USM Board of Regents Honors Recipients of Student Excellence Scholarships

Baltimore, Md. (May 9, 2023) – Twelve students across the University System of Maryland (USM) are recipients of the 2023 USM Board of Regents Student Excellence Scholarships.

This is the inaugural year for the Student Excellence Scholarships. The award is the highest honor that the board bestows to recognize exemplary student achievement.

Scholarships are being presented in four categories: Academics, Scholarship, and Research; Innovation and Creative Activity; Leadership and Advocacy; and Outreach and Engagement.

Each award carries a $2,000 scholarship provided by the USM and the University System of Maryland Foundation. The students will be honored at a private breakfast ceremony on Sunday, May 21.

“I’m so glad our regents are recognizing these outstanding students,” said Chancellor Jay A. Perman. “It’s right that we honor their hard work, their brilliance, their talent, and their passion for making a difference. I'm inspired by our students—every day. And I speak for my USM colleagues when I say they make our jobs a joy; they lift all of us up. So, this recognition of their excellence is a fitting ‘thank you.’”

Within each category, there is one freshman/sophomore recipient, one junior/senior recipient, and one graduate or professional school recipient. This year’s recipients include:

University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP)–Mason Yang: A sophomore history major, Mason has maintained a 4.0 GPA while working 20-25 hours per week. Academically, he is focused on two major research papers.

For an independent study, Mason will examine gradual changes in the societal roles of two prevalent minority ethnic groups—Koreans and Jews—and the reasons they were targeted in riots by people within their own communities. For a guided research paper, Mason is doing a case study on pre-modern Seoul and how a city develops a new language and forms cultural identity and tradition around language.

Mason’s professors have praised him for his engagement, his incisive questions, and his ability to frame his ideas.

University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES)–Isaac Omodia: An Aerospace Engineering student, Isaac last summer served as a research intern at Harvard University and developed an experimental prototype to investigate the adhesive effect of induced vibration on a thin elastic sheet. He has also completed a nanofabrication process research internship at Brookhaven National Lab. Isaac has been recognized with numerous honors, including a Richard A. Henson Honors Program Scholarship. He also participated in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Access Program last fall and is currently working on various publications.

Isaac’s professors commend his passion for research, his commitment to lab protocols and precautions, and his willingness to help his fellow students.

University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB)– Madeline Alizadeh: Madeline is an M.D./Ph.D. student in molecular medicine in the School of Medicine at UMB.

Her research focus is the gut microbiome in Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). Madeline wants to improve analytical methods used to understand the role of the microbiome and to harness its therapeutic potential. Madeline is combining her two academic passions— mathematics and genetics—with her clinical passion of gastroenterology. And she recently executed a comprehensive study on the microbiome in extra-intestinal manifestations development.

Madeline has participated in a wide range of bioinformatics and biostatistics research, has co-authored 10 publications (first author on three) and 16 conference abstracts. She won the 2021 Graduate Program in Life-Sciences Ph.D. Scholar Award for “outstanding academic performance and great potential as a scientist.”

University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC)–Mark Andrew McMichael: Mark serves in the U.S. Navy at the Tactical Operations Center in Okinawa. He is also a prolific author, with several self-published manuscripts, short stories, and novels. Just last month, Mark and a group of fellow writers launched a charity anthology project entitled Purranormal Tails: A Fantastical Cat Anthology. All proceeds will go to cat rescue organizations in the U.S. and Australia.

A courageous writer, Mark is willing to delve into uncomfortable issues such as depression and PTSD. He also works to include LGBTQ characters, as they are sorely underrepresented in the fantasy genre. And his writing brings racial diversity to classic fantasy tropes.

Mark plans to continue using his writing to support charities and bring awareness to social issues.

University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP)–Sonny Tu: Sonny is an information science major with a deep passion for entrepreneurship and creativity.

Working with a team of students and alumni who share this passion, Sonny built a production company. He serves as an operations director and engineer, working to ensure projects are appropriately staffed and to facilitate the creation of new business. Major clients include Deep Eddy Vodka and the Department of Health.

Sonny also advises a student-led entrepreneurship program. He provides mentorship and guidance, sharing his own experiences and knowledge, building a community of support around young entrepreneurs. And recently he launched a non-profit program to celebrate Black History Month and student entrepreneurship, providing Black student entrepreneurs with a platform to showcase their businesses and gain exposure.

Towson University (TU)–Kendra Welborn: Kendra, who has a B.A. in Dance from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, is pursuing a Master of Arts in Dance at Towson University.

Her experiences have contributed to her desire to become a dance educator. She is committed to making sure others have the resources and professional opportunities they need to pursue dance.

While maintaining a strong GPA, Kendra teaches and mentors upper elementary aged students from Baltimore City and Baltimore County. She hopes to develop a dance resource center that offers space to practice and perform, and opportunities for students to engage in discussions. The resource center would connect dance professionals with community partners to offer resources for physical and mental health as well as professional development in dance.

