Eight of West Virginia Universitys top graduating seniors were conferred the Order of Augusta, the Universitys most prestigious student honor, during Weekend of Honors convocation ceremonies Friday evening (April 12).

The West Virginia University Foundation established the Order of Augusta in 1995 to recognize a highly select group of students based upon their superior scholarship, demonstrated leadership and record of community and public service. A private non-profit corporation, the WVU Foundation generates, receives and administers private gifts for the benefit of West Virginia University.

The 2002 recipients are Melany B. Atkins of Morgantown; Mary Ellen Bess of Fenwick; Jamie L. Burchianti of Greensboro, Pa.; Jamal J. Derakhshan of Charleston; Roger G. Hanshaw of Valley Fork; Andrea G. Peer of Fort Ashby; Nasira Roidad of Fairmont; and Krista M. Smith of Auburn, Mich.

“The Order of Augusta is the most significant honor a West Virginia University senior can attain,”said F. Duke Perry, president of the WVU Foundation.”During their undergraduate years at WVU , these eight remarkable students have demonstrated the Universitys highest ideals through their hard work and contributions to the campus community. We are proud to recognize them for their many accomplishments.”

WVU President David C. Hardesty Jr. presented each of the recipients with the Augusta medallion. In addition, each honorees name will be inscribed on a plaque located at the Ernest L. Hogan Scholars Walk. They also become members of WVU s Honor Roll, a compilation of student, faculty, staff and alumni award winners being honored during traditional Weekend of Honors activities.

The Order of Augusta was so named for its historical significance in the state. Augusta was among the original names considered by the Legislature when the state seceded from Virginia in 1863. Also, the District of Augusta was the original name for a large area in what is now the northern region of West Virginia, including Monongalia County.

Recipients of the Order of Augusta are selected from 30 WVU Foundation Outstanding Seniors, who also were recognized today for their achievements in scholarship, leadership and service.

Besides the Order of Augusta recipients, other Outstanding Seniors are: Robert S. Acciavatti of Morgantown; Jonathan B. Bompiani of Youngwood, Pa.; P. Alexander Brown of Lewisburg; Rachel L. Burns of Bridgeport; William M. Butler of Normantown; Karen G. Cox of Westover; Brooks H. Crislip of Charleston; Bobbie L. Dumm of McMurray, Pa.; Matthew O. Gatewood of Charleston; Anna C. Gensler of Huntington; James E.G. Grantham of Kearneysville; Justin D. Harris of Cross Lanes; Jeffrey S. Huff of Ridgeley; Brandon J. Lester of Fairmont; Jana L. Matish of Bridgeport; Mohsin R. Mir of Charleston; Michael Mishra of Morgantown; Anne S. Perella of Morgantown; Douglas S. Sholtis of Smithfield, Pa.; Stacey N. Shreve of Fairmont; Heather J. Starkey of Bridgeport; and Kelly N. Walker of Charleston. *

*Order of Augusta Honorees

Melany B. Atkins, Morgantown

Melany Atkins, who maintains a 4.0 grade point average, will graduate with a bachelors degree in chemistry and plans to attend medical school at WVU . She has studied abroad at the University of Hertfordshire, England, and is a member of Alpha Phi Omega National Service Fraternity, the Mountaineer Maniacs and the American Chemical Society.

Atkins has served as a research assistant in WVU s Chemistry Department and at Ruby Memorial Hospital. She has taken part in medical and chemical research, including a study that involves first-pass blood flow through the coronary arteries to detect coronary disease.

“After attending the University of Richmond my freshman year, as well as studying abroad and traveling to 12 different countries, I am now certain that West Virginia University has as much, if not more, to offer its students than any other university I have encountered,”Atkins said.”There are some students who mock an institution that hasStudents Firstas one of its beliefs; however, those individuals have no idea how students at some of the other institutions are treated. I, on the other hand, have first-hand experience.

