through in his daily interactions. “Throughout the course of the semester,” one Scholar wrote, “Professor Sanchez treated every lecture with the same importance and diligence as if it were the only thing that mattered. He not only made me want to do well for myself, but to do my best for him. I can genuinely say that Professor Sanchez is the best teacher I have ever had at any level of schooling.”
Scholars recognized the dedication of Robinett to the discipline of physics and for providing his advisees with good counsel and direction. This is the second time Robinett has won the Excellence in Honors Advising Award. “Dr. Richard Robinett truly helped me discover my passion for physics and his advising was one of the main reasons I ended up choosing it as a major,” a Scholar wrote in nominating Robinett. Another Scholar had great appreciation for Robinett’s vigilance in checking on his advisees.
The Schreyer Honors College promotes academic excellence with integrity, the building of a global perspective, and creation of opportunities for leadership and civic engagement. Schreyer Honors Scholars, including Gateway Scholars admitted after their first or second year of enrollment, total more than 1,900 students at University Park and 20 Commonwealth campuses. They represent the top 2 percent of students at Penn State who perform well academically and lead on campus.