School of Arts and Sciences Honors Top Students

Awards for excellence in nine categories were conferred on students of all SAS departments.

By Hanan Nasser

The students honored at the ceremony with Dean Nashat Mansour and Chairperson of the Department of Communications Arts Jad Melki (C).
Computer Science and Mathematics department project by Charbel Hanna.
Winners of the Best Capstone Project in Nutrition: Roza Talabany, Antonella Karam, Taima Bountoktzi and Vanessa Moussa.
Psychology capstone: Maram Kamar.
Translation capstone: Takla Al Katoul Al Rahbani.

The students lined up, chatting enthusiastically, barely containing their excitement. The parents found their places and waited in anticipation. The professors brimmed with pride as their students were honored at the School of Arts and Sciences’ 2018 Annual Awards Ceremony this month in Irwin Hall Auditorium. A similar ceremony was held at the Byblos campus.

The awards were given for excellence in nine categories to students in SAS’s seven departments: highest GPA for non-graduating students, best capstone projects, best discipline-related community service, best program related volunteer service, best student innovation, best undergraduate scientific research, best improvement in GPA, best creative writing, and recognition of students who won awards at regional or international competitions.

“While the university recognizes the achievements of its honor students based on their GPA, we at the School of Arts and Sciences have decided to also recognize students for their efforts to improve, for their services to the community and to the university on top of their academic achievements,” Assistant Dean Samer Habre said at the beginning of the ceremony.

Addressing the students, Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences Nashat Mansour said: “I take this opportunity to thank the faculty for doing their best to provide our precious students with an excellent education, to thank our staff for their tireless efforts to support the educational process, and, I underline, to thank the parents, who make a lot of sacrifices to educate their daughters and sons.”

Mansour underlined that education was not only a means for employment. “Be the leaders and the critical thinkers who will firmly stand against tribalism and sectarianism. Be the leaders who will lead in advocating and building a citizen-based state and citizen-based society.”  

One by one, and to cheers from the packed auditorium, each student received the award from the chairpersons of the departments and program coordinators.

The ceremony came a few days after graduating students from SAS’ seven departments presented their capstone projects and senior presentations in Beirut and Byblos.

Nutrition students Taima Bountoktzi, Antonella Karam, Roza Talabany and Vanessa Moussa won best capstone project from the Nutrition Program for their project, titled “Effects of Social Media Use in Body Image and Eating Behavior in Pregnant Women.”

“Since we know that social media is negatively affecting the nutritional intake of people, we wanted to look into pregnant women specifically,” said Bountoktzi.

Through their study, the young women checked the dietary intake of 110 pregnant women and asked them how confident they were about their body image.

“We noticed that they were aware of eating healthy. But they were mainly worried about getting back to their pre-pregnant weight,” a concern, the study found, that was increased by social media pressure.

Education graduate Lara Khoury, who also had the highest GPA in her class, won one of the awards for best capstone project, in which she investigated why university students switch majors.

The ultimate objective behind the study was to “suggest some solutions in order to decrease confusion and guide them through the process of major changing,” she said.  

Among the reasons, she found, were low grades, which students “link to their abilities. They think that if they get low grades, they are not competent enough,” she said. Family pressure was another factor, in addition to “interest mismatch.”

Khoury recommends that universities or schools introduce preparatory courses for students to complete before choosing a major.

One of the Computer Science program’s winning capstone projects was by Omar Farhat, whose project, “UAVS for Rescue and Disaster Management: A Practical Approach for Accurately Localizing Survivors and Helping Them,” aims at saving lives in a disaster situation or when vehicles are unable to reach a destroyed area. “The purpose is to send drones, as an alternative to sending cars,” Farhat said. “Just by sending drones you can locate the users and find a path.”

These students, along with the day’s other award winners, beamed as they stood before a cheering crowd, ready to move on to their next big celebration: their commencement in June.