2019 Maize & Blue Award Recipients UM-Flint Recognizes Exceptional Students



The Maize and Blue Distinguished Scholarship Award is the highest academic honor bestowed upon graduates of the University of Michigan. Students who have earned at least 58 credit hours at UM-Flint with an overall GPA of 3.75 or better in all completed credits earned are eligible to be nominated for the Maize and Blue Award. In addition, students who meet the above GPA requirement then are considered with regard to the following criteria:

Intellectual Maturity and Depth • Character • Talent

Service to the Department, University, or Community

University departments are then notified of students in their academic programs who are eligible for the award and professors in these departments can nominate students accordingly.

Here, these exceptional students share their thoughts about UM-Flint in their personal statements submitted for consideration by the Scholarships, Awards and Special Events Committee.

Bilal M. Ali

Bachelor of Science – Molecular Biology / Biotechnology

Fenton, MI

My experiences inside and outside of the hospital and classroom at UM-Flint have enhanced my passion for serving others in a warm-hearted practice, nurtured my curiosity surrounding the nature of the human body, and heightened my understanding of the patient experience, which will allow me to succeed in pursuing my career goal of becoming a physician.

In balancing my time between academics, extra-curricular activities, and volunteering, I have polished my ability to prioritize and manage my time in ways that will be greatly beneficial on my path to becoming a physician. At UM-Flint, I had the honor of having numerous professors who treated me as much as a peer as a student, maximizing my learning experience. The honors program and Dr. Thum have provided me with the tools, mentorship and skills to succeed in the real world.

I have been blessed to have been accepted into medical school starting in the fall of 2019. The communication, time management, and team-building skills I learned at UM-Flint have shaped me into a well-rounded individual and will undoubtedly aid me on my journey through medical school and my future career in the field of medicine.

Charis R. Clark

Bachelor of Science – Economics

Brown City, MI

On August 30, 2015 I started my adventure at the University of Michigan – Flint; that was the day that I moved into First Street Residence Hall – and I was terrified. I had left my small farming town of Brown City and moved to a place filled with new people and a new atmosphere. Yet, instead of letting this fear stop me, I let it propel me into exciting opportunities at UM-Flint. These opportunities would allow me to build lasting relationships, cement my career plan and develop a sense of community.

My academic initiative, leadership and communication skills matured through my colloquia papers, volunteer service and tutoring opportunities at UM-Flint. Additionally, my experiences with the National Student Exchange program and the EDA Center have clarified skills that I hope to use in the business fields of Economics and Finance. My hands-on experience in economics with creating an asset map and the cross-cultural influence of my courses will provide me with insightful approaches to use as I pursue a career in economic and financial analysis.

Tyrice J. Denson

Bachelor of Arts – Political Science

Burton, MI

While studying at the University of Michigan-Flint, I challenged my beliefs, acquired knowledge, established meaningful relationships with instructors and peers, and gained a greater appreciation for the community that I will always call home. My time here has been of immense value and I will cherish my experience as I continue my academic and professional journey as an attorney.

As I move on to law school, I will retain the knowledge and the memories that I have gained as a student here. I will continue to cherish the relationships that have been built. I will be proud of what I accomplished at this great University, but I understand that graduation does not mark the end of my journey. I will become an attorney who understands the need for dedication to clients and compassion for their circumstances. This level of understanding stems from my education at UM-Flint. Every day, I will serve my clients in an effort to alleviate some stress in their lives. In the future, I aspire to serve as an inspiration and mentor to other students here. It is an honor to graduate from the University of Michigan.

Andrea J. Draheim

Bachelor of Science – Nursing

Flushing, MI

I was quiet, even timid, when I started my educational journey at the University of Michigan-Flint. Today, I enjoy addressing large groups of people, because we’re engaging on subjects of interest and importance to me and the audience. Over the course of my education, I learned much about myself, and grew both personally and professionally through my academic, clinical and volunteer experiences. In my time at the University, my instructors saw potential and helped pull me out of my shell, pushing me to always put forth my best effort. It has been exhilarating.

My challenging journey at the University of Michigan-Flint has shaped me into the best version of myself, with a dedication to community service and a devotion to continuing education.

Eucharia Ganda

Bachelor of Science –Computer Information Systems

Italy, Nigeria

My story begins in Nigeria, the country I was born in and whose spirit I carry with me every day. I grew up in Italy and developed a new sense of what community means to me, and eventually, following my high school graduation, I would journey to the United States to pursue my dreams of higher education.

