Women's Basketball

Jessica Vargas Earns University's Highest Academic Honor

Jessica Vargas accepts her Scholar of the Year award.
Jessica Vargas accepts her Scholar of the Year award.

April 23, 2010

LOS ANGELES - Redshirt junior guard Jessica Vargas' talents have always extended beyond the basketball court and on Thursday, April 22, she was recognized for her achievements as she was named the Loyola Marymount University Scholar of the Year at the 98th Annual Academic Awards Convocation. The school's first-ever Rhodes Scholarship finalist, Vargas will return to the Lions next season for her fifth year after missing the 2009-10 season with an injury.

"This was a great surprise to me and also an esteemed honor," Vargas said. "To me, the award is reflective of the hard work of many people who have pushed me and helped me throughout my time at LMU. I am deeply grateful to the faculty in the Chemistry department; their enthusiasm and insights have been invaluable. I am extremely humbled by this honor."

Vargas ended up taking home three other awards at Thursday's ceremony, in addition to Scholar of the Year. She also received the Jerome J. Korth Science and Engineering Core Award for the highest grade point average in core science classes, the Program Scholar in Biochemistry for overall GPA for the biochemistry major, and the Frank R. Seaver College of Science and Engineering, Mathematics College Scholar for the highest GPA in her college.

The Scholar of the Year award goes to the senior chosen from the College and School Scholars who entered the university as a first-year student and has acheived the highest grade point average and the most outstanding academic record of the class of 2010. This is the most prestigious academic honor awarded to an undergraduate by the university.

Jessica Vargas (center) shows off her awards with her mother (right) and with LMU Head Women's Basketball Julie Wilhoit (left).

On April 23, Vargas added to her hardware with the Sr. Raymunde McKay, R.S.H.M. Award at the Student Service and Leadership Awards Convocation. The award is presented to graduating seniors in recognition of their outstanding leadership throughout their undergraduate careers.

"Jessica came to LMU in hopes of achieving greatness. This award says it all about Jessica's commitment towards that goal," Head Women's Basketball Coach Julie Wilhoit said. "She is a very special and talented young woman. We look forward to having Jessica back for her fifth year next season and seeing what else she can achieve."

Vargas has possibly accomplished more off the playing field than any athlete in LMU history. A 4.0 student with a Biochemistry major, Vargas is a member of the Chemistry Society and has been on the Dean's List each of her seven semesters at LMU. She has earned National Scholar-Athlete honors in each of the last three years and WCC Scholar-Athlete status in 2008-09. She has won the top GPA award in athletics in each of the past three years. Since her sophomore year, she has participated in undergraduate research in synthetic organic chemistry with Dr. Tina Choe and in 2009, she advanced further than any student in LMU history, athlete or otherwise, in the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship application process, making it to the final interview round.

On the court, Vargas has suffered through two separate season-ending injuries, having torn her anterior cruciate ligament in 2008 and her Achilles tendon in 2009. Despite these injuries and although she graduates from LMU in May, she plans to continue her career as a fifth-year senior, bringing leadership to LMU's roster that loses five seniors to graduation.

With all of her involvement in academics and athletics, Vargas has also found time to work a summer internship in 2009 in the Medical Division at W.L. Gore & Associates in her hometown of Flagstaff, Ariz. Last summer, she built a searchable database of previously performed scientific experiments to develop medical products such as stents, vascular grafts, sutures and other cardiovascular devices. She also was able to scrub in to observe medical procedures. She will return there in the summer of 2010 to continue her internship.

The athletic department will had out its yearly awards on Monday, April 26 with the 5th Annual Iggy Awards at the Los Angeles Airport Marriott. Check back in to www.LMULions.com to find out the award winners.




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