Eight students from local colleges will be recognized Wednesday at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center in Albany for being "the best of the best," according to officials.

During a ceremony and reception, they will join other State University of New York students in receiving SUNY Chancellor’s Awards for Student Excellence, which are given annually to SUNY students who demonstrate excellence in academics and extracurricular activities, Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher said in a recent media release.

Recipients from SUNY Delhi are Morgan Hulbert, a veterinary science technology major from Cadyville, and Simba Mafundikwa, an architecture and design major from Manhattan, officials said.

Hulbert, a sophomore, has maintained a 4.0 GPA while serving as a student ambassador, orientation leader and peer mentor, the release said. She is a member of the SUNY Delhi women's cross-country team and also competes in equine showing, riding, and driving. Hulbert has organized on-campus activities for local 4-H clubs as well as a spay and neuter clinic for the Heart of the Catskills Humane Society. This spring, she participated in an international veterinary field project, providing care and surgical services for developing communities in Nicaragua.

"I'm most proud of being able to maintain my grades while still doing the things I love like track and riding," Hulbert, a sophomore, told The Daily Star on Monday. "I'm really excited for the ceremony Wednesday, but also a bit nervous because there'll be so many people there. ... My goal is to become a public health veterinarian some day."

Mafundikwa serves as president of the SUNY Delhi Architecture Club, vice president of the Black Student Union, and senior Student Ambassador for the college. He is also a member of the Student Conduct Council and a Sustainability Advocate, officials said. As captain of the SUNY Delhi men's soccer team, Mafundikwa helped lead the team to a national championship appearance in 2015. He plans to seek work in Berlin, Germany following graduation.

Recipients from SUNY Cobleskill are December 2016 graduates Jason Ratchford and Angela Zhu, officials said.

"I feel very lucky that I got this award," said Ratchford, who is a fisheries and aquaculture major. "The fact that I’m included among the best in the SUNY system is an honor. I worked really hard in college, so it’s great to be recognized."

In addition to maintaining a high GPA, Ratchford volunteered with the SUNY Cobleskill student chapters of the American Fisheries Society, Trout Unlimited, and Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. He also worked at the college’s 40,000-gallon cold-water fish hatchery; presented independent research at conferences across the country, including at the World Aquaculture Society Conference in San Antonio, Texas; and worked to study the water quality of the Mohawk River in the second year of an ongoing project.

Zhu, a biotechnology major, was active in the campus chapter of the TriBeta National Biological Honor Society, which she helped establish, officials said. She worked as a resident assistant, teaching assistant for a microbiology lab, and lab assistant in the biotechnology program. She also volunteered with the campus chapter of Circle K International and completed an internship that involved researching hops. She recently accepted a position as a quality control instrumentation analyst with Regeneron Pharmaceuticals.

"Receiving the Chancellor's Award allows you to take pride in the fact that all of your hard work throughout your college career has been acknowledged," Zhu said. "It also humbles you, because you know the award would not have been possible at all without the continuous support of your professors and peers."

SUNY Oneonta's four recipients are Daniela Gutierrez of Hampton Bays; Spriha Sanjay of New Delhi, India; Rachael Shine of Clifton Park; and Jillian Young of Sidney.

Gutierrez is a first-generation bilingual student with a double major in communication studies and Spanish, according to officials. She has served as an academic peer mentor and an orientation leader and contributed to an award-winning book of autobiographical vignettes by Latino students and alumni. After graduation, she plans to pursue her passion for service and education, either as an AmeriCorps member or through an advanced degree in education or museum studies.

Sanjay is a psychology major and international student who achieved SUNY Oneonta’s highest leadership level by serving as a peer mentor and helping to recruit and welcome new students, according to the college. She completed a five-credit internship developing campus programming to raise awareness about safe sex and sexual assault.  After graduation, Sanjay plans to pursue a master’s degree in industrial or organizational psychology.

Shine is a psychology major who has established herself as a top student athlete at both the conference and national level, officials said. She earned multiple NCAA Division III All-American honors and set SUNYAC records in the 800- and 1,500-meter indoor and outdoor track events. Coupled with this are her leadership in the St. Jude Giants student club and her excellent academic performance, which has resulted in two honor society inductions and consistent recognition as a scholar athlete, the release said. 

Young is a meteorology major who has earned national recognition as an undergraduate scholar in the field of meteorology, according to the college. She was selected to receive three highly competitive national scholarships, and she interned in two offices of the National Weather Service. In 2014, she planned and co-led social media efforts for the American Meteorological Society annual meeting, where she presented her original research on lightning this year. After graduation, Young plans to pursue a master’s degree with a focus in hydrology.

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