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Student Features

Student Life Honors
Each year, a committee of undergraduate students, working in conjunction with the Office of the Dean of Students, selects the top graduating male and female based on commitment to scholarship, leadership, service and character. The winners are selected from a field of nominees chosen by deans, department heads, academic advisors and faculty members from every department on campus. The honorees have their names engraved on the MSEE obelisk, located on the Purdue Engineering Mall, and receive an engraved medallion and $2,000 award.

Sasha Kipnis: Flora Roberts Award

Sasha Kipnis, recipient of Flora Roberts Award

Alexandra “Sasha” Kipnis was selected as the top graduating female. The award is made possible through a bequest from Flora Roberts, a member of the Purdue class of 1887.

Kipnis was a champion for women in STEM from her early days on campus. She joined the Computer Science Women’s Network and was elected president during her second semester on campus. In this role, she led the planning for and moderated a Women in Tech panel for more than 100 student participants. She also helped establish new membership guidelines and worked to cultivate relationships with corporations and tech companies beyond the Purdue community.

Kipnis’ commitment to women in computer science extended to her membership in MAGIC – Mentors for Aspiring Girls in Computing, an outreach program dedicated to improving computer science education in Indiana schools. During her junior year, Kipnis was selected by the outgoing director to take over instruction of the group and training of mentors. In addition to coordinating teaching and outreach efforts, she worked with leaders in the Department of Computer Science to strengthen the organization’s infrastructure, cementing the future of MAGIC at Purdue.

After being selected to join the Barbara Cook Chapter of Mortar Board, Kipnis was named the Chair of the Reading is Leading Committee. Kipnis’ work transformed the event into an online platform to ensure its success during the COVID-19 pandemic. The event featured live and recorded activities available to schools across the state and opened its activities to a larger audience. Kipnis and fellow Mortar Board member Meg Tharp wrote and illustrated “Polly and Pete’s Purdue Adventure,” which follows two students as they explore Purdue University.

“It’s important to take the time to understand what you’re passionate about and then find outlets at Purdue to fulfill those passions,” Kipnis says. “As a university, Purdue has seemingly endless opportunities, and by stepping out of your comfort zone and not conforming to what you think is expected of you, you’ll find new ways to truly make an impact.”

In recognition of her outstanding commitment to the community, Kipnis was awarded the 2020 Homecoming Pillar of Excellence for Leadership and Service. She served as a tour guide for prospective students, a mentor for first-year students as part of the Women in Science program and as a teaching assistant for two classes. She was also previously named the Outstanding Junior in Computer Science.

Kipnis graduated in May with a degree in computer science. She was in the machine intelligence track and holds a minor in statistics with certificates in entrepreneurship and Learning Beyond the Classroom.

Zachary Marshall: G.A. Ross Award

Zachary Marshall, recipient of G.A. Ross Award

Zachary Marshall was named the top graduating male. The award is made possible through a gift from G.A. Ross, a 1916 graduate of Purdue.

Marshall served as president for the Purdue Chapter of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). Under his leadership, membership in the organization grew by 45 percent and is now one of the largest student aerospace organizations in the world. His impact on the Purdue chapter will continue to be felt as he led a successful bid for the university to serve as the host for the 2022 AIAA Region III Student Conference. Prior to serving as president, he served as treasurer, helping procure an additional $2,000 for scholarships, and in other leadership roles.

Two years ago, Marshall was selected for an internship with the Advanced Aviation Analytics Institute for Research – A Center for Research Excellence (A3IR-CORE) at Purdue’s Discovery Park. Working with A3IR-CORE gave Marshall the opportunity to participate in university-level research affiliated with industry and government partners under the direction of John Mott, an associate professor in the School of Aviation and Transportation Technology. Marshall served as the lead researcher on a project that resulted in a successful algorithm with the intent of reducing flight delays. Marshall presented the findings of the research at the 2020 Transportation Research Board Conference in Washington, D.C.

Marshall has also made significant contributions to aviation and aerospace competition teams. His first place project at the 2020 Airport Cooperative Research Program was developed into a paper that was presented at a virtual design symposium. The paper is one of seven he co-authored during his time at Purdue.

Marshall’s interest in aviation translated to service as a student ambassador with Purdue Aviation Day. He also helped local school children learn how to build and launch stomp rockets and balsa gliders. Marshall additionally helped organize donations for Lafayette Transitional Housing Center. As the technology lead for the Barbara Cook Chapter of Mortar Board, Marshall created and organized a virtual edition of the Purdue Mortar Board Leadership Conference for 250 attendees.

“It is important to seek and seize all opportunities, regardless of immediate rewards, as success will follow your commitment,” Marshall says. “Take time to explore the incredible connections and opportunities at Purdue. What you get out of your academic career will be a reflection of what you put into it. Not all of your learning will take place in lecture halls, so commit to lifelong learning and learn via application in undergraduate research projects or student organization design teams.”

Marshall graduated with bachelor of science degrees in aeronautical and astronautical engineering, and aerospace financial analysis. He also competed a certificate of entrepreneurship and all requirements for the Honors College.