December 9, 2019

Jessica Pope
Communications and Media Relations Coordinator

Toni Thompson Named VSU College of Humanities and Social Sciences Top Graduate

VALDOSTA — Toni Janese Thompson of Newnan, Georgia, is the recipient of the Fall 2019 President’s Award for Academic Excellence for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Valdosta State University.

The President’s Award for Academic Excellence is presented to the graduating student with the highest grade point average in each of VSU’s six colleges — Harley Langdale Jr. College of Business Administration, College of Nursing and Health Sciences, College of the Arts, James L. and Dorothy H. Dewar College of Education and Human Services, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, and College of Science and Mathematics.

VSU will celebrate its 228th commencement on Friday, Dec. 13, and Saturday, Dec. 14.

Thompson will serve as the official banner carrier for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences during the undergraduate commencement ceremony at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 14, on the VSU Front Lawn. She will graduate summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in psychology, a Spanish for Professionals Certificate, and a minor in Spanish.

“Being named the top graduate of my college is a privilege that I will always be grateful for,” she said. “Psychological sciences have demonstrated the academic aptitude, resilience, integrity, and intrinsic motivational qualities that one must validate within themselves in order to thrive in the field of psychology; I have manifested these qualities in times where adversity was very prevalent and learned the importance of misfortunes. Realizing that my diligent work did not go unnoticed by my professors caused me to continue striving towards excellence. I am thankful for my supportive family and friends that encouraged me to stay conscientious, humble, and devoted in my studies. My unquestioned faith in God has significantly shaped all aspects of my life, and with the help of Buddhist meditation practices, my stress levels have been extremely reduced throughout my college career. As I lead my College of Humanities and Social Sciences into the commencement ceremony on Dec. 14, I hope to demonstrate to everyone that through consistency and passion you can achieve remarkable things.”

As a student at VSU, Thompson was a member of Alpha Lambda Delta: The National Honor Society for First-Year Success, Blue Key Honor Society, American Psychological Association, Psychology Club, and Spanish Club, where she served as vice president. She participated in a study abroad trip to Costa Rica with the Department of Modern and Classical Languages, immersing herself in the language and culture. With financial assistance from a university-sponsored grant, she conducted research that compared mental and overall healthcare in Costa Rica to that in the United States. Her findings, which she and another student compiled into a paper titled “De-stigmatizing Latin American Social Systems: The Case of Costa Rica,” was presented during the 2019 Blazer Summer Research Institute.  

Thompson’s commitment to academic, service, and research excellence resulted in her being named a Georgia HOPE Scholar every semester and earning the Excellence in Spanish Minor Award, the James Ursano Army Scholarship, and VSU’s Student Leadership Program Certificate.

Thompson plans to continue her education and pursue a career in neuropsychology.

“The brain has always intrigued me,” she said. “As a child I always wondered how we were able to think, learn, and innovate. During graduate school I hope to conduct research on neuroplasticity rates of people who participate in meditation practices. I have personally experienced enhanced cognitive functioning, attention, and emotional intelligence throughout my practice; I am curious about the specific neurological reasonings of how this occurs. My ultimate career goal is to become a neuropsychologist for NASA. I strive to conduct research on the brains of astronauts that have or may potentially live prolonged amounts of time in outer space and provide efficient therapeutic and meditation-based coping strategies for their return.”

Thompson is the daughter of Tiffany Lynette Thompson and Johnathan Bernard Thompson.

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