Ten distinguished graduating seniors have been inducted into the FGCU Hall of Fame, the highest recognition awarded to student leaders at Florida Gulf Coast University.
“Induction into the Hall of Fame is reserved for those students who have demonstrated superior leadership, integrity and achievement through student engagement on campus, service-learning and civic leadership in our community, and through high-impact academic achievement through scholarship,” says Mitchell L. Cordova, vice president of Student Success & Enrollment Management at FGCU. “For students to demonstrate this level of success at FGCU in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic makes their accomplishments that much more impressive.”
The 2021 Hall of Fame class represents a diverse range of academic interests but shares a common commitment to being engaged Eagles, agents of change and high-achieving scholars:
A nursing major from Miami and member of the Honors College, Seeka Agama amassed a remarkable 1,547 service-learning hours during four years at FGCU. She was heavily involved in the Multicultural & Leadership Development Center as an ambassador, peer mentor and eventual student director of the ambassador program. Agama spent three alternative spring breaks volunteering abroad through the Dominican Republic Outreach Program, which develops educational activities and sustainable projects; she was also elected president of the organization. She served on the Dean of Students Advisory Council, as a Girls in Engineering, Math and Science mentor and as president of the women’s rugby team. “By being intentional and passionate in my academic journey and extracurricular activities, I have fostered a more welcoming environment for students to find their homes at this university,” she wrote in her Hall of Fame application essay.
Gervais Baptiste’s deep involvement with the Multicultural & Leadership Development Center began when he participated his first year at FGCU in the Frosh Mosh Institute, which helps prepare freshmen for college life and fosters learning about social justice and inclusivity. A finance major, he went on to serve as a Frosh Mosh mentor and then as student director of the program, while also overseeing MLD’s Emerging Eagles leadership development program. An Honors College member originally from Trinidad and Tobago, Baptiste served as an advocate for his peers through Student Government and assisted incoming students and their families as an Eagle View Orientation leader. He also received the Student Excellence in Mentoring Award. “Transformational leadership … has been the guiding force and my motivating factor in everything that I have strived to accomplish for the FGCU community,” he wrote in his essay.
Amanda Carroll didn’t only make her mark as a record-setting player on both the volleyball and beach volleyball teams; she also distinguished herself representing FGCU on the ASUN Conference Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and as the conference’s national representative to the NCAA advisory council. She also offered academic advising to other Eagle athletes through the Hartley Academic Resource Center. Hailing from Albuquerque, New Mexico, she earned a bachelor’s degree in communication from FGCU in 2019 and has now completed a master’s in educational leadership. Carroll has been involved in volunteering at San Carlos Elementary School and PACE Center for Girls. “Some of the most rewarding experiences I had at FGCU were the service-learning hours I was able to be involved in,” she said in her essay. “I was an advocate for mental health awareness, inclusion and diversity, as well as gender quality throughout the athletics department and the main campus.”
A president of four student organizations — Eta Sigma Delta Hospitality Honor Society, Women in Hospitality Club, Hospitality Management Association and FGCU French Club — Bryn Goldsmith certainly hasn’t shied away from taking on leadership responsibility. “I remember being inspired as an underclassman by highly esteemed student leaders on our campus,” the RHM major wrote in her essay. “I knew I wanted to do what they were doing; they inspired me to become a student leader, and I hope that my leadership and outreach inspired others in turn.” It’s no wonder she received The Golden Pineapple Award in 2019 for outstanding contributions to the School of Resort & Hospitality Management. In her spare time, the senior from St. Cloud, Florida, whips up homemade strawberry jam, which she sells to raise money for social justice causes.
Alexander Marsh was one of FGCU’s first two Goldwater Scholars, a highly competitive program aimed at developing the next generation of researchers in the natural sciences, engineering and mathematics. In fact, he has played an integral role in more than 10 research projects while at FGCU, including Eastern diamondback rattlesnake studies and a study-abroad project surveying herpetology communities in the Amazon Basin in Peru that led to two published papers. A biology major from Bolivar, Pennsylvania, Marsh has dedicated himself to educating peers and the general public about wildlife and conservation as a student naturalist and a member of Animal Control Team on campus. An Honors College mentor and FGCU Scholars Ambassador, he also served as president of the campus chapter of Habitat for Humanity. “I have helped build a stronger collaborative research culture for undergraduates as well as pushed for more opportunities to further develop my undergraduate peers,” he wrote in his essay.
