Thriving at MHC? Student leaders.

Board members of the Mount Holyoke Model United Nations pose with their Distinguished Student Organization Award citation (from left): Maham Khan '19, Marwa Mikati '17, Kim Foreiter '19 and Edith Amoafoa-Smart '19.

This story was updated on 5/9/17 at 2:50 p.m.

By Sasha Nyary

The Mount Holyoke College community honored its outstanding student leaders at the annual Student Leadership and Service Awards celebration in Chapin Auditorium on April 19.

“This is a moment for us to stop and think about what you’ve all achieved, what you’ve given to this community, individually and collectively,” said Acting President Sonya Stephens as she welcomed the enthusiastic audience of about 250 students, families, professors, staff, alumnae and mentors. “It is, to be sure, a moment to acknowledge all that success. And it’s a moment to think about what constitutes success, and what constitutes leadership, expressed as it is in so many ways.” 

The examples of the students and their wide variety of contributions helped define Stephens’ remarks. Students were honored for making lives better on campus, in the region and beyond. Three seniors won awards for their contributions to residential life. Several awards were given to students and student groups in honor of their work in support of social justice and diversity.

More than 250 students had been nominated by their peers, faculty and staff for their leadership, community service and outstanding accomplishments on local, national and global levels. This year, in honor of their contributions, they were all invited to the event. 

Such efforts by students challenge other members of the College community to be their best selves too, said Marcella Runell Hall, vice president for student life and dean of students. 

“It is in working to create opportunities and space for your peers and in reminding us what it means to be in community both on and off campus that we are here today, to recognize and celebrate,” Hall said. 

Numerous lessons in leadership 

The presentations to the award-winners were exhilarating, heartfelt and at times teary — for the winners and for the audience. 

Libby Kao ’17 has served as a SAW liaison, or as we like to say, a mentor of mentors, for the past two years,” said Janet Lansberry when she gave Kao the Weissman Center for Leadership Award for Excellence. Lansberry is the associate director of the Weissman Center. “With insight, integrity and grace, Libby designed and led professional development opportunities for SAW mentors focused on topics such as interpersonal dynamics and public speaking.” 

Kao, an English major, said she has discovered numerous lessons in leadership at Mount Holyoke. 

“I have learned to be imaginative about my leadership, to welcome it when opportunities come along in unexpected places,” Kao said. “And how leadership rewards long-term commitment. I often didn’t really know I was a leader until I had finished an experience as a leader.” 

As president of the Student Government Association, Marwa Mikati ’17 gave the Maurice l. Rabbino Award to Lan Ha ’17 for her contributions as co-chair and treasurer of the SGA’s ways and means committee, saying, “She has been an amazing team player this entire year.” 

Mikati received her own award, the Helen Warren Smith Class of 1908 Award, for outstanding service to the College community. 

“Marwa does everything with the Mount Holyoke community in mind,” said Alicia Erwin, Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Student Programs, whose office oversaw this year’s awards. “In all of her work I can see her passion for helping this campus, especially in her continuous push to improve students’ college experience here. I love and admire her drive and her energy. This woman is amazing!” 

Mount Holyoke has shaped her as a leader, said Mikati, a neuroscience major who served for two years as president of the Mount Holyoke Model United Nations, which won the Distinguished Student Organization Award this year. 

“I started off knowing I wanted to be a leader but not necessarily knowing my leadership style and how I function on a team,” she said. “Having led two organizations, I think I’ve honed in on the type of collaborative leader I want to be. I like working on the team and not being the head of it.” 

The awards ceremony evolves 

This year’s event included several new awards and took place in a larger space, Hall noted. 

“We know that there are so many who are deserving of being in this space,” she said. “What else could the Division of Student Life do to recognize more of those individuals? We created new awards, and moved to this space as to be able to invite all those who are nominated through this process.”

Among the new awards was the Emerging Leader Award, which was given to five first-year students and sophomores for their leadership and leadership promise. The Golden Lyon Award, another first-time award, was given to six students for their behind-the-scenes efforts in support of a program or an organization. 

Also new this year were four awards given to student organizations and committees for their contributions to the College community through programming and events. 

“We see the dedication of these groups, and the amount of time and energy all of you put into making these organizations successful and impactful to the MHC community,” Hall said to the students. “We are excited to be able to recognize that.” 

The complete list of honorees: 

Sarah Williston Prize

This award is given to the students with the highest grades in their class who ranked as Sarah Williston Scholars their sophomore or junior year.

  • Parvathy Bhushan ’17
  • Caley S. Butler ’18
  • Emily C. Castner ’18
  • Abbey R. Clark-Moschella ’17
  • Emily L. Craig ’17
  • Ruilin Fan ’18
  • Woyneab S. Habte ’17
  • Gabrielle Lachtrup ’17
  • Mei Jing Lim ’17
  • Gargi A. Mishra ’18
  • Laura R. Murphy ’17
  • Siobhan S. Norman ’18
  • Alondra Reyes ’18
  • Sarah A. Robinson ’17
  • Hannah Seay ’17
  • Kathleen T. Smith ’18
  • Thu N. Tran ’17
  • Yinzhi Xu ’18 

Sally Montgomery Award

This award is given each year to a student or students whose community involvement exhibits a true union of student learning and community needs.