“As an aspiring physician, I have had many academic opportunities at WVU that I may not have been able to experience at other institutions,”she added.”For example, the opportunity to take part in medical research, as well as chemical research, has given me an insight into the field I wish to pursue. I have done my best to excel, I have taken advantage of many of the great opportunities offered, and more importantly, I sincerely appreciate all that I have learned in and out of the classroom.”

Atkins has received the General Electric Faculty of the Future Award, Presidential Award for Academic Excellence and is an Eberly Scholar. She has been selected to Mortar Board, Alpha Epsilon Delta, Gamma Beta Phi, Chimes, Golden Key and the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. Atkins also was named the Outstanding WVU Junior Chemistry Major of the Year.

She is the daughter of Bill and Carolyn Atkins.


p. Mary Ellen Bess, Fenwick


  • p. Mary Ellen Bess carries a 3.97 grade point average and will graduate with bachelors degrees in political science and philosophy. A Frasure-Singleton Scholar, she is also the recipient of a Mountaineer Scholarship, Loyalty Permanent Endowment Alumni Scholarship and Presidential Award for Academic Excellence.

In addition to the WVU Debate and Forensics Association, where she has served as president and coach, Bess is a member of the Pre-Law Society, Mortar Board, Pi Sigma Sigma, Pi Sigma Alpha, Golden Key, the Philosophy Club, WVU Civil Liberties Group, and National Society of Collegiate Scholars.

“Success: Expect it. These were the first words I remember receiving from West Virginia University, which is probably the main reason I automatically ruled out WVU as an option for undergraduate studies,”Bess said.”Up to that point in my life, I had not anticipated much success in my future; one look at Morgantown, however, and I was hooked. It was as if it was made for me.

“My dual studies in political science and philosophy have been manifested in perhaps the most academically challenging activity on campusthe WVU Debate Team,”she added.”Being a member of the debate team has immensely increased my awareness of the problems facing the world, and my passion for studying political and philosophical theories will be continued next year when I study at the University of Hertfordshire, England, as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar.

“My academic experiences at WVU have been invaluable. Not because they quenched my desire for learning, but because they have challenged me to never stop.”

She is the daughter of William and Karen Bess.

*Jamie L. Burchianti, Greensboro, Pa.

Jamie Burchianti carries a 3.98 grade point average and will graduate with three majors and two minorsbachelors degrees in international studies, economics and Spanish and minors in music and political science.

“The education I have received at West Virginia University has been invaluable,”Burchianti said.”WVU has provided me with an exceptional traditionalclassroomeducation as well as the opportunity to develop leadership and organizational skills. I feel that my education has made me a very well-rounded person; I am able to hold intelligent conversations with people from almost any background and on a wide variety of subjects, ranging from classical music to the political conditions in Columbia.

“Through conferences, applied classes, and other forums and lectures,”she added,”WVU has given me countless opportunities to put theories learned in the classroom into practice. The analytical and communication skills that I developed during my undergraduate years will serve me well in law school.”

A member of the Golden Key National Honorary and National Society of Collegiate Scholars, Burchianti has earned the Buvinger Award, Pennsylvania Association of Community Bankers Scholarship, Albert Lee Sturm Phi Beta Kappa Scholarship, WVU Presidential Scholarship, Eberly College of Arts and Sciences Certificates of Achievement, and Presidential Awards for Excellence in Scholarship.

She has also been involved in the Honors Program, Sigma Delta Pi Spanish Honorary, Sigma Iota Rho International Studies Honorary, Delta Sigma Pi Business Fraternity, Gamma Beta Phi Serivce Society and Mortar Board. In addition to her extra-curricular activities, she found time to volunteer her efforts with a World Trade Center disaster fund-raiser and to teach piano lessons to two mentally challenged children.

Burchianti, who plans to attend law school, is the daughter of Ralph and Valerie Burchianti.

Jamal J. Derakhshan, Charleston

An Honors Program student, Jamal Derakhshan maintains a 3.97 grade point average and will graduate with a bachelors degree in physics and minors in computer science and mathematics. He has been accepted into WVU s combined M.D./Ph.D. program.

