Ten class of 2023 standouts have been inducted into Florida Gulf Coast University’s Hall of Fame, the highest recognition awarded to students.
The Hall of Fame honors individuals who demonstrate superior leadership, integrity and achievement through activities, service, scholarship and academic excellence. This year’s honorees include recipients of prestigious national fellowships, aspiring scientists conducting research alongside professors, and Eagles actively advocating for others on campus, in the local community and abroad. All 10 are part of the Honors College.
“This prestigious honor is awarded annually to no more than 10 exceptional students who have not only excelled in leadership, service and academic endeavors, but have contributed to FGCU in extraordinary ways, led meaningful efforts with powerful impacts, and demonstrated excellence beyond the walls of FGCU,” said Jessica J. Rhea, senior director of experiential learning and career development.
This year’s inductees shared highlights of their activities, accomplishments and aspirations.
Dana Axner graduated from FGCU with her undergraduate degree in secondary math education in the spring of 2022.
Axner competed in five seasons on the women’s volleyball team, serving as a team captain and vice president of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee for two years. She was a two-time defensive player of the year, finished as the ASUN Conference all-time leader in career digs, and became FGCU volleyball’s first Academic All-American. She was a student-athlete mentor and a volunteer for the Florida Stop Foundation, Path 2 Freedom Organization, Mathnasium of Estero and Keep Lee County Beautiful. She also helped organize a student-led cleanup mission following Hurricane Ian.
Axner began teaching high school math in January at Bonita Springs High School, where she completed her final student-teaching internship. She is pursuing a master’s in educational technology at FGCU and plans to graduate later this year.
Grace Brannigan graduates with a double major in history and political science with a minor in philosophy.
An Orlando native and first-generation college student, she served as FGCU’s 25th Student Government president and as a university trustee. As student body president, Brannigan helped guide students through the aftermath of Hurricane Ian and the conclusion of the COVID-19 pandemic. She also served on the committee to select the university’s fifth president.
Over the last four years, she served as president of the Student Body Senate. With the Resident Housing Association, Brannigan was president and vice president. After graduation, she plans to attend law school to pursue a career in criminal justice and public interest law.
While earning her early childhood education degree in three years, Madison Franz has maintained a 4.0 GPA, published poetry and completed research projects to promote play-based learning and culturally responsive teaching. She engaged in over 500 hours of service-learning, including organizing a Kindness Rocks initiative for local Title I schools. As the SWFL March For Our Lives organizer, Franz advocated for gun reform to protect local students and teachers.
As an orientation leader, she served for two years and mentored 400 students through the college transition. As a peer career advisor for Career Development Services, she advised 100 students in resume and personal statement writing, which allowed them to articulate their FGCU stories and contribute to the community. As the project manager of Azul’s Attire, she served over 100 students through individual styling appointments. She was selected as the 2022 College of Education Student of the Year and served as president of Eagles Educate and as a student ambassador for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
She is proud to be a second-grade teacher through the Student Teacher Advanced Recruitment Program. She looks forward to teaching third grade next year and continuing to share her love for FGCU and Southwest Florida with her students.
Ella Guedouar graduates with a master’s in environmental science. Her research looks at biodiversity in the Amazon rainforest and how animals use different habitat types.
Over the past few years at FGCU, she has developed a passion for wildlife conservation, starting with volunteer work at Octagon Wildlife Sanctuary. Since then, she has traveled to South Africa, Zimbabwe, Costa Rica and Peru to connect with other scientists and engage in research.
Guedouar has brought her love for wildlife to the community around FGCU through various outreach activities, including local media appearances and rattlesnake removals. Guedouar served as an Accelerated Collegiate Experience mentor, has been active with the Honors College, taught biology lab classes and served as secretary-general of the African Students Association.
She will start her doctoral degree at the University of South Florida this fall to continue her work on human-wildlife interactions and venomous snake research.
Damian Hernandez is from Felda, Florida, and graduates with biochemistry and forensic science degrees. He is a first-generation college student and proud of his farming background and family business in agriculture.
On campus, Hernandez served as treasurer for the Chemistry Club, Project Narrative and Global Medical Brigades. He’s been involved in inorganic chemistry research as a research assistant alongside his primary investigator, associate professor Gregory McManus. He also worked with Aquila: The FGCU Student Research Journal as a reviewer and recently received the 2023 College of Arts & Sciences Student of the Year Award.
Hernandez is a member of the American Chemical Society Scholars Program. This past year, he was a part of the Research Experience for Undergraduates Program at New York University. He has also been an editorial board member for the Florida Undergraduate Research Journal and participated in numerous conferences presenting forefront research completed at FGCU.
