Outstanding Students Tapped for Alumni Scholarships, Awards

Posted: April 26, 2007 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

On April 18, the George Mason University Alumni Association held its annual Celebration of Distinction, honoring dozens of outstanding people — alumni, faculty and students — for their achievements and contributions to the university. The Gazette will be profiling the student award winners this week.

The John C. and Louise P. Wood Undergraduate Scholarship

By Colleen Kearney Rich

Victor Mendez
Victor Mendez

Victor M. Mendez is feeling the pressure — not just the pressure that comes with being an electrical engineering major maintaining a 3.79 GPA, but the responsibility of being an example.

Mendez is the first person in his family to seek a college education.

“I need to set a model for my siblings,” he says, “that shows that making it to college is not enough, you must strive to be among the best.”

Mendez is used to facing challenges. When he came to the United States from El Salvador at age 11, he needed to learn English. Since then, he has gone on to assist others with their language acquisition, helping Latino children improve their Spanish reading and writing skills.

He also credits his participation in Mason’s Early Identification Program since the seventh grade for some of his successes thus far. “Thanks to EIP, I learned that college was within my grasp.”

Since being admitted to Mason, he has had the opportunity to give back to the EIP Program, serving as a tutor and mentor for the program in 2005 and 2006. He is also a member of Mason’s Hispanic Student Association and has held a number of part-time jobs, all while maintaining his place on the Dean’s List academically.

This scholarship will provide some of the financial support Mendez needs to concentrate on his studies. He expects to graduate in May 2009.

The John C. and Louise P. Wood Graduate Scholarship

By David Driver

Nelson Feliciano
Nelson Feliciano
Photos by Laura Sikes

Nelson Feliciano lived in a tough neighborhood in Newark, N.J., until the start of third grade, when his family moved to a new, more challenging neighborhood.

“I hated school. I associated school with harassment and bullying. I spent most of the day watching the clock,” says Feliciano.

In high school, a counselor told him not to spend a lot of time filling out college applications. Despite this, Feliciano applied to and attended Rutgers University, graduating with a BA in anthropology and English.

In 2005, Feliciano enrolled at Mason, and he now plans to graduate in December with an MA in anthropology. One of the many roles Feliciano has taken on at Mason is resident advisor, where he works with students on the Passport Learning Community floor and tutors Chinese students enrolled in the university’s 1-2-1 program.

He has also worked as a teaching assistant to anthropology professor Susan Trencher. Last summer, he traveled to Christchurch, New Zealand, to assist in research on the effect of global warming in urban areas.

“The research helped me better understand how such things as flooding and violent winds are getting worse due to global warming and that the impact it will have on heavily populated areas will be as catastrophic, if not worse, as the tragedies that came to pass during Hurricane Katrina,” he says.

The Wood scholarship will provide Feliciano the support and time he needs to finish his thesis.

“If you can prove you have the drive and skills, there are organizations out there to help you,” he says. Feliciano hopes to one day teach at the university level.

Other student award winners this year were

  • Maneshka Eliatamby, a master’s candidate at the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution who received the Mary Lynn Boland Award for Outstanding Student Service

  • Latoya Banks, an English major who received the Black Alumni Commitment to Diversity Book Award

  • Oliver Schluemer, a senior majoring in finance who received the Emerging Business Leader Undergraduate Award

  • David A. Farris, an MBA student who received the Emerging Business Leader Graduate Award

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