Members of the Class of 2021 Recognized for Exceptional Leadership and Service with Prestigious Crown & Shield Award

May 12, 2021

In recognition of their commitment to service, 19 members of the Class of 2021 were awarded the prestigious Crown & Shield Award, which honors students who have demonstrated exceptional leadership and service during their four years at Assumption. Students were honored during a virtual ceremony on May 6, three days before the University held its 104th Commencement exercises at the DCU Center in downtown Worcester.

“The Crown & Shield Award recipients embody the essence of leadership and are examples of the transformative nature of an Assumption education,” said Deborah Cady Melzer, Ph.D., vice president of student affairs/dean of students. “These students have spent the last four years serving the Worcester community and mentoring their classmates through volunteer work and campus organizations, while excelling in the classroom, as they prepared to pursue vocations that will enhance the communities in which they live, much like they have changed the Assumption community. We are proud of these graduates, and look forward to witnessing the impact they will have long after graduation.” 

Crown & Shield Award recipients are nominated by faculty, staff and administration for their exemplary service and leadership.  The crown and shield are two key elements of the Assumption University seal and the award, which has been given since 1952, recognizes graduating seniors who have protected (shield) and furthered (crown) in the interest of the student body and the University community.

The following is a list of this year’s Crown & Shield recipients.

Kenneth Thomas Allard, of Southbridge, graduated with a degree in political science and  a minor in education. As a student, his leadership involvement included serving as an orientation leader and a parent and family executive; a head resident assistant; a NACA Northeast Committee Member; and as an executive chairperson and president of the Campus Activities Board. A nominator described Allard as “a voice of welcome and inclusion… able to make all Assumption students feel accepted as a member of the campus community. While Kenny is an assertive and outgoing individual, he is able to balance his interactions with other students in a way that they feel a sense of calm and welcome around him.” Allard will pursue a master’s degree in higher education at Boston College where he will also work as a graduate assistant in the Office of Student Involvement.

Chloe Rae Amour, of Jefferson, graduated with a degree in history with minors in education and community service-learning. While at Assumption, Amour was a SOPHIA Collegian; a Campus Life intern; a head resident assistant; an Admissions co-executive and ambassador; an Academic Support Center tutor and history teaching assistant; and a Reach Out Center volunteer. She also served as a Campus Activities Board executive chairperson and entertainment executive and chairperson; as well as a Student Government Association vice president and senator for the Class of 2021. She traveled to Baltimore, MD, on a SEND service immersion trip and was a delegate to the Student Affairs Leaders of Tomorrow (SALT) conference. A nominator said in support of her application for the award, “When considering her work spans from student engagement pre-enrollment through mentorship for seniors, Chloe has not only worked to develop a positive community for the community she is part of, but has additionally worked to establish the future standard for Assumption students.” Chloe will pursue a master’s degree in higher education at Boston College, while working as a graduate resident director.

Alyssa Jill Bialakis, of Boca Raton, FL, graduated with a degree in organizational communication with a minor in sports management. Bialakis, a four-year member of the Assumption Softball team, served as vice president and external communication executive for the Student Athlete Advisory Council, and was awarded the Student Athlete Northeast-10 Academic All Conference Award. She was also an orientation leader and a parent and family executive. A nominator described Bialakis as “a joy to be around. She always keeps a positive and can-do attitude that is infectious and influential with students and advisors alike.” Bialakis plans to enroll in Assumption’s accelerated MBA program. 

John F. Brennan, of North Attleboro, graduated with a degree in computer science with a minor in graphic design. On campus, Brennan was an orientation leader and parent and family chairperson; a Center for Purpose and Vocation intern; a COMPASS student facilitator; and a Reach Out Center coordinator and tutor at the Nativity School in Worcester. A nominator described Brennan as a “humble, authentic, dependable and caring student leader who is a fine example of what an Assumption education is all about.” He plans to seek employment in the field of software development.

Garrett M. Cardoza, of Somerset, graduated with dual degrees in history and political science. As a student, Cardoza’s leadership involvement included serving as president, committee chair, and senator of the Student Government Association; an orientation leader and student executive; Campus Activities Board sub-chair; a Founders Week committee member; a Daniel Patrick Moynihan Model Senate project member; and an ambassador Students Involved for Better Success (SIBS). A nominator described Cardoza as a “natural leader and excellent ambassador” and a worthy recipient of the Crown and Shield award  “because of his great character, ability to create community, and commitment to the Catholic liberal arts tradition.” Cardoza plans to pursue a career in government in order to better serve his community. 

Brendan James Desautels, of Holden, graduated with a degree in management. A four-year member of the Assumption Baseball team, Desautels served as president of the Student Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC); was a Northeast-10 Conference SAAC co-chair; a Team IMPACT fellow and regional cohort leader; and was a Light the Way scholar. A nominator said, “From his first days here, Brendan became an integral part of our relationship with Team IMPACT, always encouraging and supporting teams, including teams outside of baseball, to get involved and be matched.  As president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, he worked hard to ensure all student-athletes have a voice and that their voice is heard. I can truly say that Brendan Desautels embodies the Greyhound spirit from head to toe.” Desautels will pursue a master’s degree in nonprofit administration at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, IN.

