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Gomez-Stafford and Beazoglou named 2020-21 Barnard Scholars

Published on April 08, 2021

Gomez-Stafford and Beazoglou named 2020-21 Barnard Scholars

2 graduating seniors poised for careers in genetic counseling and healthcare management

Barnard Scholars
Graduating seniors Justin Gomez-Stafford ’21 and Hannah Beazoglou ’21 are this year's Barnard Scholars. 

Two graduating seniors from Eastern Connecticut State University are recipients of the Henry Barnard Distinguished Student Awards this 2020-21 academic year. The award is the highest undergraduate distinction presented by the Connecticut State Universities (CSU) system, which annually honors 12 students from the four state universities.

Justin Gomez-Stafford ’21 and Hannah Beazoglou ’21 will graduate from Eastern with strong backgrounds in leadership and research, poised for impactful careers in the healthcare industry.

Gomez-Stafford is a biology major and genetic counseling minor whose undergraduate career can be defined by academic and athletic excellence, leadership and a commitment to social justice. He’s been accepted by several graduate programs in genetics and aspires to diversify the healthcare field and improve the lives of marginalized people. 

Justin Gomez-Stafford ’21

In addition to his achievements in the biology laboratory, Gomez-Stafford is a leader on the men’s track team, vice president of the Pre-Health Society and a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and several other student organizations.

“Justin is at the top of his game in the classroom as well as on the track,” said Matthew DeMarco, assistant cross country and track coach, noting his motivational spirit with teammates. “Justin is a leader in all forms of the word and is always looking to promote positive change in the world.” 

With a 3.83 GPA, Gomez-Stafford is an Academic All-American Scholar Athlete, member of the Beta Beta Beta National Biological Honor Society, Yale New Haven Promise Scholar and Dean’s List student, among other distinctions.

His independent research, “Phenotypic characterization of mutants defective in anthocyanin and proanthocyanin pigments in the model legume plant Medicago truncatula,” as well as other research projects have been presented at the conference level. Gomez-Stafford has also served as a genetic counseling intern at Yale New Haven Health and a teaching assistant for genetics classes at Eastern.

Professor Derek Laux has had Gomez-Stafford in three courses — cell biology, developmental biology and immunology. “Justin has demonstrated himself to be a student of the highest quality, a talented biological researcher and an exceptional young man,” Laux said, touting Gomez-Stafford’s infectious enthusiasm during class discussions as well as critical thinking and troubleshooting skills in the lab.

Speaking to his organization and perseverance, Gomez-Stafford’s research mentor Professor Vijaykumar Veerappan said, “Justin is an excellent research student and has a positive attitude whenever an experiment fails. He’s a team player and gets along with everyone on the research team.”

Biology Chair Elizabeth Cowles concurs with her colleagues: “Justin relishes learning and applies his knowledge in novel situations; in other words, he can think on his feet… Justin epitomizes the best of Eastern.”

Gomez-Stafford plans to attend graduate school for genetic counseling in order to become a licensed genetic counselor. “I believe that through the inclusion of individuals into services such as healthcare, who represent the communities they serve, lasting change can be made to improve systems that truly benefit all groups of people.” 

He added, “I feel ready to take on this new journey thanks to Eastern's rigorous curriculum, which molded me into a better scholar year after year, and with the support of Eastern's incredibly knowledgeable faculty who guided me through my undergraduate career. From countless track meets to hours in biology labs, I am forever grateful for how these moments have shaped me into someone worthy of the Barnard Award and for the incredible journey I am about to begin.”

Barnard Scholars with President Nunez
The Barnard Scholars pose for a photo with Eastern President Elsa Núñez.

Beazoglou is a business administration major with a minor in business information systems whose leadership skills and research excellence have landed her a full-time position in a leadership development program with CVS Health upon graduating.

Among her many undergraduate achievements and involvements, Beazoglou is a member of the Omicron Delta Kappa (ODK) National Leadership Honor Society, Delta Mu Delta (DMD) International Business Honor Society and Alpha Mu Alpha (AMA) National Marketing Honor Society. She is Eastern’s chapter president for DMD as well as a recipient of the honor society’s 2019 Regional Award and 2020 Board Award for outstanding business students.

Hannah Beazoglou ’21

Beazoglou is also a member of Eastern’s competitive Honors Program, for which she completed her Honors thesis, “Monitoring Length of Stay (LOS) and Readmission Rate at Hospitals: An Analysis using Statistical Process Control (SPC).” She’s now working to get the paper published in an academic journal and has presented the research at the 2020 Northeast regional conference for the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges (COPLAC); 2021 Northeast Decision Sciences Institute (NEDSI) annual conference; and 2021 National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR).

“Hannah’s performance on her Honors thesis is equivalent to that of graduate students,” said faculty advisor and Business Administration Professor Fatma Pakdil. “Her overall performance on her thesis and conference presentations show that her skills, knowledge and ability to manage such a comprehensive topic are well-developed.”

With a 3.96 GPA, Beazoglou has been on the Dean’s List each semester. Speaking to one of the business program’s most challenging courses — Marketing Research, which calls for students to develop a research question and follow through with sampling, data collection and analysis — professor and mentor Branko Cavarkapa stated:

“Although I expected Hannah to do well in this course, she exceeded my expectations and her performance was truly exceptional.  I am known as a hard grader, but her work, professionalism and attitude were outstanding… She has the ability to transfer these attributes to any employment situation.”

Reflecting on her undergraduate tenure, Beazoglou said, “I have countless memories of my time at Eastern. The most impactful are the strong relationships that I’ve been able to develop with so many professors… who have supported me and encouraged me to take risks and showcase my academic ability.”

Since 2018, Beazoglou has completed summer internships with Aetna, a CVS Health company, where she will seamlessly transition to full-time employment in the General Management Development Program (GMDP). The four-and-a-half-year program for next-generation leaders consists of three 18-month rotations in key business areas in locations across the country. During this job, she also plans to pursue a master’s degree.  

“I will be graduating from Eastern filled with an abundance of confidence and with a priceless collection of life experiences. As one door closes and another one opens, I take with me all that I’ve learned and experiences along with the commitment to be principled, hardworking and, above all, to live a life that I am proud of.”

Written by Michael Rouleau