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Shore trio among 2019 Award of Excellence honorees

  • 66th annual convocation honors 759 undergraduates

    Thursday, April 4, 2019
    Allyson McCullough, Katherine Lipsius, Martha Opiyo & Cailey Mitchell

    Three undergraduates from the lower Eastern Shore were among four UMES students singled out for stellar work inside and outside the classroom during the university's 2019 honors convocation. 

    Peers applauded approvingly as Katherine Lipsius of Cambridge (Agriculture and Natural Sciences), Allyson McCullough of Crisfield (Pharmacy and Health Professions), Cailey Mitchell of Ocean City (Business and Technology) and Martha Opiyo of Nairobi, Kenya (Education, Social Sciences and the Arts) stepped on to the Fitzgerald center stage to receive their Award of Excellence.

    As is the tradition at UMES, none of the women knew the deans of their respective academic divisions had chosen them to receive the coveted award. 

    All four are dean's list students in the Richard A. Henson Honors Program, and each is on track to graduate with high honors. 

    Mitchell, a (4.0 GPA) hospitality tourism management major; Lipsius, a (4.0) biology major; and Opiyo, a (3.96) applied design (sequential arts) major, graduate in May.  McCullough, a (3.9) exercise science major, is a member of the class of 2020. 

    They were among 759 undergraduates publicly recognized for strong academic performances during the spring and fall of 2018. (See the complete list of departmental honorees HERE.)

    Opiyo came to America to study at Union College in Kentucky. After her freshman year, she was coaxed to transfer to Princess Anne by Dr. Grace Namwamba, her aunt and chairperson of UMES' human ecology department.

    2015 UMES alumna Alexandra Alford

    “I'm so happy I did,” Opiyo said. “It has been a wonderful experience here at UMES. This was the right place for me.” 

    It was difficult to tell who was happier after the 1-hour 45-minute ceremony. 

    “I'm so proud of her,” a beaming Namwamba said. 

    Lipsius, a first-generation college student enrolled in UMES after studying first at Chesapeake College, a two-year institution in Wye Mills, Md. She's hopeful of securing a National Institutes of Health fellowship and then pursuing a post-graduate degree in the health field. 

    McCullough, known for her wanderlust for work-study opportunities, described herself as humbled by winning the award in a school with a lot of “great students. I try to work hard.”  Post-graduation plans include pursuit of a Fulbright scholarship that would enable her to teach English in a Spanish-speaking country for a year before tackling a graduate program in physical therapy. 

    Mitchell, a soft-spoken, hard-working student admired for her organizational skills, is hopeful of landing a job “in the food and beverage industry.  My preference would be to focus on the catering business.” 

    Two factors influenced Mitchell's decision to enroll at UMES; a scholarship offer from the Henson honors program and deep respect for Caitlyn Evans, a UMES alumna who teaches at Worcester Technical High School and recommended the university to her. 

    “Every late night, every hospitality event and all the preparation work that went into them - I guess you could say it paid off … in a big way,” Mitchell said.  “It shows that all I put in was recognized.” 

    Alexandra Alford, a 2015 UMES alumna who has added two master's degrees to her credentials and works for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, was surprised to be invited to serve as the convocation speaker. 

    “I want to help you … understand just how important it is to come out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself to something new,” she said, adding “those moments so often lead to success and opportunities.” 

    “All of the things I didn't feel comfortable with have led me to where I am now,” Alford said.  “This never even crossed my mind before, but here I am recognizing all of the challenges I accepted and all of the times I stepped out of my comfort zone were noticed.”

    Alford challenged students in the audience “to step out of your comfort zone, continue to challenge yourself to do something you never thought was possible. You never know who may be paying attention, and to what success it may be leading you to.”