October 23, 2012
by Laura Pochodylo '14
Two Knox College students have been awarded the Faculty Scholarship Prize for the 2012-2013 academic year. This year's recipients, John Cusimano and Anna Meier, are from different fields of study, but they have more in common beyond sharing the award.
The prize, presented at the Opening Convocation ceremony each year, is given to members of the junior class who demonstrate, as the Knox College catalog describes, "exceptional ability both in scholarship pursuits and at least one extra-curricular activity."
When Cusimano and Meier, now seniors, found out about their honor over the summer, Cusimano's first impulse was to call Meier.
"I was thrilled to take part in another person's success," Cusimano said.
For Cusimano, a senior from Tinley Park, Illinois, it was a pleasant surprise to be nominated.
"I had no idea I was up for consideration, or that the award existed," Cusimano said.
Meier, a senior from Omaha, Nebraska, was aware of the award, but that didn't lessen the surprise.
"I'm that person who reads the entire catalog, so I had read that it was described as the highest honor faculty can award a student, and so that's really nice," Meier said. "It's justifying in a personal way to have faculty be able to support you so much and recognize what you've done."
"For example, if Andy Civettini (Knox assistant professor of political science) didn't exist, my research wouldn't exist, either," Meier said. "He's just been so helpful, and there are so many other professors who fall into that category that I could list."
Cusimano, a double-major in biochemistry and music, is currently working on an Honors project under Diana Cermak, professor of chemistry, that focuses on developing uses of lesquerella oil, an alternative to castor oil. He also agrees that Knox faculty members have been helpful in his academic endeavors.
"Knox excels in providing opportunities for students," Cusimano said. "The faculty is tremendously supportive, and they want to propel students forward in their education."
Cusimano (at right, making a presentation on his research) and Meier are active outside of academics, as well. Both are leaders of Mortar Board, with Cusimano serving as president and Meier as vice president.
"I think it's important to note that two Mortar Board members received the award," said Cusimano, who is also treasurer of Chemistry Club.
Meier, who has been involved with The Knox Student since her first year at Knox, is now editor-in-chief of the newspaper. She is also co-chair of the Honor Board, president of Model United Nations, and vice-president of the Knox Democrats.
"I do a few things," Meier joked. "Every once in a while, I get out of my room."
Cusimano has volunteered in a hospice during his time at Knox, and that experience is influencing the direction of his upcoming capstone project for his music major.
"I want to study how music therapy can benefit hospice patients, and possibly design a program that we can hopefully implement at the hospice," Cusimano said.
Cusimano had a summer 2012 research internship, funded by the National Science Foundation, at the University of Chicago's Department of Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology. He was one of eight people chosen from a pool of 500 applicants.
"I want to try as many different things as possible during my undergrad years to get a sense of what I really want to do in the future," Cusimano said.
Meier (at left, in Seymour Library) is in the midst of completing her international relations Honors project.
"I am looking at how societal contexts, cultural contexts influence one's predisposition to engage in terrorist activity. So there are psychological components, (and) there are sociological components," she said. "It's really complicated, and terrorism, in general, is a very complicated subject," Meier said.
Meier spent her summer working for the Project on Government Oversight in Washington, D.C.
"It is a non-partisan watchdog group that focuses on a wide range of government accountability issues, and I was focusing on national security and defense issues," Meier said. "With research and writing, it was a great experience."
Both Cusimano and Meier agree that to have their hard work pay off in the form of the Faculty Scholarship Prize was an honor.
"I am incredibly appreciative that faculty members have acknowledged how hard I've been working," Cusimano said. "And that's not to say that other students haven't been working hard as well, but it's always nice to get a nod."
Meier added: "It felt like all the work that I had put in over the past four years meant something beyond my own personal satisfaction and meant something to other people as well."