Farmville native earns top honors at UMW, with multiple awards

Published 6:53 am Thursday, May 23, 2024

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This past weekend, nearly 1,000 soon-to-be graduates crossed the stage at the University of Mary Washington’s Commencement, earning the applause of faculty, staff and thousands of family and friends. For five of those students, including one Farmville native, there was a little something extra to cheer as they received top-of-class honors. 

Graduates Anna Blake, Anna Czernia, Hannah Lee, Harmony Peura and Abigail Swanson earned the Colgate W. Darden Jr. Award for Academic Achievement for completing their degrees with the highest grade-point average in the undergraduate program. All five – the greatest number of grads earning this achievement in recent history – finished with a perfect 4.0 GPA, graduating summa cum laude, the highest academic distinction, and earning additional honors through their programs.

More about Farmville native

Abigail Swanson, is a math and physics double-major from Farmville. In addition to majoring in math and physics, Swanson completed the University Honors Program. She received departmental honors in physics, and the members of the physics faculty voted to award her the Physics Faculty Award.

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As one advisor wrote “she is one of two or three students who has helped shape the physics program at UMW.” As a student officer for the Society of Physics Students in her freshman year, Swanson played an integral role in major decisions, such as who to invite for colloquia, and helped implement strategies to reach out to new students at UMW. She made her commitment to creating a welcoming and engaging environment for underrepresented students in physics a priority.

Although Swanson’s interests lie in theoretical physics, she also received the 2023-24 Oscar Schultz Award in Mathematics, which represents that department’s top academic honor. She applied sophisticated tools from mathematics to answer questions about the evolution of the universe in her 50-page honors thesis, “Classification of Topological Defects in Cosmological Models.” And she is the winner of a 2023 Goldwater Fellowship – the most sought-after STEM scholarship in the United States – and plans to attend graduate school at Stony Brook University.