Students recognized for their achievements at annual Prize and Awards Ceremony
The Brandeis community gathered on May 3 to acknowledge the accomplishments of students.
Faculty, staff and students convened in the Shapiro Campus Center Theater on May 3 for the annual Prizes and Awards Ceremony, sponsored by the Dean of Students OfficeLife. The ceremony highlighted the University’s core values — citizenship, leadership and academic excellence — according to Assistant Dean of Students Stephanie Grimes, who served as master of ceremony.
Student Life Award
Grimes began the ceremony by introducing the Student Life Award, which recognizes students who are committed to “giv[ing] back to others over serving themselves.” The first recipient of this award was Zach Cihlar ’19, who, according to award presenter Mesa Robinov ’17, has contributed to the Brandeis community with “unwavering willingness, grace and a smile.” Cihlar captained the men’s tennis team to a second place finish at the University Athletic Association Championship and was elected to the Phi Beta Kappa National Honor Society, Robinov said.
While presenting the award, Director of the Department of Community Service Lucas Malo praised Abigail Gardener ’19 on her significant contributions to both departments and her “authentic appreciation” of those around her. As coordinator for Companion to Elders and co-editor of The Brandeis Hoot, Abigail Gardener ’19 brought her “expertise and knowledge” to various initiatives through her work at the departments of Community Service and Student Activities, according to Malo.
Like Gardener, Sophie Gordon ’19 made a lasting impact through her work with the Department of Community Service, William Brumett, the Program Coordinator for Services and Initiatives for Department of Community Service, said as he presented the award. Brumett added that Gordon has worked “quietly yet impactfully” to amplify the voices of hundreds of volunteers as the inaugural volunteer engagement coordinator and a coordinator for Waltham Group’s Brandeis Buddies.
Joshua Lepson ’19 not only excels in academics but uniquely embodies the character of “a servant leader,” according to award presenter Brummett. As a coordinator for Waltham Group’s Hunger and Homelessness, Lepson has worked to address food and housing insecurity to ensure that “everyone is treated with dignity and respect,” Brumett said.
Vi Pham ’19, the last recipient of the award, exemplified a sense of commitment through her campus leadership, according to the Massell and Rosenthal Quad Area Coordinator and award presenter Peter Budmen. As a head Community Advisor, Pham has served her peers through “crisis, success and failures,” ensuring that they felt “welcomed, desired and included,” Budmen said. She has also assisted the University in student recruitment and retention through her work in the Office of Admissions.
The Kukin Moskowitz Prize for Excellence
The Kukin Moskowitz Prize for Excellence acknowledged a graduating senior for their notable “academic achievement, character and leadership,” according to the award description. It was presented by Director of Student Activities Dennis Hicks. Hannah Brown ’19, the outgoing Student Union president, took home this award. According to Hicks, Brown “epitomizes” the character of a “true Brandeisian” and leader, “guid[ing]” the future of the University with her nuanced insights during the discussions with decision makers.
The Textile Veterans Association Honor Award
The Textile Veterans Association Honor Award credited a graduating senior who has demonstrated exceptional leadership through extracurricular involvement. Julia Brown ’19, a member of the 2019 Midyear Orientation CORE Committee, won the award for her work in community building.
The Joseph and Ida Burtman Award
The Joseph and Ida Burtman Award recognized a students’ “scholarship and general leadership,” according to the award description. Mariel Guzman ’19 took home the award for her accomplishments as a member of the 2017 Midyear Orientation CORE Committee. Having entered Brandeis as a midyear student herself, she used her experiences to empower her midyear peers and did so by creating the Midyear Connection Event, which fostered connections between previous midyears and their new peers. While presenting the award, the Associate Director of Community Living and Orientation Scott Berozi praised Guzman’s “passion and motivation” throughout her community engagement.
Katherine A. Chernosky Memorial Award
The Katherine A. Chernosky Memorial Award was given to an individual who “embodies maturity, conscientiousness and dedication to duty, families and friends,” according to Grimes. She presented the award to Allison Lewis ’19 for her service on the Brandeis Emergency Medical Corps. As its operations director, Lewis has reinforced “clinical appreciation” for female patients by bringing the “history and exams” required for female patients to her mentees’ awareness. In addition, she assisted BEMCo in its acquisition and licensing of a new ambulance, Grimes said.
Edwin E. Hokin Memorial Prize
The Edwin E. Hokin Memorial Prize celebrates the accomplishments of an individual who embodies the “ideals” of community service, citizenship and integrity, according to the award description. Maya London ’19, the inaugural community engagement ambassador for the Waltham Group, received the award. She spearheaded a recent teach-in — Waltham: The More You Know — that exposed attendees to the needs of the Waltham community.
Michael Kalafatas ’65 Admissions Prize
The Michael Kalafatas ’65 Admissions Prize recognized the contribution of a graduating senior to the University’s admissions process. Lily Eligator ’19 received the award for her notable achievement and mentorship in the Office of Admissions as a student interviewer and a volunteer coordinator.
