Statehouse ceremony to honor “29 Who Shine” May 10
The Massachusetts Department of Higher Education recently kicked off the 2012 college commencement season by announcing the student winners of the 29 Who Shine awards. These awards honor 29 outstanding public college and university graduates, one from each community college, state university and UMass campus in the state, for their academic achievement and community service.
|Courtney B. Gustafson will represent Fitchburg State at the 29 Who Shine event on May 10.|
Among this year’s honorees are five veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the first female African American firefighter in the city of Holyoke’s history, and an aspiring physician who designed and opened a free medical clinic for African immigrants in Worcester. The 29 Who Shine also include students who have co-founded environmental organizations; created community art and prison writing projects; and conducted research to inform the treatment of both hearing loss and childhood obesity. The students will be honored Thursday, May 10, at a State House ceremony attended by Gov. Patrick, state education officials, campus presidents, faculty and students.
“These exceptional students have earned the respect and admiration of the whole Commonwealth,” said Gov. Deval Patrick. "I look forward to seeing all the ways they will contribute to a better Massachusetts.”
“The collective brainpower of students like the 29 Who Shine is the Commonwealth’s biggest asset in the global competition for industry and jobs,” said Richard M. Freeland, Commissioner of Higher Education. “I am thrilled to see this level of achievement by our public college and university graduates.”
Each of Massachusetts’ 29 public college and university campuses selected its own honoree for the 29 Who Shine awards based on criteria established by the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education. Students were required to be residents of Massachusetts who had a strong academic record and a history of civic engagement.
Fitchburg State University will be represented by Courtney B. Gustafson.
Gustafson has been a standout scholar since her arrival at Fitchburg State University in 2008. Her cumulative GPA heading toward graduation this May is an astounding 3.99.
For Gustafson, a commuting student who was raised in Fitchburg, the journey to Fitchburg State began as one of access; this was a college education she could afford. But it became much more as she realized the opportunities and experiences that were available to a motivated student.
Gustafson balanced a demanding class schedule with work in Fitchburg State’s Office of Student Development, where she quickly rose to a managerial position. She also held down a second off-campus job. She has been a member of the English honor society, wrote for the student newspaper and was selected for leadership development programs offered by the university. This spring, Gustafson has added an internship at the Worcester Telegram & Gazette to her already full workload.
She has also endeavored to make a difference on campus. With fully half of the undergraduate population commuting to the university, Gustafson decided the group needed a voice. She founded the Commuter Club in her second year and oversaw the development of programs catering to this population. The club continues to thrive.
Gustafson’s advocacy and curiosity transcend the campus, however. She is in her second semester volunteering at the Shirley State Prison, where she teaches a writing course to inmates. With another student, under the direction of Professor Ian Williams, Gustafson designed a syllabus and curriculum for the course and put together lesson plans and assignments for 17 men in the prison.
Gustafson has been accepted into an MA/PhD program in English rhetoric and composition at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where she has also been offered a teaching assistantship and a fellowship to cover her fees. She plans to continue teaching writing after earning her advanced degree.