With a perfect GPA of 4.0, Devin Dragon, Devon Leslie, Christopher Liu, Victoria Stabile and Kristen Tan have attained the highest academic achievements of this year’s graduates and are first in the Stevens Institute of Technology Class of 2020.
All five seniors are recipients of The Lawrence T. Babbio '66 Pinnacle Scholars Program, an elite, honors program for the brightest and best undergraduate students.
Dragon, Leslie, Liu, Stabile and Tan share their thoughts about their Stevens experiences, both on- and off-campus, meaningful research opportunities, non-academic interests and future plans.
Devin Dragon of Point Pleasant Borough, New Jersey graduates with a bachelor’s in chemical engineering. After graduation, Dragon will begin a rotational program at Princeton-based medical device company Integra LifeSciences.
Dragon credits his academic studies, along with real world learning experiences that include an internship at Merck, for preparing him for his future position.
“You have to be able to talk the language. And because I’ve had the four years in chemical engineering, I can talk to the scientists and the people in the labs. So that kind of gives me the extra advantage there.”
On campus, he is president of Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity, a member of the American Chemical Society and American Institute of Chemical Engineers, and belongs to three honor societies that recognize academic and non-academic achievements: Tau Beta Pi, the engineering honor society, Omega Chi Epsilon, the chemical engineering honor society, and the Stevens Order of Omega, a leadership honor society for members of Greek organizations.
He credits his experience as a teaching assistant for professors Patricia Muisener and Mahmood Sohrabi in general chemistry and multi variable calculus classes, respectively, for fostering a love for those subjects.
“I learned something new every day in those classes every time I taught it. And it’s those professors who fostered that curiosity in me to want to learn more.”
Outside his major, Dragon developed a keen understanding of sustainable infrastructure. He explored green infrastructure solutions to stormwater runoff in urban locations including Hoboken thanks to a research experience involving Stevens' own “Living Laboratory” right on campus.
Additionally, as a Pinnacle Scholar, Dragon was able to study abroad in Limerick, Ireland, where he studied corporate social responsibility. Of the many memorable field trips from that international experience, one stood out – a visit to a small eco village seeking to be completely sustainable.
“They had their own economy and it was all based on sustainable green resources and infrastructure.”
Among his many extracurricular activities, Dragon was a member of the Stevens men’s crew team and is a passionate travel soccer referee.
“People always ask me: why are you so busy, why do you do all this stuff, why do you work so much?
I don’t like that word ‘work.’ It may seem like I’m working 40 hours a week but that’s because I’m doing what I love.”
Devon Leslie of Cherry Hill, New Jersey graduates with a bachelor’s in marketing innovation and analytics with minors in economics and in information systems.
Graduating in just three years, Leslie plans to use what would have been her fourth undergraduate year to explore and “get out of her comfort zone.”
“I feel like this is an opportunity to take some risk in my life, to travel a bit, and apply for jobs in industries I wouldn’t naturally see myself going into.”
She has already accumulated meaningful work experiences both domestically and abroad during her time at Stevens. The Pinnacle Scholars Program made it possible for her to gain experience in information systems at a nonprofit in Lisbon, Portugal.
And last summer, Leslie explored public relations and marketing at Ketchum in New York City, working on accounts for clients such as Fidelity Investments, TransUnion and Target.
Later that same summer, Leslie made time to work at the local theater in her hometown.
“During the day I was working behind the stage and at night I was in the show as a dance captain.”
Part of her post-graduate plans include preparing for the GMAT exam. An MBA degree is definitely in her future, she says.
On campus, Leslie has relished her roles as a marketing coordinator and peer consultant for the Writing and Communication Center, providing tutoring services to undergraduate and graduate students.
“We’re there to help push your ideas and give you someone to bounce a perspective off of versus us taking over your writing and taking ownership for it.”
Additionally, Leslie belongs to Gear and Triangle Honor Society and Beta Gamma Sigma, serving as vice president for the business honor society. She is also a student ambassador for the School of Business, a resident of the Lore-el Center for Women's Leadership and a member of the entertainment committee and APO service fraternity.
Looking back at her “whirlwind” Stevens experience, Leslie marvels at her own transformation.
“I don’t even recognize who I was when I first came in and am just really proud of the growth I’ve experienced, academically and personally. And I’m excited to see where it goes from here.”
Christopher Liu of Nutley, New Jersey will receive a bachelor’s in business and technology. He will join the Depository Trust and Clearing Corp. (DTCC) in Jersey City in the firm’s Business Transformation Office after graduation. The fulltime position comes after an extensive internship that began last summer and continued throughout his senior year, enabling Liu to gain experience in product management and cyber resiliency.
