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USCB Recognizes Outstanding Students, Faculty and Staff at 2017 Academic Awards Ceremony

April 26, 2016

BEAUFORT, S.C. – The University of South Carolina Beaufort will recognize 23 outstanding graduating seniors, five outstanding faculty and one dedicated staff member at the 2017 Academic Awards Ceremony held on April 27, at 4 p.m. at the USCB Center for the Arts.

Academic Awards

Biology Award – Debra Albanese
Debra is a non-traditional student, returning to science after a career in accountancy in order to embrace her strong environmental passion.  In her classes, she served as not only an inspiration but also as a peer mentor to her fellow USCB classmates.  She recently co-presented research with fellow classmates at the spring meeting of Southeastern Estuarine Research Society in Myrtle Beach, SC.  Debra is currently applying to graduate programs to continue her environmental research career.

Outstanding Business Student of the Year Award – Nicholas Payne
Nicholas has earned concentrations in Accounting and Management. While at USCB, Nicholas participated in the Sand Shark baseball program and became one of two Sand Shark athletes to ever receive first-team CoSIDA Academic All-American honors. In addition to his academic and athletic accomplishments, he has been active in the local community using his talent and knowledge to help young ballplayers hone their skills through instructional programs.

Pamela J. Cooper Student of the Year Award – Brittany Pacifico
Brittany Pacifico, a native of Palm Coast, Florida, is being honored for her significant contributions to USCB both in and out of the classroom.  She is one of the few students who have achieved a "double-double" during her college career at USCB. Academically, she has excelled as a double-major in Communication Studies and Psychology.  She has also represented Sand Shark Nation as a student-athlete in two sports, soccer and track, serving as a leader and role model to her teammates. Her combination of heart, commitment and determination is extraordinary and has touched us all, especially her long-time mentor Dr. Pam Cooper.

Pamela J. Cooper Student of the Year Award – Justin Clemmer
Justin Clemmer is a December 2016 graduate of the University of South Carolina Beaufort with Magna Cum Laude honors. He was the founder of the USCB Fellowship of Christian Athletes for which he coordinated weekly events, developed and managed social media, and mentored several other students in leadership roles with FCA. Justin served as a Student Ambassador for the USCB Office of Admissions, and a public relations intern for the Office of Advancement at USCB. Justin's passion for serving others coupled with his commitment to intellectual growth are exemplary qualities of the Communication Studies discipline as well as a fine reflection of the standards upholding the namesake of this award, Dr. Pamela J. Cooper.

Computational Science Program Award – Peter Mize
He was among the first recipients of the Scholarships in STEM (S-STEM) award that has been provided to USCB students through a grant from the National Science Foundation over the past four years. Besides being a conscientious worker in the classroom, Peter has been a tutor for the Computational Science program as well as an active member and officer of the USCB chapter of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), most recently serving as the student organization's Treasurer and Membership Chair. After graduation, he will join Fidelity Investments in Cary, North Carolina, as a full-time Associate Agile Software Engineer.

Education Award for Outstanding Student of the Year – Hannah Weaver
Hannah has been an outstanding student throughout her time at USCB. Her performance as a teacher candidate in all three of her field placements, all while holding down and job and becoming a new mother, is outstanding. In addition to her academic endeavors, she successfully helped organize events such as Read Across America and two senior luncheons as the Education Club president.

Governor Paul Hamilton Sons of the American Revolution Outstanding Student in History – Jeremy Breland
A dual History and English major of the University of South Carolina since 2009, Jeremy left academics in 2011 for service in the United States Army. Following a year of training, in 2012, he was deployed to Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom. He now is an Afghanistan Combat Veteran and has achieved the rank of Sergeant. Upon Jeremy's return to USCB in 2013, he has remained very active, serving on the editorial board of the university's interdisciplinary creative arts magazine, The Pen, and has been accepted into and partaking in the efforts of four honor societies (English, History, Foreign Language, and Interdisciplinary Studies). He is a third generation firefighter and a sixth generation farmer. Following graduation, Jeremy plans to continue farming, firefighting and furthering his education in theological studies.

Hospitality Management Award – Jasmine Perez
She has been a dedicated employee of LRITI, a research presenter at Southeastern Travel and Tourism Research Association's Annual Conference in Knoxville, TN, 27-30 March 2017, and a highly dedicated student in class. She has been known to tutor and help others in various hospitality classes. Jasmine won a competitive scholarship last year from Savannah Tourism Leadership Council and she embodies what being in hospitality in the Lowcountry is all about.

Health Promotion Award – Derell Echols
Derell brings a lot of professional experience into the Health Promotion classroom as he has 10 years of experience in safety and health management in the United States Marine Corps.  To gain new skills, he completed his Senior Internship with the Beaufort County Mosquito Control. Where he worked to provide safe, effective, and economical abatement of mosquitoes to reduce the risk of mosquito-borne diseases for the residents and visitors of Beaufort County, South Carolina.  Additionally, Derell has been a volunteer with Child Abuse Prevention Association (CAPA) at the Open Arms Children's Home. He is excellent at leading team projects, yet he has the ability to take direction and let others lead the group. Derell has applied to graduate school at Rollins School of Public Health to Emory University and Georgia Institute of Technology Professional Master's in Occupational Safety and Health program.

