Sheehan Award winners share their student experiences, future aspirations

April 26, 2024
By: Deborah Alvarez O'Neil

Seven of the university’s six highest achieving students were recognized at Academic Achievement Awards April 25 with the Lt. Colonel James F. Sheehan Award, named for the late alumnus and Worcester State benefactor.

The Lt. Col. James F. Sheehan ’55, USMC Ret., Academic Excellence Award honors the student or students who have the highest GPA in each undergraduate class. Lt. Col. Sheehan, who passed away in 2016, was the most generous benefactor in Worcester State’s history, sharing an overwhelming $4.5 million to benefit students and faculty.

We connected with each of this year’s winners to learn more about them:

Freshman Remy Mabboux

  • Hometown: Arlington, Mass.
  • Major: political science major
  • Activities: vice president of the Political Science Club, Model UN internship with the Political Science Department

What’s been the best part of your Woo State experience? My favorite part of being at Worcester State has been working on myself at the gym. I had never gone to the gym before Worcester State, but I decided that it was high time to get myself into shape at the gym. I have made many new friendships at the gym, and going always makes me feel accomplished and motivated.

What motivates you to excel academically? I am motivated to be academically successful due to two reasons. Firstly, I enjoy my major and the teachers who teach the subject. I have developed good relations with all of them and am excited to go to classes and complete my work. Secondly, I wish to be successful in my career, so I try and push myself to complete all work on time and be fully completed.

What are your career aspirations? I hope to pursue a career in government, especially in the fields of legislation, policy, or international events. However, I am still unsure of where exactly I wish to go, but I am working on that alongside my teachers.

Freshman Nathaniel Sarette 

  • Hometown: Woodstock, Conn. 
  • Major: Political science

What’s been the best part of your Woo State experience? The best part of my Worcester State experience has been the classes and the professors. Even on the tiredest of days, I find myself excited to wake up and see what today’s classes have in store. That is in large part thanks to the professors themselves, as their knowledge, passion, and enthusiasm is contagious in the best way. In my experience, so many professors go above and beyond for their students, which I, for one, am grateful for. 

What motivates you to excel academically? I am intrinsically motivated by my future education goals, career aspirations, and my love of learning. I’ve always been one to say if I could spend my life in school I would. My academic performance is driven by my dream of getting into law school and becoming a lawyer. I’ve had this aspiration since I was a young teen, and I have put and continue to put so much effort into making that dream come true. 

What are your career aspirations? After graduating with my undergraduate degree, I plan to go on to receive my juris doctorate. As a practicing attorney, I intend to focus on human rights, leaving a positive impact in my wake before eventually returning to academia as a law professor.

Sophomore Cailey Ryan

  • Hometown: Acton, Mass. 
  • Major: Environmental science, minor in chemistry
  • Activities women’s ice hockey team and lacrosse teams

What’s been the best part of your Woo State experience? I really enjoy the smaller class sizes. I get to know my classmates and professors better, which allows me to make good relationships. I can also continue my education with my classmates, for we take similar classes.

What motivates you to excel academically? I get a lot of motivation from my mom, teammates, and friends to continue to try my best. Their support has been a great help when I could not find it in myself to do my best. I also have goals for myself, and trying my best in school will help me reach them.

What are your career aspirations? I have many ideas as to where I want my career to go. My current favorite is to join an environmental consulting firm. On the other hand, I can see myself coming back to school to further my education in geology or hydrology.

Junior Andja Kola

  • Home country: Albania
  • Double major in psychology and liberal studies (pre-med track), minor in Spanish
  • Activities: Secretary of Active Minds Club, president of National Society of Collegiate Scholars, research assistant for two Psychology Department labs, work-study in the University Advancement office

What’s been the best part of your Woo State experience? I absolutely appreciate the people I meet and work with every day. Worcester State is giving me the chance to meet amazing and inspiring people: peers in my classes, adept and excellent professors, and amazing coworkers. Not only did they make my adaptation to American culture easier and more fun, but also they inspired me every day to strive for the best and to offer my all in every task. Furthermore, the campus climate is very student-oriented and offers a sense of support and collaboration that assists students in their journey to achieve their dreams.

