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2 seniors receive Henry Barnard Distinguished Student Award

Published on April 29, 2022

2 seniors receive Henry Barnard Distinguished Student Award

Barnard Scholars Nelson Javier Santos Ferrer and Natalie Devlin stand beside Eastern President Elsa Núñez and Todd Cooper, CSCSU board member and management program analyst with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.
Barnard Scholars Nelson Javier Santos Ferrer and Natalie Devlin stand beside Eastern President Elsa Núñez and Todd Cooper, CSCU board member and management program analyst with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Eastern Connecticut State University students Nelson Javier Santos Ferrer ’22 of Westfield, MA, and Natalie Devlin ’22 of Somers, CT, have been named recipients of the 2022 Henry Barnard Distinguished Student Award.

The Barnard Award is the premier academic recognition of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System (CSCU) and is sponsored by the CSCU Foundation. Each year it recognizes 12 outstanding undergraduates from Connecticut’s four state universities — Central, Eastern, Southern and Western.

Hartford native Henry Barnard was a principal force in creating the American public school system in the 19th century, serving in the Connecticut General Assembly before becoming superintendent of schools in Connecticut and principal of the New Britain Normal School in 1850. He became the first U.S. commissioner of education in 1867.

To be considered for a Barnard Award, a student must have at least a 3.7 GPA and a record of significant community service. Students are nominated by their university and its president.

Santos Ferrer

Over four years, Santos Ferrer maintained a 3.95 GPA as a Biology major with a minor in Genetic Counseling. He has been on the Dean’s List each semester since fall 2018; won the Academic Excellence Award three times as well as the Outstanding Academic Achievement Award; was twice named a recipient of the Inclusive Excellence Award for Academic Achievement; is a member of Beta Beta Beta Biological Honor Society and the Omicron Delta Kappa National Leadership Society; and has been named recipient of numerous scholarships, including the CHESLA Need Based Scholarship, Roberta R. Bard Memorial Scholarship, Academic Excellence Scholarship, Alumni Association Endowed Scholarship and the Eastern Scholars Scholarship.

Santos Ferrer is active on campus, including as a member of the Art Club, the United Voices of Praise Gospel Choir, and the Alpha Omega Christian Club, which he helped establish.

Santos Ferrer’s community activities include working with a physician associate at Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Southhampton, MA; serving the Boys and Girls Club of the Greater Westfield Area as a camp counselor; serving as a peer mentor for Eastern’s Success Scholars Program; volunteering with Eastern’s CCE Health and Wellness Fair and Walk for Warmth; participating in Eastern’s breast cancer awareness volleyball tournament and the Alyssiah Wiley basketball tournament.

Santos Ferrer is a first-generation student, and loves participating in sports, playing guitar and singing in the gospel choir.  “The thought of having to go to college was never a question for me. I knew it was the only option if I was going to change the cycle of poverty my family had endured for generations. Being recognized for the Henry Barnard award has taught me that hard work really does pay off.”


As an English major with a concentration in Secondary Education and a minor in History, Devlin has maintained a 3.99 GPA over four years, while also studying abroad at James Cook University in Australia in fall 2019. She has been named the recipient of the English Department’s Award for Academic Excellence; served as vice president of Sigma Tau Delta, the English honor society; is a member of Omicron Delta Kappa National Leadership Honor Society; and has been a recipient of the Academic Excellence Scholarship for the past four years.

Devlin’s campus activities include serving as secretary of the Best Buddies Club and as a student ambassador for Eastern, conducting student tour guides at open houses and Accepted Students Days; and serving as a teaching assistant and writing tutor.

In the community, Devlin has served as a legal assistant with the law firm Crear, Chadwell, Dos Santos, and Devlin, P.C., and volunteered for the Jumpstart Program, the Horizons Mentorship Program and Somers Elementary School’s Summer Language Arts and Math Program.

Devlin is ready to pursue her master’s degree in secondary education. She shared a life-changing conversation with a friend in the Best Buddies Club who has Down’s Syndrome. The friend shared her motto with Devlin — “I'm a little bit different, a lot the same.”

“These words struck me as meaningful and will guide my every interaction with future students, their families and other members of the community,” wrote Devlin. “I will advocate unconditionally for those who are unable to voice their beliefs. As an aspiring English teacher, I understand the necessity of recognizing that all students and members of a community are “a little bit different, a lot the same.”

Barnard scholars.
Left to right: Liz Cowles, biology professor; Casey Lenihan of Horizons; Miriam Chirico, English professor; Nelson Javier Santos Ferrer; Todd Cooper, CSCU board member; Natalie Devlin; Vijaykumar Veerappan, biology professor; and Derek Laux, biology professor. 

Faculty Mentors

Eastern President Elsa Nunez speaks highly of the two students: “Natalie and Nelson embody all that we can hope for in an Eastern Connecticut State University student. Each is highly intelligent and works diligently to apply their talents to their chosen career field. Natalie is preparing to teach literature, while Nelson is interested in genetics and pediatric medicine. Both students are active on campus, give back to the community, and are poised to make a special contribution to the world. They bring honor to our university and to their families, and I could not be prouder of them.”

Núñez also recognized the two students’ faculty mentors. “I salute the faculty in the Biology and English Departments for the support and guidance they have provided their students. I want to especially thank Professors Vijaykumar Veerappan and Dexter Laux for nominating Nelson, and Professor Mariam Chirico and Kenneth McNeill for nominating Natalie to receive the Barnard Award. There is no greater satisfaction as a professor than to see your students blossom as they develop their skills and exercise their talents.”

Todd Cooper, a member of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities Foundation Board, described Devlin and Santos Ferrer as “two of the best and brightest students from among the four Connecticut state universities. Their accomplishments are impressive. These students are the epitome of a Barnard Scholar and a source of pride and inspiration to us all.”

Veerappan, who served as Santos Ferrer’s academic advisor, said Santos Ferrer “was the top performer among all the students. He never missed a single lab or lecture and always showed up on time. He is highly motivated and an enthusiastic student.”

English Professor Miriam Chirico, whom Devlin served as a teaching assistant, wrote that Devlin “is called to be an educator. One of the root words of education, ‘educere,’ meaning ‘to draw out of,’ undergirds Natalie’s belief of education. She truly loves working with students to draw out the gifts that lie beneath their surface, and to help them grow into fully capable versions of themselves. The term ‘Renaissance Woman’ seems an understatement applied to Natalie. She is more than just the sum of multiple talents. At her young age, she already possesses the rare combination of intelligence, humanism and conviction of life purpose.”


Written by Dwight Bachman