Kalliopi Efthalia Karamboulas, of Worcester, graduated with a degree in accounting with minors in Spanish, fraud examination, and forensic accounting. At Assumption, she served as vice president and secretary for ALANA; was a volunteer for the Pernet After School program; and an accounting tutor in the Academic Support Center. A nominator praised Karamboulas for being “detail oriented, possessing impressive leadership skills, and always willing to take the extra step; particularly notable has been her work in the Academic Support Center.” She will continue her education at Assumption, pursuing her master’s degree in accounting on the CPA track, while working full time as a staff accountant.

Christina Marie Kuss, of Monson, graduated with a degree in human services and rehabilitation studies with a concentration in communication sciences and disorders, with a minor in Spanish. A four-year member of the Assumption Women’s Rowing team, Kuss also served as a member of the Student Athlete Advisory Council.  She was an Admissions Ambassador; a service director for the Seven Hills Foundation; a Campus Ministry Council and  START Team member; a Policy Review Committee member; and participated in a SEND service immersion trip to volunteer with L’Arche in Washington, D.C. A nominator described Kuss as someone who “understands the meaning of a relationship-based approach to service, one that cares for others as community members and people with God given dignity… With her willingness to serve and desire to create a more inclusive community, Christina is a role model for other students at Assumption.”  Kuss will pursue a master’s degree in speech-language pathology at Worcester State University.

Colleen Eleanor MacNeil, of Tewksbury, graduated with a degree in human services and rehabilitation studies with a minor in education. She served in a number of leadership positions, including  a head resident assistant; an orientation leader, student chairperson, and parent and family chairperson; a Campus Activities Board executive; and was a delegate to the Student Affairs Leaders of Tomorrow (SALT) conference. She was also a SOPHIA Collegian and participated on two SEND service immersion trips to Trenton, NJ, and Baltimore, MD. A nominator credited MacNeil for her “exceptionally creative and dynamic residence hall programming” adding that during her time at Assumption, “Colleen has embraced her passions, learned new skills and made an impact in multiple areas of the University.” She will pursue a master’s degree in higher education with a concentration in student affairs at Boston College, while working as a graduate resident director.

Maeve Catherine McDonald, of Quincy, graduated with degrees in secondary education and English. McDonald, an Augustine Scholar and SOPHIA Collegian, served as a Peer Ministry co-coordinator; student coordinator of the Good Grief support group; on the Campus Ministry Student Leader Council as a lector and Eucharistic minister, Horizon Retreat rector, SEARCH and START Retreat team member, and Senior Retreat Junior Helper; a Reach Out Center volunteer; Admissions Ambassador; and Residence Hall Council secretary. Her nominators praised her “bright intellect, maturity of faith and desire to include people with various points of view” and of their “deep admiration for the ways in which she has protected and furthered the interests of the student body and the University in the various areas of leadership and community service to students and others.” McDonald will pursue her master’s degree at the Boston College Urban Catholic Teacher Corps program.

Aditya Raj Nathan, of Shrewsbury, graduated with a degree in political science. A SOPHIA Collegian and Augustine Scholar, Nathan  served as a resident assistant; COMPASS program facilitator; orientation leader and executive; Alumni Relations student ambassador for Reunion Weekend; Student Government Association senator; a Founder’s Week Committee member; and a Daniel Patrick Moynihan Model Senate project member. He was also involved in Campus Ministry as a FOCUS conference delegate, a liturgical minister, Genesis Retreat leader, and a START Retreat Leader. A nominator described Nathan as a “happy, beautiful soul” who “could sell Assumption to anyone. He loves it all; his friends, his academic career, the professors, administrators and the alumni. Truly he has loved every bit of Assumption… and he has given back so much to the school and his friends.” He will begin working as a wealth management client associate at Bank of America Merrill Lynch after graduation.

Lily Barbara O’Connor, of Longmeadow, graduated with degrees in Spanish and English writing and mass communication, with a minor in philosophy. On campus, O’Connor was involved in a number of leadership positions, including as a member and president of the Assumption chapter of the Sigma Delta Pi honor society; staff writer for the student newspaper, Le Provocateur; orientation leader; and COMPASS program workshop facilitator. She served as a head peer tutor and teaching assistant in Spanish, philosophy, and English (writing skills) in the Academic Support Center, and vice president for academic affairs, class senator, and academic experience committee chair for the Student Government Association. A nominator described O’Connor as “an absolute pleasure in the classroom… always prepared and organized, exuding confidence and self-possession. Lily is the type of student who makes one proud to teach at Assumption.” After graduation, she will begin working at a law firm with plans to attend law school in the next few years.