Human Services Award – Liliana Esparza
Liliana Esparza will receive her Human Services degree with Magna Cum Laude honors, and is the first Palmetto College student to receive the program's Student of the Year award. Originally from Mexico, Liliana came to this country with her family as a 15-year old to reunite with her father. She entered 9th grade without speaking a word of English. As the oldest child, Liliana became the "cultural broker" of her family, helping the members cope with the stress and challenges of adopting a bi-cultural orientation. This was a difficult process, but it did not stop Liliana from pursuing her goals. She graduated from high school, obtained a Certified Nursing Assistant credential, and worked in the medical field for eight years, while actively volunteering in her community. She says it took years to realize she was capable of earning a higher education beyond her diploma and CNA. She earned an Associate Degree from Midlands Technical College and has successfully completed the requirements for a Bachelor's Degree here at USCB. Lilianna is the first in her family to accomplish this level of education; she has worked very hard to ensure a bright future for herself and her family

Human Services Award – Shannan Sauerbrei
She is on the cusp of receiving her degree with Magnum Cum Laude honors. Shannan is an on-campus student and has done her internships locally. Her first was done at the Boys and Girls Club of Bluffton and her second and third internships were at St. Luke's Preschool on Hilton Head Island. Our program has allowed Shannan to put into practice knowledge and skills from an interdisciplinary curriculum and improve her ability to make a difference when working with children- her passion. She describes her experience by saying, "I feel fully prepared to step out into the field of human services and take on any situation that comes my way. My education and experiences here at USCB will continue to guide my future interactions with people to get the most out of every situation I come across."

Gordon Haist Award for Liberal Studies – Matt Bex
He came to USCB as a transfer student, and has been working to combine his business minor and interdisciplinary work in communications and sports sciences to make a difference in the world of coaching. Matt is an athlete himself, and is currently channeling that expertise as a coach at John Paul II Catholic School.

Tombe/Eby Award for Outstanding English Major - Haley Edwards
This award recognizes the outstanding graduating senior in English who has maintained a strong GPA within the university and the major, and whose written work and participation inside and outside the classroom are recognized for excellence. Most recently, Hayley presented her senior honors thesis at Student Research & Scholarship day, shortly after returning from giving a presentation on a different project at the highly-selective Sigma Tau Delta convention in Louisville, KY. Hayley is also a winner of an internationally-competitive scholarship from Sigma Tau Delta, the English Honor Society. Hayley's engagement with and support of others' academic pursuits further demonstrate her scholarly generosity as well as talents. Hayley has served as both a writing tutor and Chief Copy Editor of the May River Review for several semesters.

Nursing Award – Charles Chaney
He shares his talents with peers and tries often to help with learning and application of content.  As an EMT, Charles brings experience in the healthcare arena but consistently focuses on critical analysis of the situation and applicability to nursing practice and quality health care.  He has strong interpersonal communication skills with both peers and faculty. He is highly committed to providing safe and high quality nursing care and clearly demonstrates continual development of critical thinking, emotional intelligence, assessment, communication and care coordination skills. He is also the USC Beaufort recipient of the Palmetto Gold Student Scholarship this spring.

RN-BSN Award – Tracey A. Yazvac
Tracey initially graduated from Columbus State Community College.  After working as a RN in Ohio, she moved to Beaufort with her family.  She was hired at Beaufort Memorial Hospital and currently works in the PCU. Tracey was accepted into the RN-BSN program track in Spring 2016. While continuing full-time in her position with BMH and caring for her family, Tracey will complete course work for the RN-BSN this spring. Tracey set her goals, used her initiative and went the extra steps to advance from an associate degree nurse to a baccalaureate nurse. She has contributed greatly to the wellness of the community in Beaufort County, especially during Hurricane Mathew last fall and continues to do so in her disaster preparedness efforts.

Sociology Award – Ashley Thompson
Ashley graduated in December 2016, Summa Cum Laude. Her GPA was the highest for a sociology graduate in several years by a considerable margin. Ashley further distinguished herself by presenting the first ever sociology poster at Student Research and Scholarship Day in April of 2016. Her subject was Racial Bias in the Criminal Justice System. Her research and her poster showed how racial minorities are disproportionately represented within the criminal justice system. She focused on key factors in the process, such as the school-to-prison pipeline fueled by "zero-tolerance" policies. She showed that there are significant inequalities in sentencing, as well. Her impassioned yet clear headed, data-driven analysis of this polarizing issue exemplified the discipline of sociology. Ashley has returned to her home state of Michigan where she expects to work as a behavior technician for an autism treatment center.

Spanish Award – David Goethie
David Goethie is the recipient of the 2017 Spanish Award.  He has had a long passion for the Spanish language and for education.  This unique combination shone in the grammar, cultural history, and literature courses that he has taken, with his insightful and methodological approaches to diverse topics spanning the Spanish-speaking world, past and present.

