Posted: February 10, 2009
From researching how bacteria regulate the use of genetic information to organizing the campus’s Student Global AIDS Campaign to raising awareness of the plight of refugees, stellar achievement by students and young alumnae was showcased at the Mount Holyoke College Awards Day on February 9. Held in Blanchard Campus Center's Great Room, the event brought together faculty, staff, friends, and family members to celebrate academic excellence, campus leadership, and community service.
In her welcoming remarks, President Joanne V. Creighton noted the MHC community’s “immense pride” in those being honored. “You embody the spirit of our residential mission: linking academic excellence in the liberal arts with purposeful engagement with the world,” Creighton said.
During the ceremony, Dean of the College Penny Gill recognized 80 students as Sarah Williston Scholars. This honor goes to students in the top 15 percent of the class at the end of their sophomore year.
Also honored for outstanding academic achievement were 15 seniors inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, the national honor society for the liberal arts and sciences. Stan Rachootin, professor of biological sciences and president of MHC’s Theta chapter, and James Hartley, professor of economics and chapter treasurer, welcomed the new members and presented summaries of their distinguished scholarship.
Liz Braun, associate dean of the College and dean of students, presented the MHC leadership and service awards to ten students. Nominated by their peers, as well as by faculty and staff, the recipients were honored for endeavors ranging from facilitating student input on campus environmental issues to organizing a bone marrow drive that added 132 new donors to the national registry. During her presentation, Braun quoted a recipient who said, “An effective leader can only be someone who is truthful to herself and what she is passionate about.”
Aleefia Somji '09, a cocoordinator of the Student Global AIDS Campaign, was a recipient of the inaugural McCulloch Center Global Engagement Award. The award, presented by Eva Paus, Carol Hoffmann Collins Director of the McCulloch Center for Global Initiatives and professor of economics, honors outstanding commitment to raising awareness of critical global issues across campus and beyond. The other recipient was Senia Bachir-Abderahman '10, a tireless advocate for the some 200,000 refugees from Western Sahara living in camps in Algeria. Bachir-Abderahman, who was born and raised in an Algerian refugee camp and still is without citizenship from her home country, has spoken biannually at the United Nations since 2006 on behalf of the Western Saharawi plea for independence.
In addition, Bachir-Abderahman was one of three recipients of the Weissman Center Leadership Award for Excellence, along with Kathryn E. Jones '10 and Nina Nedrebo '10. She also received the Kelly Sottile Community Service Award; the other recipient was Moriah H. Silver ’09.
Other awards included the Maurice L. Rabbino Award, the Helen Warren Smith Award, the Frances H. Williams Award, the Karen Snyder Sullivan Memorial Travel Award, and the Mary Lyon Award from the Alumnae Association. The latter is given to a young alumna who has been out of College 15 years or less, who demonstrates promise or sustained achievement in her life, profession, or community consistent with the humane values that Mary Lyon exemplified in her life and inspired in others. This year’s recipients were Sally Anne McFarlane ’97, a scientist studying climate physics at one of the U.S. Department of Energy's national laboratories; Ingrid Ukstins Peate ’94, a volcanologist and igneous petrologist who serves as an assistant professor in the department of geoscience at the University of Iowa; and Lisa M. Utzinger ’02, a violinist and arts administrator.
In accepting her award, Peate seemed to speak for all the recipients when she attributed her success not only to the outstanding education she received at Mount Holyoke, but also “to the feeling here. It is indescribable.” She added, “And when you leave, you will fully realize just how fabulous it is.”