SANS students receiving top honors, from left, are Fabiola Beauvoir, Almazi Matthews and Kennedy Holder pictured with Dr. Moses T. Kairo, dean of the School of Agricultural and Natural Sciences at UMES.

The academic prowess of students was celebrated today at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore’s 71st annual Honors Convocation. The university paused undergraduate classes for faculty, staff and students to share in the occasion recognizing those who achieved dean’s list for the 2023 fall and spring semesters (minimum 3.5 GPA), along with departmental distinction (minimum 3.7 GPA) and special honors for the calendar year. A coveted “Award of Excellence” was presented to the most outstanding student in each of the university’s Schools.

The top honor for the School of Agricultural and Natural Sciences was awarded to Kennedy Holder, (at right), a senior majoring in human ecology with a concentration in child development. Holder was also the recipient of the departmental honor for human ecology.

“Kennedy consistently gives her full effort and thought to each discussion, assignment, project and examination, which is reflected in her high grade point average,” Dr. Grace Namwamba, chair of UMES’ Department of Human Ecology, wrote in her nomination letter. “While high academic achievement may be a sufficient goal, Kennedy also set her sights on personal growth through leadership.”

Holder is a leader in the Human Ecology Club and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. She also “demonstrates a faithful work ethic and performance” as a student worker with the UMES Child and Family Development Center, having joined the staff in 2022.

The native of Germantown, Maryland, went the extra mile when she changed her winter session plans, returning to campus three weeks early in order to help fill the center’s staffing needs. Following graduation, Holder plans on pursuing an online master’s degree in human ecology in the child development track at UMES.

The “Award of Excellence” recognizes demonstrated leadership, outstanding academic work, integrity, the ability to work with peers, the potential for continued scholarly work and evidence of overcoming physical or personal obstacles to earn a degree.

Departmental Honors

For its departmental honor recipient, the Department of Agriculture, Food and Resource Sciences selected Almazi Matthews of Waldorf, Maryland. Matthews, a senior majoring in general agriculture with a concentration in agricultural studies, is a U.S. Department of Agriculture 1890 National Scholar and member of the Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences.  

As an undergraduate researcher, she worked with research assistant professor Corrie Cotton on agronomic crops, food safety and horticultural research projects.

“She is prompt, dependable, works well with others and has a lot of gardening and landscape maintenance experience that she applied to an independent study on intensive gardening,” Cotton said. “She also has a strong interest in urban gardening and participated in the Costa Rica Study Abroad Program this past summer.”

Matthews’ professional activities included the 2023 Norman E. Borlaug International Dialogue in Des Moines, Iowa. She is also part of the first cohort of the Global Orientation to Agriculture Learning program, a multi-institutional and disciplinary team of students.

 Fabiola Beauvoir, a senior majoring in biology, was chosen as the honoree for the Department of Natural Sciences.

Growing up in a poverty-stricken area of Haiti where cholera and tuberculosis are prevalent, Beauvoir observed health disparities between communities of different economic means, fueling her determination to become a physician assistant. She plans on enrolling in UMES’ Physician Assistant program in fall 2025.

Beauvoir has overcome obstacles to achieve success at UMES, including English as a second language.  

“Fabiloa’s story has been an inspiration to many people from her socio-cultural background, particularly on the UMES campus where she has become a mentor to others to be successful,” Dr. Mobolaji Okulate, professor of microbiology, wrote in her recommendation letter.

A Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation assistantship helped the budding scientist attend college while providing basic skills in biomedical research that she has presented at regional and national conferences. She conducted undergraduate research with Dr. Tracy Bell, an associate professor of biology and LSAMP program coordinator, on insulin reception in Zebrafish. In the Bell lab, Beauvoir learned zebrafish husbandry, how to dissect zebrafish to extract genomic DNA, and how to perform DNA electrophoresis and PCR reactions.  

Gail Stephens, agricultural communications, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, School of Agricultural and Natural Sciences, UMES Extension, 410-621-3850,

Photos by Todd Dudek, agricultural communications, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, School of Agricultural and Natural Sciences, UMES Extension,

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