May 16, 2024

Three women in the Class of 2024 are top scholars with perfect 4.0 GPAs

By Vicki-Ann Downing

Three women are the top scholars in the Class of 2024, having achieved perfect 4.0 GPAs during four years at Providence College, the equivalent of an A in every class:

Avery Eleanor Budnik ’24 (Mashpee, Massachusetts), an elementary/special education major, will enter an accelerated master’s degree program in human development and education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Isabella Grace (Martino) Fechter ’24 (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), PC’s first Catholic studies major, will complete her degree in December 2024 and plans to work in service to the Catholic church.

Lauren Grace Viveiros ’24 (Wethersfield, Connecticut), a finance and management double major, will enter the full-time MBA program at Boston College.

The three will be recognized at the Academic Awards Ceremony on Saturday, May 18, at 11 a.m. in Peterson Recreation Center, where Budnik will present the class oration.

Three women are top scholars in the Class of 2024: Isabella (Martino) Fechter '24, Lauren Viveiros '24, and Avery Budnik '24.
Top students in the Class of 2024, from left, Isabella (Martino) Fechter ’24, Lauren Viveiros ’24, and Avery Budnik ’24.

Avery Eleanor Budnik ’24

Avery Eleanor Budnik ’24 always knew she wanted to be a teacher. As a child, she enjoyed
helping her younger brother, Will Budnik ’27, now a business management major at PC, with his schoolwork. Then, a discovery during her junior year of high school gave her a new perspective on learning. At age 17, she was diagnosed with dyslexia.
“It was not a shock for me,” Budnik said. “More of a relief, really.”

Avery Budnik '24, one of three top scholars in the class
Avery Budnik ’24

Budnik was already dedicated to becoming a teacher, but the experience inspired her to want to work students with learning disabilities, too. She applied to PC under the Early Decision option, signaling her intention to withdraw all other college applications if she was accepted. In addition to the elementary/special education major, she loved the athletics teams and appreciated how helpful everyone was when she toured campus.
But another lesson was ahead for Budnik: self-advocacy. During her first semester, she saw that some professors did not understand or accept the importance of resources available to students with a range of disabilities. The accommodations might include access to audio books or extra time to travel between classes.
Working with Molly McKeon, assistant director of disability services in the Student Success Center, Budnik helped launch a new student organization, BELIEVE, an acronym for Be Educated, Live with Inspiration, and Evaluate Equity. It advocates for students with disabilities, educates the campus community, hosts special events, and provides a student drop-in space. She was vice president as a sophomore and junior and president as a senior.
This year, Budnik founded a peer mentoring program, ACCESS, in which 15 experienced students with disabilities were resources for 15 new students. She also served on the school’s ADA/504 Presidential Cabinet Committee and worked as a student consultant for the Student Success Center, evaluating graduate-level courses for inclusive design.
In appreciation for her work, the Office of Student Activities presented Budnik with its Unsung Hero Award.
“It was not easy or natural for me to learn self-advocacy, but it paid off so much,” Budnik said.
She now teaches her students the same skills.
During senior year, Budnik was a student teacher at Pleasant View Elementary School in Smithfield, working a full 40-hour week in the classroom and taking courses at night. In the fall semester, she worked in a 4th-grade general education classroom, and in the spring semester, she provided services to 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders in a special education resource position. She also has taught in North Attleborough, Massachusetts, and at Times2 Academy in Providence, LaPerche Elementary in Smithfield, and Eden Park Elementary in Cranston. She passed her Rhode Island certification exams as a sophomore and her Massachusetts exams as a senior.
Budnik was drawn to the master’s program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education because of its access to a broad range of course offerings.
“I can take courses in the other graduate schools, so I could also study business and law classes as well and analyze educational policy,” Budnik said. “I’m from Massachusetts and I hope to teach there.”
It was “definitely an honor” to be accepted to Harvard, Budnik said. So was learning that she is one of the college’s top academic students.
In addition to her academic and volunteer activities, Budnik has loved cheering on the men’s basketball, hockey, and soccer teams, spending time with her brother, and building relationships with other elementary/special education students and professors.
When it comes to pursuing an elementary/special education major, “Be sure you’re passionate about it, because it’s definitely a different major,” Budnik said. “It’s worth doing if it’s something that you love.”

avery budnik’s class oration

Isabella Grace (Martino) Fechter ’24

Isabella Grace (Martino) Fechter ’24 holds two distinctions in addition to being a top scholar. She is the first student to graduate as a Catholic studies major at PC. And in July 2023, she married classmate Leonard Benson Fechter ’24, who is known as Benson, in the South Hills of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where both grew up.  

In middle school, Fechter wanted to be a chef. In high school, she ran a catering business while serving on Student Council, running cross country, and playing lacrosse. She researched the top schools for culinary arts and settled on Johnson & Wales in Providence, enrolling as a culinary nutrition major in August 2021.  

Isabella Fechter '24, one of three top students in the class
Isabella Fechter ’24

She already knew Benson, then a PC sophomore. They met when she was 15 and accompanied a friend to volunteer at a vacation Bible school run by his parish. So it was natural that, while attending school in Providence, she would visit him at PC, eat at Raymond Dining Hall, attend Mass in St. Dominic Chapel, and hear about his classes, especially the Development of Western Civilization, the college’s signature academic program.  

