June 2, 2008 - Macaulay Honors College congratulates five Valedictorians

Macaulay Honors College at The City University of New York is proud to congratulate Ianna H. Owen ’08, valedictorian of Hunter College, Lauren Talerman ’08, commencement speaker for Queens College, Mary Pennisi ‘08, valedictorian of Brooklyn College, Antonia M. Florio ’08, valedictorian of City College, and Kareem Douglas ’08, valedictorian of the Grove School of Engineering at City College. Each of these Macaulay Honors College graduating seniors has been recognized by her respective school for exemplary academics, leadership in the community, and passionate dedication to co-curricular activities and service.

Ianna Hawkins OwenIanna Hawkins Owen ’08 (Africana Studies major, Spanish and Religions minor, Hunter College) won a Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship that will pay her full tuition plus a yearly stipend as she pursues her PhD in African Diaspora Studies at The University of California, Berkeley. She was also honored with a Mellon-Mays Undergraduate Fellowship, which provides academically gifted students who have an interest in addressing the under-representation of minorities in higher education a distinct and carefully guided experience above and beyond their undergraduate studies. Owen used her Macaulay Honors College study grant to fund a website for “Say It Loud, Make it Plain,” a printing press that she created to publish radical student papers. Upon completion of her PhD, Owen intends to teach at a public university because, as she says, “I believe education is a human right, not a private affair.”

Lauren TalermanLauren Talerman ‘08 (Political Science and Anthropology double major, Arabic minor, Queens College) spent a summer studying Arabic in Egypt under the David L. Boren Undergraduate Scholarship. The scholarship awards up to $20,000 for study in a “region of the world crucial to U.S. interests” in exchange for a year’s service in the federal government. Talerman displayed a keen interest in international affairs, particularly the Middle East; her career goal is foreign policy. She speaks fluent Hebrew and Spanish and used her study grant to complete research on Jewish and Muslim communities in Morocco after the Spanish expulsion. In addition to her course work, where she maintained a 3.9 GPA, she was executive editor of the Knight News student newspaper; co-editor of the Journal of Jewish Studies; and served on the President’s Strategic Planning Council.

Mary PennisiMary Pennisi ’08 (Political Science and Philosophy of Law double major, Brooklyn College). Along with taking 21 credits last semester, studying at Oxford University in England, and recently being named a finalist for the prestigious Marshall Scholarship, Pennisi also founded a non-profit Coalition for Government and Community Resources to help Brooklyn College immigrant students. “I come from a family of immigrants,” says Pennisi, a future immigration lawyer whose family is from Italy. “I grew up in a household that had a different cultural perspective from the mainstream. That oriented me toward understanding the hardships that immigrants face…. In the future, I would like to set up a think tank with a social outreach program similar to the Coalition for Government and Community Resources," she says. "It would be part think tank and part social outreach organization." After graduating from Brooklyn College, Pennisi plans to pursue a master's degree, possibly in urban planning, and then go on to law school. She speaks English, Italian, and French and is currently learning Spanish and Czech.

Antonia M. FlorioAntonia M. Florio ’08 (Biology major and Jewish Studies minor, City College) is leaving The City College with some of the school’s top honors, including the NYC Merit Scholarship, the Bausch and Lamb Scholarship, the Dr. Bernard B. Levine Scholarship, and The Professor Jess Hank’s Award (2007). In addition, Ms. Florio received a City College Fellowship, which is awarded to highly qualified students who plan to pursue academic careers. Ms. Florio takes her passion for ecology and conservation to the Richard Gilder Graduate School of the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH). There she will enroll in Gilder’s new PhD Program in Comparative Biology in preparation for a career as a research scientist in ecology and evolutionary biology.

Kareem DouglasKareem Douglas ’08 (Mechanical Engineering major, the Grove School of Engineering at City College). During his early years at The City College, Kareem has been a member of the Honors Student Advisor Council (HSAC), and as vice president for community service he collaborated with NYCARES Day to manage clean-ups in parks and schools, sending holiday cards to the elderly, and organizing its famous coat drive. Honors Program advisor Lee Linde says of Kareem, “ He’s unassuming, so you’ll never see him in a crowd. But he’s always there, making it work.”