Class of 2020 outstanding students named

College of Arts and Letters


SUMMARY: Each year, departments choose exemplary students, based on a variety of criteria, for the honor of Outstanding Student of the Year. The college also honors one outstanding student, who is selected using the same criteria as that of the valedictorian.

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Outstanding College of Arts and Letters Student - Caroline Dillon Ryan

The outstanding student for the college is based on more than just GPA. The student must complete at least 14 credit hours every semester (excluding summer) and must have at least 100 credit hours attempted at the end of the fall semester prior to graduation.  

Rebecca Morgan Gill
Anthropology - Rebecca Morgan Gill

"Rebecca's professors regard her as among the most academically advanced and engaged students in her anthropology courses. They have no doubt that Rebecca has has accumulated the necessary knowledge and skillset to succeed in graduate school through Boston University’s MS Forensic Anthropology program."

Kaitlyn Harper
Communication Studies - Kaitlyn Harper

"Kaitlyn is an outstanding student on all counts. She is not only academically superior, but is seemingly unmatched in her dedication to various student and professional organizations including the Communication Center, Bluestone Communications, Public Relations Student Society of America, Lambda Pi Theta and 1 for ALL, the First Amendment Campaign."

Cady Elizabeth Scott Hockman
English - Cady Elizabeth Scott Hockman

"Cady’s sharp intelligence, critical eye, and beautiful prose make her a standout student, but it’s her enthusiasm that I admire more than anything. She is truly, deeply interested in learning from everyone around her."

Molly Eileen Steadman
History - Molly Eileen Steadman

"Molly Steadman's excellence in academic achievement is a product of her keen intellect and thoughtful approach, her willingness to engage with difficult materials, to wrangle with tough questions, and to inspire her teachers and peers by her commitment to her studies, her humility and her humanity." 

Hunter J. Kahn
Justice Studies - Hunter J. Kahn

"Hunter has been a hardworking and motivated student since the beginning of his career at JMU. He has contributed both to the JMU and to the local Harrisonburg community. At JMU, he served as a tutor for student athletes and as a student case administrator at the Office of Student Accountability and Restorative Practice."

Mira E. Gruber
Philosophy - Mira E. Gruber

“Mira is the sort of student that when she raises her hand in class, you get a little nervous. She is likely to raise an issue that is so challenging and interesting that you may not know how to respond. You are genuinely worried that you are not smart enough to be her professor.”

Christian David Diaz-Ritz
Political Science, Religion - Christian David Diaz-Ritz

"He is a remarkable student who is an intellectually stimulating person, enthusiastic, and a hard worker... articulate, methodical, and logical... Christian’s writing is exceptionally subtle, articulate, and insightful."

Nicholas James Telesco
Public Policy & Administration - Nicholas James Telesco

"Nick Telesco demonstrates the balance between intellectual curiosity and public service motivation to which we aspire in the PPA major. His ability to perceive complex public challenges and to effectively diagnose appropriate, effective, and equitable responses underlies a wonderful future as a public service professional."

Media Arts and Design - Abigail Brinkley Heam

"Abigail is concluding her studies in the Digital Video & Cinema concentration. Abigail, who studied in JMU’s Summer in London program, was recognized for her high academic achievement and her strong performance in SMAD’s co-curriculars. Abigail shot and co-produced a short narrative film last fall, and has been an integral creative leader with Breeze TV."

Zoë Felicia Diamond-Tapper
Modern Foreign Languages - Zoë Felicia Diamond-Tapper

"Zoë is an outstanding student and a very kind person. I am extremely proud of all her accomplishments. Zoë sees Spanish not only as a foreign language, but a way to understand the world from a different perspective. I know Zoë will have a very bright future!"

Hailey Spencer McGee
Sociology - Hailey Spencer McGee

"She is a dynamic and applied sociologist dedicated to affecting positive social change. She has committed her life to the study of the reproduction of and resistance to social inequality and to the identification and promotion of policy measures that support the bedrock principle that transgender rights are human rights. Hailey will be attending the PhD program in Sociology at Florida State University in the fall."

Rachel MacDonald
Writing, Rhetoric and Technical Communication - Rachel MacDonald

"Rachel MacDonald's leadership is powerful but subtle. She leads by example in every class session. She asks questions that help everyone else understand better. She takes the initiative, and she is willing to take chances. She is always attentive and helpful. Her participation is of the highest quality."

Published: Thursday, April 30, 2020

Last Updated: Friday, January 14, 2022

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