April 13, 2015
Four Students are Among SUNY's Very Best
(SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – April 13, 2015) Tamla Htoo (TAM-la Two), a refugee from Myanmar, Edward Shevlin III, an employee of New York City who has rescued 700 American flags from the garbage, Dwight Anderson, an electrician and member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and Laura Dreyer, a professional jazz musician, composer, arranger and producer are among the 2015 recipients of the Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence, SUNY’s most prestigious student honor.
“Today we recognize four remarkable Empire State College students whom, I am proud to say, are among SUNY’s very best,” said Merodie A. Hancock, president of the college. “SUNY Empire State College’s dedicated faculty and staff successfully educate and support 20,000 students from all walks of life and from all over the world every year. Most SUNY Empire State College students are adults and have experience with jobs and careers, families and community commitments. Students come to SUNY Empire because they value the benefits of personalized degree planning, faculty interaction, a professional focus and a rich liberal arts core.”
The chancellor’s award recognizes students’ academic excellence in combination with service to the campus or community where they live, learn and work and/or for athletic, artistic or career achievements and accomplishments.
About the 2015 Chancellor’s Awards for Student Excellence Recipients
SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher stands next to Dwight Anderson '98, '14, who is holding his Chancellor's Award for Student Excellence. Zimpher and Anderson were joined by SUNY Empire's Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Alfred Ntoko at the 2015 award ceremony for all recipients held in Albany, N.Y./Photo Joe Putrock for SUNY
Anderson, a 45-year-old resident of Englewood Cliff, N.J., earned his associate degree in 1998 through the college’s Harry Van Arsdale Jr. Center for Labor Studies as an apprentice with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 3.
Earning an associate with the college is a requirement for Local 3 apprentices in the commercial construction division.
Through the Joint Industry Board of the Electrical Industry of New York City, Local 3 and its associated contractors provide every construction division apprentice with a scholarship for the tuition and fees necessary to earn an associate degree or higher with the college’s labor center.
"The Chancellor's Award is a reassuring and inspiring milestone along the road of my academic journey," said Anderson. “It was important to me to complete my degree because in my immediate family academic achievement has been a great privilege and now is a rite of passage. My ancestors exemplified the power of education and, proudly, at age 45, I have become a power of example to my children and to theirs.
“I chose SUNY Empire because I had a direct line of access to the school through the Harry Van Arsdale Jr. Center for Labor Studies. The path and support provided to me by my peers, colleagues and the faculty and staff at SUNY Empire all but guaranteed my success.”
Anderson continued, “To me, as a middle-aged working adult in the construction trades, completing an associate and a bachelor’s degree means that I might finally work less with my body by using my mind, which now is a far more powerful resource.”
Now an IBEW journeyman electrician, Anderson completed a Bachelor of Science in Labor Studies in 2014 with a GPA of 3.95.
He served as a division negotiating committee chairperson for the 2013 “A” division contract covering 70,000 Local 3 members.
Anderson was among the college’s labor center students whose class on the global labor movement traveled to Geneva, Switzerland, in November 2012 to observe the International Labor Organization’s 316th governing body session. The ILO governing body includes public, employer and trade union representatives from 50 countries around the world.
With his wife, Paula Howell Anderson, a partner with the law firm of Sherman and Sterling and an alumna of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, the City University of New York, he founded the Paula Howell Anderson PLI Scholars Program.
This John Jay Pre Law Institute scholarship and mentoring program sponsors four pre-law students from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds during the course of each student’s junior and senior years and prepares them to successfully enter law school and the legal profession.
Laura Dreyer '14
SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher stands next Laura Dreyer ’14, who is holding her Chancellor's Award for Student Excellence. Zimpher and Dreyer were joined by SUNY Empire's Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Alfred Ntoko at the 2015 award ceremony for all recipients held in Albany, N.Y./Photo Joe Putrock for SUNY
A jazz saxophonist, arranger, composer and teacher, Dreyer completed a Bachelor of Arts in The Arts in 2014 through the college’s location in lower Manhattan. The Bay-area native, now a Manhattan resident, earned a GPA of 3.79.
"SUNY Empire State College offered me the flexibility I needed to complete my degree while I maintained my professional career,” said Dreyer. “The experience of returning to school later in life really allowed me to appreciate and value the learning experience. Every single independent study that I participated in was engaging and relevant to my current life experience. All of my professors were extremely knowledgeable and very appreciative of the arts. Now that I have completed my degree, there are new opportunities available to me, many of which I never could have dreamed of.”
Dreyer produced, performed, wrote and arranged the music for her most recent project “Vida.Arte.Amore,” a Brazilian jazz CD.
The National Endowment for the Arts awarded her three grants, one in performance and two in professional jazz study and composition.
Four of her songs have received honorable mention in Billboard Magazine's songwriting contests.
She headlined at The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival and the Syracuse Jazz Festival. She also has performed at many of New York City’s top clubs, including The Blue Note, The Bean Runner Cafe, Fat Cat, Sweet Rhythm, Birdland and others.