Derakhshansaid that he could not have learned more in his undergraduate years than he has at WVU . His course work and preparation not only enabled him to conduct research in the

WVU Center for Advanced Imaging in the Department of Radiology, but also allowed him to participate in a research experiment in Geneva, Switzerland, to work in one of the worlds premier scientific laboratories, CERN (the European Center for Particle Physics).

“I value my West Virginia University undergraduate experience for three main reasons: the knowledge I have gained, the friends I have made and the education I have paid for,”he said.”First and foremost, I appreciate the abundant educational opportunities at WVU .”

Among his honors are the publication of two scientific articles and induction into Sigma Pi Sigma and Phi Kappa Phi. Derakhshan is also the recipient of the Rotter Scholarship for Excellence in Physics, a WVU Honors Program Scholarship and is an Eberly College of Arts and Sciences Scholar. He is president of the Society of Physics Students and treasurer of the BahaI and Iranian Student Associations.

Derakhshan is a computer administrator at Comprehensive Neurology and research assistant with the Department of Radiology. He also had done physics research at the universities of Michigan and Florida.

He is the son of Dr. and Mrs. Iraj Derakhshan.

Roger G. Hanshaw, Valley Fork

Roger Hanshaw, a 2001 Rhodes Scholar state finalist and Barry M. Goldwater Scholar finalist, carries a 3.9 grade point average and will graduate with a bachelors degree in biochemistry. Beginning in August, he plans to pursue a graduate degree in organic chemistry.

“My undergraduate experience at WVU has been a process of personal growth from day one,”Hanshaw said.”West Virginia University has provided the perfect environment in which to better myself academically, socially and philosophically, and it is here that I became exposed to the diversity of life that education can offer.

“WVU has set before me a big academic plate and I have worked hard to keep it full,”he added.”The academic experiences I will take away from WVU have changed my life for the better and have given me a more focused direction for my professional career. I know the preparation I have received during my tenure at WVU will make me successful.”

Hanshaw is a member of Mountain Honorary, Phi Kappa Phi Honorary, Gamma Sigma Delta Honorary and president of the WVU Collegiate Future Farmers of America Chapter. He is a WVU Presidential Scholar, a four-time recipient of the WVU Veterinary Medicine Scholarship and received the Davis College of Agriculture, Forestry, and Consumer Sciences Student Service and Leadership Award. He also earned an Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education research grant.

His many activities include serving as chairman of the West Virginia Technology Student Association Foundation, state chairman of the West Virginia Farm Bureau Young Farmer and Rancher Committee, chief parliamentarian of the National Technology Student Association and state vice president of the West Virginia Pork Producers Association.

He is the son of David and Marie Hanshaw. *


p. Andrea G. Peer, Fort Ashby


  • p. Andrea Peer maintains a 4.0 grade point average and will graduate with a bachelors degree in multi-disciplinary studies and a masters degree in elementary education. She is the recipient of the Underwood-Smith Teacher Education Scholarship, the Joseph M. Stanislawczyk Memorial Scholarship and the G. Belmont Berry Leadership Scholarship. While at Potomac State, she received the Lulu May Heskitt Scholarship.

“Having been able to receive my higher education at West Virginia University means many things to me: pride in the great state in which I have grown up; pride in the dedication of my forefathers to develop West Virginia into the fine state it is today; an opportunity to receive a quality education; an opportunity to advance my career goals and to grow professionally; and a chance to give something back to the state and its youth through furthering the educational opportunities of young Americans,”said Peer, who also is a Potomac State College of WVU honors graduate.

“I am proud to make my family proud that I am the first member of our family to receive a four-year college degree,”she added.”Since I was a young girl, I have loved working with children and cannot remember wanting to be anything else except an educator. The hands-on teaching experience that I received through the Benedum Collaborative Model of Teacher Education has provided me the opportunity to deal with various classroom situations and has given me the confidence in my abilities to serve as a role model to students and to make a difference in the lives of many young children, who are our leaders of tomorrow.”