Before UM-Flint, I attended Kellogg Community College where I got my Associate Degree in Business Management, and interned for the State of Michigan as a Quality Analyst. Having a new start at UM-Flint was so exciting and that excitement gave a strong semblance of community. From scholarships, job opportunities, leadership positions, to lifelong friendship, UM-Flint has given me the opportunity to grow personally and intellectually.

The professors I had were invested in student success and wanted students to not only do well in their classes, but lecture in an enjoyable environment. I’m grateful for the positive impact that several professors had on me.

From the beginning, I wanted to be a Business Analyst; but now, I can become a Database Designer, Tester, Data Analyst, User Experience (UX) and many more. UM-Flint, thank you for elevating me and truly believing in my success.

Anna Maria L. Genovesi

Bachelor of Science – Nursing

Gaines, MI

In partnership with UM, my feet have been to the slums of Africa, where I learned what it means to be truly grateful and blessed with the abundance of resources available in America. I have climbed mountains and stumbled over rocks to set up an outreach clinic in Kenya, where hundreds of people walk miles just to receive health care. Through the Alternative Breaks Program, I have mapped the streets of Chicago, Baltimore and Philadelphia in order to serve those suffering from drug addiction and lack of basic necessities for human life.

My career path has given me the privilege to take part in very intimate and fragile moments with strangers through the art of nursing. In conjunction with the service programs of UM, I will continue to live a life of giving back. My degree has already changed the course of my life and will bless my family for years to come, alongside those who I care for on a daily basis. Life brings choices daily, and I will be forever grateful for the choice to attend the University of Michigan-Flint.

Louis G. Haase

Bachelor of Science –Health Sciences

Davison, MI

Within my first year at UM-Flint, I found out about Dr. Yorke (physical therapy) and her research. I am beyond privileged for the opportunity she gave me. I became her research assistant, learned the basics of data implementation and more importantly, discovered the neurological aspect of physical therapy. The more I researched, the more I felt inspired to dedicate my life to the cause and accepting the challenge. The purpose I was searching for started to become clear.

I will never waiver on my current path because I have confidence that I’m doing it for the good of the community, to advocate for those who can’t, and not to promote my personal interests subjectively through the hierarchy of education or medical world.

These experiences have provided me the guidance necessary to reach the many goals I have. I plan to attain my Ph.D. at UM-Flint via dual enrollment. This institution assisted me in my development, and I want to remain loyal to those who assisted and inspired me so that I may one day earn the opportunity to educate those in need, whether a student, educator or a patient.

Noah T. Knutson

Bachelor of Science – Mathematics, Bachelor of Science – Physics

Birch Run, MI

In my first year at the University of Michigan-Flint, I was somewhat hesitant about attending this institution. At the time, I did not understand the benefits of being part of the UM-Flint community; I was under the illusion that I needed to attend a large university in order to have a “real” college experience. Since then, I have certainly matured and I have grown to appreciate all that this university has to offer.

I remember choosing to major in biochemistry because it was a practical decision that would be a lucrative career choice. I soon became disinterested in my classes, and grew disenchanted with attending the university, altogether. This was when I was introduced to the physics and mathematics departments, and rediscovered a passion for learning that I was unaware I had lost.

Reflecting on how much I have changed since my first year at the University, it is difficult to parse out the exact moment when I grew into a different person, but I can see how UM-Flint and my instructors played roles in that growth. Regardless of my career path, the lessons I have learned while at this institution I will carry with me as I move onward.

Eric I. Leverette-Goodwin

Bachelor of Science – Elementary Education

Flint, MI

My education at the University of Michigan-Flint has fostered a greater sense of commitment and love for the community I was born and raised in and still consider home. Throughout my educational experience at the University, I have continually served in multiple capacities both within and outside the University. I continue to cultivate connections with residents within the city and other collaborators and organizations in Flint.

My UM-Flint education has pushed me to finish my degree faster and strive to understand and become more knowledgeable, not only for myself, but for my learners I genuinely love. I have worked with youth within the City of Flint for the past decade, which motivated me to becoming an educator, specifically obtaining my bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education.

Ultimately, I realized that being an educator was fulfillment for my community and myself. Teaching is not only being in the classroom, but it is also bringing enlightenment to the students and their surroundings. Our youth live in daunting times where the environment is sometimes not conducive to or supportive of learning. I want my students to realize that learning and gaining life skills can be fun, but challenging at the same time. The rewards they reap, however, will be invaluable.

