Sera M. Stotelmyre, a Lynch School of Education and Human Development graduate with a passion for issues related to health and social justice, is this year's recipient of Boston College's Edward J. Finnegan, S.J., Award.

The honor, which recognizes the graduating senior who best exemplifies the University’s motto, “Ever to Excel,” is normally presented at Commencement Exercises. The pandemic that forced cancellation of Commencement last May also delayed the selection of this year’s Finnegan Award winner.

But such public acknowledgement is not important to Stotelmyre, according to a Lynch School administrator who described the Oceanside, Calif., native as “devoted to the college and to her fellow global citizens without ever seeking recognition for her tireless work and efforts.”

 “It is a truly humbling experience to receive this award,” said Stotelmyre. “I felt an initial inclination to look outwards to my classmates, also worthy of recognition. I have stood in awe of their passion for learning and their commitment to vocation and citizenship. It has been a privilege to learn alongside a breadth of individuals and be guided by professors who gave me the courage to dare, the integrity to hold my values central, and the sense of self to be selfless.”

A major in applied psychology and human development, and biology, with a minor in medical humanities, Stotelmyre earned Dean’s List honors, and her academic contribution was characterized as “extraordinary.” 

It has been a privilege to learn alongside a breadth of individuals and be guided by professors who gave me the courage to dare, the integrity to hold my values central, and the sense of self to be selfless.
Sera M. Stotelmyre

“Sera’s coursework, majors, minor, and co-curricular service always centered on the intersection of health and social justice,” said Julia DeVoy, the Lynch School’s associate dean of undergraduate students and programs. “She is an unselfish, dedicated young woman who wants to do whatever she can to assist her fellow humans and make the world more just. She finds great joy in what she can do to improve the lives of others.”  

DeVoy cited two research projects—one that examined the ethical issues related to the allocation of limited resources, regulations, and economic injustice in the United States health care delivery system; another that studied health in a South Boston public housing community—as examples of Stotelmyre’s effort to have a “maximum positive impact on all populations she’s striving to support.”

“Her care and concern for improving the human condition is what motivates her to action and advocacy,” said DeVoy.

Stotelmyre also participated in numerous campus-related activities that served the greater good, such as the Appalachia Volunteers Program, Marian Manor Nursing Care Center through 4Boston, Health Coach Institute of the BC Office of Health Promotion, and the Boston College Experience. Additionally, she served as a teaching assistant for her Values and Social Services class, a medical humanities course she said she “cherished.”

She gave of her time at many local community-based programs, including the Jackson-Walnut Park Montessori Collaborative and Kids Corner, and internationally at the Pietro Barilla Children’s Hospital in Parma, Italy. She also volunteered for seven years at a Girl Scout camp called “Technology Goddesses” that promoted the pursuit of STEM education and careers.

According to DeVoy, Stotelmyre described these experiences as “profound catalysts for additional reflection, service, and future volunteer pursuits.”

A certified nursing assistant, Stotelmyre complemented her volunteer work with related professional experience, serving as a medical assistant at the Massachusetts Eye Research and Surgery Institute; a respite aide at the Boston Healthcare for the Homeless Program; and an intern at Palomar Health, a primary and specialty care provider in San Marcos, Calif.

Yet another indication of Stotelmyre’s quiet but deep devotion to her fellow human beings is her current one-year commitment to the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, one of the largest lay, Catholic, full-time volunteer programs in the world, which brought her to L’Arche in Washington, D.C., a community of people with intellectual disabilities where she’s serving as a care assistant.

For her post-JVC plans, Stotelmyre is considering both a physician assistant degree and a master’s of public health degree.

“I hope to work both on the individual and systemic level to sustain more holistic health care delivery policies,” she explained. “I know I want to be in the sphere of public health and making the needed changes in our health care system. My passion is in community health as it relates to families and individuals living in poverty and the development of public policies and programs affecting their health, specifically with Medicare/Medicaid programs and policy.”

Phil Gloudemans | University Communications | October 2020