'Stood up and stood out:’ Abington students earn academic, leadership honors

Three people in front of a stage

Student Daniel Garcia Calao, center, received the Penn State Abington Advisory Board Impact Award from Interim Chancellor Andrew August, left, and Marvin Johnson, right, a member of the campus advisory board and a retired pharmaceutical executive.

Credit: Penn State

ABINGTON, Pa. — Penn State Abington marked the close of the spring semester by honoring its high-achieving students at the campus’ annual awards and leadership ceremony last week.  

Andrew August, the interim chancellor, hailed more than 100 students for capitalizing on their innate talents and persevering in the face of challenges. 

“Your outstanding academic work and leadership has enriched our campus and our community. You stood up and stood out. I want you to think about how you can apply your abilities to make your corner of the world a better place,” he said. 

The awards included: 

Penn State Abington Advisory Board Impact Award 

Marvin Johnson, a board member and retired pharmaceutical executive, delivered the Impact Award to Daniel Garcia Calao, the 2024 Ardeth and Norman Frisbey International Student Award winner. He received the advisory board honor for his roles as a mentor and leader at Abington and across the University, including in the Peer Action Global Learning Network, the Office of Global Programs, First-Year Experience, the Latine Student Organization and the Student Government Association.

Garcia Calao’s nominator said, “His passion is to break the barriers created by intercultural misunderstanding and unwillingness to learn ... by continuously learning himself and educating others through the work he does in the community.” 

Eric A. and Josephine S. Walker Award 

Kyleigh Byers, a psychological and social sciences major, earned the prestigious Walker award, which recognizes a student whose outstanding qualities have been directed into programs and services that have positively influenced students and have contributed to the prestige and well-being of their campus and to the reputation of the University a whole. 

Byers is a peer counselor in Counseling and Psychological Services and a peer adviser in Career and Professional Development office. As the president of the Student Government Association, one nominator said she “she managed the challenge of advocating for our diversity and her fellow students in a mature and intelligent manner that I have rarely witnessed from professional colleagues.”  

She also works with faculty on two different undergraduate research projects in which she was involved in the data collection and data analysis. Her nominators said she has “stood out for her leadership, responsibility and initiative. Her dedication and efforts in research ...  showcase strong qualities of both scholarship and leadership.” 

Exemplary Leadership Awards

Six students were honored for their leadership, academic and co-curricular success.  

  • Madisyn Brandt, an information technology major, serves in leadership roles in the Nature Club, the Queer Student Alliance, the Student Office of Diversity Equity and Inclusion. She has presented at conferences and advocates on behalf of students with disabilities. Brandt’s nominators said, “She provides support for several communities on campus, specifically focusing on women of color and LGBTQ+ identifying students. She is a leader advocating for DEI issues she is passionate about and that affect other students. She is a force to be reckoned with, and we are expecting more amazing things from her.” 

  • Daniel Garcia Calao, a finance major, serves in many offices (see Impact Award above) as well as on the Student Initiated Fee Board and as an International Student Welcome leader. His nominator said, “Daniel has made an incredible impact at Abington. He is chock full of ideas and works collaboratively and efficiently to bring about positive change on campus. His advocacy comes from a selfless place to improve his community and surroundings; Daniel looks at the whole picture to make improvements for all members of the campus community.” 

  • Brett Duffey, a business major, is president of the Abington Business Leaders, communications director for The Success Network and a senator in the Student Government Association. His nominator said, “He takes his personal time to conduct outreach, coordinate and facilitate the Abington Business Leaders. Brett also collaborates with Career and Professional Development on workshops, networking and panel events. He understands the importance of helping students get exposed to the world of work.” 

  • Max Duverneuil, a cybersecurity analytics and operations major, works in the campus library, serves as a cybersecurity lab technician, and belongs to the Cybersecurity Club. He participated in the Global Engagement Leadership Experience and helped package and distribute more than 400 pounds of first aid and school supplies to refugee clinics and schools in Greece. Duverneuil initiated a U.S. National Science Foundation grant opportunity search to enhance the undergraduate experience at Abington. One of his nominators said he is “approachable and welcoming and eagerly shares information and resources on solving computer issues and finding useful articles and items.” 

  • Taylor LaPage, a psychological and social sciences major and multi-sport athlete, served as president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and coordinates the group’s community service and leadership activities to benefit communities on and off campus. She attended the 2024 NCAA Convention as a representative of athletes from the United East Conference. LaPage’s nominator said, “Her leadership, passion for community service and work ethic on and off the field is unrivaled by most students.” 

  • Lleyhan Tsui, a project and supply chain management major, served as a Peer Action Global Learning Network and International Student Welcome leader and as a peer mentor. He is the director of education equity in the Student Government Association, and he is a fellow in the Brandeis Global Engagement and Leadership program. A student Tsui mentored said, “Every time I had a doubt on where to find information or just guiding me on what to do, he was always there to help me. He helped me outside the classroom by telling me how efficient I could be with my time and what to do and what not to do to have a better experience.” 

Presidents’ Awards  

  • Ninety-one students earned the Walker Award for achieving a 4.0 grade point average in their first semester. 

  • Sixteen students received the Sparks Award for maintaining a 4.0 cumulative grade point average at the end of their third semester. 

  • Fifteen juniors and seniors received Evan Pugh Scholar awards for being in the upper 0.5% of their classes at the end of their fifth semester and beyond. 

Abington Honors Program 

Twenty Abington students successfully completed the honors program by maintaining a 3.3 cumulative grade point average in a curriculum that includes rigorous honors coursework over four semesters. 

About Penn State Abington 

Penn State Abington provides an affordable, accessible and high-impact education resulting in the success of a diverse student body. It is committed to student success through innovative approaches to 21st-century public higher education within a world-class research university. With more than 3,100 students, Penn State Abington is a residential campus that offers baccalaureate degrees in 25 majors, accelerated master's degrees, undergraduate research, the Schreyer Honors College, NCAA Division III athletics and more.