Justine Haydee Otañez Vargas, of Santiago, Dominican Republic, graduated with a degree in international business and  a minor in music. She was a member of the ALANA Network all four years and served as president and treasurer; was a resident assistant and an assistant in the Emmanuel d’Alzon Library. A nominator described being “impressed by Justine’s ability to have candid conversations while still being respectful – she is notably clear and honest in a way that helps move the conversation forward. She has been a strong mentor and role model for other students of color to help them navigate their way.” Otañez Vargas hopes to work in the field of international business.

Elizabeth Esther Owen, of Sherborn, graduated with a degree in psychology with a minor in human services and rehabilitation studies. Owen, a d’Alzon Merit Scholar, was active in Assumption’s Student Government Association, serving as vice president of student affairs, secretary, and senator. She also served as chairperson of the Student Engagement Committee; chairperson of the Sustainability Committee; sustainability eco-representative for Campus Ministry; and a member of the Presidential Task Force on Sustainability.  Owen also studied abroad at the University’s Rome, Italy, campus. A nominator described Owen as “a born leader, who exudes positivity, and leads by example. She is a terrific role model for her peers, a steadfast ambassador for the University, and an untiring advocate of making a positive difference in the world.” She will spend the summer working for the Appalachian Mountain Club at Harriman State Park in New York before pursuing post-graduate studies in clinical psychology.

James Robert Randall, of Walpole, graduated with a degree in psychology and a minor in applied behavior analysis. He was senior class vice president for the Student Government Association; president and treasurer of Best Buddies; and entertainment executive of the Campus Activities Board. He also studied abroad at Assumption’s Rome, Italy, campus. A nominator wrote, “James is a quiet leader who inspires others through his actions. He works hard, often behind the scenes. James embodies the Assumption mission of thoughtful citizenship and compassionate service, going above and beyond in his academics, co-curriculars, and for his friends.” After graduation, he will pursue a master’s degree in applied behavior analysis at UMass Lowell.

Andrew Louis St. Gourdin, of Malden, graduated with a degree in marketing with a minor in finance. He was involved in the ALANA Network for all four years and served the community outreach/ambassador to the Student Government Association. A member of the Assumption Football team for all four years, St. Gourdin was also a student member of the Policies Work Group for faculty. A nominator described him as “high energy, level-headed, hard-working, positive and optimistic, and a huge advocate for ALANA, ensuring all students feel welcome. His fellow students seek him out for support due to his natural leadership skills” After graduation, Andrew plans to pursue an accelerated communications MBA.

Audrey Nicole Tokarz, of Marietta, GA, graduated with degrees in theology and political science, with minors in visual arts and psychology. She was a Campus Ministry student leader all four years on campus, serving as a SEARCH, Horizon, and Senior Retreat participant; a student leader for the Genesis retreat; a peer minister; a liturgical ministry coordinator; Eucharistic minister, lector, greeter, and altar server; co-facilitator of Dinner and Discussion; and a student leader and sponsor for the Rite of Christian Initiation. She was also a study abroad student ambassador; participated in a SEND service immersion trip to Trenton, NJ, and was an Academic Support Center tutor for theology, political science, and statistics. Tokarz’s nominators described her as “a quiet leader who is kind, committed, responsible, and incredibly patient. She exudes a generous willingness to step in and support where leadership is needed.” She will pursue a master’s degree in the Catholic Studies program at the University of St. Thomas, MN, while working as a graduate assistant at the Habiger Institute for Catholic Leadership.

Jacob Marc Walz, of Westport, graduated with a degree in management with minors in marketing and community service-learning. His leadership activities included serving as a Reach Out Center outreach coordinator for the Greenhounds Sustainability Club and as a Big Brother volunteer and service director for Pernet Afterschool program. He was also a strong advocate and volunteer with Habitat for Humanity Worcester chapter and served as a leader during SEND service immersion trips to Baltimore, MD, and Norristown, PA. He was a Music Ministry cantor for all four years and an Assumption Chorale librarian. A nominator said, “Jacob brings a lot of enthusiasm wherever he goes and he is deeply committed to the greater community. It is rare to find young people who are so eager to lead community service efforts. Jacob is a role model for other Assumption students in fulfilling the mission of the University as an institution that aims to educate students who are devoted to the common good.” After graduation, he will begin working at Pakachoag Music School of Greater Worcester as a development and administrative assistant.

Hannah Malilay White, of Tamuning, Guam, graduated with a degree in English, communication and media, and graphic design. As a student, White was an Augustine Scholar and a Light the Way Scholar, and served as an Admissions executive ambassador; a head resident assistant; a Campus Ministry Horizon Retreat rector; production manager and design director for MUSE Literary Magazine; president of the Greenhounds Sustainability Club. A nominator praised her “unwavering joyful spirit, her consistent willingness to work collaboratively and compassionately on a variety of academic and extracurricular projects, and her gift for leading and inspiring others through encouragement and authenticity.” After graduation, White will embark on a year of service with the St. Joseph Worker Program in Minneapolis, MN.