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News Release

Date: April 17, 2007
Media Contact: Elizabeth Homan, 301-251-7970; Steve Simon, 301-251-7952

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Montgomery College Student Named One of Nation’s Top 20 From Two-Year Colleges
Vanessa Coleman of Potomac Chosen for All-USA Academic Team Honor

PHOTO EDITORS: For a high resolution image to accompany this release, visit

    Montgomery College student Vanessa Coleman, of Potomac, Maryland, has been named to the 2007 First Team of the All-USA Community and Junior College Academic Team. The honor is given each year to only 20 students nationwide for their academic achievement and community and college involvement, and it carries with it a $2,500 cash award for each honoree. Another 20 students each were selected for the Second and Third Teams.

    Sponsored by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society for two-year colleges, and USA Today, the award honors 60 students each year from two-year colleges across the nation. The award ceremony took place this week in Tampa, Florida, at the annual convention of the American Association of Community Colleges.

    Montgomery College President Brian K. Johnson, who joined Coleman at the awards ceremony, said, “Vanessa Coleman is an extraordinary young woman, who has succeeded not only in the classroom, but also in serving the greater college community as a student member of the Board of Trustees. We’re so proud of her accomplishments and know that she has a great future ahead of her, and we know that the foundation she built at Montgomery College will serve her well in all of her endeavors.”

    Coleman first took Montgomery College classes while she was still a student at Wootton High School in Rockville, Maryland, through the College Institute. A joint program of Montgomery College and Montgomery County Public Schools, the College Institute brings college courses on-site to select county high schools. She earned 10 credits during her senior year in high school, before deciding to enroll at the College full-time, after graduation, instead of the four-year school to which she was accepted.

    “I truly believe the individual attention, small class sizes and accessibility of the faculty at Montgomery College made my experience here so remarkable,” said Coleman. “…Though it may seem like a tough choice, I did not hesitate to turn down an exciting educational opportunity abroad, in order to help my family to save costs by attending community college locally. I know I have made the right decision. I have been able to grow intellectually in a challenging yet always encouraging environment, with people helping me each step of the way.”

    At Montgomery College, Coleman has participated in two special programs—the Takoma Park Scholars, an honors program located at the Takoma Park/Silver Spring Campus, and the Biomedical Scholars, a program designed for students planning to pursue a career in the biomedical sciences. Dr. Ken Weiner, Montgomery College math professor and former co-director of the Biomedical Scholars program, believes what sets Coleman apart from other students is “her commitment, discipline, and single-mindedness in achieving her personal goals.”

    Through the Biomedical Scholars program, Coleman secured a research internship at Virion Systems, Inc., where she worked alongside a prominent immunobiologist, performed research, and learned about infectious diseases. In fact, she was invited to give a presentation of her internship research at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students, sponsored by the National Institutes of General Medical Science, National Institutes of Health. Calling her internship “the defining experience” of her studies at Montgomery College, Coleman has decided to pursue a career in medicine, working specifically in the area of global health and infectious diseases.

    “I have no doubt that she will succeed,” said Dr. Barbara Hoberman, Montgomery College professor of biology and director of the Biomedical Scholars program. “She has exceptionally high ideals, high standards, and absolutely no fears about reaching for the highest attainable goals.”

    Coleman has conducted two ethnopharmacology research projects on the Gullahs, descendants of African slaves living in South Carolina, under the mentorship of Dr. Cyrus MacFoy, biology professor at the Takoma Park/Silver Spring Campus. She hopes her research will be published in the future.

    “I am amazed at the opportunities for research that Montgomery College offers," said Coleman. 

    Outside the classroom, Coleman spends countless hours serving Montgomery College as a student member of the College’s Board of Trustees. One student is appointed to the one-year post each year by the Governor of Maryland, joining the other nine members of the Board in a full voting capacity. Members of the Board of Trustees provide general oversight for the College and establish policies for implementing the College’s mission. This year, one of the Board of Trustees’ most important responsibilities was to conduct a nationwide search for a new president.

    Coleman also serves as a member of the Student Ambassadors club, whose members help to support College events by serving as greeters and in other volunteer capacities, and as vice president of the Rockville Campus chapter of Phi Theta Kappa honor society. The faculty advisor for Phi Theta Kappa, Montgomery College Professor Sue Adler, nominated Coleman for the All-USA Academic Team and assisted her with the application process.

    In addition, Coleman holds a paid job as a software tester for a local company and volunteers at a community art gallery.

    Coleman will transfer from Montgomery College in May. She is still undecided about where she will continue her education, but she has applied to some of the country’s top four-year colleges and universities. This summer, Coleman will attend a six-week summer medical program at Duke University, sponsored by the Association of American Medical Colleges. At Duke, Coleman will take preparatory courses for the MCAT exam and accompany physicians on clinical rotations. 

    Coleman is the third Montgomery College student to have been named to the All-USA First Team since the program’s inception. The College last placed a student on the All-USA First Team in 2005, with Gabriela Molinolo, who will graduate from Smith College in May, and in 1996, when Maureen Harrigan earned the honor.

    Besides the All-USA Academic Team honor, Coleman was named Maryland’s New Century Scholar for receiving the state’s highest All-USA Academic Team application score. For this honor, she will receive an additional $2,000 scholarship. The New Century Scholar award is sponsored by the AACC, the Coca-Cola Foundation, and Phi Theta Kappa.

    Additionally, Coleman was named to the First Team of the All-Maryland Academic Team, along with four other honors students from Montgomery College. This state award, similar to the All-USA recognition, honors top community college students from across Maryland, which has 16 community colleges. Coleman is joined by Lauren Payne, a psychology major and student in the Millennium Scholars honors program at the College’s Germantown Campus; Sarah Vandy, a business administration major and a student in the Macklin Scholars business honors program at the Rockville Campus; Yeneneh Worku, a general studies major who leads the biology club and works in the social science computer center at the Takoma Park/Silver Spring Campus; and Minhvan Tran, a pre-pharmacy major and member of the Takoma Park Scholars honors program at the Takoma Park/Silver Spring Campus.

    For more information on the All-USA Academic Team, visit For more information about Montgomery College in Montgomery County, Maryland, visit

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Montgomery College is a public, open admissions community college with campuses in Germantown, Rockville, and Takoma Park/Silver Spring, plus workforce development/continuing education centers and off-site programs throughout Montgomery County, Md. The College serves nearly 60,000 students a year, through both credit and noncredit programs, in more than 100 areas of study.

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