  • Isabel P. Flores-Ganley ’17
  • Emily A. Kyte ’17
  • Sara E. Mahoney ’17
  • Sara Martinez ’17
  • Sarah M. Ramirez ’17
Honored with these students were the community partners with whom they collaborated: Springfield No One Leaves/Nadie Se Mude, the Amherst Regional Public Schools Family Center and the Holyoke Public Schools. 

Kelly Sottile Community Service Award

This award honors a student who demonstrates a high level of personal commitment to the community beyond the campus.

  • Jessica S. Figueroa ’17 

Newman Civic Fellow Award

This award honors a student leader committed to creating lasting change, made in honor of Dr. Frank Newman, one of Campus Compact’s founders, who was a tireless advocate for the role of higher education in preparing students for active and engaged citizenship.

  • Andrea Hernandez ’19 

Weissman Center for Leadership Award for Excellence

This award honors students who have demonstrated leadership across campus, with a particular commitment to Weissman Center for Leadership activities and events.

  • Libby J. Kao ’17
  • Eleanor M. Springer ’17 

Anna C. Edwards Prize for Excellence in Debate

This award honors students who have demonstrated a commitment to promoting debate on campus.

  • Edith A. Amoafoa-Smart ’19
  • Yitong Qiu ’17 

Global Engagement Award

This award is given in recognition of students who have demonstrated outstanding commitment to raising awareness on campus of critical global issues, awarded by the McCulloch Center for Global Initiatives

  • Azulina L. Green ’17
  • Thaenpaavai Kannan ’17 

Mary Lyon Award

This award is given to a young alumna who has been out of the 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.

  • Tamara Dews ’06
  • Katy Simpson Smith ’06 

Community Advisor of the Year Award

This award is presented to the Community Advisor who best fulfilled the spirit as well as the letter of their position over the previous academic year. They have demonstrated excellence in programming, role-modeling care for others and building up their staff, building and campus community.

  • Julia A. Godinez ’17 

Senior Community Advisor of the Year Award

This award is presented to the Senior Community Advisor who has excelled in all areas of their position over the previous academic year. Their supervision skills, ability to handle difficult situations and the relationships they have built among their staff and building have made them a role model to the Mount Holyoke community.

  • Kirby E. Basile ’17 

Outstanding Service Award

This award is given in recognition of a student for their service and commitment to the Office of Residential Life throughout their time at the College.

  • June-Elizabeth M. Conti ’17 

Emerging Leader Award

This award honors students in their first or second year at the College who show leadership promise through their contributions to student life and community building.

  • Edith A. Amoafoa-Smart ’19
  • Izabella W. Czejdo ’20
  • Valerie A. Montesino ’19
  • Aryaa Rajouria ’19
  • Ye Zhang ’20 

Golden Lyon Award

This award is given in recognition of students who have positively influenced a program or organization from behind the scenes with a positive attitude, a willingness to help in whatever capacity necessary and a commitment to excellence.

Frances Harriet Williams Class of 1919 Award

Established in 1981 by the family of Frances H. Williams, class of 1919, this award is presented to a student who passionately pursues their goal of academic excellence, social justice or service to others.

H. Elizabeth Braun Catalyst for Change Award

This award was established by the Office of the Dean of Students in 2010 to recognize leaders who have done extraordinary work creating a diverse and inclusive community.

  • Anna R. Bouchard ’17
  • Michele M. Cubillo ’17 

Maurice L. Rabbino Award

This award was established in 1978 by Irma L. Rabbino, class of 1953, to honor her father by recognizing a student who has made a significant contribution to the life of Mount Holyoke College.

  • Lan L. Ha ’17 

Karen Snyder Sullivan Memorial Travel Award

This award provides assistance for a student who has not previously traveled abroad to plan a trip that satisfies their curiosity and heightens their awareness of other cultures.

  • Danielle M. Brown ’18 

Helen Warren Smith Class of 1908 Award

Established in 1979 by Helen Warren Smith, class of 1908, this award honors a student whose interest, involvement and service to the Mount Holyoke College community have been outstanding.

Student Leadership and Service Award

This award honors students who have consistently given their time, energy and talents to promote positive change and growth in the Mount Holyoke community, and in so doing have motivated others to do the same.

  • Sandra M. Botha FP’17
  • Caedyn Busche ’17
  • Azulina L. Green ’17
  • Lysandra K. Joseph ’18
  • Achaetey I. Kabal ’17
  • Thaenpaavai Kannan ’17
  • Congyi Li ’17
  • Aayushi K. Mishra ’17
  • An V. Nguyen ’17
  • Anika Shorna ’17 

MoZone Community Builders Award

This award recognizes the student organization that has done extraordinary work to create a diverse and inclusive community.

Excellence in Diversity Programming Award

This award recognizes the program that taught, supported or practiced a commitment to diversity, underrepresented communities, diversity training and social justice at Mount Holyoke College.

Excellence in Programming Award

This award recognizes a student organization or committee for its exceptional creativity, planning and execution of a campus-wide program.

Distinguished Student Organization Award

This award honors recognizes student organizations and their distinguished level of contribution to the Mount Holyoke community through planned events and programs on campus.

How will you lead? Learn more.