What motivates you to excel academically? There are several things. One is certainly the eagerness to be able to provide a bright future for myself. Coming from a small country that gives few opportunities but fosters big dreams, I get surprised every day to see how much one can achieve here by putting in the effort and the work. I consider myself lucky to have a supportive family and friends; excelling academically is a way to make them proud. Moreover, I am lucky to have worked with exceptional professors who are very passionate about their fields—it would be impossible to not do well when they provide inspiration and all the useful tools to excel in a discipline/course. All this support has changed my viewpoint as a student and a person, as it has developed my interest in many spheres of life and science. 

What are your career aspirations? I aspire to become a psychiatrist. I am considering going through medical school or a graduate program in psychology, focusing on mental health counseling.   

Junior Delaney DeNorscia

  • Hometown: Holden, Mass.
  • Major: Theatre, minors in English and communication 
  • Activities: Vice president of Almost Off Book, writing consultant at Writing Center, Worcester State Commonwealth Honors Program, Sigma Tau Delta (English honors society), Theatre Department’s spring production Eurydice as Nasty Interesting Man

What’s been the best part of your Woo State experience? Being able to find myself as a person. I’ve gained a lot of confidence during my time here, and it’s all thanks to the many experiences I’ve been lucky enough to have while at Worcester State. Being a student here has really provided me with the perfect environment to get out of my comfort zone and aspire to become the best version of myself.

What motivates you to excel academically? Being able to make myself proud. Knowing that what I achieve doesn’t have to be for the sake of anyone but myself is incredibly validating. Not having to deal with the burden of other’s expectations has truly allowed me to flourish and focus my energy on what’s really important to me.

What are your career aspirations? There are a lot of things I could see myself doing as a career. Writing and directing for film comes to mind, continuing to act, maybe owning a café someday, or even just becoming a hermit author who lives in the woods. Whatever I end up doing, my goal is just to be happy.

Senior Juliana Kallio

  • Hometown: Grafton, Mass.
  • Major: Elementary education, minor in mathematics for K-8 education
  • Activities: Student Events Committee (vice president for two years, trip coordinator for one year), math tutor in Math Center, peer mentor for first-year students, work-study in Admissions Office

What’s been the best part of your Woo State experience? The connections I have made both personally and professionally have been my favorite part of attending Worcester State. I have built a strong support system of faculty, staff, and peers that I know I can rely on and have made my Worcester State experience special. I am so grateful to have met them through my involvement on campus.

What motivates you to excel academically? My future career motivates me to excel academically—I want to be the best teacher I can be, which means learning as much as I can. I focus on learning the material rather than the grade I get, and the good grades follow. In order to teach content, you need to know it in and out and be prepared to answer any question (or at least know how to find the answer), so every class expands my knowledge in a way that may come in handy later on.

What are your career aspirations? After I student teach in the fall and graduate with my teaching license, I hope to teach upper elementary school while pursuing a master’s degree in moderate disabilities. I am planning on spending the majority of my teaching career as a special education teacher for students with moderate disabilities, hopefully in an inclusive setting.

Senior Alexander Lucier

  • Hometown: Gardner, Mass.
  • Major: Communication 
  • Activities: Student Senate, vice president of WooServe, Photography Club

What’s been the best part of your Woo State experience? Working with our incredible faculty. I’ve enjoyed every class I’ve taken so far, and it’s been clear every time how much each professor truly cares about the subjects they teach. That passion is contagious to the students, making the classes much more interesting. I’m also deeply grateful for the academic and career advice I’ve received from my professors. 

What motivates you to excel academically? At this point, I’m motivated by my interests in the subject. I truly love my major and my classes, so it’s easy to do well when I’m enjoying what I’m doing. Exploring new topics in higher level classes has been fun, and challenging myself in my assignments keeps it interesting and worth working hard at. 

What are your career aspirations? Right now, I work as a freelance creative, shooting photos and videos or doing design work for my clothing brand. In the future, I plan to continue working in the creative field, whether it’s sports, fashion, or somewhere new!

Photos by Matt Wright ’10. Top image, from left to right, Thomas McNamara, Remy Mabboux, Barry Maloney.

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