| ACADEMICS | Provost's Office | Academic Achievement Awards | Sheehan Academic Excellence Awards
In 2013, the late Lt. Col. James F. Sheehan ‘55, USMC Ret., gave $500,000 to his alma mater, Worcester State Teachers College (as it was known in 1955). It was the largest cash gift in the history of the University. In announcing this gift, Lt. Col. Sheehan humbly and simply shared, “It’s about time I gave something back.”
Lt. Col. Sheehan, who passed away in 2016, was the most generous benefactor in Worcester State University’s history, sharing an overwhelming $4.5 million to benefit students and faculty.
After an incredibly successful and varied career in the United States Marine Corps, Lt. Col. Sheehan used his math and business skills to embark on a second successful career as a venture capitalist. He and his wife settled in Florida, where they established 14 scholarships through a number of charitable organizations.
The Lt. Col. James F. Sheehan ’55, USMC Ret. Academic Excellence Awards are given annually to full-time Worcester State University students with the best GPA in the first-year, sophomore, junior, and senior classes. Lt. Col. Sheehan’s gifts also created an endowment for the Sheehan Honors Program, now named in his honor, which provides $50,000 per year to support scholarship and research.
Rewarding and encouraging academic excellence became Lt. Col. Sheehan’s legacy. He hoped his success and support would be emulated by those students to whom his awards and scholarships have provided assistance.
Amanda “Mandy” Pollicelli is a psychology major who first became interested in the treatment of mental health during her high school internship at an infusion room at Lowell General Hospital.
“I was able to interact with the cancer patients and see the importance of treating not only physical health, but mental health as well,” she says. The Tyngsboro, Massachusetts, native and graduate of the Innovation Academy Charter School in Tyngsboro dreams of becoming a counselor or therapist to assist people with their emotional health.
“One of my goals is to always help people who are struggling. I would love to work within a school in order to provide students with guidance and care about both their academic and personal well-being,” she says.
Outside of the classroom, Mandy dances with the Worcester State University Dance Company and is a student representative on the Worcester State University Strategic Planning Committee. She loves to read, go on runs, and hang out with her friends and family. She was also named Athlete of the Season and Scholar Athlete at her high school athletic awards ceremony, and won the Presidential Award for Educational Achievement.
Ciara Cargiulo has dreams of making it big in the entertainment industry, but she knows having talent is just one part of achieving success. To that end, the young but surprisingly experienced singer-songwriter is majoring in business administration with a minor in economics.
“Business is a very versatile major that can fit into any industry. I also believe that there is business to everything in life so it is an important skill to have,” she says.
The Paxton native and graduate of Wachusett Regional High School is commuting from home so she can save money and work on her music in her home studio. She has been performing and working in the music industry since she was 12 years old, and continues to write songs, produce, create covers, and sing professionally, all with the help of her father. Ciara has already performed in Boston music festivals and at venues as large as the DCU Center.
She hopes her academic studies will give her the skills to “make connections in the industry, as well as market/promote myself, learn presentation techniques, and understand strategies or concepts to enhance my business skills.”
Besides excelling in the classroom, she is also proud of writing, singing, and co-producing an original song, “Outcast,” when she was 15 years old. (Hear it on iTunes and Spotify.)
Gabrielle DeCosta is double majoring in psychology and Spanish, with the ultimate goal of attending graduate school to earn a master’s degree in counseling. The Grafton, Massachusetts, native and Blackstone Valley Regional Vocational Technical High School graduate studied the brain and its behavior in high school, which introduced her to the field of psychology.
Although she took Spanish for three years in high school, she is proud of how far she’s come in learning the language. “Before college, I could barely hold a conversation. But now, I can converse with native speakers, and I am always trying to improve,” she says.
Outside of the classroom, she dances with Worcester State University Dance Company and is treasurer of the Green Club. She enjoys reading, studying other languages, and spending time with family and friends. She also plays the tenor saxophone.
“I chose Worcester State University because it is close to home and small enough where I can stand out as a student,” she says. Gabrielle is also a member of the Sheehan Honor Society.
Gregory Martinez ’22 is a third-degree black belt in Tang Soo Do, a Korean form of karate, and has won state and national championships in his sport. The Spanish major with a minor in secondary education dreams of becoming a high school Spanish teacher, in addition to opening his own martial arts school.
Gregory is a native of Richboro, Pennsylvania., although he now lives in Mendon and graduated from Nipmuc Regional High School. He says his Puerto Rican heritage influenced his decision to teach Spanish.
“Discipline helps me succeed,” he says. “I'm not always motivated to get schoolwork done, but thanks to my years in the martial arts, I'm highly disciplined and I get my work done regardless.”
He’s won multiple national championships in weapons, forms, and fighting—with the most recent wins being men's grand champion in weapons in back-to-back tournaments last fall. He also holds a Pennsylvania state championship title in fighting.
“My training for competitions is quite rigorous, so that keeps me very busy,” he says.
Gregory plans to earn his master’s degree and then a Ph.D. immediately after that. Worcester State University’s academic reputation, location, and affordability factors into his plans. “The money I'm saving now will make my future academic endeavors a lot easier.”
Kaitlyn Olmstead is majoring in mathematics with a concentration in secondary education and a minor in education studies. After graduation, she plans to earn her master’s degree in education with the ultimate goals of teaching middle school math.
This is the second year in a row Kaitlyn has won the Lt. Colonel James Sheehan Academic Achievement Award.
The Westford, Massachusetts, native graduated from Westford Academy, where she completed a five-week internship in a second-grade classroom that confirmed teaching was in her future.
“I had fun in school. I like to think if you get to kids early, you can teach them how much fun learning can be, and it will set them up for the rest of their lives,” she says.
Kaitlyn says her good organizational and time management skills, plus never procrastinating, help her succeed in the classroom. “I also put 100-percent effort into all of my assignments.”
Outside of the classroom she works as a substitute teacher and as a tutor in the Worcester State University Math Center. In the summer she works as a lifeguard at a local pool.
“I love the small class sizes at Worcester State University. The professors here all really care about the success of their students,” she says.
Michaela White wants to help young people improve their mental health. After graduation, she will be attending Westfield State University's Master of Social Work satellite program in Worcester and hopes to become a high school adjustment counselor while teaching classes about psychology and/or mindfulness and meditation.
“I want to help students begin to learn essential mental health techniques earlier in their lives so they can decide what is really important in their lives and fight the growing mental health burdens that many youth are experiencing now,” she says.
The psychology major with a concentration in mental health and a minor in middle school mathematics is from Dudley, Massachusetts, and graduated from Shepherd Hill High School.
Outside of the classroom, Michaela has worked several jobs and completed three internships. She also does yoga, meditates almost daily, and enjoys mountain hikes and trail walks with family and friends. In the fall of 2019, she began a Mindfulness Meditation Club with the help of three friends and two advisors. After students began learning remotely this spring, she began a meditation blog to keep herself and others motivated to continue being well. In addition, two years ago she received her black belt in Kenpo Karate.
“I have learned how to focus on what really matters in life. I have learned how to accept mistakes and failures without weighing myself down with what I should have done better. My four years at Worcester State University have shaped me into a healthier person and given me a happier life overall,” she says.
CONTACT USProvost's OfficeShaughnessy Administration Building3rd floorSuite A-361508-929-8038