Charles L. Spirrison Psychology Student of the Year Award – Brittany Lorentz
She has been a student researcher for both the psychology program and hospitality management program – consistently aiding in research endeavors that have culminated in multiple presentations at academic conferences. Specifically, she presented two experiments at the 2017 Southeastern Psychological Association conference in Atlanta, GA, and recently presented one experiment at USCB's 2017 Student Research & Scholarship Day. She is currently co-authoring a book chapter on human development with Dr. Carey Fitzgerald, and over the years she has consistently volunteered to help with many on-campus activities for the psychology program, while also serving as the president of the USCB chapter of Psi Chi: The International Honors Society in Psychology. She was also a member of the USCB women's soccer team.

Founding Chancellor Jane T. Upshaw Award for Outstanding Student in Mathematics – Philip Peter
Philip (P.J.) Peter is a rising senior mathematics major at USCB. He has shown exceptional talent in mathematics and holds promise for an exciting and valuable career in a data-oriented world. He expects to earn a bachelor of science degree from USCB with a major in mathematics. After growing up on Hilton Head Island, Peter began his studies at USCB after being awarded several scholarships. His interests include continued study of mathematics and statistics in order to pursue a career in actuarial science.

Outstanding Studio Arts Student of the Year – Chloe Threatt
Chloe Threatt is from West Columbia, SC. Her pottery has been featured in two national juried cup exhibitions, USCB student juried exhibitions and Student Research and Scholarship Day. Chloe has served the Fine Arts Department as the Ceramics Studio Assistant and Treasurer of the USCB Art Club. She is also a volunteer leader in NewSpring church. Chloe has both natural ability in art and the discipline to pursue excellence.

Darwin B. Bashaw Student of the Year Award – Katie Brophy
This year's recipient of the Darwin B. Bashaw Award for Student of the Year is senior Katherine (Katie) Brophy. Katie has served as President of the Psychology Club for two years, worked for the Offices of Student Life as a Marketing Assistant and the Admissions Office as a Student Ambassador. As a psychology major, she has had research presentations at the Southeastern Psychological Association as well as Student Research & Scholarship Day. She has also consistently volunteered at fall and spring campus days and she organizes on-campus events to increase Autism Awareness and Alzheimer's awareness, all in in addition to her volunteer work as a Counselor for Crisis Text Line.

Newman Civic Fellows – Issac Miles
Isaac Miles is a junior business administration major at the University of South Carolina Beaufort (USCB) with a strong commitment to leadership and community service. He is a veteran of the U.S. Navy and worked before and after his military service in youth development at the Beaufort County YMCA. In the spring semester of 2016, he received the USCB Student Life Outstanding Rising Leader Award for his efforts on campus and in the community. For the past two years he has played an active role in his fraternity, Delta Chi, serving as treasurer and chair of the community service and philanthropy committee. Currently, Issac is working in our Office of Student Life as the Civic and Community Engagement Coordinator. In this position he plans, implements and evaluates service activities with a variety of student organizations and local community agencies. His current projects are coordinating the regional Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, which prepares free tax returns for working families, and also recruiting students to participate in local Special Olympics.

Washington Semester Abroad – Sam Raley
Next fall, Sam Raley will represent USCB as our first participant in the South Carolina Washington Semester Internship Program. Sam will be one of twelve students in the Fall 2017 cohort, which historically accepts students from honors colleges and programs across the state, but primarily from USC Columbia. An English major with deep roots in Macon, Georgia and Bluffton, South Carolina, Sam applied to the Washington Semester Program to enrich his preparation for law school and to explore D.C.'s professional opportunities. As a Washington Semester Program scholar, Sam will take courses in political science and theater, and he will work as an intern through a matching process supported by the Program's Director that is tailored to his academic and professional interests.

Faculty and Staff Awards

Vincent P. Mesaric Award – Sean Kingsbury, Ph.D.
Academic Advisor Award – Yiming Ji, Ph.D.
Staff Advisor Award – Tara Dakolios
Adjunct Professor of the Year – Kirsten Palmer, M.A.T.
Professor of the Year – Brian Canada, Ph.D.
Instructor of the Year – James Duffy, M.A.


Located in the heart of the Carolina Sea Islands, the University of South Carolina Beaufort (USCB) is a baccalaureate member of the USC system, serving the southeast coast of South Carolina and Georgia. Since 2002, USCB has tripled its academic degree programs, doubled its FTE enrollment, opened its first on-campus housing (now serving more than 950), joined the NAIA Sun Conference, and fielded conference and national award-winning Sand Shark athletes in nine sports. The university's two campuses serve a diverse student body of 2,000 students. The Hilton Head Gateway campus in Bluffton, SC, offers cutting-edge Computational Science and Nursing laboratories, and a broad range of academic degree programs. The Historic Beaufort campus, located on Beaufort's downtown waterfront, houses an innovative baccalaureate Studio Art program in close proximity to Beaufort's many art galleries. The University of South Carolina Beaufort offers students an exceptional place to learn and live in an environment focused on growth, preservation and opportunity.

For more information about the University of South Carolina Beaufort, contact Kerry Jarvis, public information coordinator, at 843-208-8030 or