Created in 2000, the Syed R. Ali-Zaidi Award for Academic Excellence is conferred upon a graduating senior from one of the State System universities. This award was founded by Dr. Syed R. Ali-Zaidi, a charter member of the Board of Governors. Funding for this academic excellence award was made possible through gifts from Dr. Ali-Zaidi, Highmark Inc., and the State System Foundation, Inc. Dr. Ali-Zaidi wishes to inspire and honor State System students who exhibit excellence in their pursuit of knowledge.
Candidates for the 2018 award were recommended by their university president at the conclusion of a campus application and selection process that was open to all graduating seniors. Multiple selection criteria included outstanding academic scholarship, including prizes, honors, and honorary societies; participation in extra/co-curricular activities; and a two-page essay by the nominee addressing how the university has prepared him or her for the next career step.
- Emily Haney (Danville, PA) – Bloomsburg University
- Ellen Mari Boyle (Greensburg, PA) – California University
- Anitra Jackson (Boothwyn, PA) – Cheyney University
- Jacob Beckey (New Brighton, PA) – Clarion University
- Leah Morrison (Erie, PA) - East Stroudburg University
- Carmela Battista (East Stroudsburg, PA) – Edinboro University
- Jennifer Brand (Murrysville, PA) – Indiana University
- Sara Wingert (Lehighton, PA) – Kutztown University
- Scott Shreiber (New Cumberland, PA) – Lock Haven University
- Richard Pollock (Dalton, PA) – Mansfield University
- Jennifer Houtz (Millersville, PA) – Millersville University
- Bradley Foreman (Shippensburg, PA) – Shippensburg University (Winner)
- Grascen Shidemantle (Slippery Rock, PA) – Slippery Rock University
- Sara Nyholm (Huntingdon Valley, PA) – West Chester University