Richard Kaufman ’58 Memorial Prize
The Richard Kaufman ’58 Memorial Prize is awarded to a “well-rounded” student excelling in academics and extracurricular leadership, according to the award description. Benjamin Merker ’19 received the award for his role as the crew chief and supervisor of BEMCo’s responding team. In addition to collaborating with various administrative departments “on and off campus,” Merker used his knowledge of business and economics to explore “model of compensation” for BEMCo workers with the administration, according to the Area Coordinator for Village Quad and 567 South Street Brad Toney, who presented the award.
Matthew Nadler ’20, president of the Waltham Group, was recognized for his work to “improve and elevate” the organization, according to Colby Sim, the community service specialist in the Department of Community Service, who presented the award. Throughout his tenure, Nadler has supported its newly-established executive board and over 700 volunteers, ensuring that all voices were included in decision-making processes.
Rasheed Peters ’20 won the award for his contributions to the Office of Admissions. As a student interviewer, Peters put “instrumental” effort into coordinating Admitted Students Day, according to Meghan Napier, the award presenter and assistant director of undergraduate admissions. Napier commended Peters’ “professional and innovative” approach and use of creativity in his projects.
Nina Rosenblatt ’19, another recipient of the award, embodies the “scholar and character” that Brandeis values, according to the award presenter Prof. Joe Cunningham (PSYC). Through her work in Second Step and as an English Language Learner instructor for immigrants, Rosenblatt has been dedicated to giving support to those in need with a creative approach. This summer, she will go to the Dominican Republic as a Princeton Fellow to provide health services to adolescents.
Serena Shen ’19, the last recipient of the award, demonstrated exemplary leadership through her work at the Prevention, Advocacy and Resource Center and as president of the Brandeis Asian American Student Association. Sarah Berg, the director of PARC, nominated Shen for her contributions in creating new approaches to sexual violence response tailored to the University’s Asian community.
Christine Minor ’19 also received the award, but did not attend the ceremony.
David A. Alexander ’79 Memorial Award
The David A. Alexander ’79 Memorial Award is a student-nominated award meriting individuals for their “social consciousness and activism,” according to the award description.
Renee Korgood ’20, the first recipient, has been involved in campus activism, having spearheaded several initiatives to increase awareness of student “engagement in [the] political process,” according to Brown, who presented the award. Most notably, Korgood ran the “Yes on 3” campaign last semester to advocate for a Massachusetts referendum that now provides anti-discrimination protection for the transgender community.
The student body also acknowledged Benedikt Reynolds ’19 for his work to revitalize campus’s sustainability culture and student life experience. During his tenure as the Senate’s Sustainability Committee chair, Reynolds launched the Sustainability Ambassador Program to make the campus more “energy-efficient,” according to Brown. In addition, Reynolds co-created the Boston Hub Student Film Festival and the Ollies Award Program.
Linda Heller Kamm ’61 Prize
Elizabeth Dabanka ’20 won the Linda Heller Kamm ’61 Prize for her advocacy and leadership in social justice. According to Brown, Dabank was actively involved in menstrual product initiative, served as a DeisImpacter and organized the Film Festival of Social Justice. She also chaired the Senate Social Justice and Diversity Committee before going abroad this semester.
Harry S. Levitan Prize
The Harry S. Levitan Prize recognizes a student who displays “kindness, sympathetic understanding and high moral character,” according to Grimes. Prof. Ruth Charney (MATH) presented the award.
Brandis Whitfield ’19 won the award for her “deep commitment” to serving the University as an Undergraduate Departmental Representative for the Math department, a BUGS tutor and a Student Support Services tutor, according to Charney.
Kappa Eta Sigma Award
Similar to the Harry S. Levitan Prize, the Kappa Eta Sigma Award appreciates students who demonstrate “thoughtfulness and kindness” through their service to the community, according to the award description. Elaine Wong, senior associate dean for Undergraduate Education, presented the award to Kwensi Jones ’21 in recognition of his academic excellence and endeavors to foster an inclusive community. A newly-elected UDR for the African and African American Studies Department, Jones co-produced a video for its 50th anniversary commemoration, Wong said.
Herman and Bessie Blum Memorial Award
The Herman and Bessie Blum Memorial Award recognizes a junior who has helped fellow students through “kindness and consideration,” per the award description. Brumett presented the award to Miranda Lassar ’20. According to Burnett, Lassar has demonstrated “flexibility and creativity” as a coordinator for Service without Borders and a leader of Services and Planning Committee for her fellow CAs .
Robert B. Sherman ’67 Memorial Prize
The Robert B. Sherman ’67 Memorial Prize celebrates a student’s commitment to strengthening “social diversity and cooperation,” elevating “social welfare” and “help[ing] others achieve their rights,” according to the award description. Agnele Sewa ’20 won the award for her outstanding contributions in “helping people gain awareness of social justice,” according to Wong, who presented the award.
