Three exceptional members of the Class of 2014 will receive the top student awards during the undergraduate Commencement ceremony on May 18.
Nicole Kalmus of the College of Arts and Sciences will receive the Belle K. Ribicoff Prize, which is awarded for academic excellence. A double major in international studies and modern language (French), Kalmus was one of nine University Honors students who recently presented at the highly selective National Conference of Undergraduate Research in Lexington, Ky. Her presentation explored how foreign aid was distributed in Haiti after the devastating earthquake in 2010. Kalmus advocates putting aid data in one central location so governments and organizations can make sure it gets to those who need it.
“Niki’s enthusiasm is infectious,” said Associate Professor Jane Horvath, director of the economics and political economy programs for the College of Arts and Sciences. “So is her determination to make a difference in the world. I am convinced that Niki will find a way to make development her life’s work.”
From the dance and Ultimate Frisbee teams to the Red Caps, Gospel Choir, and several other groups, it’s hard to find an organization Kalmus has not involved herself with. Her ability to balance these extracurricular activities with the rigor of the University Honors program makes her a truly exceptional student.
Catherine Brennan of the College of Arts and Sciences will take her passion for mathematics to the University of Oxford in England in the fall as this year’s recipient of the John G. Martin Scholarship. The Martin Scholarship provides an extraordinary opportunity to study for two years at Oxford’s Hertford College. Brennan, who has a 3.95 grade point average, majored in mathematics with a minor in actuarial science. She was also a private and group tutor for the University’s Student Success Center and in the math and physics tutoring lab.
Planning to stay in school indefinitely, as a student and then a professor, Brennan’s scholarly instincts are undeniable. She continues to seek the answer to the one overarching question introduced by her Calculus II professor, and still at the forefront of her consciousness despite years of education and research: “What can math be used for?”
“I will spend the rest of my life searching for the limit of mathematics—if there is one at all,” Brennan said. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Kyle Hebert, this year’s recipient of the John G. Lee Medal, is double majoring in economics and mathematics, with a minor in actuarial science. The John G. Lee Medal is awarded annually to a graduating senior from Greater Hartford who has excelled academically while demonstrating a deep commitment to community.
Hebert has an almost perfect 3.98 GPA. Last spring he received a Junior Regents’ Honor Award, given to students with the highest GPAs in their respective colleges.
“In my 30 years as faculty at two universities, I have rarely, if ever, come across a student as bright as Kyle,” said Farhad Rassekh, professor of economics and associate dean of the Barney School of Business.
Hebert has gained valuable work experience in internships at two industry leading insurance companies, Cigna and MassMutual Financial Group, and has already successfully passed two actuarial exams.
He wants to further his knowledge of statistics and plans to pursue a master’s degree in applied statistics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison this fall. After graduate school, he intends to use his knowledge, skills, and expertise in the area of public policy.
Outside the classroom, Hebert is an active member of the University of Hartford community. He is a member of the Honors Program and vice president of the Alpha Chi Honor Society. He co-founded the University’s Actuarial Club and currently serves as its president. Hebert is also a mathematics tutor and serves as a mentor for students pursuing economics degrees as well.
Kalmus, Brennan, and Hebert will join 1,050 fellow students celebrating the completion of their degrees during this year’s undergraduate commencement.