Peer has been inducted into Phi Delta Kappa, Phi Kappa Phi, Golden Key, Mortar Board and the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. She also is a member of the WVU Student Education Association, the WVU College of Human Resources and Education Committee for Mountaineer Week and 4-H.

She is the daughter of Karen Peer. *

*Nasira Roidad, Fairmont

Nasira Roidad, who plans to enter the WVU School of Medicine in the fall, carries a 3.81 grade point average and will graduate with a bachelors degree in biology.

Roidad is a member of the Honors Program, where she served as an Honors Orientation co-mentor and has been chair of the WVU Student Government Elections Committee for two years. She is president of Alpha Epsilon Delta, a pre-medical/dental/optometry honorary, and is vice president of the South Asian Students Association. A Presidential Scholar, she also is a member of the Golden Key Honorary, National Society of Collegiate Scholars, Mountain Honorary and Beta Beta Beta and was named 2001 Ms. Mountaineer.

“Priceless is one word that accurately describes the value of my undergraduate education at West Virginia University,”Roidad said.”Not only have I received an outstanding education, but also I have matured as an individual because of my experiences at WVU . I had the opportunity to take courses of interest while still finishing the requirements for my degree. This expanded my knowledge on many levels, making me a well-rounded student.

“Even though the theories, formulas and concepts I learned in my four years are vital as I strive to be successful in the field of medicine, the aspect of my undergraduate experience I will cherish most is my growth as an individual,”she added.”All of my friends, professors, advisers and the administration have left their marks on me in some way. They have helped me mold my values and opinions, shaped by what my parents taught me and later by what I experienced as a college student.

“As I look back on my undergraduate experience, I am reminded of one of Mark Twains famous quotations,Dont let school interfere with your education.I am sorry to disappoint him, but I had the best of both.”

She is the daughter of Mohammad and Jehan Roidad.

Krista M. Smith of Auburn, Mich.

Smith, who carries a 4.0 grade point average, will graduate with a bachelors degree in biology and a minor in English. She is also captain of the 2001 WVU volleyball team.

An Honors Program student, Smith has earned numerous academic and athletic accolades. They include Phi Kappa Phi, Golden Key, Alpha Epsilon Delta, Beta Beta Beta, Gamma Beta Phi, Mortar Board, Chimes, Helvetia, the Presidential Award for Excellence in Scholarship, and Eberly College of Arts&Sciences Certificate of Achievement for Academic Excellence.

As a scholar-athlete, she earned honors as Verison CoSIDA 2001 Academic All-American Volleyball Third Team and 2001, 2000 District II Academic All-American Volleyball First Team; 2001, 2000 1999 Big East All-Academic Volleyball Team; 2000-01 Big East Aeropostale WVU Female Scholar-Athlete Scholarship; 2001 WVU Volleyball Invitational-All Tournament Team; Athletic Directors 4.0 Honor Roll 1998-2001; and WVU Volleyball Scholarship.

She also has volunteered with WVU Childrens Hospital, the Morgantown Unity Manor and Morgantown Health-Rite.

“In my four years as a student-athlete, I have learned to balance school with my numerous other extra-curricular activities, honorary societies and community service,”Smith said.”This has required a great deal of time management, self-discipline and a strong commitment to academics. It gives me great pride to tell my fellow classmates and professors that I am a member of the volleyball team. However, my college experience has been much more than just volleyball.

“The academic programs here have aided me in setting my standards high and expecting success, which I will value for the rest of my academic and professional career,”she added.”I have many outstanding professors and other individuals to thank for helping me receive such an excellent, well-rounded education and for making me realize that I can never accept anything less out of myself. I can honestly say that I made the perfect decision in September of 1997. West Virginia University has given me four years of treasured memories. It gives me great pride to know that I will forever be a Mountaineer.”

Smith is the daughter of Thomas and Ann Smith.