Chancellor's Award medal

Three Buffalo State University Students Receive SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence


Buffalo State University proudly recognizes three exemplary students who have been awarded the 2024 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 11 at the Albany Capital Center in Albany, New York. Buffalo State’s winners will again be recognized during the university’s 152nd Commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 18, in the campus Sports Arena. 

Uttam Lakshmi Mounika Goruganthu

1:00 p.m. Ceremony | School of Arts and Sciences

Headshot of Mounika Goruganthu

Mounika Goruganthu has earned a master of science in data science and analytics (DSA), attaining a 4.0 GPA while successfully making the leap from her prior career as an experimental biologist to the world of code, mathematics, and machine learning.

Goruganthu continually displays a learning spirit and delivers excellent work. She is extremely proficient in communicating technical information in an engaging and effective manner, showcasing her command of the tools and concepts of data science and analytics while demonstrating initiative, creativity, and concern for legal and ethical perspectives.

As a graduate assistant, she provides academic support and mentorship to DSA students through one-on-one guidance, assisting fellow students in understanding subject matter and coursework. She offers special care and assistance for international students as they navigate life abroad, address language barriers, and bridge the cultural gap. She also actively engaged in streamlining communication by launching a Discord server for DSA and updating departmental websites to enhance interaction among students and faculty, facilitating the dissemination of information, announcements, opportunities, and resources.

Goruganthu has successfully translated lessons from the classroom into powerful real-world applications. Her contributions include securing funding to develop a GPT-powered data retrieval system, thereby democratizing data insights regardless of coding and technical expertise. In addition, she worked with the university’s Maurene Callahan Bouras Center for Global Engagement to conduct a comprehensive analysis of study-abroad and international student survey data, which will lead to the improvement of key programs.

As an aspiring data scientist with a biology background, she strives to use her skills in fun and unconventional ways. She believes in blending the joys of discovery with the rigors of science, making every challenge a learning opportunity. She is driven to enable a democratic, equitable, inclusive, and accessible data culture in the era of AI and data-centric life.

Seth G. Rueger

1:00 p.m. Ceremony | School of Arts and Sciences

Headshot of Seth Rueger

Seth Rueger has earned a bachelor of arts in international relations, attaining a 3.97 GPA while effectively balancing his academic obligations with his service as an all-source intelligence analyst noncommissioned officer for the 107th Attack Wing of the New York Air National Guard. He is an exceptional student who exhibits strong communication and problem-solving skills and inspires peers to share in the pursuit of academic excellence.

Although he has a wide range of research interests and can thoughtfully discuss any political topic, his specific research area of interest is the relationship between political and economic institutions and conflict onset. He conducted a cross-spatial, cross-temporal statistical analysis to test his theoretical expectations and developed a proposal for the Midwest Political Science Association Conference to present his findings. He is also developing his work for possible publication. He has shown his ability to skillfully apply knowledge learned in the classroom to real-world issues.

Rueger serves as a teaching assistant for political analysis and statistics courses. He was recruited for this position based on his demonstrated willingness to help his peers identify causal mechanisms relevant to their theories and help improve their research designs. He also serves as a student representative on the School of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Student Council, working on initiatives to improve student experiences.

A campus leader with an insatiable interest in global affairs, Rueger helped organize a successful Model European Union simulation event at the SUNY Global Center in New York City in spring 2023 for domestic and international college students. He was a member of the university’s Model European Union team. In addition, he participated in an international joint military exercise in 2022.

A dean’s list student and Eagle Scout, he is a member of the Phi Theta Kappa international college honor society and the Pi Sigma Alpha national honor society for political science, and has trained at the Defense Intelligence Agency. Rueger embodies the university’s mission through his leadership, character, and intellectual curiosity. He will be continuing his education at Clemson University for a master’s degree in data science and analytics.

Catherine J. Sarich

1:00 p.m. Ceremony | School of Arts and Sciences

Headshot of Catherine Sarich

Catherine Sarich has earned a bachelor of arts in psychology with a minor in coaching, attaining a 4.0 GPA while participating as a member of the Muriel A. Howard Honors Program and the Psychology Department’s Hulicka Scholars Program for high-achieving students. She is a standout student-athlete who serves as co-captain of the women’s ice hockey team and was recognized on the NCAA’s Spring 2023 Academic All-District Team.

A dean’s list student, Sarich has achieved academic distinction at the highest levels, challenging herself with multiple honors-level learning experiences. Of note, she completed a two-semester, 6-credit-hour honors thesis on a new conceptualization and measurement of the burnout concept that required advanced statistical research and a defense before a faculty committee. Her research excellence in her area of interest—burnout and retention in athletics—led to a position as a research assistant with David McDuff, well-known sports psychiatrist and mental preparation trainer for the Baltimore Orioles, on an ongoing study examining burnout in athletic trainers.

On campus, Sarich serves as a teaching intern for research methods and senior seminar courses, the department’s two most rigorous mandatory courses. She is also an active member of a faculty-led research lab on campus, where she has pursued training in several high-level statistical approaches that are typically taught in graduate programs. In addition, she is a member of the Psi Chi international honor society in psychology.

As a student-athlete, Sarich has provided a steady presence as she worked with her team’s coaches and players to create a successful culture. Part of that culture centered on community service; she volunteered with teammates at Buffalo’s Backyard Classic, an annual outdoor hockey tournament that raises funds for children’s charities. She also participated in a hockey outreach program with her travel hockey team to promote women’s hockey in the United Arab Emirates.

Sarich is focused, creative, and passionate about her research and plans to pursue graduate studies in industrial and organizational psychology. Her willingness to engage with complex theory and advanced statistical techniques will enable her to make significant contributions to her field of study.

Photos by Jesse Steffan-Colucci, Buffalo State photographer.