Cho Thinzar Maung Maung
“Florida Gulf Coast University has changed my reality,” Cho Thinzar Maung Maung said in her essay. “For this, my lifelong mission is to practice and exemplify the values of The FGCU Effect.” That effect — “Inspiring those who inspire others” — is something the clinical laboratory science major has already done in abundance. An international student from Myanmar, where a military coup has the country on the brink of civil war, Maung Maung devoted much of her time at FGCU to tutoring peers through the Center for Academic Achievement and Student Support Services as well as sharing her experiences conducting clinical research. She also represented FGCU as a University Ambassador and Marieb College of Health & Human Services as an Honors College senator; the college also named her its Undergraduate Student of the Year. A graduate of the Runway Program for aspiring entrepreneurs, the FGCU Dance Company president also found time to go into business as a partner and dance instructor at Residance urban dance studio.
As president of the FGCU Professional Sales Club, Peter Mitchell helped dramatically boost membership in the student organization, a sure sign that he knows how to deliver a good pitch. A double-major in business management and marketing, the Orlando native and president of the Beta Gamma Sigma business honor society also earned kudos in sales competitions, winning two firsts at the 2020 USF Selling the Bulls contest and becoming a finalist in national and international collegiate selling events that same year. He served as a team manager for FGCU women’s basketball for three years and devoted many hours to Campus Recreation as a sports official, recreation ambassador and facility manager. “FGCU is about so much more than being a student,” he said. “It is all about being a part of a community that strives to get better each and every day.” Mitchell also was named Lutgert College of Business Outstanding Undergraduate Student of the Year.
As president of the Chemistry Club, Isabella Riha has worked to provide students more access to exciting applications of the techniques they learn in class. Her own research into metal-organic frameworks has inspired her to explore new drug delivery methods through MOFs and resulted in a presentation to a regional meeting of the American Chemical Society. That achievement along with her collaborative research publication in the German scientific journal Angewandte no doubt contributed to the biochemistry major being chosen for the prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program. The daughter of deaf parents, Riha also led other students in educating the local deaf community about COVID-19 prevention and helped produce hand sanitizer in an FGCU lab for distribution on campus. An Honors College member from Clearwater, Riha also has been active in Women in Science, Technology Engineering and Math (WiSTEM) and the Center for Academic Achievement. One of the key lessons she said she learned at FGCU: “Leadership is not a skill you are born with; it is one you learn. However, growing this skill is not what is important; it is what you do with it.”
As a Welcome Center tour guide and University Ambassador, Rebekah Rodriguez has been instrumental in creating a positive first and lasting impression of FGCU among newcomers and guests. A psychology major from Rockledge, Florida, she was also very active in the Honors College as a mentor and then as a leader among mentors, as well as one of the inaugural Honors House leaders. Her honors thesis examining perceptions of physical disabilities reflected her avid interest in raising disability awareness through research and through her involvement with Eagles Gather, a social and service club aligned with that mission. Through the Office of Competitive Fellowships, Rodriguez also provided guidance and encouragement to fellow students applying to elite programs. “I have grown more than I could have ever imagined, which makes it an honor to see that I have impacted the school even a fraction of the measure that FGCU has impacted me,” she wrote in her essay.
The first All-American in FGCU volleyball history and one of only a couple handfuls of All-Americans in school history across all sports, Cortney VanLiew distinguished herself off the court as well as on it. In addition to serving as a tutor and mentor to her peers in FGCU Athletics, the accounting major from Seymour, Indiana, advocated for them on the Eagles Council and represented FGCU on the ASUN Conference Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. Taking on leadership roles that admittedly took her out of her previous comfort zone, the Honors College accounting major was active in LEAD Like a Girl, Keep Lee County Beautiful and the Project Life Movement, which organized a bone-marrow registry and promoted donations on campus. VanLiew discovered in herself a passion for serving young people and underprivileged communities. “With each opportunity, I have become more confident in my abilities as a servant leader and activist, working to discover and develop my own style of leadership and involvement,” she wrote. “I am filled with nothing but unfathomable gratitude for this university.”