Bruce R. Mayper Memorial Award
The Bruce R. Mayper Memorial Award acknowledged two students for their engagement in the field of “interracial relations,” according to the award description. Budmen and Sheryl Seller, the assistant director at the Sillerman Center for the Advancement of Philanthropy, presented the award.
Sabrina Howard ’19, another recipient, proved to be an “authentic leader” through her various leadership positions on campus, Budmen said. As a head CA this year, she demonstrated the characteristics as a “thoughtful, empathetic and creative leader,” according to Budmen.
As a co-founder of The Right to Immigration Institute, Victoria St. Jean ’19 helped immigrants navigate support resources through the asylum process in the United States. In addition, she has worked in the Sillerman Center at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management to “empower” the voices of marginalized communities, Seller explained.
Maurice L. Shaer Memorial Prize
The Maurice L. Shaer Memorial Prize is awarded to three deserving underclassmen from each grade level who are receiving financial aid at Brandeis, according to the award description. Chari Calloway ’20, Sara Hogenboom ’21 and Cassipea Stith ’22 received the award.
According to the award presenter Ingrid Schorr, the director of the Office of the Arts, Calloway has distinguished herself through her “constant and fearless advocacy” for Black students at Brandeis. She launched the Create@Brandeis Instagram for students to submit their artwork and assisted in selecting photos for Brandeis State of the Arts Magazine.
Hogenboom, the incoming president of TRII, received the honor from Prof. Douglas Smith (LGLS) in recognition of her outstanding contribution to the organization.
Stith, a member of the Student Support Service Program, has “invigorated” her surroundings with her “dynamic and thoughtful” personality and commitment to social justice, according to the award presenter, SSSP program advisor Patrice Charlot.
Rose Schlow Award
The Rose Schlow Award acknowledges a student who has contributed to the welfare of others with “thoughtfulness and kindness,” according to Grimes. Michaela Cabral ’19 received the honor. As a Kindness Day coordinator, a CA and a five-time Orientation Leader, Cabral has spread her kindness and positivity across the campus, according to Budmen, who presented the award. Through active listening and “affirmation of others’ experience[s],” Cabral has shown her community that “laughter is the best medicine,” Budmen explained.
Jacob and Bella Thurman Award
The Jacob and Bella Thurman Award, presented by Wong, recognizes students who embody the highest caliber of social citizenship, per the award description. The recipients were Gabriel Sol Aronson Fontes ’19 and Max Tang ’19.
Fontes, a Martin Luther King Scholar and a Segal Teaching Fellow, has worked to ensure that immigrants have equal access to education. He was recently granted the Luke Collins Fellowship for creating a library for the Boston International Newcomers Academy. Moving forward, he intends to continue “making a difference in the lives of others” by becoming an English Language Learner teacher, Wong said.
Tang has served as the president of the Brandeis Asian American Task Force, which is currently working to make Asian American and Pacific Islander Studies a minor. In addition, she recently completed the Starr Fellowship under the Lurie Institute for Disability Policy. After graduation, Tang hopes to become a “counselor and social worker,” Wong said.
Brandeis National Committee Presidential Award
The Brandeis National Committee Presidential Award is given to a well-rounded junior who “demonstrates leadership” through “academic achievement” and campus involvement, according to the award description. Benee Hershon ’20, the award recipient, was unable to attend the ceremony. The award was presented by Beth Bernstein, the Executive Director of BNC, with Hershon’s sister accepting on her behalf.
As an information/borrowing assistant in the University Library, Hershon has “helped [the] Brandeis Community navigate … [library] resource[s]” with her extensive knowledge and has proven herself to be a “mature, dedicated and compassionate” leader, Bernstein said.
Outstanding UDR Awards
The Outstanding UDR Awards recognize UDRs’ mentorship and assistance to fellow students in navigating academic settings. Cunningham, Prof. Barry Snider (CHEM) and Prof. Stephen McCauley (ENG) presented the awards.
Cunningham applauded Akshiti Todi ’19 and Lauren Puglisi ’19, who served as UDRs for the Psychology Department, on their achievements to “launch” the psychology minor. In addition, the duo worked to incorporate popular films into psychology lectures and significantly improved “student-faculty communication,” according to Cunningham.
As chemistry UDRs, General Chemistry Supplemental Instruction Leader Jen Geller ’20 and Organic Chemistry Structured Study Group leader Maurice Windley ’19 were awarded for advising hundreds of current and prospective students both academically and occupationally, including at Admitted Students’ Day, the Academic Fair or the fall Meet the Major event that they helped organize, according to Snider.
Rachel Moore ’19 demonstrated exceptional “communication and organizational skills” as a UDR of the English Department and a peer counselor at the Hiatt Career Center, McCauley said. Moore assisted her fellow students through “internship and job placement” to alleviate their career concerns, worked alongside faculty and administrators and “blueprint[ed] ongoing improvements” for students specializing in Humanities, McCauley said.
Another recipient, Lily He ’19, who served as an UDR of the Neuroscience department this past year, did not attend the ceremony.
—Editor’s Note: Justice Editor Jen Geller, recipient of the Outstanding UDR award, did not contribute to this article.