Upon graduation, Hernandez will either start work on a grad degree in chemistry or enroll in medical school.
KEA SUIKO KAMIYA
Kea Suiko Kamiya graduates with dual bachelor’s degrees in art and English. She is from Florida, and her parents reside in Bradenton.
At FGCU, she served in leadership roles for student organizations such as Reformed University Fellowship and the Asian American Student Union. She was an Honors mentor, wrote and defended a creative Honors thesis, served as the sculpture studio assistant and represented FGCU at two Honors conferences.
For her Honors thesis play, the National Collegiate Honors Council named Kamiya a Portz Scholar.
Next fall, she will attend Florida State University, pursuing a master of fine arts degree in studio art. Her goal is to become a studio art professor.
Josie Lorea is from Charleston, West Virginia, and graduates with a degree in biology and a pre-professional concentration.
Lorea served as an Honors College mentor for three years. During this time, she served as co-lead mentor, an Honors house leader, senator and an FGCU Scholars ambassador. She served as the president, vice president of standards and social chair for the largest sorority on campus, Kappa Delta. During this time, she was selected as the vice president of Order of Omega, an organization for the top 3% of Greek affiliates on campus.
She worked with the Office of Competitive Fellowships since 2019 during which she received multiple national scholarships, including the Gilman Scholarship and the Summer Health Professional Education Program at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Her work with the OCF led her to a two-month study abroad program at Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea.
Some of her proudest accomplishments have been her recognition as the National Collegiate Honors Council Student of the Year and her selection as the first student from FGCU to receive the Florida Collegiate Honors Council Dr. Richard Piper Scholarship. Lorea will attend medical school at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine in Bradenton, Florida.
Anusha Malik graduates in the fall with a biochemistry major and a minor in biology. She is a first-generation American Muslim who has lived in Florida with her family’s roots in Pakistan.
Her focus at FGCU has been to bring diversity to campus through research, leadership and service activities. She researched developing nontoxic gene delivery agents using ionic liquids and was recently awarded the Goldwater Scholarship for these findings.
Malik is the president of the Chemistry Club and public relations manager of Project Narrative. She served in various leadership activities, including being a senator in Student Government, a tutor at the Center for Academic Achievement, a chemistry teaching assistant and a junior summer camp counselor.
She was part of the founding class of the Campus Cancer Campaign and co-founded the Food Options Project to raise awareness for students with dietary restrictions at FGCU; she continued the project after receiving the Millennium Fellowship.
After graduation, she plans to attend medical school and continue her role as a mentor and role model within her community.
Ryan McNamara graduates with a double major in secondary math education and mathematics with a minor in Spanish. He is originally from Middletown, New York.
McNamara was an orientation leader for three summers, an Honors College mentor, an Honors ambassador and vice president of Eagles Educate. He was also involved in various academic support positions through FGCU Athletics tutoring, being a learning assistant for algebra and calculus classes, and as a supplemental instruction leader at the Center for Academic Achievement.
Mentored by Alberto Condori, an associate professor in mathematics, McNamara was part of a research team that worked with the Lee County Mosquito Control District to analyze trends in West Nile virus in Southwest Florida and was selected to present their research at the annual Mathematical Association of America’s MathFest in Philadelphia. This semester, he also completed an Honors thesis with associate professor Katie Johnson titled “Utilizing Game Theory to Improve Classroom Management.”
In his final semester, McNamara has been teaching seventh-grade math at Fort Myers Middle School as a part of the Student Teacher Advanced Recruitment program. Next fall, McNamara will be an 11th– and 12th-grade math teacher at Aubrey Rogers High in Naples.
Serena Truong is from Naples and graduating with a degree in nursing. She was president of Global Medical Brigades and the American Red Cross Club. Truong was also a supplemental instruction leader for the Center of Academic Achievement, an Honors Mentor and the student representative of cultural enrichment for the Honors Executive Board.
She has found it rewarding to volunteer with organizations such as the Harry Chapin Food Bank, Gift of Life, and Unlocked Memories throughout her time at FGCU. She will further her academic endeavors by co-writing an Honors thesis investigating postpartum depression. She also hopes to make a social impact by implementing a sustainable free health clinic in the Golden Gate community next fall.
Over the last four years, she helped the underserved through her passion for healthcare and service in communities near FGCU and abroad. After graduation, she hopes to work as a pediatric nurse and plans to continue her academic journey by pursuing a doctorate in nursing practice.