Published April 23, 2021
Four UB students have been named recipients of the 2021 SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence (CASE).
The Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence was created in 1997 to recognize students who have best demonstrated and have been recognized for outstanding achievements in such areas as academics, leadership, athletics, community service, creative and performing arts, campus involvement or career achievement. It is the highest honor bestowed upon a student by SUNY.
Each year, SUNY campus presidents establish a selection committee that reviews the accomplishments of exemplary students. Nominees are then forwarded to the Chancellor’s Office for a second round of review. Finalists are then recommended to the chancellor for selection as award recipients.
This year’s CASE ceremony was held virtually and introduced four new award categories: Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion; Military Service; Overcoming the Odds; and Special Service in relation to COVID-19.
UB’s recipients are Gianna Damico, Jacqueline Hannan, Matthew Taboni and
Raven Baxter, who was named a recipient in the new Special Service category for her efforts to educate the community about the facts related to COVID-19 and safety.
This year’s recipients:
Gianna Damico of Victor, NY, graduates with a BFA and BA in anthropology. A graphic designer, she has worked at the Jacobs Institute (JI) since 2019, creating interactive 3D renderings of patient-specific vasculature structures and developing branding guidelines for the institute. She now serves as the designer and marketing strategist for the JI’s podcast “Journey into the Future of Medicine with Bill Maggio.” Damico also has worked for seven semesters as a graphic designer for UB’s Blackstone LaunchPad & Techstars, where she has expanded her role from creating marketing materials to simultaneously managing social media roll-out plans and supervising a group of student interns. Damico is the only student in her BFA class to hold a solo gallery show outside of the university: an exhibition of nine abstract oil paintings titled “Distortion” that was on view in March at the Project 308 Gallery in North Tonawanda.
Jacqueline Hannan of Poughkeepsie, NY, graduates with a BS in biomedical engineering and a human factors minor. Hannan served as president of the Honors Student Council for two years, a student leader for first-year engineering courses, a peer mentor for multiple campus groups, and as an undergraduate researcher in four laboratories. After leading a major research study about fairness perceptions and bias in algorithm decision-making, she was first author of a research publication submitted to Artificial Intelligence, Ethics, and Society (AIES) 2021, a top computer science and ethics conference. She also dedicated multiple months to fundraising over $6,000 for rare cancer research at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center while at the same time training for the TCS NYC Marathon. She completed the world’s largest marathon as the youngest finisher of the race.
Matthew Taboni of Tonawanda, NY, graduates with a BS in business administration. Taboni has advocated for students as president of the Residence Hall Association (RHA); co-chair of Blue Table, UB’s food pantry; assistant director of health and wellness for the Student Association; and in numerous other roles. He was named President of the Year by the National Association of College and University Residence Halls in recognition of his efforts to implement an endowment and scholarship to support residential students, start an alternative spring break program and expand RHA’s regional and national involvement. As co-chair of Blue Table, UB’s food pantry, he kick-started creation of the pantry that now serves more than 50 students a week, including growing the pantry’s stock to offer personal hygiene products. In his role as assistant director of health and wellness for SA, Taboni established UB’s first Mental Health Awareness Week. Consisting of eight activities aimed at destigmatizing mental health issues and educating students on available resources, the success of the week-long program helped him win an Outstanding Campus Impact Award in May 2019.
Raven Baxter of Buffalo, NY, graduates with a doctorate in curriculum, instruction and the science of learning from the Graduate School of Education. A recipient of the prestigious Arthur A. Schomburg Fellowship, Baxter is founder of STEMbassy, a science advocacy organization, and was recognized in Fortune magazine’s “40 Under 40” list for 2020. Her Instagram account @raventhesciencemaven, featuring her videos that share best practices in science and education, reaches more than 4 million viewers — and more than 200,000 followers. She created a rap song “Wipe It Down” that went viral. Founder of Black in Science Communication, an organization that bridges the gap between science and the public, she has been instrumental in educating the community about the facts related to COVID-19 and what needs to be done to stay safe.
“We are delighted that Ms. Baxter is being recognized with this richly deserved honor,” President Satish K. Tripathi said. “A nationally recognized science communicator who is passionate about sharing her knowledge with others — particularly children in underserved communities — she has demonstrated a deep and abiding commitment to serve the greater good. By embodying UB’s — and SUNY’s — mission and vision of excellence, Ms. Baxter, along with all of UB’s 2021 student chancellor’s awardees, inspire our students to follow their remarkable example.”