Geneseo Seniors Earn SUNY Excellence Award

A portrait of Awab Shawkat '21 and Sakura Hamazaki '21

2021 SUNY Chancellor's Award for Student Excellence winners Awab Shawkat '21 (left) and Sakura Hamazaki '21. (SUNY Geneseo/ Keith Walters '11)

Geneseo seniors Awab Shakat and Sakura Hamazaki have been chosen for the 2021 SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence in recognition of their outstanding achievements that have demonstrated the integration of SUNY excellence within their lives, including academics, leadership, campus involvement, community service, or the arts.

"I couldn't be more thrilled at the selection of these two outstanding Geneseo students for the Chancellor's Award for Student Excellence,” said President Denise A. Battles. “Both honorees are true leaders and exemplary representatives of the kind of well-rounded academic and co-curricular achievement that our college seeks to cultivate in our students."

Shawkat and Hamazaki will be honored in a virtual CASE Excellence awards ceremony presentation on April 14.

Shawkat, a psychology major who is earning a College Honors Program minor, is a 2020–21 McNair Scholar and active in academics, research, and student organizations. He is vice president of Geneseo’s chapter of Best Buddies, an international organization that fosters interaction between college students and individuals with intellectual and physical disabilities.

In June 2020, he co-organized the March for Black Lives in the Geneseo community. Shawkat worked as a research assistant for ongoing sibling research conducted by distinguished teaching professor of psychology Ganie DeHart, served as a Letchworth State Park historian, and conducted a research study he developed in an Atlanta community, which was supported by the National Science Foundation.

In his nomination, Matthew Pastizzo, associate professor of psychology and department chair, said: “In addition to his truly outstanding academic accomplishments, both in terms of coursework and research, Awab has actively connected with students, faculty, and staff to help make our department and our college more inclusive and equitable. Awab is a thoughtful, kind, articulate, and engaged community member who is an amazing advocate for others!”

Read about Awab's activities and lessons in leadership

Hamazaki, a biology major who is earning a mathematics minor, is a researcher, student-athlete, mentor, and leader. She has held dual research assistantships in the departments of chemistry (investigating the dynamic interactions of amyloid peptide aggregations with gold nanoparticles) and biology (identifying a non-regenerative mutant gene in zebrafish). Among her accomplishments is presenting research at the American Chemical Society Fall 2019 National Meeting and Exhibition. As a member of the women’s swimming and diving team, Hamazaki saw a need for support for student-athletes and worked with athletics and leadership staff to create the Student-Athlete Mentor Program in 2019. In the program, student-athletes are trained to work with other student-athletes who are seeking connections to academic, volunteer, and other resources, as well as to provide guidance on transitioning and succeeding in college life. Hamazaki is also a GOLD mentor and has taught dozens of time management, team building, and other workshops for her peers.

In her nomination, President Battles wrote: “Hamazaki is a tireless advocate for others, a bridge-builder in a world so in need of meaningful personal connections, and a difference-maker on our campus and beyond.”

Read about Hamazaki’s Student-Athlete Mentor Program


Kris Dreessen
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