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ACE Names Amberlin Dupre Student of the Year

Amberlin Dupre

Thomas Edison State University’s Amberlin Dupre, an operations manager at a national nonprofit medical society, is one of two students selected as the American Council on Education’s (ACE)/Sophia Learning 2022 Students of the Year.

Dupre, who earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology in March, plans to enroll in an advanced-degree program that would enable her to help people who struggle with mental health challenges and learning disabilities.

We are honored that ACE chose a Thomas Edison student and so very proud of Amberlin and what she has overcome on her journey to complete a degree,” said Dr. Merodie A. Hancock, president, Thomas Edison State University. “At TESU, recognizing learning that occurs outside the classroom is the cornerstone of our mission to help adult learners build careers, advance their profession, and empower their lives. As such, we excel at partnering with students, like Amberlin, to apply their past experiences to accelerate their path to a degree.”

The ACE/Sophia Learning Student of the Year Award is a national recognition presented annually by ACE to two individuals who have benefitted academically or professionally from the use of ACE credit recommendations for workforce or military training. Recipients must demonstrate outstanding achievements in their community or workplace while successfully balancing the demands of family, career, and education. Joel Riley, a Marine Corps veteran, and project manager in the finance technology industry was chosen as the second student. Riley expects to graduate in the spring of 2024 from National University. The winners will be honored at ACE2023, ACE’s Annual Meeting in Washington, DC in April. Both recipients will receive a $1,000 scholarship to help fund their education.

Dupre, who lives in Columbia, MO, decided to pursue a bachelor’s degree after overcoming a variety of obstacles. Though mental health challenges interfered with her ability to finish high school, she decided to pursue higher education as an adult. Once enrolled, Dupre thrived, earning a 4.0 grade-point average, all while juggling a full-time job, health and personal challenges, and a family. She recognized the ability to earn over 72 ACE credits as an essential component to her success.

“The availability of online classes and alternative credits revolutionized my ability to learn in a way that my brain craved,” she said. “Earning ACE approved credits saved me thousands of dollars and is allowing me to graduate two years early.”

Dupre has flourished professionally as well. After taking a college internship with Family Physicians Inquiries Network (FPIN), Dupre exceled and was offered a full-time position as operations and human resources coordinator, before being promoted to manage and oversee the organization’s finance department. LuShawna Gerdes, executive director of FPIN, praised Dupre’s passion, work ethic, and leadership.

“Her unparalleled efficiency, dedication to serving those around her, and commitment to doing an extraordinary job has completely transformed our office,” Gerdes said.

As if school and work are not enough, Dupre also gives back to her community. For example, Dupre has supported an elderly gentleman with dementia at a local senior living community, and she raised money for St. Jude’s Hospital when she ran a half marathon.

Dupre plans to attend graduate school to pursue her dream of helping people who struggle with mental health challenges and learning disabilities. “My educational journey exemplifies the resilience, strength, and innovative problem solving of all adult learners,” she said.

“Amberlin and Joel have demonstrated a drive to grow academically and professionally and a desire to use their education to help others,” said Louis Soares, ACE’s chief learning and innovation officer. “They are a model to other students who may not follow a traditional postsecondary path, and I am excited to see all that they accomplish.”

This year’s sponsor for the ACE Student of the Year Award is Sophia Learning, an online learning platform that allows students to get a head start on their education, or finish up a degree, by taking affordable and flexible general education-level courses that are ACE-recommended for college credit. Since 2020, Sophia students have completed more than 250,000 courses, earning more than 750,000 credits and saving more than $200 million.

“Many higher education journeys aren’t linear – life simply gets in the way. It is important for students like Amberlin and Joel to have opportunities just like everyone else to excel and thrive to help reach their education goal,” said Dr. Shawna Thayer, CEO of Sophia. “I am proud of the achievements of our winners and look forward to seeing how they progress in their education journeys.”

ACE is a membership organization that mobilizes the higher education community to shape effective public policy and foster innovative, high-quality practice. As the major coordinating body for the nation’s colleges and universities, our strength lies in our diverse membership of more than 1,700 colleges and universities, related associations, and other organizations in America and abroad. ACE is the only major higher education association to represent all types of U.S. accredited, degree-granting institutions: two-year and four-year, public and private. For more information, please visit or follow ACE on Twitter @ACEducation.