| 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.
Jessica Rancourt ’24 says her ability to stay organized and manage her time effectively was essential for staying on top of her academics while studying remotely this past year. “This was key to getting everything done and still having time to check up on myself mentally,” she says.
Rancourt, who is from South Grafton, Mass., and graduated from Grafton High School, is double majoring in psychology and health education with a minor in secondary education. “I enjoy learning about individual people and how different events and behaviors impact their brain and health. I love helping people and giving advice, and these areas of study are one way I will be able to have a direct influence on adolescents,” she says.
Outside of the classroom, she works at a pottery painting studio two days a week and coaches volleyball. She captained her high school volleyball team as a senior and was named her team’s most valuable player and South Worcester County League First Team All-Star in 2019. She is now a setter on the Worcester State volleyball team.
Rancourt says she is most proud of receiving the Daniel J. Salmon Youth Outreach Award for volunteering at the Rockdale Youth Center in Northbridge, Mass. There she mentored a young girl for several years and feels she had a positive influence on the girl’s growth and achievement.
Despite starting her college career during a pandemic, she is still enthusiastic about her decision to come to Worcester State.
“I chose Worcester State because of its proximity to my home and all of the wonderful things it has to offer. I love the environment here and have made some great friends so far,” she says.
Ultimately, Rancourt wants combine her love of teaching and playing volleyball in a future career. “I hope to become a high school health and psychology teacher, and to pursue my passion of playing and coaching volleyball even after my time on the Worcester State team.”
Amanda Lo ’23 says she has always been interested in how biological processes can affect our mental state—like how biology contributes to mental disorders or neurological problems. Because of this, she decided to major in biology with a minor in psychobiology.
She says the secret to her academic success is staying organized, planning ahead, and finding a way to keep motivated. “I always make sure to know upcoming deadlines and assessment dates in order to sufficiently prepare beforehand. I do my assigned work as early as possible in order to have time to ask questions.”
Lo is from Shrewsbury, Mass., and graduated from Shrewsbury High School, where she played soccer, danced, figure skated, swam, and did martial arts. Although she considers herself “a total bookworm” in college, she does enjoy walking, ice skating, cooking, and spending time with family and friends.
One of her proudest accomplishments was joining a group in high school for students who fostered dogs needing to be adopted.
“I got the chance to foster an emaciated dog who ended up having a broken jaw, infection on every paw, and eight rotten teeth. I spent a month with this dog feeding it, taking it to veterinary appointments, giving it medication every day, and just bonding in general,” she says. “It gave me a great sense of accomplishment to be able to make an animal feel better within so little time. I felt even prouder when I helped him get adopted.”
Her future plans are not set in stone yet, she says. “I know I would like to do something that actively contributes to my community and ultimately, society. I hope to use the knowledge I gain here to either do research, work in a clinical setting, or maybe even go to graduate school and become more knowledgeable.”
Moira O’Sullivan ’22 is working hard to graduate in three years with a degree in communication sciences and disorder with plans to immediately start graduate school and eventually become a speech-language pathologist. Her schedule is ridiculously busy with work, volunteer activities, and extracurriculars, including teaching literacy skills to preschoolers in Worcester and advocating for refugees as a member of the Student Clinic for Immigrant Justice (SCIJ).
But the secret to her academic success, she says, is because she sleeps well—ideally 8.5 hours a night.
“Sleep helps me stay focused and alert. It helps me set a schedule for myself. Also, it actually helps with learning. The things you learn during the day go into long-term memory when you get sleep,” she says.
The Ludlow, Mass., resident was always drawn to the medical field due to her love of science and helping people. She shadowed a speech-language pathologist in high school and fell in love with the profession “because you get to work one-on-one with clients and get to improve their lives. The work is so impactful.”
O’Sullivan is a member of the Spanish Club, Best Buddies, National Student Speech-Language Hearing Association, Phi Eta Sigma, Omicron Delta Kappa, Alpha Mu Gamma, and the Sheehan Honors Program. She helps a 2-year-old with her speech every week, and volunteers at Saint John the Baptist School as a teacher's aide in a first-grade class. She also works at a nursing home, Life Care Center of Wilbraham, Mass.
Additionally, she is working with an attorney at the Northeast Justice Center on an immigration case through SCIJ, and teaches preschoolers the skills they need to go into kindergarten through reading, art, writing, and dramatic play as part of a five-member team working for Jumpstart.
O’Sullivan says she has loved her whole Worcester State experience. “My professors will do anything to help me in the class or just in life. My advisor is awesome. I feel like I have a family and a little village cheering me on at Worcester State, which is one of the best feelings in the world.”
Jaymi-Lyn Souza ’21 describes herself as a “future lawyer and current organizer of people, places, things, and ideas.” She has embraced many leadership roles—both on and off campus—including serving as the youngest member ever elected to the Leicester Planning Board, a position she has held for the past two years. Currently president of the Student Government Association, she also served as Student Senate chair from 2018 to 2020.
Souza is a history and political science major with minors in computer science and pre-law. She is a tutor in the Academic Success Center and the Writing Center and works as a coach, secretary, and birthday party director at Giguere’s Gymnastics in her hometown of Leicester, Mass.
In 2019, she participated in the DC Leadership Program, traveling to Washington, DC, over spring break to advocate for higher education issues. She also led a team of classmates to the Yale University International Policy Competition, finishing in the top third of 90 competitors, only a handful of which represented public schools. Most recently, she served as a summer intern on the legal team of Forma Therapeutics in Watertown, Mass.
After graduation, she has her sights set on law school.
“My goal has always been to help people, and I realized that by being a lawyer, I would be able to do so by making sure they are represented and that their voices are heard,” she says. “My career goals are to ensure that laws are applied in a just manner, and that laws themselves are just. In order to evaluate whether something is or is not just, I have to be able to consider justice from many different perspectives, because what is fair to one person may have detrimental impacts on another.
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