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LPS Student Awards for 2021

Undergraduate programs

For the student who best exemplifies the uncompromising commitment to scholarship, hard work, and the life which the late Ronald J. Caridi embodied and shared with so many.

Edward Acosta is from Yonkers, New York, and graduating with a criminology major and law and society minor. He is passionate about historical research and a proud Phi Alpha Theta History Honor Society member. A first-generation college student, Acosta began his academic endeavors at University of Massachusetts Amherst. Serving in the United States Air Force for five years as an in-flight refueler on the Boeing KC-135, Acosta was responsible for airborne refueling of fighter, bomber, and special operations aircraft. While enrolled at Penn, Acosta continued to fly in the Air National Guard. He was involved in Penn Model Congress, using his insights to lead the Veterans Affairs Committee and mentor high school participants from across the region. Acosta has presented for Penn LPS at the Student Veterans of America National Conference, guiding prospective applicants. He served as an intern at the Manhattan District Attorney's Office, researching criminal-justice reform policies and special victims’ legislation for the agency. He plans to return to New York to gain additional professional experience in the legal field and apply to law school.

Presented annually by the College of Liberal Professional Studies Alumni Association to a graduating LPS student who displayed unusual motivation and dedication in the pursuit of an undergraduate degree.

Jo-Ann Christina is from Connecticut and graduated from Middletown High School where she was National Honor Society president. She attended Wesleyan University as part of a high school senior honors program. After a few years of college, Christina moved to New York City and became a fitness and nutrition counselor and manager. She later moved to Florida, returned to school for massage therapy, and found her work as a practitioner satisfying. Christina received her associate degree, was awarded an All-State Florida Academic Award, and later received the Bread Upon the Waters Scholarship to attend Penn. She is completing her bachelor’s degree in medical anthropology. Christina has volunteered for Medical Reserve Corps, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Be The Match registry, and BMT InfoNet. She was published in the student anthology illuminations in Florida Southwestern College and Southwest Florida magazines. She is a leukemia survivor and bone marrow transplant recipient.

The LPS Distinguished Student Service Award is given to an individual who, through extraordinary leadership, service, and dedication, has helped to advance the mission of the College of Liberal and Professional Studies and in particular, the success of its students.

Javier Cuadras is graduating with a major in political science and minor in Latin American and Latino studies. Before attending Penn, he served in the United States Marine Corps for four years in the US and abroad. At Penn, Cuadras worked as a research assistant for The Borders and Boundaries Project with Professor Beth Simmons. In this role, Cuadras geocoded and created qualitative reports on all barriers on the United States and Mexico border. Cuadras interned on Capitol Hill for a congressional committee and at a financial institution. On campus, he served as an advocate for student veterans on the Undergraduate University Council, was Chairman for a student-led political debate club, and Vice President for Penn's Student Veterans Association. As a volunteer for Service to School, Cuadras helps service members navigate the college application process. Cuadras was awarded the UPCEA Mid-Atlantic and National Region Outstanding Professional, Continuing, Online Education Student Award 2020/2021, made the Dean's List, wrote a senior thesis, and was accepted to Cipactli, a Latino Honor Society. Cuadras plans to begin his career as a legal analyst for Goldman Sachs before going to law school.

Presented annually to School of Arts and Sciences students who exhibit exceptional academic performance and intellectual promise

Emily Davis, from Gainesville, Florida, is a biology major in the College of Liberal and Professional Studies. She is a full-time student and full-time professional ballet dancer in her sixth season with the Pennsylvania Ballet. Davis has performed numerous corps de ballet and soloist roles with the company and is a passionate advocate for integrating dance and health. She has developed and taught customized dance programs through partnerships with Art-Reach, Puentes de Salud, Magee Rehabilitation Hospital, and Nemours Children’s Hospital. Davis conducts research at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia on pediatric neuromotor rehabilitation for children with cerebral palsy and at the University of Florida’s Center for Arts in Medicine. She serves as the director of Shut Up and Dance, an annual benefit performance put on by Pennsylvania Ballet dancers that raises more than $150,000 for Philadelphia’s Metropolitan Area Neighborhood Nutrition Alliance (MANNA). As a 2021 Thouron Scholar, Davis plans to pursue a PhD exploring the biosocial benefits of participatory dancing, with a goal of using research to legitimize the use of evidence-based dance interventions to improve health and well-being.

