High-Tech Alum to Receive University Medal for Excellence

May 17 2013 | By Melanie A. Farmer

Distinguished Columbia Engineering alumna Alicia Abella MS'93, MPhil'94, PhD'95 has been awarded the University Medal for Excellence, which will be presented to her May 22 at Commencement. The Medal for Excellence is awarded annually and bestowed on an outstanding Columbia graduate under the age of 45.

Alicia Abella
Alicia Abella

Abella, assistant vice president of Cloud Services Research at AT&T Labs, says she is thrilled to receive this honor and is looking forward to returning to Morningside as an honoree.

“I have always been in awe of Columbia with its long history of education, invention, and discovery. Just walking around campus fills me with inspiration,” says Abella, who studied computer science at the Engineering School.

“I am so looking forward to being on campus for commencement … to be able to once again partake in the ceremonial bestowing of the degrees to the student body. Having gone through it once before, I know how much work went into being there that day and what an incredible sense of accomplishment these students and their families feel on that day. I can't wait to enjoy it with them.”

A strong believer in diversity in and out of the workplace, Abella is an award-winning advocate for encouraging minorities and women to pursue careers in science and engineering. In addition to her role at AT&T Labs, she is executive vice president for Young Science Achievers, where she encourages a diverse group of high school students to study science, math, and engineering. In 2011, Abella was appointed to President Barack Obama’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, and in 2010, she was chosen as one of the top five women of the year by Hispanic Business magazine.

Abella’s constant inspiration? Her Cuban-born parents who have helped pave the way for her educational and professional successes. (Read: Abella profile in the Spring 2012 issue of Columbia Engineering magazine)

Abella enjoyed her time as a graduate student at the Engineering School and made lasting ties, including one she treasures with her former professor and thesis adviser, Computer Science Professor John Kender. “He provided me the research advising I needed when I needed it, attended my wedding, and continues to have a special place among my circle of mentors.”