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UMSI announces awards for 2024 graduates

A graphic with the text "Congratulations to honorees of the 2024 UMSI Student Awards" and a photo of Joanne Huang (MSI '24), Roger Barber (BSI '24), Jack Schmitt (MSI '24), Grace Garmo (BSI '24) and Stephanie Preda (MHI '24)

Thursday, 05/02/2024

At the 2024 commencement ceremony, the University of Michigan School of Information honored five members of the class of 2024 with student awards. 

This year’s undergraduate and graduate program honorees, who were nominated by staff, faculty or peers, have in common a deep commitment to their work, a track record of empowering their peers, and a passion for creating positive change with information science. Collectively, they exemplify UMSI’s mission to create and share knowledge so that people will use information — with technology — to build a better world. 

Margaret Mann Award

The Margaret Mann Award is the first and oldest student award at UMSI. It was established in 1938 to honor associate professor Margaret Mann upon her retirement. Mann was the first external faculty member hired into the department of library science when it was created in 1926.

Each year, this award goes to one or more students who demonstrate exceptional academic ability and professional promise. The Margaret Mann Award recognizes the heritage of UMSI and the deep roots of professional education in the information field at the University of Michigan. The award recognizes future promise through evidence of accomplishment at UMSI.

Honoree: Joanne Huang (Master of Science in Information)

Joanne is an emerging leader in the field of extended reality who has shown commitment to expanding the boundaries of her education. Last summer, she secured a sought-after internship in the XR division of Meta. Her internship manager noted, “She is a strong voice shaping the strategy of products.” Joanne has lent that same strong voice to the U-M community while taking leadership of multiple interdisciplinary projects. As product manager for the AiR Play Project, she has facilitated collaboration among a U-M team using augmented reality to create a game environment that will be accessible for players with mobility disabilities.

According to her nominator, Joanne embodies enthusiasm not only for her own future but — equally, and more rarely — enthusiasm for the future of her peers. At UMSI, she has served as a career peer coach, providing guidance on networking and skill development to fellow graduate students as they forge their professional paths. She is that voice encouraging them to go for their dreams. 

We have no doubt that Joanne will help shape the future of spatial experiences in XR. In the process, she will also shape the experiences of everyone she works with and mentors.

Honoree: Jack Schmitt (Master of Science in Information) 

Jack has brought intellectual depth and impressive engagement to the MSI program, where he pursued digital archives and library science with a focus on managing and sustaining collections. As a student in SI 666, a foundational course rooted in the teaching philosophy of Margaret Mann, Jack developed an insightful and multilingual description model for video games published in Japan and unavailable in English. His nominator notes that he “has an active, developing passion to advance projects that will support the repatriation of archival material.” 

Jack faces outward. During his time at UMSI, he has built connections with communities and with his peers in the MSI program. Jack is not only a highly effective group leader within his courses, but an emerging leader in his field. He serves as a student volunteer on the Archival Repatriation Committee of the Society of American Archivists, and he was appointed as an early career member of the Society of American Archivists Foundation.  

Edmon Low Award

The Class of 1972 established the Edmon Low Award to honor professor Edmon Low upon his retirement. Nominations are solicited from master's students, and the award recipient is chosen by the executive officers of the School of Information Master's Association. Awardees embody the qualities valued by Low: dedication to service, empathy for others, confidence building, industry, interpersonal acuity, responsibility and humor.

Honoree: Stephanie Preda (Master of Health Informatics)

The sheer number of nominations Stephanie received for this award — and their length — are testaments to the impact she has had on fellow master’s students at UMSI. Stephanie’s peers call her “a role model and an inspiration.”

As a graduate student instructor in SI 542: Introduction to Health Informatics, she became a mentor and a go-to resource — someone whose empathy, dedication and wit created a foundation for students as they began the MHI program. One nominator wrote, “The MHI program and my experience personally would not have been the same had I not met Stephanie.” Another wrote, “One of Stephanie's most admirable qualities is her ability to inspire confidence and trust among her peers.”

Stephanie draws attention to the ways in which service and empathy are active endeavors, not passive qualities. Her nominators describe her as “bold and eager” to assist her peers — adjectives that are more often used to describe the pursuit of individual goals than the support of others. As a talented student of health informatics, Stephanie stands out within the MHI program for her remarkable inclusivity.  

John L. King Award

To honor the professor who devoted many years to the development of the Bachelor of Science in Information program, UMSI created the John L. King Award in 2015. The award recognizes an outstanding student in the undergraduate program. 

Honoree: Roger Barber (Bachelor of Science in Information)

Roger’s influence can be seen and felt. Over the past two years, they have been an active member of the UMSI community and an advocate for others. They came to UMSI as a transfer student from Washtenaw Community College and hit the ground running — bringing a dedication to ensuring that new transfer students and all BSI students have the resources they need to thrive. During their first year, they reinvigorated the Transfer Student Advisory Board and united peers to advocate for increased support for transfer students’ transitions. They also joined the board of the School of Information Bachelor’s Association, where they amplified undergraduate students’ voices. 

Roger’s impact extends beyond the BSI program; they have been instrumental in shaping school-wide DEI policies as a member of the DEI committee. One nominator wrote, “I witnessed them actively engaging in conversations and working alongside faculty and staff, bringing forth student perspectives for what ultimately became the DEI 2.0 plan.”

Roger has likewise been a leader in their courses, embracing opportunities to practice and develop their UX design skills. In their capstone project, one nominator noted that Roger was motivated not as much by grades as by the impact their work might have on the small nonprofit who was their client. That nominator concluded, “Roger is an example of what I hope students become through the BSI program, and I am proud to have worked with them.” 

In strong agreement with this sentiment, UMSI is honored to present the John L. King Award to Roger Barber.

Nikki Candelore Roda Student Impact Award

The only award at UMSI named for a student was inspired by an exceptional student, Nikki Candelore Roda.

Roda had a significant impact on the school while she was here, showing leadership and initiative and inspiring her peers. Ultimately, Roda made UMSI a better place to be a student.

The Nikki Candelore Roda Student Impact Award celebrates a student who has shown initiative and dedication to service, influenced the culture and climate of the school in positive ways and been an insightful leader and good ambassador — a student who will leave a lasting legacy. 

Honoree: Grace Garmo (Bachelor of Science in Information)

A BSI graduate, Grace has been a strong ambassador for UMSI. She has flexed her skills in UX design through two internships and through freelance work as a UX design consultant, while holding multiple teaching assistant positions. Grace’s enthusiasm for her field is contagious — one nominator noted that Grace is willing to share her passions, which range from tech ethics to chocolate chip cookies, in a way that enlivens the classroom. 

As a peer coach for SI 300: Career and Internship Studio, she went above and beyond the expectations of her role, developing new resources to support students in the design interview process. These materials are now part of the Career Development Office’s resource library. A nominator noted, “Grace cultivates a culture that promotes authenticity, transparency and reflection.” Fellow students gravitated toward her not only because of her strong leadership but because of her openness. 

Another nominator wrote, “I knew Nikki Candelore Roda as a student, and I can say that Grace Garmo embodies the same ‘spark’ that Nikki had and the same commitment to serve, lead and do good to help others.” If the mark she has left on the UMSI community is any indication, we feel confident that — as an alumna — Grace will become a leader and an innovator in the UX field, creating positive change.   

Abigail McFee, marketing and communications writer

To watch the commencement ceremony, visit the School of Information’s 2024 graduation archive.