Annual SEAS awards night honors students, alumni, corporate partners and donors

Scott and Coleen Stevens recognized with 2016 Delta Award; National Grid named corporate partner of the year

WNY high school students visit National Grid as part of a summer camp hosted by SEAS and National Grid

High school students from Western New York visited National Grid to learn about careers in engineering as part of the UB/National Grid summer leadership camp. The camp is one of the many ways National Grid supports UB’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

by Jane Stoyle Welch

Published April 11, 2016

Giving back to the UB community was the theme of the Annual School of Engineering and Applied Sciences Awards Night.

"We offer deep and profound thanks to our supporters for all that they do for us."
Liesl Folks, Dean
School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

About 60 people filled Davis Hall to celebrate the achievements of the school’s students and the volunteers who support them in an evening event featuring an award ceremony, networking opportunities, student poster presentations, and dinner.

Kurt Bessel, President of the UB Engineering and Applied Sciences Alumni Association, served as emcee during the award presentations, which included five awards to exceptional members of the school’s community, as well as scholarships awarded on behalf of the engineering alumni association.

“Our mission is complex - we educate, do research, and serve our community - and the support we receive from our generous donors and volunteers enhance our ability to serve not only UB, but also the Western New York region, New York State, and beyond. We offer deep and profound thanks to our supporter for all that they do for us,” said Liesl Folks, dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

In addition to Bessel and Dean Folks, Bethany Mazur, director of constituent and alumni relations, Tim Siderakis, assistant dean and senior director of philanthropy and alumni engagement, Timothy Van Oss, master’s student in civil engineering, and Robert Barnes, board member of the UB Engineering and Applied Sciences Alumni Association, took part in the award presentations.

The awards and recipients are as follows.

Delta Award: Scott Stevens, BS ’79 and Coleen Stevens, BS ’79

Inspired by the engineering term meaning “the difference,” this award is given annually to a donor who has made a significant difference for the school, its students, and its culture through philanthropy.

Scott and Coleen Stevens receive 2016 Delta Award

From left: Tim Siderakis, Liesl Folks, Scott Stevens, Coleen Stevens, Bethany Mazur and Kurt Bessel. Photo credit: The Onion Studio.

As the 2016 recipients of the Delta Award, Scott and Coleen Stevens consider their financial gifts to be an expression of appreciation for the education they received at UB, and perhaps more importantly, an investment in the education of future generations of students.

Their generous support has resulted in the creation of two popular meeting places in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences: the Stevens Courtyard outside Davis Hall, and the new Stevens Undergraduate Student Center on the fourth floor of Bonner Hall.

Stevens is a professionally licensed structural engineer and owner of Dimension Fabricators, Inc., located in Glenville, New York. He is a past member of the SEAS Dean’s Advisory Council and is the Director of the Concrete Reinforcing Steel Institute Board.

The Stevens’ both earned BS degrees from UB in 1979; Scott in civil engineering and Coleen in physical therapy.

Corporate Partner of the Year: National Grid

This award is given to a corporation that has invested significant time and resources toward the advancement of the school and its students.

Natalie Terhaar and Dan Keating accept the Corporate Partner of the Year award on behalf of National Grid.

From left: Daniel Keating and Natalie Terhaar, National Grid, with Tim Siderakis. Photo credit: The Onion Studio.

National Grid, a multinational gas and electricity utility, has forged a strong and valuable partnership with UB’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Deeply committed to advancing STEM education, the company sponsors a four-day summer camp at UB for Western New York high school students. Students participate in hands-on projects and demonstrations in engineering design, team building and leadership skills.

To reach elementary-age children, National Grid partners with UB to bring scientists and engineers to Westminster Community Charter School once a month to do structured hands-on science experiments in the classroom. Once a year, every student in the school has the opportunity to visit Davis Hall to participate in larger-scale experiments and projects.

As a gold member of the Engineering Partnership Program, National Grid provides annual funds to support engineering student clubs and school events.

Natalie Terhaar, Community Coordinator, and Daniel Keating BS’02, Customer and Community Management, accepted the award on behalf of National Grid.

Volunteer Recognition Award: Gina B. Hammond, MS ’73

This award is given to an alumnus or alumna who has dedicated considerable personal time and resources for the benefit of the students, school and UB community.

Gina Hammond received the volunteer recognition award.

From left: Bethany Mazur, Kurt Bessel and Gina Hammond. Photo credit: The Onion Studio.

Gina Hammond was one of the first to contribute a major gift in support of Davis Hall, and has been a member of the Delta Society for over 10 years. She serves as an inspiration to our students, especially our female students, as she has enjoyed a career of almost 40 years in progressively challenging positions in the field of computer science and engineering.

Upon accepting her award, Hammond offered this advice to the students, “Start volunteering early, choose areas and/or organizations that interest you, and give money if you are able.” She attributed her ability to advance in her career to her education at UB, and said that “you can’t pay a volunteer because they are priceless!”

Now retired, Hammond’s most recent position was as director of integrated support operations of the Capital Region Army Programs at CSC.

Hammond received a BA in mathematics from Vassar College, and an MS in computer science from UB in 1973. She was a recipient of the SEAS Dean’s Award for Achievement in 2009 and the Distinguished Alumni Award from the UB Alumni Association in 2011, and is a past member of the SEAS Dean’s Advisory Council.