Khadija Mohammed

Bachelor of Business Administration – Business Administration & Finance


The distance from Nigeria to the United States is approximately 6,624 miles. That is how far I traveled to leave behind the home I had known for about 18 years of my life, to start my new journey at the University of Michigan-Flint. For the many things I had to sacrifice and leave behind, I would say that my experiences and education at UM-Flint made it worthwhile.

The overall environment of UM-Flint allowed me to flourish as a student, as well as a leader. I came to Flint as a scared, young girl with many fears and doubts and will leave as a confident and determined woman who has realized that the world really is her oyster. It is not about taking opportunities that come my way, but rather, putting myself in a position to create those opportunities for myself.

On April 28, 2019, I became the first in my family to graduate from a university in the U.S. This is something that my whole family is very proud of and I thank UM-Flint for giving me the opportunity to do it in a graceful way, with honors and experiences that will stay with me forever. For that, I am truly grateful.

Kimberly T. Nguyen

Bachelor of Science – Applied Psychology

Grand Blanc, MI

Obtaining a higher education was a far-fetched idea growing up. I am the first generation in my family to go to college. My parents immigrated to the United States with no guidance, no financial support, and knew very little English. Like many immigrant parents, their dream is to provide their children with the opportunity to become educated.

I applied to UM-Flint because it was close to home and the only place that would allow me to juggle my family responsibilities while going to college. The academic and personal support I have received at UM-Flint enhanced my desire to someday practice in the field of Clinical Psychology. My overall career goal is to make a positive impact on any community by promoting cultural diversity and providing individuals with resources that are specific to their needs.

Just four years ago, I would have never imagined that I would be living my parents’ dream to graduate from college. I am now taking the next step to expand upon my own expectations to attend graduate school. Without UM-Flint, I would not have a clear path for my future in mind nor would I feel that I have developed the skills and knowledge needed to have a meaningful career that could support my family.

Christopher Sanjurjo Montalvo

Bachelor of Science –Social Work

Bronx, NY / Grant, MI

Due to the circumstances of my upbringing, I always knew I wanted to help people. I had the right intentions, but didn’t know where exactly I fit. This was a trend throughout my life, bouncing from underserved school to underserved school in the Bronx as a high-schooler, to finding my life in the military as a young adult wearing heavily on my personal creed to help others.

Throughout my life, many influential people such as teachers, sergeants and even family members, told me I wouldn’t amount to anything – I would just end up another statistic. I pushed through, and eventually I found myself at UM-Flint majoring in social work, a career path that would allow me to fulfill my lifelong aspiration of helping others.

The two places I hold most dear in this world, my hometown of the Bronx and my chosen home of Flint, are communities where citizens have been let down by officials who promised to help. Since attending UM-Flint, I see the power of social change within a community. I was proud to be the Commencement Speaker – not because I wanted a large-scale platform to discuss the fulfillment of my personal goals and endeavors within the University. Rather, I wanted to highlight ways that UM-Flint alumni can contribute to an equitable society. We have a service to the Flint community and to the world.

Zachary J. Sharpe

Bachelor of Science –Molecular Biology /Biotechnology

Novi, MI

After working for several years and obtaining my paramedic license, I became interested in pursuing a career as a physician, so I enrolled at the University to obtain a degree in Molecular Biology. I considered myself a “non-traditional” student, given that I was still working full-time to support myself and was unsure about how I would fit in or perform. As I attended lectures in many science classes and interacted with faculty, I was struck by two things: their passion for the subjects they teach and willingness to go out of their way to help students that faced challenges outside of class.

I have kept a busy schedule during my four years of University education, including working as a paramedic on the weekends and as a member of a medical evacuation flight crew in the Michigan National Guard. Given all this, the work that the professors and University do to ensure the success of non-traditional students has been invaluable to me.

Upon the completion of my remaining military obligation, I will be looking to gain more research experience, possibly through employment as a research technician or the completion of a master’s program. My end goal is to enter a Ph.D. program in a field closely related to cell and molecular biology or genetics at a university that will let me also further explore teaching opportunities. I feel that I received a fantastic education at UM-Flint and now, I want to help others achieve their goals.

My City Magazine congratulates all the 2019 Maize and Blue Distinguished Scholarship Award recipients!


Comments are closed.