University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP)–Mary Natalie Alexander Samokhvalova: Mary is a sophomore in the Smith College of Business, studying finance.

As a first-year student, Mary became active with the Collegiate Financial Management Association (CFMA), bringing much-needed financial literacy content to UMCP students and high school students from underprivileged backgrounds. Mary is now president of CFMA and under her leadership membership has more than doubled. She secured funding to provide professional speakers for all 2022-2023 CMFA events, and she is working to make CMFA’s personal finance education workshops available to all students, not just students in the College of Business.

Mary has also had two impressive internships, as she continues to grow in the field and prepare for a professional life in finance in addition to continuing her advocacy.

Salisbury University–Megan Spicer: Megan is an honors student majoring in chemistry with a minor in psychology. She is involved in the Student Government Association (SGA), the Honors College, and the Student Leadership Advisory Council for the Henson School of Science and Technology.

With SGA she served as director of the marketing and communications committee, was a senator leading on environmental issues, and was a member of the executive board, where she worked to promote smaller clubs and organizations.

As an Advisory Council member, Megan supports her classmates and brings their concerns to the dean of the Henson School. She is also an honors ambassador, mentoring other Honors College students. And, as a tutor and supplemental instructor, Megan connects with first-year students as well.

University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP)–Monerah Al-Dubayan: Monerah is a special education doctoral student. As a student, educator, and researcher, Monerah serves neglected members of the community. Her work helps children and youth with disabilities—especially those who struggle with communication—reach their full potential. She also works to empower community and family members to better understand and communicate with their children.

She has served as her department’s Graduate Student Association’s community development chair and is currently its president, working with faculty and staff to serve the students in both capacities. Monerah also actively promotes a sense of community through social events, professional development workshops, and collaborative efforts. And she works to create a healthy, physically inclusive environment for students, faculty, and staff in the College of Education. 

University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP)–Vainavi Gambhir: Vainavi is a sophomore biological sciences major. At an early age, a loved one’s experience taught her that unaddressed mental health issues in adolescence carry into adulthood. To help individuals take charge of their well-being, she developed a passion for pediatric holistic health and became a certified children's yoga teacher. 

As a volunteer at the National Cancer Institute, she authored educational workbooks to support the psychosocial needs of terminally ill pediatric cancer patients. These materials are now published, accessible to patients and families, and will soon be presented at an international meeting. 

Vainavi’s impact continues at the Children's Inn where she teaches yoga to pediatric patients participating in NIH studies. Her efforts are helping build a future where mental health struggles are appropriately cared for.

University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP)–Sasvi Kulasinghe: Sasvi is pursuing a B.S. in Biological Sciences: Cell Biology & Genetics and a B.S. in Global Public Health (Individualized Studies Program).

After seeing a resource-starved small hospital in Sri Lanka, Sasvi co-founded a nonprofit organization—Med Surplus United—to redistribute surplus medical supplies from U.S. hospitals to hospitals and clinics in Sri Lanka. So far, they have raised over $15,000 and shipped over 30,000 pounds of surplus medical supplies to 10 facilities in Sri Lanka. Sasvi and her colleagues are now constructing an online platform—Med Surplus Net—to expand their programming to other countries, hospital systems, and medical surplus recovery organizations.

And during the COVID-19 pandemic, Sasvi became an emergency medical technician in Prince Georges County. She is now a preceptor and has trained over 20 technicians.

University of Baltimore (UBalt)–Margo Settles: Margo is a licensed certified social worker and doctoral candidate in public administration. She is active throughout her community.

She and her husband, a Marine veteran, volunteer with and manage Vets IOU, a home in Baltimore that provides shelter and services to homeless veterans. Margo coordinates services and donations to fully furnish the 7-bedroom, 4-bathroom home. She also volunteers with several community organizations in Baltimore City and every year at Thanksgiving and Christmas coordinates donations and organizes volunteers to provide food to community members in need.

The USM comprises 12 institutions: Bowie State University; Coppin State University; Frostburg State University; Salisbury University; Towson University; the University of Baltimore; the University of Maryland, Baltimore; the University of Maryland, Baltimore County; the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science; the University of Maryland, College Park; the University of Maryland Eastern Shore; and the University of Maryland Global Campus. The USM also includes three regional centers—the Universities at Shady Grove, the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown, and the University System of Maryland at Southern Maryland—at which USM universities offer upper-division undergraduate and graduate courses.

USM institutions and programs are among the nation's best in quality and value according to several national rankings. To learn more about the University System of Maryland, visit To learn about the new USM Strategic Plan, “Vision 2030: From Excellence to Preeminence,” visit


Contact: Mike Lurie
Phone: 301.445.2719