Outstanding Young Alumnus Award: Dan Magnuszewski, BS ’05

This award is given to a young alumnus or alumna to recognize outstanding contributions to their career field, academic area and/or community.

Dan Magnuszewski received the outstanding young alumni award

From left: Kurt Bessel, Dan Magnuszewski and Bethany Mazur. Photo credit: The Onion Studio.

Dan Magnuszewski is co-founder and chief technical officer of ACV Auctions, the winner of the $1 million grand prize in the 2015 43North business plan competition. The company created a smartphone app that allows used cars to be sold in 20-minute online auctions rather than at conventional auctions that are typically held weekly.

Among his many volunteer activities, Magnuszewski is co-organizer of the Buffalo OpenCoffee Club, a member of the WNY Computer Science Teachers Association, co-founder of the WNY OpenData Working Group, and is endeavoring to consolidate the region’s growing number of technology companies in an effort to build a technology corridor in downtown Buffalo.

“It is great to see how the thinking has changed in Buffalo about starting new companies and supporting entrepreneurship,” said Magnuszewski. “I am integrating UB students into as many of these activities as possible.”

Magnuszewski earned a BS in computer science from UB in 2005, and is an active member of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering’s advisory board.

Mentor of the Year: Jason Havens, BS ’05

This award is given to an alumnus or alumna who has dedicated considerable personal time and resources for the benefit of the development and education of students.

Jason Havens received the mentor of the year award

From left: Jason Havens and Timothy Van Oss. Photo credit: The Onion Studio.

“Jason Havens taught us so much more than learning how to use CAD,” said Timothy Van Oss, as he presented Havens with the Mentor of the Year award. “He showed us how to problem solve and helped us make the transition from being a student to becoming a professional.”

Havens, who in addition to his day job serves as an adjunct professor in the Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering, teaches CAD to undergraduate students.

Until recently, he was an active mentor of UB’s student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). Under his advisement, the team’s concrete canoe went on to compete nationally three times in 10 years.

“Mentoring is an obligation for all of us as engineers,” said Havens. “Its been an honor and a privilege to work with such great students.”

A licensed civil engineer, Havens is a project engineer for Clark Patterson Lee, as well as president of Rusty Nickel Brewing Company. He has received several awards from ASCE, including the Edmund Friedman Young Engineer Award for Professional Achievement in 2013, Outstanding Practitioner Advisory Award in 2010, and Volunteerism Award in 2009, and was recognized by Buffalo Business First with a 30 under 30 Award in 2012.

He received a BS in civil engineering from UB in 2005.

UB Engineering and Applied Sciences Alumni Association Scholarships

The UB Engineering and Applied Sciences Alumni Association awards scholarships to engineering students who demonstrate leadership skills through involvement in campus and community activities as well as scholastic accomplishment. Established in 1992, the awards are funded through generous donations from the school’s alumni and friends.

Professor Emeritus Howard Strauss Memorial Scholarship: Mohammad Atif Faiz Afzal

This award honors Howard Strauss, the founding faculty advisor of the UB Engineering and Applied Sciences Alumni Association as well as a founding faculty member of the school. It is the association’s largest scholarship.

M. Atif Afzal received the UBEAA Howard Strauss Memorial Scholarship

From left: Francis Mahaney, Kurt Bessel, Mohammad Atif Faiz Afzal and Robert Barnes. Photo credit: The Onion Studio.

Mohammad Atif Faiz Afzal is a PhD student in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering (CBE), where he works in the Hachmann Research Group on the modeling of organic polymers as materials for optical applications. His research interests include computational material science and machine learning, as well as experimental techniques in materials science.

He served as the event coordinator for the past two years as part of the SEAS Annual Conference on Career Perspectives and Networking, an event that aims to forge lasting connections between industry leaders and the brightest minds coming out of UB.

He also organized a symposium entitled “Computational Science: An Industrial and Career Perspective,” an event aimed at providing UB graduate students with first-hand insights into research outside of academia.

Afzal founded a new club called the Computational Sciences Club and currently serves as president. The club is a platform to bring together students who do computational studies in UB, to share their research perspectives, organize seminars/workshops, and promote collaboration.

He served as the president of the CBE graduate student association, where he initiated new social and academic activities aimed at building a stronger sense of community among graduate students.

Leaders in Excellence Scholarships

This scholarship recognizes “leaders in excellence” to encourage them to develop spirit and loyalty to the school.

UBEAA honored 8 SEAS students with leaders in excellence scholarship.

From left: Kurt Bessel, Andrew Kroetsch, Andrea Martinez, Robert DeBortoli, Ava Chai, Steven Coffed, Mohammad Atif Faiz Afzal and Robert Barnes. Photo credit: The Onion Studio.

The recipients are:

  • Ava Chai, computer/electrical engineering, 2016
  • Hillary Chiarella, environmental engineering, 2016
  • Robert DeBortoli, computer engineering, 2016
  • Andrea Martinez, electrical engineering, 2016
  • Steven Coffed, mechanical/aerospace engineering, 2016
  • Andrew Kroetsch, chemical engineering, 2018
  • Elise Martin, biomedical engineering, 2018
  • Eun Jin Shin, civil engineering, 2016

The event was held in Davis Hall on April 7, 2016. It was sponsored by the UB Engineering and Applied Sciences Alumni Association and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.