"A sense of pride and accomplishment" - 2023 Outstanding Senior Isabelle LaBelle
"The award brings a sense of pride and accomplishment as it represents years of learning, growth, and overcoming challenges. The recognition also comes with a sense of responsibility."
Each year, the Utica University Alumni Council recognizes distinguished alumni, faculty, students, and friends of the University who personify the University's commitment to excellence and service, bringing distinction to themselves and to our alma mater.
Many Utica graduates have gone on to achieve outstanding heights in their chosen careers. Alumni, friends, and students also assume leadership roles, volunteering their time and effort to the University.
This year, Utica University honors Isabelle LaBelle ‘23 - a physics major with a double minor in mathematics and chemistry. Isabella took some time out of her busy schedule to chat about her recognition.
How does it feel to be awarded this year's Outstanding Senior?
I am truly honored to receive this year’s Outstanding Senior Award. This recognition is meaningful to me as it acknowledges the hard work, dedication, and perseverance I have put into my academic career. It reflects my academic pursuits, extracurricular involvement, leadership roles, and the relationships I have built along the way. The award brings a sense of pride and accomplishment as it represents years of learning, growth, and overcoming challenges. The recognition also comes with a sense of responsibility. Being named this year’s Outstanding Senior motivates me to continue striving for excellence, pushing my boundaries, and pursuing my passions to make a difference. I would like like to express my gratitude to the selection committee, my family, professors, mentors, and friends who have supported me and guided me throughout my journey. Their belief and unwavering support have played a major role in my success. Overall, I am truly grateful for this recognition and looking forward to using this honor to continue to make a positive impact in the next chapter of my life.
What has been your greatest accomplishment while attending Utica University?
My greatest accomplishment in terms of academics is getting accepted into an REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) at Cornell University and graduating from Utica University with a BS in Physics and minors in both Chemistry and Mathematics.
My greatest accomplishment in terms of the Utica University community is starting the Society of Physics Students (SPS) at Utica University. I have been the President of SPS for the last two years and we have accomplished many great things. We have done several outreach projects at local libraries and schools, held Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in Science (JEDIS) Seminar talks, and hosted movie nights on campus. All these events allow us to share our passion for physics and encourage others to learn and become more interested in Science.
What advice would you give to incoming students and/or current Utica students?
Advice that I would give to an incoming student or a current Utica student is to embrace opportunities for growth, seek support and build relationships. Take advantage of the opportunities presented to you and step out of your comfort zone. During my time at Utica University, I was offered several Eboard positions, such as President of the Society of Physics Students and President of the Residence Hall Association. This allowed me to enhance my communication and presentation skills. In addition, I was offered a position to serve as a student representative for the search committee for hiring a new physics professor. This gave me a new perspective on the importance of matching faculty while supporting the students’ needs. My involvement on campus helped me not only grow as a student but also as a person. These experiences will broaden your horizons, help form new skills and make lifelong connections. Throughout my time at Utica University, I encountered several bumps in the road, but by seeking support from my professors, I was able to overcome these challenges. Building connections with your peers and professors is important in realizing that you are not alone, forming a supportive community, and providing a sense of belonging.
How will you stay involved as an alumna of Utica?
I plan on staying involved as an alumna of Utica University through alumni events, volunteer opportunities, mentor programs, and staying informed. Every year Utica University hosts an Alumni/Homecoming Weekend, which I plan to attend and volunteer at. These events provide a valuable platform to connect with my former colleagues, expand my network and stay connected with Utica University. I am currently a member of the Alumni Leaders of Tomorrow (ALOT) which I plan to stay involved in after graduation. I would love to mentor Utica University students, whether it is physic’s students or students who encountered challenges and need mentorship. Mentoring allows me to share my experiences, offer guidance, and provide support, empowering and inspiring the next generation of students as they navigate their education and career journeys.
Who is your best faculty connection and why?
My best faculty connection is with the physics department: Dr. Turkakin and Dr. Gaffney. Dr. Turkakin and Dr. Gaffney are supportive of my academic endeavors and provide continuous guidance. Dr. Turkakin has been my research mentor and gave me the opportunity to be President of Utica University’s Society of Physics Students. This experience has allowed me to continue to grow as a person and share my passion for physics with a larger community. I was given the opportunity to do demonstrations for elementary to high school students and hear about other scientists’ career journeys and experiences within their field. Dr. Turkakin allowed me to join her in research on the Stability of Supra Arcade Downflows (SADs) and Bursty Bulk Flows (BBFs). This gave me the opportunity to present at the American Geophysical Union Conference. She has helped me perform outside my comfort zone and recognize my success.
What are your favorite resources/hidden gems of Utica University?
My favorite hidden gem of Utica University is the Society of Physics Students (SPS) room. I have spent most of my senior year in the SPS room doing research and homework. It is a great way to stay connected with other physics students and build relationships. One of my favorite resources at Utica University is the Career Center. I used my career coach, Alexis Racioppa to help me apply for REUs (Research Experience for Undergraduate) and graduate schools.
-interview conducted by Ashlea Schad
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