Chancellor's Award medal

Three Buffalo State Students Receive SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence


Buffalo State University proudly recognizes three exemplary students who have been awarded the 2023 SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence, the highest student honor bestowed by the State University of New York. The Chancellor’s Award recognizes students who have integrated academic excellence with distinguished achievement in areas such as community service, campus involvement, creative and performing arts, athletics, entrepreneurship, leadership, and career achievement.

The Chancellor’s Awards for Student Excellence were officially awarded by SUNY during a ceremony on April 24 in Albany, New York. Buffalo State’s winners will again be recognized during the university’s 151st Commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 20.

9:00 a.m. Ceremony | School of the Professions

Head shot of Miggie Wong

Miggie K. Wong
Miggie Wong has earned a master of science in creativity and change leadership, attaining a 3.96 GPA while working full time as a development associate at the Burchfield Penney Art Center (BPAC). In her role at BPAC, she leads the membership program and assists with visitor and member engagement, events, and fundraising.

Wong has performed exceptionally well academically and excelled in every aspect of her career, demonstrating that it is possible to balance the two responsibilities through hard work and focus.

Her academic research has focused on the intersection of creativity and mental health and how creative experiences can mitigate the effects of trauma. Through her research, she has been able to articulate specific ways in which engagement in the creative process can help people advance their own coping skills in response to traumatic experiences. She aspires to share the tools of creative problem solving to help people with mental challenges related to anxiety and panic disorders. In addition to her master’s program work, she has earned microcredentials in applied creative thinking and problem solving and creative education.

A talented mentor, Wong has shared her expertise by providing creative problem-solving facilitation for undergraduate students in the course CRS 205: Foundations in Creative Thinking. She has also translated learning modules into Cantonese for Creativity and Education and assisted in facilitating a National Science Foundation–funded Ideas Lab for the American Society for Engineering Education.

An accomplished artist, Wong has showcased her work in exhibitions and media platforms in Hong Kong, California, and Western New York. She published her first book, 14 Days Quarantine Meal Drawing Project, after visiting her native Hong Kong in 2021. She has received the American Association of University Women’s Career Development Grant for women of color pursuing their first advanced degree in traditional fields, the SUNY Graduate Diversity Fellowship, and a 2023 merit-based scholarship.

1:00 p.m. Ceremony | School of Education

Head shot of Mikala Highsmith

Mikala A. Highsmith
Mikala Highsmith has earned a bachelor of science in career and technical education, attaining a 4.0 GPA while operating her own bakery business and working full time.

Highsmith is a conscientious, hardworking, and dedicated student and a humble ambassador for the university. Always positive and upbeat, she seamlessly applied course content to her own teaching practice. Her instructors noted that she did not study for the sake of a grade; instead, she studied because it would make her a more effective teacher.

An accomplished business owner and entrepreneur who started Kala’s Kreations bakery at age 14, Highsmith has also worked as a pastry chef at DoubleTree by Hilton and Salvatore’s Italian Gardens. While culinary activity is her passion, teaching is her calling. An aspiring culinary arts instructor, she has served as a substitute teacher of baking and pastry at Erie 1 BOCES since 2021, working with high school students with special needs. In addition, she recently began a new role as an adjunct instructor at Niagara County Community College’s Niagara Falls Culinary Institute. She also coaches high school students who compete in annual national competitions hosted by SkillsUSA, a career and technical student organization. She sees culinary education as a pathway to broader learning and plans to open a community center where kids and teens can cook, bake, and collaborate.

Dedicated to the greater Buffalo community, she has been a youth coach and community activist offering free culinary classes at special education centers and donating cupcakes to the Juneteenth Festival of Buffalo and Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Highsmith transferred to Buffalo State after receiving her associate’s degree from SUNY Alfred State. A recipient of the Dr. G. Wesley Ketcham Scholarship, she is a member of Tau Sigma, the national honor society for transfer students, and Kappa Delta Pi, the national honor society for educators.

5:00 p.m. Ceremony | School of Arts and Sciences

Head shot of Maimouna Samba

Maimouna A. Samba
Maimouna Samba has earned a bachelor of arts in international relations, attaining a 3.92 GPA while minoring in legal studies and participating in the university’s Muriel A. Howard Honors Program.

Samba embodies the critically curious and caring character that defines Buffalo State’s mission. She is a mature, critical thinker who is able to apply the knowledge learned in the classroom to real-world issues. Her research and communication skills are superior, and she takes pleasure in leading and facilitating discussions among her peers about challenging issues in U.S. and international politics.

A research assistant in the Early Undergraduate Research Opportunity program, she has presented her findings on democratization and causes of democratic backsliding at Buffalo State’s Student Research and Creativity Conference. In addition, she conducted independent research on refugee integration and asylum seekers in Kenya and Uganda. While in Uganda, she volunteered as a reading teacher at a local school and helped start recreational and educational programs for women and girls.

Samba is an aspiring diplomat who has a passion for studying comparative political institutions with a regional focus on Africa and advocacy for the education of women in Sub-Saharan Africa. She is a member of Pi Sigma Alpha, the national honor society for political science.

A natural leader, she serves as president of the Student Political Society, sergeant at arms of the Pan-African Students Organization, and building manager of the Campbell Student Union. In addition, she has interned with the International Institute of Buffalo, where she helped local refugees improve their experiences living in Western New York, and the Erie County Executive’s Office, where she worked on intergovernmental affairs and community outreach across Erie County.

Chancellor's Award photo: Onondaga Community College.