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Student BOV Representative Szonyegi Wins ODU's Highest Honor for a Graduating Student

Petra Szonyegi, a student from Hungary who served as 2016-17 student representative for Old Dominion University's Board of Visitors, received the University's Kaufman Award during the Student Honors and Awards Dinner May 4.

The Kaufman Award, the highest honor given to a graduating student, includes a $10,000 cash award. Szonyegi, who is graduating with a 3.90 grade point average in international studies and political science, was selected from among eight finalists.

In addition to serving on the Board of Visitors, Szonyegi was a four-year member of the ODU Model United Nations, serving as president of the organization for the past school year. Szonyegi has also served as a resident assistant, a team leader for a 2016 alternative spring break trip and a mentee for the Women's Initiative Network.

"As an Old Dominion University high-achieving scholar and student leader, Petra exemplifies what it means to be an engaged Monarch citizen," said Ellen Neufeldt, the University's Vice President of Student Engagement & Enrollment Services.

In her letter of application for the award, Szonyegi wrote that she faced the biggest decision of her life to leave her native Hungary at age 17 to come to Old Dominion. "I could talk on and on about the countless opportunities I was fortunate to have here at ODU, but what I am most thankful for is that I found my second family; not once since I left my family have I felt alone here," she wrote.

Szonyegi chose Aaron Karp, lecturer in the Department of Political Science & Geography and director of ODU Model UN, as her inspirational faculty member.

The Kaufman Award runner-up, who also received a cash prize, was Armando Russell, an international business student from Virginia Beach who served as president of the social entrepreneurial organization ODU Enactus for two years. Russell chose Connie Merriman, associate dean of the Strome College of Business and faculty adviser for ODU Enactus, as his inspirational faculty member.

Other Kaufman Award finalists included Daphne Allen, Caitlin Bernadowski, Jazmine Mullen, Samuel Press and Brianna Posch of the College of Arts & Letters and Max Hall of the Strome College of Business.

The Kaufman Prize was established by Landmark Communications Inc., now known as Landmark Media Enterprises, to recognize graduating seniors who had an exceptional and constructive influence on the university, its students or the community by demonstrating the highest qualities of leadership and service.

Following Kaufman's example, all of the nominees demonstrated sustained participation in leadership of campus or community groups, an outstanding record of volunteer activities, and academic achievement or the achievement of a major task affecting the campus or community.

The Kaufman Prize Selection Committee interviews nominees and recommends to Old Dominion President John R. Broderick the person to receive the Kaufman Prize.

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