Two Seniors Win Carlow University’s Highest Academic Honor

University Communications For Immediate Release
Drew Wilson, Director, Media Relations
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Lacie McDonald and Stephanie Provenzale Receive Joseph G. Smith Award, Named after Former Board Chair

Pittsburgh, Pa. – For the second time in Carlow University’s history, two students have earned the institution’s highest academic honor.  Carlow seniors Lacie McDonald and Stephanie Provenzale were each presented with the Joseph G. Smith Award for Academic Achievement and Distinguished Service by Carlow’s president, Suzanne Mellon, PhD, at the school’s Honors Convocation on April 2.

McDonald, a non-traditional student, financed her education by working 30 hours per week with a Pittsburgh law firm, Ainsman, Levine, and Drexler.  She lives in Pittsburgh’s Bloomfield neighborhood, but is originally from Indiana, Pa., and is a sociology major with a double minor in political science and women’s studies.  She has a 3.938 grade point average, which includes grades of A+ in several upper level courses, and has been on the Dean’s List each semester since she transferred to Carlow.

“When Dr. Mellon was reading the short biography about my accomplishments, it provided me with the opportunity to truly reflect upon my journey,” said McDonald, who labeled the award as a complete surprise.  “After four years of regular 16 hour days, I have certainly experienced my share of moments of self-doubt, pure exhaustion, and most often over-analyzed the question – ‘what does it really mean?’ The Joseph G. Smith Award has given me an answer.  My motivation for success, while remaining dedicated to the causes I care most about, is worthy of recognition, and I am so thankful for this honor.”

During the fall semester, she led a group of students in the political science/sociology course, “Gender, Law, and Public Policy” on a consulting assignment with the Women’s Law Project where they instituted a survey to examine infant friendly policies in the workplace.  She continued this work, on her own, to complete the data collection and analysis and presented her findings at Scholarship Day 2014.

Following graduation, McDonald plans a gap year to continue her work as a domestic violence shelter advocate with the Center for Victims, and will move into the area of policy advocacy.  She is exploring the possibility of entering a joint master’s in public policy and law degree program, and hopes to become a university professor.

McDonald is a certified crisis counselor who has been active in the area of victims’ services, working for several years in Indiana and Allegheny counties with women who were victims of domestic and intimate partner violence.  She volunteered as a “hotline crisis counselor” with the Alice Paul House, Indiana, PA, where she provided telephone crisis counseling, and currently works with the Center for Victims as a Domestic Violence Shelter Advocate.  This work requires her to work with the women in the shelters to provide emotional support, employment counseling, and safety planning.

She represented Carlow at the Public Leadership Education Network seminar on Women, Law, and Public Policy in Washington, DC, in November 2013, and has served as a tutor for students in two courses in political science and sociology.

In addition, McDonald volunteered with the Girl Scouts of America to lead an empowerment program for middle school-aged girls.

Provenzale, from Cranberry Twp., is originally from Mentor, Ohio.  She has a 3.932 Grade Point Average, and has been on the dean’s list every semester.  A double major in creative writing and professional writing, with minors in theater and history, she says the award came as a total surprise to her because, while she had worked hard during her years at Carlow, so had many other students.

“I just thought that what I was doing everyday was the same as everyone else, and I was prepared to leave Carlow University silently,” said Provenzale.  “I couldn’t believe that I had won the award.  I felt so honored.  I was actually shaking when Dr. Mellon handed me the award.  She held out her hand for me to shake it, which I did, but I then pulled her in for a hug.  I figured I wouldn’t get that opportunity again. Receiving this award solidified for me the idea that hard work really does pay off.”

During her academic career, Provenzale received several scholarships and awards, including the Paul Emmanuel Paul Scholarship, the Humanities Endowment Scholarship, the William Patrick McShea Scholarship, the Jane Candia Coleman Award in Fiction, and the English Department’s Award for Excellence in Creative Writing.

She has participated in study abroad programs to enhance her educational experience, traveling to Ireland, Germany, Poland, and the Czech Republic in 2011 and 2012.

Provenzale helped develop a grant proposal for the Millvale Library that was awarded $42,000 from the McCune Foundation to install heating, ventilation, and air conditioning units for the library, and has also helped develop a proposal for $500,000 for a consortium to proactively address violence against women on college campuses.

She served as an intern at the Robinson Memorial Hospital Medical Library where she helped create a policy manual for the library, worked on collection development for the consumer health collection, and wrote proposals for the hospital’s walking trail, interactive exhibit, and oral history project.

This internship was especially influential for her, as she plans to attend Kent State University in the fall for their Master’s program in library and information science.

Provenzale is a member of the English honor society, Sigma Tau Delta, and also participated in various fundraising projects.  She also served on the editorial staff and as editor in chief for The Carlow Chronicle; served as president of the Low Writers, a Carlow creative writing group; and was active in performing and directing with the Carlow University Theatre Group.

The Joseph G. Smith Award, Carlow’s highest academic honor, is named for the former chair of the Board of Trustees, who served on Carlow’s board for three decades.  This honor recognizes a graduating senior for academic distinction, community service,  and service to the Carlow community.

As recipients of this year’s Smith award, McDonald and Provenzale will give the student address at Carlow’s Spring Commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 10, 2014, at 1 p.m. in Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall in Oakland.

About Carlow University

Located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Carlow University was founded by the Sisters of Mercy in 1929. Offering both undergraduate and graduate programs, Carlow University is a comprehensive master’s institution dedicated to learner-centered education at the collegiate levels and at the elementary school level in the Campus School of Carlow University.

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