Mansfield graduate honored by State System of Higher Education

MANSFIELD — Mansfield University graduate Sarah Y. Polinski is the 2017 winner of the Syed R. Ali-Zaidi Award for Academic Excellence from Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education.

Polinski, of Sayre, graduated summa cum laude in December with degrees in music education and vocal performance.

She was honored with a commemorative medallion and a $1,000 cash prize. The Board of Governors recognized her accomplishments at its meeting on April 5. Because she was unable to attend, Fran Hendricks, MU president, accepted the honor on Polinski’s behalf and then presented it to her at MU’s Academic Honors Assembly on April 10.

The Ali-Zaidi award is presented to a graduating senior at one of the 14 State System universities. It recognizes outstanding academic achievement and participation in extra- and co-curricular activities. This is the 17th year for the award, which was established in 2001 by Syed R. Ali-Zaidi, a founding member of the State System’s Board of Governors.

The university presidents recommend candidates for the award at the conclusion of a campus application and selection process. Selection criteria comprise academic scholarship, including prizes, honors and membership in honorary societies; participation in extra/co-curricular activities; and a two-page essay by the nominee on how the university has prepared him or her for the next career step.

“The Ali-Zaidi award gives us the opportunity each year to recognize students who excel not only in the classroom, but also in all areas of campus life, often giving back to their communities in very meaningful ways,” Board of Governors Chairwoman Cynthia D. Shapira said. “Sarah is an outstanding example of that, and a real role model for others.”

Polinski earned other honors while at Mansfield University, including both the Fitz Dixon Memorial Scholarship, which is awarded to students who demonstrate both “academic excellence and voluntary service within the community, at home and at his or her State System university,” and the Jack Wilson Memorial Scholar­ship for Musical Theatre. She also received a Delta Kappa Gamma Education Grant, which is awarded by the DKG International Society for Key Women Educators to students who “excel academically, are involved in community and school activities, and who have a sincere commitment to the field of education.”

Polinski served as manager of the MU Phonathon for two years, raising more than $43,000 for the university and training 28 other student callers each semester. She also has worked as a fundraiser for the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

She was director of the Hamilton-Gibson Young Women’s Choir, a youth community choir in Wellsboro, and gave private music lessons. She also was a facilitator for the HOBY Youth Leadership Conference, treasurer of the Mansfield Jazz Organization and fundraising chair of the American Choral Directors Association.

Polinski was a student teacher in the Wyalusing School District and graduated as valedictorian from Sayre Area High School in 2012.

She is acting in the education production Ellis Island and pursuing other acting, musical and educational opportunities in New York City.