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May 4, 2015

2 to lead spring commencement

By Ashli Speed

Cleveland State University announced the spring semester valedictorians for the graduation ceremonies on Tuesday, April 28.

Jennifer Kate Berkey, a double major in social work and liberal studies with a minor in biology, has been selected as valedictorian for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences as well as co-valedictorian of the university.

Sarah Kay Watkins, in the Washkewicz College of Engineering, will also be valedictorian. Watkins will graduate Summa Cum Laude with a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering.

A valedictorian is selected by each individual college. After the selections are made, each college submits its choice to the university for consideration for the university valedictorian.

“Obviously we want our valedictorians to have outstanding academic credentials, but we also want our valedictorian to have a strong record of activity beyond the classroom either on campus or in the community,” said Gregory Sadlek, dean of CLASS.

“I was honored when I found out I was CLASS valedictorian but I cried tears of shock and joy when President [Ronald] Berkman called me to tell me I was chosen as University Valedictorian for the afternoon ceremony as well,” Berkey said.

With a 3.93, GPA Berkey is a member of Phi Alpha Social Honor Society and Golden Key International Honor Society. She has received various awards and honors, including the James Dodman Nobel Award in Human Relations Scholarship and the Undergraduate Research Award for Summer 2014 and Spring 2015.

While at Cleveland State, Berkey has been a research assistant for the Dr. Bibo Li-Center for Gene Regulation in Health and Disease.

She also spent time interning at Cornerstone of Hope and participated in assessing the needs of individuals experiencing grief.

Berkey, a wife and mother of two, graduated Cum Laude from Cuyahoga Community College in 2012 with an associate of Arts.

During her pursuit of higher education, Berkey was diagnosed with stage-three breast cancer. Berkey credits the many services offered by Cleveland State with helping her stay on track despite the setbacks she faced.

“My journey has been long and wearisome but so worth it,” she said. “Many sacrifices have been made to achieve success; becoming valedictorian is proof that all the time I spent studying and away from my family is not in vain.”

After graduation, Berkey plans to obtain her license in social work, continue work in Dr. Li’s lab and take the GRE.

She plans to continue her education and is applying for graduate programs in both Genetic Counseling and Physician Assisting.

“My experience here at Cleveland State has been invaluable,” she said. “Thank you for the opportunity to represent Cleveland State’s student body.”