Shining examples of students and public higher education faculty

Governor Deval Patrick, Education Secretary Matt Malone and state higher education officials honored 29 outstanding public college and university students and their mentors Thursday at the third annual "29 Who Shine" awards at the State House.

The awards celebrate the 29 scholars – one each from the state's community colleges, state universities and UMass campuses--and the faculty or staff member named by each of the students as having had the greatest impact on them during college. The event is co-sponsored by the MTA and the Department of Higher Education.

This year’s list of 29 Who Shine includes Mariano Gomes, a native of Guinea Bissau, who grew up amid grinding poverty and war and was forced to immigrate to Cape Verde, where he formed an organization to call attention to human rights for his fellow exiles. Gomes, who speaks seven languages, studied chemistry at Bristol Community College, serving as a supplemental instructor assisting fellow students. Gomes recognized Cynthia Hahn, adjunct instructor of chemistry, as his mentor. Gomes said Hahn was his first chemistry professor at BCC and “she makes complicated materials fun and easy. Through her class I developed my passion for chemistry. She is my hero.”

Gomes and Hahn

Mariano Gomes and Bristol Community College adjunct chemistry professor Cynthia Hahn

At a luncheon following the ceremony, Hahn returned the compliments, saying Gomes started in her developmental chemistry class and within a couple of semesters was tutoring the other students in chemistry. “The students adore him,” she said. “He takes his tutoring as a sacred responsibility.” Gomes has been named a Commonwealth Honors Scholar and has won a prestigious Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship to continue his education at a four-year college or university.

Raymond Dunham is a father of six  who enrolled at Berkshire Community College after suffering a severe spinal injury. He became a role model for his own children and fellow students at BCC. He was a Student Government ambassador and the elected student representative on the Board of Trustees for two years. The criminal justice major, with a 3.7 GPA, is one of 50 Gold Scholars for the 2012-2013 Coca-Cola Community College Academic Team, and is continuing his studies at UMass Amherst. Dunham chose to recognize Deborah Carderella, administrative secretary in the Humanities Division. He said Carderella is “always honest and supportive…. She made sure I stayed grounded and kept focused on my long-term plans.”

Andrew Curran, of Greenfield Community College, combined his love of filmmaking and the cause of social justice. Along with leading the GCC Film Society, he was president of the Peace, Justice and Environmental Action Alliance, where he facilitated a themed film and discussion series on environmental issues. A December graduate of GCC, Curran is now a student at Amherst College. Curran chose to recognize Trevor Kearns, an assistant professor of English at GCC, who “encouraged my interest in film and gave me the opportunity to explore film in a formal, academic way.”

Nicole Ouimette of Holyoke Community College founded the SAAVE (Students for Affordable, Accessible and Valuable Education Club). She organized campus speak-outs on student loan debt and helped organize the March 5 Student Advocacy Day, which drew hundreds of students to the State House to lobby for affordable, high-quality public education and where she was a featured speaker with Governor Deval Patrick. Ouimette’s recognized her mentor, Vanessa Martinez, an assistant professor of anthropology. She said Martinez “really engages students in the learning process and is always committed to helping them succeed.” The liberal arts major will attend Westfield State University to pursue gender and ethnic studies.

Lauren Underwood, a civil engineering major at UMass Dartmouth, is also the lead student ambassador in its Admissions Office, one of the first faces prospective students and families see. Within the Engineering College, Lauren is the student representative on the Civil Engineering Committee and the Undergraduate Engineering Student Council. She is also Secretary of the American Society of Civil Engineers, Chairperson of the New England Regional Concrete Canoe Competition and a member of Engineers Without Borders. Underwood chose to recognize Kelley Mahoney, assistant director of admissions, as her mentor. She said Mahoney “brought me stability and has always been there for me both professionally and personally.”

For a complete list of the 29 Who Shine, visit