UB College of Arts and Sciences honors 2017 outstanding seniors

Award recipients discuss academic achievements, special projects and post-graduation plans


Kara Dunovant started a mentorship program for inner-city girls all while maintaining working two jobs and her 3.8 GPA.

Dunovant is one of 27 graduating UB seniors being recognized as an outstanding senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. Every spring, the dean of College of Arts and Sciences selects graduating students with the highest academic achievement and most involvement in their department to be awarded the “Dean’s Outstanding Senior.” Recipients will be presented with a personalized medal and certificate at commencement on May 21.

Dunovant, a double major in linguistics and African American studies, is being recognized as the outstanding senior in African American studies.

She majored in linguistics because she has always enjoyed learning foreign languages as a hobby, so it made sense to turn that passion into a degree. She added the African American studies major because her history and her people are important to her.

“I could not spend four years in college without taking the time to expand my knowledge of the people who made it possible for me to be there,” Dunovant said.

Dunovant feels time management was key to maintaining her high GPA. She balanced full-time classes and two jobs, but always made time to go to the library to focus on her work.

Dunovant is completing a senior thesis project on inner-city education. After graduation, she will attend law school at Georgetown University, where she plans to study human rights law, civil rights law and education policy and reform.

Andrea Niper, an economics major, is receiving the outstanding senior award for the major. She feels time management played a big role in keeping her grades up.

“I [maintained my GPA] by assuring that I stay organized and disciplined. Despite playing a Division I sport at UB, I made sure to keep my academics a high priority,” Niper said.

Niper will begin working for Bloomberg L.P. as a Global Data Analyst in Princeton, New Jersey this September.

Several outstanding seniors participated in special projects during their time at UB.

Rebecca Jaffe, a senior communicative disorders and sciences major, worked as a research assistant in Dr. Kris Tjaden’s Motor Speech Disorders Laboratory.

Jaffe works in the UB Speech and Hearing Clinic as an undergraduate co-clinician. She was an active member of the Student Association of Speech and Hearing during her sophomore and junior year, and she worked at Bornhava, a preschool school for children with developmental delays.

Jaffe plans to remain at UB for another two years to pursue a master’s degree in speech-language pathology.

Jedidiah Kalmanofsky, a philosophy and psychology major, completed a senior thesis with Dr. Richard Cohen about the philosopher Emmanuel Levinas.

The thesis focuses on “the political implications of [Levinas’] theory of ‘ethics first’ philosophy,” Kalmanofsky said.

“He thinks that basically before anything else, we have an ethical encounter and relationship with others. So, if you agree with him, then there is nothing that isn't somehow ethical. And if you think that, you should build societies that are ethical too,” Kalmanofsky said.

Kalmanofsky likes philosophy because he gets to “ask and answer big questions,”

including how to do “good in the world, whether God exists and what justice is.”

“I'm sure almost everyone has some thoughts on those topics. Going into the major, I didn't realize just how much fun it would be and I'm so glad I picked it,” Kalmanofsky said.

Over the summer, Kalmanofsky is working at Camp Ramah in the Berkshires. Afterward, he plans to pursue jobs in community organizing and social justice.

Gregory George has worked on biochemistry research with Dr. Marc S. Halfon. George is a biochemistry and chemistry double major, and his project involved the “prediction and validation of new enhancer sequences” in the mosquito species that carries the Zika virus.

George will be attending Cornell University in the fall to pursue a Ph.D in inorganic chemistry. He intends to pursue a career as a professor at a research university following the completion of his doctorate.

Dunovant created a mentorship program called Sparkle for inner-city girls ages seven to 10. She said creating the mentorship program has been the “highlight” of her life. The program focuses on fostering self-confidence and stresses the importance of teamwork, leadership and creativity through “enriching” activities. The program meets one Saturday per month and participants engage in different activities including limousine rides, roller skating, cupcake decorating competitions and science, technology, mathematics and engineering (STEM) projects, Dunovant said.

In her free time, Dunovant works for the Community Action Organization of Buffalo as a youth services counselor at School No. 17. She also has a babysitting and tutoring business that she operates on the weekends.

Dunovant is pursuing law school because she has a “natural hunger for justice.” She has witnessed “so much” inequality in her life and refuses to believe there is no resolution.

“I feel that civil rights law and education policy are the best focuses for me because issues in these areas are the ones that I’ve seen plague my community for far too long,” Dunovant said.

Maddy Fowler is the assistant news editor and can be reached at maddy.fowler@ubspectrum.com