Student leadership during a pandemic

In an academic year upended by COVID-19, Mount Holyoke College students still stepped forward to lead and serve their community.

By Christian Feuerstein

In an academic year upended by COVID-19, students still stepped forward to lead and serve the Mount Holyoke community in myriad ways. The annual Student Leadership and Service Awards recognized these students and student groups in a virtual ceremony on May 7, 2021. 

“It’s important to note in this past year and a half, we’ve experienced so much change and so many asks for us to be flexible,” said Marcella Runell Hall, dean of students and vice president for student life. “It’s also been a time where we’ve had to think about our contributions and how we want to show up.”

Students, faculty and staff submitted 160 nominations, more than in 2020. The awards announcements took place over the course of the afternoon, beginning with a greeting from Hall. Following that, Ivonne G. Ramirez-DeBlois, associate director of Student Involvement and Leadership, posted the names of the winners on the MHCStudentLife Instagram account in 15-minute increments. 

The Mary Lyon Award, which is given by the Mount Holyoke College Alumnae Association, was also presented at this ceremony. 

“In a year that has been so difficult for all of us as a community, I am privileged that we are able to acknowledge all that our students give to ensure MHC is their MoHome for themselves and their peers,” said Ramirez-DeBlois. “This year was especially important to highlight the dedication and passion of our students and student groups. I am proud of our community for nominating a break-recording number.” 

The Complete List of Honorees

Included in the following list of names are excerpts from some of the nominations and citations about the award winners. 

Sarah Williston Prize

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

Clara Brandt ’22

Hannah Castner ’22

Sophie Clingan ’22

Moira R. Crawshaw ’­­21

Sophia Hess ’22

Saachi Khandpur ’22

Hannah Rose Knapp-Broas ’21

Yehee Lee ’22

Weijing (Vickie) Liu ’22

Rebekah Charlotte Büchau McBane ’21

Margaret Hayes Minett ’21

Imaan Moin ’22

Kaylee Neat ’22

Nguyen Pham ’22

Montgomery Quinlan ’23

Grace Rhodes ’22

Hope Rogers ’22

Rose Sheehan ’22

Rachel Stieber ’22

Martha Thompson ’22

Daphne Isabel Williams-Hutfilz ’21

Olivia Chun-Ping Zhou ’21

Sarah Williston Senior Prize Scholarship

to the top senior, based on performance through the junior year, who ranked as a Sarah Williston Scholar in their sophomore or junior year.

Moira R. Crawshaw ’­­21

Anna C. Edwards Prize for Excellence in Debate

to a student who has demonstrated a commitment to promoting debate on campus

Klara Grygo ’23

“Klara established a mock trial organization on campus. They have worked tirelessly to spread the word about it and make it a functional organization for next year. They want to ensure that every Mount Holyoke student has the opportunity to participate in this debate-rich activity and be part of its leadership if they so wish.”

Emerging Leader 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.

Nafeesah Ahmed-Adedoja ’23

Chelsea Gyimah ’23

Rachel (Sunwoo) Kang ’23

Rianna Washington ’24

Excellence Award in Residential Life

Kesshni (Kessh) Bhasiin ’22

Salina Hussain ’21

Iyana Jackson ’22

Skyler Colleen Odin ’21

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.

Estefhani Tavarez ’21

“Estefhani has the kind of drive, wisdom, grace and intellect that you would never expect from someone so young. Throughout her time at Mount Holyoke, she has worked diligently and passionately to ensure her community was cared for and heard.”

Golden Lyon Award

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. 

Sophia Anderson ’22

Kelly Lam ’22

Carol Veronica Law ’21

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. 

Casey Colaine Roepke ’21

“Casey has consistently proved through her service as the class of 2021 senator, an avid SGA committee member, a SAW mentor, a writer and editor for the Mount Holyoke News, an accomplished athlete, and, above all else, a role model. She has been a shining star of a community citizen for years and is the embodiment of the Mount Holyoke spirit.”

H. Elizabeth Braun Catalyst for Change Award

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.  

