Alumni and Students Receive Commencement Awards from Graduate School of Education

Release Date: June 3, 2009

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Three alumni and three new graduates of the University at Buffalo's Graduate School of Education were among those recognized for service and accomplishments at the school's annual commencement ceremony last month.

The awards were presented by Graduate School of Education Dean Mary H. Gresham.

The awards recipients are:

• Marilyn Stern, who earned her doctorate in counseling psychology from UB in 1984, received the James C. Hansen Humanitarian Award. The award recognizes graduates who have made an outstanding contribution to public service. Stern's 25-year career has been devoted to studying the impact of stereotyping processes on patient-caregiver interactions and adolescents with cancer. In recent years, she has expanded her research to include issues related to obese adolescents and their families.

• Clotilde Dedecker, president and CEO of the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo who in 2000 earned a degree in the teaching English to speakers of other languages program, received the Dean's Service Award in recognition of those who have given outstanding service to the educational community in Western New York. Dedecker has extensive experience in the development of strategic visions, leadership development and community-outreach initiatives. She founded and helped establish the Family Justice Center of Erie County, the Western New York Women's Fund, Latina's United for Progressive Action and the Literacy Funders Network.

• Roberta Stevens, who received her master's degree in library science from UB in 1974, received the Graduate School of Education Distinguished Alumni Award, which recognizes the accomplishments of an alumnus who has contributed to improving education throughout society. For the past 25 years, Stevens has had numerous high-profile responsibilities at the largest library in the world -- the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. -- where she currently is outreach projects and partnership officer, as well as project manager for the annual National Book Festival. She also was recently elected president of the American Library Association, the oldest and largest library association in the world, with more than 67,000 members.

• Melinda Cruz, from the GSE Department of Counseling, School and Educational Psychology, and Getnet Fetene, from the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy, both received the school's Thinking Outside the Box Award recognizing students who have shown exceptional creativity in their studies and service to the community.

Cruz's research goal is to improve the welfare of children and their families. Her dissertation involved the largest parenting intervention study in the world for fathers of children with behavior problems.

Fetene's dissertation examined the perceptions about HIV/AIDS among young adults in his home country of Ethiopia. His study has the potential to inform life and death public policy initiatives in Ethiopia.

• Rita Zientek, who received a doctorate in higher education, was given the Edwin D. Duryea Jr. Higher Education Memorial Award. Zientek is associate dean for the School of the Professions at Buffalo State College and active in community service. Her dissertation explored the impact of themed learning communities on academic performance and retention in higher education.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.

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