By Joe Garvey

Ayat Yousef from Old Dominion University’s College of Arts and Letters won the Outstanding University Scholar Award, the highest honor awarded by the Alumni Association, for the fall semester.

The award, which recognizes a "student who exemplifies academic excellence as well as overall achievement during his or her time at the University," was announced during the Senior Brunch and Toast on Dec. 15 at Chartway Arena.

Yousef majored in English with a minor in secondary education. She also served as a student assistant with the ODU Language Learning Center. She and the other assistants were nominated for the 2023 SEES Leadership Award for Intercultural Relations. She has also hosted discussions on LLCHAT, the center’s podcast that focuses on issues related to world languages and cultures from the perspective of students, faculty and community members.

Yousef is interested in careers related to teaching English as a second language.

She cited Betty Rose Facer, master lecturer of world languages and cultures and director of the Language Learning Center, for having a particularly significant role during her time at ODU. Yousef worked with Facer for two years at the center.

“As a professional mentor and supervisor, she has exposed me to a variety of skills involving communication, organization, data management and assessment, professional interaction, and more,” Yousef said. “She has inspired me to grow both as a person and professionally and challenged me to step out of my comfort zone and expand my skillset. Her compassion and patience have been greatly appreciated as I navigated my time at ODU, and her confidence in me as an individual, student and employee have truly inspired me.”

Each semester, the Alumni Association recognizes the graduating undergraduate student in each college or school with the highest academic average who will have completed at least 60 hours at the University.

Here are the other honorees:

Strome College of Business: Jason Roettger

Major: Business analytics. He plans to pursue a master’s in economic analytics at ODU.

Inspirational faculty member: Kingsley Iyinbor. “Professor Iyinbor taught an information literacy and research class that gave me research skills necessary for the rest of my time here at ODU,” Roettger said.

Darden College of Education and Professional Studies: Shonna Roberts

Major: Elementary education, with a minor in special education. She will start her teaching career at Shelton Park Elementary School in Virginia Beach.

Inspirational faculty member: Lastarra “Dr. Starrbe” Bryant. “She was approachable, helpful and encouraging each time I spoke with her,” Roberts said. “She truly made me feel like my opinions mattered and my questions were valid even when I did not always believe so.”

Batten College of Engineering and Technology: Nakoma Austin

Major: Mechanical engineering (aerospace concentration) with a minor in engineering management. She will continue her internship as a submarine test director at Newport News Shipbuilding.

Inspirational faculty member: Ashish Tamhane. “He has been the only teacher in the engineering program whose teaching style was a 100% match with my ADHD learning style,” Austin said. “The way I learned to show my work in his class paved the way for future maximum partial credit on difficult exams and assignments, as well as earning me praise for such neat work in otherwise complex problems that I would be unable to fully solve. Although I would never do well on any of his tests, I would always leave the room understanding the topic and how to solve its accompanying questions.”

College of Health Sciences: Taylor Sparrer

Major: Exercise science with a minor in health and wellness. She will begin working at the Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters’ Ear, Nose and Throat Department and pursue a career in healthcare administration.

Inspirational faculty member: David Swain. “His wisdom and experience in the field allowed me to expand my knowledge and truly learn from his lectures and published research,” Sparrer said.

College of Science: Cole Lowry

Major: Psychology with a minor in sociology. She has accepted a position as a behavior therapist in Chicago.

Inspirational faculty members: Eva Clark and Martin Shapiro. “Professor Clark had a lot going on in her personal life while I was taking her courses, she still continually made herself available to her students and wanted to make sure they succeeded and understood her course material,” Lowry said. “I would take 500 more courses taught by Professor Shapiro simply because of the way he is able to take massive amounts of information and turn it into bite-sized knowledge!”

School of Cybersecurity: Natalie Hardwicke

Major: Cybersecurity with a minor in risk management and insurance. She plans to continue her career at Tyler Technologies and someday purse a master’s degree.

Inspirational faculty member: Dennis Harvey. “He has several risk management and insurance classes, tries to get students engaged during class, offers opportunities to students, and is always willing to help,” said Harwicke, who took almost all of her classes online.

School of Nursing: Michelle Frazier

Major: Nursing. She plans to pursue a career as a pediatric RN for the Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters.

Inspirational faculty member: Connie Estep. “She was my nursing advisor who guided me every step of the way,” Frazier said. “She always took extra time to check in with me and gave me great advice when I needed it most.”