Greater Westfield Chamber of Commerce

Westfield State University’s most promising student leaders receive the 2018 President’s Award for Excellence in Leadership

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 11, 2018
CONTACT: Troy Watkins,, 413.572.5523

Westfield— On Friday, Dec. 7, Westfield State University recognized six exemplary students for their leadership and service to the university and the surrounding community. The President’s Awards for Excellence in Leadership were presented in a ceremony held in Scanlon Banquet Hall on Westfield State University’s campus.

“These men and women have distinguished themselves from their peers by combining outstanding academic achievement with demonstrated leadership skills, both on and off campus,” said Westfield State University President Ramon S. Torrecilha, Ph.D.

The President’s Award for Excellence in Leadership was created in 2007. To be eligible for this award, students must have a grade point average of 3.3 or higher and exhibit an impressive range of both university and community service activities. To be considered for this award, students are required to complete an application detailing their leadership experience, their volunteer work, and an essay detailing a challenge they overcame while in their leadership role.

The six awardees, selected by a multi-disciplinary committee, include four seniors and two juniors, with a collective average GPA of 3.9. The 2018 recipients are:

Giana Dean ’19, criminal justice major, Saugus, Mass.
Among Giana Dean’s many contributions both on and off campus, she is the co-president of the Student Ambassador Program, the Senior Class secretary and a volunteer at the Boston Marathon and American Red Cross blood drives. When asked about Dean, Program Coordinator of the Student Ambassador Program Morgan Kim said, “Giana is a natural leader. She is inspiring, warm-hearted and genuinely liked and respected by her peers. She has the innate capability of making everyone feel welcome and at ease and has a sincere interest in others and is bound to make a difference for the good of those around her.”

Marcus DiBacco ’19, criminal justice and political science major, Norfolk, Mass.
A devoted student leader, Marcus DiBacco is president of the Student Government Association, dedicating up to 20 hours each week to fulfill this responsibility. He has served the University as a student representative on a variety of committees, and is member of the University’s Honors Program and working on his senior honors project. When asked about Marcus, SGA Advisor Barbara Hand said, “Since being elected as a Representative to SGA four years ago, Marcus has been a consistent, diligent, participatory fixture within the Student Government Association.  He works tirelessly every day for the students at Westfield State University. It is an honor to work with Marcus. He is an outstanding student leader.”

Jarrod Petersen ’19, biology major, North Attleboro, Mass.
After working closely with Biology Professor Dr. Jason Ramsey on a research project which opened doors to present his findings at regional conferences, Jarrod Peterson founded the University’s Center for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (CURCA) club, and now serves as a resource to encourage and guide other students interested in conducting research projects. When asked about Jarrod, Dr. Ramsay said, “Jarrod has the very rare combination of intelligence, initiative, and perseverance wrapped up in a great deal of common sense. By creating the CURCA Club to inspire younger students to conduct research and generate creative works, Jarrod’s actions illustrate that he is a shining of student excellence in leadership at Westfield State.”

Corey Pooler ’20, mathematics secondary education certification, Middleboro, Mass.
A conscientious student-athlete and volunteer, Corey Pooler has donated his time to numerous community service efforts, locally and in his home community, where he has helped coach a Little League baseball team and served as a summer recreational camp director. He thrived in his role as a student leader for the University’s civic engagement course in Nicaragua last January, where he assisted in directing an international construction work site. Kathi Bradford, director of Alumni Relations and chaperone on the Nicaragua trip, shared that “Corey’s passion for civic engagement, his commitment to relationship building and making a difference in the world turned him into an outstanding student leader for the short term class to Nicaragua. He exhibited patience, humor and an awareness of a global world with each interaction and truly represents the best of Westfield State.”

Alissa Smith ’19, criminal justice and psychology, Amesbury, Mass.
Alissa Smith
has volunteered for a variety of programs, causes, and organizations throughout her time at Westfield State, including tutoring, participation in two honors societies and service as president of the Circle K Club, where she helps to organize fundraisers and community events, including Westfield State’s own “HOOT Day” and “Breakfast with Santa.” Psychology Professor Dr. Alex Daniel shared, “Alissa is hard-working, kind, and conscientious, always willing to help her peers and consistently comes to class with an open, curious mind, ready to learn. She is a leader in the classroom, setting a positive example with her thoughtful, interested questions and discussion points.”

Carly Thibodeau ’20, economics and environmental science, Mendon, Mass.
Carly Thibodeau
is the junior advisor for the Lambda Sigma Sophomore Honor Society at Westfield State. Through her position with Lambda Sigma she has continuously volunteered her time to raise money for various organizations, including Camp Sunshine, which supports terminally ill and disabled children. She is also a member of the Westfield State swim and dive team. When asked about Carly, Lambda Sigma Honor Society President Thalita Neves said, “Carly truly embodies everything Lambda Sigma stands for and has shown that through her continuous effort to guide the current Lambda Sigma Chapter. She has been beyond helpful in providing her knowledge about the chapter to others.”

PHOTO: Westfield State University President Ramon S. Torrecilha, Ph.D., with the University's 2018 President's Award for Excellence in Leadership recipients (L-R): Corey Pooler, Alissa Smith, Carly Thibodeau, Marcus DiBacco, and Jarrod Petersen. Missing: Giana Dean.

Founded in 1839 by Horace Mann, Westfield State University is an education leader committed to providing every generation of students with a learning experience built on its founding principle as the first public, co-educational college in America to offer an education without barrier to race, gender or economic status. This spirit of innovative thinking and social responsibility is forged in a curriculum of liberal arts and professional studies that creates a vital community of engaged learners who become confident, capable individuals prepared for leadership and service to society. For more information on Westfield State University, visit,, or


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