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Graduating University of Delaware students Aniya Brown and Brenden
Swanik are the 2023 recipients of the Emalea Pusey Warner and Alexander
J. Taylor Sr. Awards for Outstanding Seniors, respectively. The awards
are presented by the University of Delaware Alumni Association (UDAA)
each year to seniors who demonstrate leadership, academic success and
community service. Recipients must have a cumulative grade point average
of 3.5 or higher at the end of the first semester of their senior year.
Brown and Swanik will lead the alumni delegates procession at
Commencement and will be honored at a celebration on June 2, during
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Seniors Brenden Swanik and Aniya Brown are honored by the
University of Delaware Alumni Association for their leadership, academic
success and community service.
Aniya Brown, an Honors pre-veterinary medicine major and Spanish for healthcare minor, has extensive extracurricular involvement, a clear
passion for the veterinary profession and dedication to making a
difference at UD, in her community and beyond.
Even in high school, Brown had worked closely with animals through
volunteering at local shelters such as the SPCA and Delaware Humane
Association, but her path of working with animals as a career was
solidified through her experiences at UD. A pivotal moment for Brown
happened while she was participating in the honors add-on section of the
course Animals, Science and Society, in which she worked hands-on with
piglets for a senior swine capstone. One night, she helped in the birth
of 14 piglets.
“It was one of the most exhilarating things I have ever been a part
of,” she said. “Since then, I have been able to delve even deeper into
my field and I’ve fallen more in love with it through classes such as
lactational physiology, animal disease, the dairy production capstone
Brown has conducted research with chickens in the College of
Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) Summer Scholars/UD Envision
program and deepened her appreciation for education and public service
through her work as a teaching assistant and chemistry workshop leader.
Along her journey, she networked with professors who have become mentors
on her path “toward actualizing my purpose and achieving my dream of
becoming a veterinarian,” Brown said.
With the help of her mentors, Brown took on her first experience in a
veterinary hospital through an externship at Windcrest Animal Hospital
where she now works as a pharmacy and technician assistant.
“The encouragement my mentors gave me and the knowledge my classes
provided me fortified my spirit to take on the challenge in full force,
and I felt I deserved to be there,” Brown said. “These hands-on
experiences were key components of my vet school applications.”
For Brown, becoming a veterinarian is just one facet of her larger
dream and the meaningful impact she aspires to have on the world. She
advocates for equality and equity as well, especially through her role
as a founding member of People of All Colors and Communities Together
(PACCT). PACCT is an Honors student action committee dedicated to
achieving equality and equity at UD and beyond by facilitating the
admission and retention of minority Honors students and providing
Additionally, she serves as an Honors student ambassador and an
inaugural member of President Assanis’ Student Advisory Council. Outside
of UD, she is a mentor for Delaware Goes to College Academy and talks
to underrepresented students about the different pathways to attend
college. She also spends at least two hours each week teaching English
to native Spanish speakers from local Latin-related organizations. Brown
has received the Global Seal of Biliteracy for being functionally
fluent in Spanish, and she was selected as a Fulbright English Teaching
Assistant award recipient to teach in Colombia, but she declined the
offer — for now — to pursue her studies in veterinary medicine.
Through her volunteerism, Brown has sought to improve the lives of
others and foster inclusive experiences. She has no plans to stop in
these efforts after graduation — Brown is committed to diversifying the
veterinary field as Black women comprise only 1.7% of the profession.
Brown’s other passions, her faith and dance, shine through in her
extracurricular activities. She is a Bible study leader for Intervarsity
Christian Ministry and president of two dance teams on campus, the
Solace Gospel Dance Team and the Isodynamic Hip Hop Dance Crew. She also
led the entertainment committee for CANR’s annual Ag Day, coordinating
performances, booking performers and organizing the stage and seating.
“Aniya has distinguished herself as an outstanding academic and as an
actively engaged member of our campus and local community, a student
that cares about her peers and unselfishly gives her time as a
volunteer,” said Lesa Griffiths, professor of animal nutrition at UD.
“She is an amazing role model for young women in STEM and I have no
doubt that she will have an inspirational and impactful career.”
After graduation, Brown will attend the North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine.
A self-proclaimed “space nerd” since childhood, Brenden Swanik has
embraced opportunities at UD that contribute to his passion for space
exploration, but even more importantly, to how he can use these
experiences for the betterment of humankind. His commitment to
influencing positive change extends to the UD community as well, through
student leadership roles and advocating for policy changes that will
impact generations of Blue Hen students.
“UD has encouraged me to take risks, aim high and never sell myself
short, lessons I hope to impart to the next generation of movers and
shakers at the University of Delaware,” Swanik said.
Swanik, an Honors biomedical engineering major, interned at the NASA
Langley Research Center in the summer of 2021 with help from the
Delaware Space Grant Consortium. The following summer, he interned at
Axiom Space in Houston, Texas, supported by the Honors College
Enrichment Award. There, Swanik gained insight into the private space
sector as he worked on the company's first commercial space station. He
led efforts to design, simulate, test and manufacture various components
within the crew quarters and integrated hardware into the top-level
model of Axiom Space Station.
These opportunities sparked Swanik’s interest in the pressing global
crisis surrounding aerospace technology policy. He became fascinated
with the challenge of preserving international partnerships while
fostering new avenues for collaboration between the private and public
sectors of the global aerospace economy.
Swanik wrote about these topics extensively in his applications for
two prestigious international scholarships, ultimately reaching the
status of a finalist for both — an achievement that speaks volumes. This
experience enabled him to forge connections to the UD alumni network
and increased his interest in these research areas.
While at UD, Swanik has represented the student body through numerous
leadership roles. In 2019, he re-founded the Delta Eta Chapter of the
Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity at UD with the core mission of re-writing the
preconceived notion of Greek life, actively combating hazing.
In the 2021-22 academic year, he served as executive vice president
and chief justice concurrently for the Student Government Association
(SGA). In this role, he was a voting member on the University Faculty
Senate and UD Board of Trustees, which allowed him to weigh in on
decisions such as course offerings and University leadership and
policies. He also improved the visibility of the SGA on campus, which
led to a significant increase in applications to serve in the
organization — a tenfold increase from the previous year.
Recognizing his outstanding leadership on campus, Swanik was selected
to be part of the inaugural President's Student Advisory Council, where
he serves as a representative of the UD student body. “Surrounded by
the senior leadership of the University, I was not only mentored but
inspired to learn the methodology of effective leadership,” Swanik said.
“President Assanis once told me, ‘No great challenge has been solved
These examples represent just a few of the exceptional opportunities
that Swanik has eagerly embraced. He has also served as a teaching
assistant, an Honors teaching fellow and a research assistant, among
other important roles at UD, in addition to studying abroad at
Aix-Marseille University in France.
One of his long-term goals is to be an astronaut and experience space
firsthand. Next, he plans to work as mission manager of International
Space Station External Deployments for Nanoracks in the Washington,
To learn more about the UD Alumni Association’s Warner and Taylor
Awards, past recipients and more awards offered through the Office of
Development and Alumni Relations, visit the Scholarships and Awards webpage.
Article by Megan Maccherone, photo by Kathy F. Atkinson
Published May 18, 2023