As a prospective student with career aspirations in the world of finance, Liu knew Stevens’ School of Business would set him on a path toward a meaningful and successful career.
“The business program at Stevens has both a business and technology focus. So not only would you have classes oriented toward the business side of things, but they also give you some fundamental technology skills which I think is very important in today’s day and age.”
Through the Pinnacle Scholars Program, Liu gained valuable research experiences. One involved 3D modeling for a website under the guidance of Professor Jeffery Nickerson. Another involved working with Professor Don Lombardi in developing a learning module for hospital employees.
Liu belongs to the Stevens chapter of Beta Gamma Sigma, the business honor society, and is an active member and former vice president of the Stevens Christian Fellowship.
He enjoys playing the piano and cooking, and seeks out new dining experiences through the campus food club, Spoon University.
He attributes his ability to balance academics, club activities and internships to his strong work ethic and parents, who he says were always supportive without “pushing” for good grades.
He also credits the support systems at Stevens that have helped him thrive both in and outside of class.
“The tutoring center, and the professors who have always made time for me whenever I needed it have all been fantastic. I was never in a situation where I felt absolutely hopeless or confused with a class. Stevens provided the resources that I needed to succeed.
Victoria Stabile of Hackettstown, New Jersey graduates with a bachelor’s in chemical engineering and master's in environmental engineering, and will soon add to her family’s proud Stevens legacy.
Both parents, materials engineers, graduated from Stevens, as well as an uncle.
After graduation, Stabile will join Merck as an associate scientist in the area of vaccine process development.
She interned at the pharmaceutical giant last summer working in vaccine manufacturing. Her new fulltime position will shift her focus from manufacturing toward research, a change that she heartily welcomes.
“It’s a position where I’ll be able to use all of the engineering and science principles that I’ve learned over the past four years.”
It was at Stevens’ Center for Environmental Systems (CES) that Stabile first pursued significant lab research. It was there, under faculty guidance from CES director Christos Christodoulatos, that she helped investigate methods for growing algae, a primary source of renewable biofuels.
Stabile, a recipient of the Presidential and Martha Bayard Stevens scholarships, belongs to Tau Beta Pi and Omega Chi Epsilon.
Among her extracurricular activities, Stabile has been a member of the Running Club, the Environmental Engineering Professional Society and the Stevens Concert Band (flute).
Asked what she loves to do in her free time, she says without hesitation – baking.
“Baking is a stress reliever and also chemistry in a way. I loved baking for my residents.”
Stabile cites her role as a resident assistant as one of her most meaningful experiences at Stevens. A big sister to two siblings, she said being an RA tapped into her instinct “to watch over people” and “make sure they’re OK.”
“The best resource as a student is an upperclassman. And being an RA allowed me to pass on the knowledge that I’ve accumulated about Stevens or living here that really only students here can answer.”
Another activity she is particularly proud of is her service to the Stevens Honor Board.
“Academic integrity is so important, because it’s also about having personal integrity, which carries you into your career. Helping instill those ideals on campus was really important to me.”
Kristen Tan of Staten Island, New York graduates with a bachelor’s in software engineering with a minor in computer science. Tan will begin a two-year rotational program at Comcast NBCUniversal after graduation as a CORE Technology associate. Her post-graduate position with the media conglomerate follows a summer internship working with a cloud engineering team, bouncing between the media giant’s offices in New York City’s Times Square and Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.
Prior work experiences include a summer internship at Citigroup in Jersey City, New Jersey, where Tan worked on software tools for business analysts.
While she is looking forward to beginning her new career, she says the idea of teaching is never far from her mind.
“I know that I want to teach at some point in my life, but industry experience seems so crucial to me first. I want to be able to share what I’ve learned hands-on during my career with future students.”
It’s an interest that was fostered while she served as a teaching assistant for computer science professor Brian Borowski, as well as mechanical engineering professor Alexander De Rosa, who teaches thermodynamics.
In addition to career-paving internships, Tan gained meaningful research experience exploring the integration of robotics in smart homes and elder care facilities under the guidance of systems and software professor Gregg Vesonder.
“It was my first introduction to robotics as well as my first deep dive into programming. We published a paper that summer. And I had no expectation of doing that. It was really cool that our professor pushed us to be able to do that our first summer here.”
Tan is a member of Gear and Triangle and Tau Beta Pi honor societies, and serves as a peer advisor for the Pinnacle Scholars Program. She is also a founding member of the newly-formed Alpha Phi sorority at Stevens.
“To say that I got everything possible out of Stevens would be oversimplifying it. Everyone has a different experience here. But I cannot explain how grateful I am for all the things that Stevens has provided me, and I hope that my fellow graduates can say the same as well.”