“I would look at Western Civ and say, ‘Your classes are so interesting,’’” Fechter said. “I missed being at a Catholic school. I wanted to read and write and I missed studying the humanities. I didn’t want to be a chef.” 

Matthew Cuddeback, Ph.D., assistant professor of philosophy, invited Fecher to sit in on a Philosophy of Catholic Social Thought seminar.  

“I’d always said I was not that academic, but after that class, I thought, ‘This is amazing. I want this,’” Fechter said.  

Because she had missed PC’s transfer deadline, Fechter returned to Pittsburgh to take community college courses. She was accepted to PC for the Fall 2022 semester with 30 credits from community college and six from Johnson & Wales. She took the first two semesters of Western Civilization and the Civ sophomore colloquium, Tocqueville: Then and Now, with Patrick H. Breen, Ph.D., associate professor of history, and Raymond Hain, Ph.D., associate professor of philosophy and of humanities.  

In addition to her studies, she worked as a nanny, tutored for a nonprofit over Zoom, worked at an ice cream store, and made furniture deliveries in Benson’s pickup truck.  

Benson proposed in September 2022. College Chaplain Rev. Justin Bolger, O.P. provided their pre-Cana training on campus. Their wedding, on July 29, 2023, was attended by John T. Scanlan, Ph.D., professor of English, Benson’s professor in a Baseball and Literature course. 

“We were called to marriage,” Fechter said. “Our Catholic faith is the most important part of our relationship. Marriage was the best decision I’ve ever made.” 

The newlyweds spent the Fall 2023 semester participating in the inaugural Rome Semester offered by PC’s Humanities Program. They lived in community at the Pontifical Irish College, a few blocks from the Colosseum, with Hain and his family, and studied at the Pontifical Gregorian University near the Trevi Fountain.  

“Living in community, we ate our meals together, took classes together, and on weekends took trips to Florence and to Assisi,” Fechter said. “Some of my best friends at PC are people I met through the program.” 

In the Fall 2023 semester, PC introduced a major in Catholic studies, combining courses in theology, philosophy, literature, and history. It was a natural for Fechter, who had been studying humanities.  

She will complete her degree in December 2024 and return to Pittsburgh with Benson. She hopes to begin a family and to work in service to the Catholic church, possibly in the pro-life movement. In the summer of 2023, she received a Veritas grant to pay her for an internship with the Girls Deserve Better program of Feminists for Life of America. She represented the organization at the Pro-Life Women’s Conference in St. Charles, Missouri. 

“I love PC,” Fechter said. “I am grateful to Benson and to my parents, who supported me when I changed colleges. This whole journey was definitely inspired by God.”  

Lauren Grace Viveiros ’24

Business is in the family of Lauren Grace Viveiros ’24. Her grandfather founded a company in her hometown of Wethersfield, Connecticut, that hauls petroleum products to gasoline stations and airports throughout New England, which her family continues to operate. Even while a student at PC, Viveiros worked weekends providing dispatch scheduling and covered during the week when necessary, too.

So while she entered college intending to study elementary/secondary education, it wasn’t surprising that she decided to add a second major in finance after her first semester. Eventually, she dropped education and added a second major in management.  

“Business was always in the back of my mind,” Viveiros said.

Lauren Vivieros '24, one of three top scholars in the class
Lauren Viveiros ’24

Viveiros was president of Beta Gamma Sigma, the international business honor society for schools accredited by AACSB International. She also was co-president of the Finance Society and a volunteer with First Generation Investors, a national nonprofit that teaches financial literacy to high school seniors. She worked with students at Charette Charter School in downtown Providence, helping to fulfill her original desire to become a teacher.

Viveiros resided on campus for three years before moving to an off-campus house with friends for senior year. She loved attending basketball and hockey games.

“You can really feel the PC community at these events,” she said.

During her sophomore year, she drove with friends to Buffalo to watch the men’s basketball team compete in the NCAA Tournament.

Viveiros didn’t begin her studies intending to finish first in the class, but once she found out about her perfect GPA, she did work to keep it. Changing majors meant taking classes during the summer and during winter break to meet degree requirements. Her most challenging class was the Student Managed Investment Fund. Students are invited to take the course and manage money in PC’s endowment fund, making stock picks, tracking market activity, and learning about investing from managers and consultants.

Viveiros chose to attend PC because it met her criteria as a small, Catholic college and “felt right” on her tour. Having family in Rhode Island also helped. Because she likes to read and write, she enjoyed the Development of Western Civilization Program. She enjoyed the smaller class sizes in the business school and getting to know her professors. She developed relationships with Joseph A. Gemma, MBA, assistant professor of management and assistant dean of undergraduate studies, who wrote her letter of recommendation for graduate school, and with Brenda Canning, CMA, and Kevin McMahon, CFA, assistant professors of practice in finance.  

During the summer of 2023, Viveiros had a paid internship with Travelers Insurance in Hartford, in the Financial Leadership Development Program, International Finance Department. She was offered a full-time position after graduation but opted for graduate school instead. She will move to Boston to begin her studies in the MBA Program at Boston College in mid-August.

Eventually, she hopes to get a job in Boston working in corporate finance before carrying on her family’s legacy.

“Small colleges aren’t for everyone. I liked the small, intimate class sizes. Some want the big school experience. No matter which you choose, you will find your people,” Viveiros said.

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