Amanda Bernocco Staff Writer
Asya Ashour, an Accounting major with an English minor, has been named this year’s valedictorian. Minqi Li, also an Accounting major, is the first international student in LIU Post history to receive the salutatorian title.
As part of the valedictorian tradition, Ashour will be giving a speech at this year’s commencement ceremony.
For Li, who didn’t expect to even be nominated for the honor, the title offers a sense of accomplishment. “I am grateful to be the first international student to be salutatorian and it feels good after four years of hard work,” said Li.
As an international student from China, Li said that it was difficult for her to even read a textbook in English when she first came here. Conversing with people who only spoke English was also a challenge that Li had to overcome.
Ashour said that she was honored to hear that she was valedictorian as well. She has already begun to think about her commencement speech that she will deliver on May 10. “It’s still a work in progress; I haven’t written it out yet and I don’t want to give it away,” she said.
At LIU Post, the process of choosing the valedictorian and salutatorian consists of several steps: first, a computer system selects a number of seniors with the highest G.P.A’s in the graduating class. . “This year that was a group of about 50 students out of about a 1,000 undergrad’s that gradaate each year,” said Carson. Students don’t necessarily need to possess a cumulative average of a perfect 4.0, but according to Carson, they rarely have anything lower than a 3.97. Ashour has a G.P.A of a 4.0 and Li has a 3.97.
Once the students with the highest G.P.A’s are selected, a committee weeds out those who are ineligible; such as students that transferred to Post with over three years worth of credits. The committee then starts looking at other positive qualities that the students possess. Eventually, eight students are chosen to continue the search process.
Those eight students are sent an email is sent asking them to write an essay and get two letters of recommendation. During the final steps, the candidates are interviewed by the selection committee, which is made up of professors from each of the schools on campus, Associate Provost William Gustafson, Assistant Provost Jessica Hayes and Carson herself.
“They should be well-rounded and have other things besides a high G.P.A. going for them,” said Carson.
Some other qualities that the selection committee looks for in a candidate, according to Carson, include their community service, ability to speak to large groups of people, the message that they wish to deliver and the
theme they would like to communicate in their speech.
The valedictorian and salutatorian title is a recognition of Ashour and Li’s accomplishments; they also get privileges such as being on stage for the entire ceremony and are invited to attend a breakfast with trustees.
A notable aspect of the valedictorian and the salutatorian is their commitment to the community. Both Li and Ashour spent hours volunteering with Volunteer Income Tax Assis- tance (VITA), an income tax program designed to help people with low-incomes file their tax returns for free.
This experience, according to Ashour, gave her a glance into what her future might be like, that is, if she decides to become a tax accountant.
“[Working for VITA] made me really awed about how much they [clients] respect us, and I got the feeling that I really have to live up to their expectations. Since they are putting so much trust in us, we have a duty to live up to their expectations and to be trustworthy,” said Ashour.
Li also had a positive experience when she volunteered at VITA.
“Not only can I help them [the clients], but I can feel good about myself and get more knowledge about filing tax returns,” she said. She added that tax returns in the U.S. are a lot more complicated and have a lot more rules than they do in China, where she lived until she came to LIU Post, four years ago.
After graduation, Li plans to pursue a Master’s degree in finance at a New York university because she is not ready to leave the state just yet. However, after she finishes school, she plans to go back to China and help her boyfriend expand his textile business.
Ashour is still undecided about what she plans to do after graduation. She is currently applying for jobs and graduate schools. “I don’t like to plan too much, I just let it happen,” Ashour said.