She was a featured performer and educator in Busan, South Korea, at The Friends of Music in Korea Music Festival, and performed multiple times in Brazil with some of Rio de Janeiro's top musicians at jazz venues TribOz and Santo Scenarium.
After engaging in the college’s prior learning assessment process, she was awarded 40 college credits for the college-level knowledge she acquired apart from a traditional academic setting.
Dreyer also is the recipient of awards from the ICAMP Empire State College Foundation Scholarship and the Alumni Student Federation Scholarship programs.
She regularly volunteers her time and talent at a variety of charitable events, such as free concerts for the elderly and fundraising events for education.
Htoo will graduate this spring with a 4.0 GPA and a Bachelor of Science in Cultural Studies with a concentration in American Sign Language.
Deaf herself, Htoo relocated from a refugee camp in Thailand to Liverpool, N.Y., and has become a citizen.
“Receiving the Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence is an example of why it is so important to never give up,” said Htoo. “As I have matured throughout my experience at SUNY Empire, what I have learned helped to keep me from making a bad decision or taking up bad advice. My education allowed me to rise from my surroundings and strive for more.
“I was attracted to SUNY Empire’s independent course of study because many of my previous professors had graduated from the college. SUNY Empire offers me many choices of who I can become in the future.
“My experience with deaf culture gave me a passion and a drive to set up a school for the deaf in Burma. Deaf people are widely ignored because they are misunderstood,” she said. “Many people think that not being able to hear means they are not able to learn.
“It is important for me to complete my degree at SUNY Empire because I am an example to deaf people that being deaf is no excuse for not seeing your dreams come true. The deaf are able to do anything they want, except hear like a hearing person. Returning to school also means that I am getting closer to seeing my dream come true.”
The 28-year-old immigrant from Myanmar works with deaf children and deaf refugees in the greater Syracuse and Central New York areas.
She has been recognized for her volunteer work by Whole Me, Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to assisting deaf and hard-of-hearing people of all ages and their families to succeed.
Htoo leads mission trips to Thailand and Myanmar, where she established a summer school program for children and young adults.
SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher stands next to Edward Shevlin III ’11, '14, who is holding his Chancellor's Award for Student Excellence. Zimpher and Shevlin were joined by SUNY Empire's Provost and Vice President for Academic Affair Alfred Ntoko at the 2015 award ceremony for all recipients held in Albany, N.Y./Photo Joe Putrock for SUNY
Shevlin earned an associate degree with the college in 2011. In 2014 he completed a Bachelor of Science in Historical Studies, with a GPA of 3.76 and a concentration in Irish and Irish American Studies.
A 20-year employee with the New York City Department of Sanitation and lifelong resident of the Rockaways in Queens, Shevlin may be the only employee of the department who speaks the Irish language.
“Everybody knows I am a sanitation man now and I really love my job,” Shevlin said at the 2012 Irish Heritage and Culture Celebration, where he was presented with the New York City Council Thomas Manton Irish Man of the Year Award.
More recently, the New York Daily News, Newsday and WCBS-TV reported on how he has rescued more than 700 American flags from the garbage in order to provide them with the respectful disposal he says they deserve.
About The Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence
The Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence was created in 1997 to recognize students who have best demonstrated and have been recognized for the integration of academic excellence with accomplishments in the areas of leadership, athletics, community service, creative and performing arts, campus involvement, or career achievement.
Each year, campus presidents establish a selection committee, which reviews exemplary students. Nominees are forwarded to the chancellor’s office and are subject to a second round of review. Finalists are recommended to the chancellor to become recipients of the award. Each recipient receives a framed certificate and medallion, which is traditionally worn at commencement.
About SUNY Empire State College
Empire State College, the nontraditional, open college of the SUNY system, educates more than 20,000 students worldwide at eight international sites, more than 35 locations in the state of New York, online, as well as face to face and through a blend of both, at the associate, bachelor’s and master’s levels.
The average age of an undergraduate student at the college is 35 and graduate students’ average age is 40.
Most Empire State College students are working adults. Many are raising families and meeting civic commitments in the communities where they live, while studying part time.
In addition to awarding credit for prior college-level learning, the college pairs each undergraduate student with a faculty mentor who supports that student throughout his or her college career.
Working with their mentors, students design an individual degree program and engage in guided independent study and course work onsite, online or through a combination of both, which provides the flexibility for students to choose where, when and how to learn.
Students have the opportunity to enroll five times during the year.
The college’s 73,000 alumni are active in their communities as entrepreneurs, politicians, business professionals, artists, nonprofit agency employees, teachers, veterans and active military, union members and more.
The college was first established in 1971 by the SUNY Board of Trustees with the encouragement of the late Ernest L. Boyer, chancellor of the SUNY system from 1970 to 1977.
Boyer also served as United States commissioner of education during the administration of President Jimmy Carter and then as president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
More information about the college is available at www.esc.edu.
Media contact: David Henahan, director of communications
518-587-2100, ext. 2918
518-321-7038 (after hours and on weekends)