Trine recognizes Distinguished Students for Class of 2021

May 05, 2021

Trine University has named Alexander Pessell, a biomedical engineering major from Arcadia, Ohio, as the winner of its Robert B. Stewart Award for its Class of 2021.

The university also has named Distinguished Students from each of its academic schools.

The Robert B. Stewart Award is presented to the graduate who most clearly exemplifies the traditions and values of Trine University through achievement in scholarship, leadership and citizenship. Each academic school at Trine nominates a graduating senior for this award; Pessell represented the Allen School of Engineering and Computing.

Pessell maintained a 4.0 grade point average during his time at Trine. He completed a research experience for undergraduates (REU) during the summer of 2019 at the University of Maryland, and has been involved with research for Blaire Biomedical, a local company developing a handheld device that performs blood tests when linked to a smartphone.

He also was part of a group at Trine that worked on a research project funded by the Indiana Space Grant Consortium. Pessell wrote the application that was accepted for the grant funding.

He has presented research posters at Trine University’s STEM Symposium, the Biomedical Engineering Society national conference, the International Conference on Miniaturized Systems for Chemistry and Life Sciences, and the Food and Drug Administration.

Pessell has served as a resident director and resident assistant at Trine. He is part of the Tau Beta Pi engineering honor society, is past social media chair for Trine’s chapter of the Biomedical Engineering Society, serves on the Recruitment and Selection and Immersion Excursion committees for the Ehinger Fellows, and serves as president of Trine’s Alpha Eta Mu Beta biomedical engineering honor society, which he founded.

He serves as treasurer for Skull and Bones and vice president of Trine Thunder Ultimate Frisbee. He also played baseball at Trine for three years.

Off-campus, he volunteers at Cameron Memorial Community Hospital.

He was recently selected for the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP). The oldest STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fellowship program in the United States, the GRFP, through a competitive selection process, recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees.

The Fellowship will support Pessell’s Ph.D. research in biomedical engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

Other Trine University Distinguished Students included Kennedy Brough, an English education and special education major from Fort Wayne, Indiana, representing the Franks School of Education; Roopa Singh, a psychology major from Constantine, Michigan, representing the College of Graduate and Professional Studies; Ross Kirkton, a business administration and marketing major from Middlebury, Indiana, representing the Ketner School of Business; Jessica Griffioen, an English major from Sturgis, Michigan, representing the Jannen School of Arts and Sciences; and Sybil Kurian, an exercise science-pre Doctor of Physical Therapy major from Elkhart, Indiana, representing the Rinker-Ross School of Health Sciences.

Kennedy Brough

Brough is the first Franks School of Education graduate to earn a dual license in English language arts education and special education for mild interventions. She completed her degree at Trine with a 4.0 grade point average.

Brough has served as a resident assistant at Trine since 2018. She has served as vice president and president of the Theta Phi Alpha sorority, and directed the Big Man on Campus event in 2020, raising nearly $13,000 for breast cancer research.

She has worked for Phoenix Associates, which provides mental health and behavioral health services, for four years. She also earned the Next Generation Hoosier Educators Scholarship due to her high academic achievement and desire to teach in Indiana schools.

Roopa Singh

Singh was the first to graduate high school in her family, and is the first to attend college and complete a degree. She has maintained a 3.915 grade point average and is taking courses at the graduate level.

She currently works at the Therapy Research Autism Center as a behavioral technician, implementing plans for children on the autism spectrum to bring them up where they need to be socially and academically. Her goal is to continue working with children, either in education or as a criminal psychologist.

Ross Kirkton

Kirkton will complete a Master of Business Administration this spring at Trine in addition to his undergraduate degree. He has a 3.965 grade point average.

He serves as vice president of finance for the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity and is a member of the Ehinger Fellows. He worked as a commercial credit intern at STAR Financial and, following that experience, hopes to become a commercial credit underwriter or commercial banker.

Jessica Griffioen

Griffioen, who has maintained a 4.0 grade point average at Trine, has provided extensive media support to the campus and community.

She was part of a group that produced a video used on social media to support the 2020 adoption campaign for the Steuben County Humane Shelter, and produced digital assets for the shelter’s 2021 virtual fundraising campaign, in addition to working during the event itself. 

She produced and provided voicework for radio advertisements for both candidates in the most recent Angola mayoral election, and produced campaign videos for each candidate’s social media. 

She has provided voicework and production for the Trine Talk podcast and produced and contributed to videos that promoted the Department of Humanities and Communications on the Trine Broadcasting Network. She also is leading a team of students to create a video welcoming new admissions to Trine’s communications degree program.

Sybil Kurian

Kurian has maintained a 4.0 grade point average through an accelerated undergraduate program at Trine that has earned her direct admission to the university’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program.

She has served as an officer in Trine’s International Student Organization and assisted with International Night programs. She also has promoted diversity programs while at Trine and served as a member of the Health Science Association member.

She has volunteered with Doctor of Physical Therapy research projects and completed numerous volunteer physical therapy hours.

  • Alexander Pessell

    Alexander Pessell - Robert B. Stewart Award

  • Kennedy Brough

    Kennedy Brough - Franks School of Education

  • Sybil Kurian

    Sybil Kurian - Rinker-Ross School of Health Sciences

  • Roopa Singh

    Roopa Singh - College of Graduate and Professional Studies

  • Ross Kirkton

    Ross Kirkton - Ketner School of Business

  • Jessica Griffioen

    Jessica Griffioen - Jannen School of Arts and Sciences

Last Updated: 05/05/2021

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