2024 McGoldrick Award Recipients: Elena Ton and Michelle Tan

May 16, 2024

The McGoldrick Award was established by Sociology Professor Emeritus, Dr. Stacy McGoldrick for the College of Letters, Arts, and Social Sciences. The McGoldrick Award recognizes graduating seniors who excelled academically and stayed involved in extracurricular activities despite facing significant challenges. This year's McGoldrick Award recipients are Economics student Elena Ton and Psychology student Michelle Tan, each receiving $750 in recognition of their strength and perseverance.

About Elena Ton

Elena working on a computer in a labAs a first-generation Chinese American, Elena encountered numerous obstacles stemming from her family dynamics, especially the fallout of her parents' divorce. Despite the physical distance, the emotional scars persist! Being financially independent of her parents, Elena began suffering from stress and anxiety. "Financial independence posed another formidable challenge, triggering anxieties rooted in my upbringing. Navigating young adulthood without the guidance of my childhood role models was especially daunting," said Elena.

For Elena, therapy emerged as her lifeline, offering invaluable support in managing her stress, anxiety, and past traumas. Through therapy, Elena cultivated coping mechanisms that have empowered her to pursue her academic and professional goals with renewed vigor. Elena says that without the steady support of her therapist, friends, and fiancé, she wouldn't be where she is today. They have played an instrumental role in her journey. "My experience at CPP has been transformative, fostering a sense of comfort and self-assurance that I once lacked. The supportive community around me has played a pivotal role in reshaping my perception of self-worth, illuminating the inherent value within me that my low self-esteem once obscured," said Elena.

Elena would like to thank her fiancé Tim, and his family for their unwavering love and support. Her friends Carolyn, Esther, Ellen, Wendy, and Andrea have been her pillars of strength for over seven years. Stephanie Gonzalez, the Administrative Coordinator in Economics, who helped her recognize the significance of self-advocacy and bolstered her self-confidence. Lastly, Elena would like to say, "A heartfelt thank you goes out to Dr. Stacy McGoldrick for extending this invaluable scholarship opportunity, which acknowledges the resilience and perseverance of graduating seniors who have triumphed over adversity." 

Elena is set to graduate with academic honors with a 4.0 in Quantitative Economics. Dr. Bruce Brown Department Chair said, "Elena is the only 4.0 undergraduate student in Economics Department we have had graduate since I arrived at Cal Poly Pomona in 2000." After graduation, Elena will embark on a long-awaited journey and travel to Hong Kong and Japan to visit family and friends. Congratulations Elena!


About Michelle Tan

Michelle using the EEG cap on a studentDuring Michelle Tan's years at Cal Poly Pomona, she experienced a painful health condition. Despite the diagnosis, she pushed herself to get involved. "The mentorship from Dr. Kevin Autry in the Mental Processes Lab changed my life! I was provided personalized mentorship, a lab manager role, opportunities to present research at various conferences, and guidance with developing my senior project and the graduate school process," Michelle stated. She also worked in the CLASS Student Success Center where she interacted with students coming from different walks of life. "This taught me that everyone faces their own challenges and struggles, and their drive and persistence is what led them to this point. It made me realize that this is the starting point of hopes and dreams for many," said Michelle. 

Her time at Cal Poly Pomona has shaped her profoundly because of the opportunities she was able to receive and the people she met here. "Having 1:1 conversations, learning from their wisdom, their purpose, and being able to explore my interests in a concentrated setting while receiving quality mentorship inspired me greatly. They saw potential in me even when I didn't see it in myself," said Michelle.

Michelle would like to say, "thank you to the Psychology Department, Dr. Kevin Autry, Dr. Rhonda Rodgers, Dr. Erika DeJonghe, Dr. Sara Langford, Dr. Vanessa Kettering, Dr. Brittany Bell, Dr. Robert Blumenfeld, Dr. Nicholas Von Glahn, Dr. Alejandro Morales, Dr. Michael Giang, Dr. Jennifer Hsia, Ocena Corbin, and Antoinette Abernathy. The research assistants from the Mental Process and Brain Networks Labs, Dr. Steven Lee from the Finance, Real Estate and Law department. The CLASS Student Success Center, Annette Mastin, Maria Anzaldo, Associate Dean Brianne Dávila, and all Student Success Advisors I had the opportunity to work alongside. From CAPS, Denise Urzua, and all my mentors and peers in and outside of CPP, thank you sincerely for all that you do and for taking the time to help me learn and grow. You have profoundly changed my life and have gotten me to where I am today."

Lastly, Michelle would especially like to thank Stacy McGoldrick. "I want to express my gratitude to the donor, Dr. Stacy McGoldrick, for recognizing students who have demonstrated resilience in the face of challenges. This award shines a light on the often-unseen struggles that students encounter every single day. In accepting this award, I honor all those who strive and persevere, showing that even during the toughest and darkest times, their strength is recognized. When you follow your calling, stay true to yourself, and push through obstacles that you didn't believe you could get through, it will show its weight in authenticity in your motivations and aspirations." Michelle, a psychology major with a cognitive emphasis, will be graduating in May. She will continue her studies and pursue her master's degree in psychology at Cal State LA. Soon, she intends to pursue her PhD. Congratulations Michelle!