Five students earning the highest cumulative grade point averages across Georgetown University’s four undergraduate schools will be honored this commencement weekend as valedictorians and Dean’s Medal recipients.
Jenny Franke (COL ’18), a biochemistry major and economics minor, and Kevin Yuan (COL ’18), an economics and Japanese double major and mathematics minor, will be honored as the Georgetown College Marshals for earning the highest cumulative GPA out of all graduates. The two graduates both earned 4.0 GPAs.
Gaia Mattiace (COL ’18), a psychology and government double major with a minor in environmental studies, earned the second-highest GPA in the College. She will give the Cohongurotun address at Friday’s Tropaia ceremony, an event at which students graduating summa cum laude receive their cords.
Grace Lafaire (MSB ’18), a finance major and economics minor, is the valedictorian for the McDonough School of Business. She earned a 4.0 GPA.
Although the School of Nursing and Health Studies and the School of Foreign Service do not formally name valedictorians, they award Dean’s Medals to the graduating seniors with the highest GPA in each school. The NHS Dean’s Medal recipient is Jake Schwartz (NHS ’18), a human science major. The SFS does not announce the name of the Dean’s Medal recipient until Friday’s Tropaia ceremony.
In an interview with The Hoya, Yuan attributed his academic success to a three-pronged approach. He aimed to be diligent with his studies, have good time management skills and maintain a balance between socializing and studying.
“Having those three things together, I felt that I was able to get through everything,” Yuan said. “It allowed me to succeed more than I would have if I had just been working 24/7.”
Franke echoed the value of a life-work balance, recalling going to The Tombs with her friends every Wednesday as a highlight of her senior year. Her friends provided a support system and played a role in her academic success, Franke said.
Although having supportive friends helped her through her time at Georgetown, Franke noted that taking classes in topics she enjoys benefitted her academically.
“I think that I really enjoyed the material I was learning,” Franke said. “A big part of that was having really great, passionate professors who were so accessible.”
Despite earning straight A’s every semester, Franke did not set out with the intention to graduate with a 4.0 GPA: her passionate professors and enjoyable classes inspired her academic performance.
“Throughout college I didn’t really make it a goal or anticipate having a 4.0,” Franke said. “It just kind of happened every semester.”
However, she worked hard during her final semester to maintain her motivation to complete the feat, Franke said.
Schwartz attributed his academic success to his love for his major, which NHS students must declare when they enter the university as freshmen. He came to Georgetown for the human science major, and his academic studies defined his college years.
“I feel like different people make different things their main passion at Georgetown,” Schwartz said. “The thing that I really wanted to excel at was just school — I like to learn.”
In addition to his academic achievements, Schwartz also studied abroad in Argentina, where he volunteered in pediatric clinics and conducted research on the Holocaust with Fr. Patrick Desbois, S.J., the president of Yahad-In Unum, an organization that works to raise awareness about the sites of Jewish and Roma mass executions by Nazi killing in Eastern Europe during World War II, according to the organization’s website.
Yuan also pointed to his study abroad experience as a defining part of his time at Georgetown. Yuan studied abroad at Waseda University in Tokyo for his entire junior year and plans to return to Japan on a Critical Language Scholarship through the U.S. Department of State after graduation.
After graduation, Schwartz and Franke will be attending medical school at McGill University and Johns Hopkins University, respectively.
While Schwartz is “honored and humbled” to be this year’s NHS Dean’s Medal recipient, he pointed out the diverse variety of student achievement at Georgetown that goes beyond just grade point averages.
“I think that GPA is only one way of rating academic success,” Schwartz said. “I think that many people who don’t have this GPA have learned just as well and just as much.”