Emily Elizabeth Carle ’21

Percy J. Child ’21

Kuzivakwashe Violah Madungwe ’21

Jacquline Arden Rich ’21

Irma Rabbino Award, in fond memory of Rose and Murray Rabbino

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. 

Maya Sopory ’22

“In their role as SGA President, Maya Sopory has made astonishing and exemplary contributions to the Mount Holyoke community. They have shown an impressive level of thoughtfulness and self-awareness in their role. Their leadership, communications, and continued willingness to accomplish what needed to be done despite the challenges of the pandemic and remote setting has helped guide our student body through this unprecedented time.”

Kelly Sottile Class of 2008 Community Service Award

Honors a student who demonstrates a high level of personal commitment to the community beyond the campus. 

Tiyana Rose Mitchell-Farrow ’21

“Tiyana’s presence is extraordinarily infectious. Every space she walks into she leaves a mark and profound impact. Her unmatched presence, unique leadership, outstanding work ethic, humility, and deep involvement on campus are admirable and to be recognized widely.”

Mary Lyon Award

Given by the Mount Holyoke College Alumnae Association to young alumnae who have been out of the College for 15 years or less who demonstrate promise or sustained achievement in their lives, profession or community that is consistent with the humane values that Mary Lyon exemplified in her life and inspired in others.   

Eyitemi R. Popo ’21

Yedalis Ruíz FP’08

Elizabeth L. Tighe ’10

Miller Worley Center for the Environment Sustainability and Justice Engagement Award

For students who have demonstrated excellence in engaging the Mount Holyoke community on topics of sustainability and environmental justice and who have supported the Miller Worley Center’s mission to create a greener and more equitable world.

Genesis Lara Granados ’21

Julia Talamo ’21

Isabelle Anne Wohlin ’21

Adrianne Wu ’22

Sally Montgomery Award

Given each year to a student or students whose community involvement exhibits a true union of student learning and community needs.  

Community-based Learning Fellows and Community Partnerships

Luisa Linares ’22 and Homework House

Joselin Marroquin ’22 and Homework House

Mirushe Bora Zylali ’21 and Homework House

Community-based Learning Fellows

Apara Sharma ’21

Louisa Mlsna Zebrowski ’21

Community-based Learning Fellows, Frances Perkins Award

Elisha Bonilla FP’21 and Girls Inc. of the Valley

Student Leadership and Service 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. 

Sabrina Coppola ’22

Nora Grace Brown Cyra ’21

Imann Moin ’22

Kathryn Murphy ’22

Elizabeth Sevigny ’23

Brayden Walden ’21

Amanda Windsor ’22 

Undergraduate Student Employee of the Year

Recognizes the outstanding contributions and achievements of a student who works while attending college. 

Ngan Trần ’22

For their role as Stewardship & Donor Relations Assistant in the Office of College Relations.

Student Group Awards

Distinguished Student Group Award

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


“Throughout this difficult year, STEMPOC has maintained a commitment to their members, the MHC community and themselves to continue the work of making everyone feel welcomed. Board members have pushed themselves to the fullest in bringing back a sense of community and helping students, professors and staff maintain and make connections through over 70 virtual events in the fall 2020 semester alone.”

Excellence in Programming Award

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

Asian Students Association (ASA)

“Mount Holyoke’s Asian Students Association hosts one of Mount Holyoke’s largest student-run events, VariAsians: a cultural show that celebrates Pan-Asian culture through food, art, fashion and performances. Although the pandemic made it difficult to celebrate VariAsians in the same way as previous years, their organization showcased creativity and determination to continue this tradition.” 

MoZone Community Builders Award

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

Association of Pan-African Unity (APAU)

“APAU has been an incredibly impressive and accomplished student organization despite the circumstances of the pandemic and has consistently provided programming for their community and the student body as a whole. Despite the challenges faced this year, they have continued to thrive as an organization and are a truly admirable leader in student groups which other student organizations can look to for inspiration and collaboration.”

Weissman Center for Leadership Award for Excellence

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

Kesshni (Kessh) Bhaasiin ’22

Robin Carpenter Kerr ’21

Rachel Jinsun Kim ’21

Onyelukachukwu Ohiorhuemi Okonji ’21

Klara Grygo ’23