In recognition of outstanding academic achievement in science studies and dedication to a career in the sciences.

Therese Davis is graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in biology and a minor in chemistry. While at Penn, she conducted research with the Deutsch Lab at the Perelman School of Medicine studying ion channel physiology. Within her community, Davis volunteered with the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, the Red Cross, and MANNA Nourishes. She is currently an intern with a local Dance for PD (Parkinson’s Disease) group, where she helps teach dance classes to people with Parkinson’s. Davis balanced her studies with performing as a professional ballet dancer through 2019, during which time she enjoyed performing soloist and principal roles in addition to corps de ballet work. She is applying to medical school this summer and looks forward to using her passion for health, science, and movement to work with patients with neurodegenerative and movement disorders.

Awarded annually to the College of Liberal and Professional Studies student whose scholarship and personal qualities of leadership are regarded as being the most outstanding.

Originally from the San Francisco Bay area, Emily Graves has lived in the Philadelphia region for nine years. She transferred to Penn in January 2019 after studying at various community colleges in California and Pennsylvania. While at Penn, she had the opportunity to work part-time in the Wharton Undergraduate Advising office and to participate in the Washington Model Organization of American States. Balancing school with work and parenting responsibilities was a formidable but rewarding challenge. Graves is a single mother to a beautiful 8-year-old daughter, operates a small photography business, and is also a professional musician. After two demanding yet inspiring years, she is graduating with a degree in political science with a concentration in political economy. As her time at Penn is coming to an end, Graves is looking forward to applying everything she has learned to cultivate a fulfilling career.

Master of Environmental Studies

Awarded to a graduating Master of Environmental Studies (MES) student who has not only contributed to the field of environmental studies but has also helped the MES program and/or the Earth and Environmental Science Department in a significant way.

Richa Agarwal is a Master of Environmental Studies student with a concentration in sustainability in the Earth and Environmental Science Department. She completed her undergraduate degree in mathematics from the University of Delhi. Agarwal is an enthusiastic climate and sustainability professional who works at the convergence of sustainable finance, sustainability strategy, and science-based research. Before joining Penn as a graduate student, she worked on sustainable waste management and circular economy with India's top environmental think-tank, the Centre for Science and Environment, for nearly three years. Currently, Agarwal is working with the institutional investor firm Artisan Partners, where she is helping their Sustainable Emerging Markets Fund Team with environmental social and governance integration, due-diligence, and sustainability communication. She is interested in science-based research, strategic public-private partnership systems, and in creating metrics and tools to ensure long-term resource efficiency and sustainability. Agarwal is also interested in innovation through the circular economy and hopes to push for climate action through corporate sustainability in emerging markets. Her capstone project reflects her interests in sustainable development throughout the world; as in her research, she compares the growing ambit of circular economy principles for PET bottle recycling in the developing and developed world.

At Penn, Agarwal is the Graduate Advisory Board co-president for the Earth and Environmental Science Department. As a firm believer in interdisciplinary education, she also is the co-chair and a founding member of the Climate Leaders at Penn, a growing graduate group promoting climate education amongst its graduate peers. In this role, she also initiated the first climate fellowship at Penn for graduate students in spring 2021. Agarwal also served as the MES representative on the LPS Graduate Board in spring 2020 and has been a Graduate and Professional Student Assembly representative to the Student Advisory Group on Environment and Environmental Sustainability Advisory Committee under the Penn Sustainability Office throughout her time at Penn.

Presented annually to School of Arts and Sciences students who exhibit exceptional academic performance and intellectual promise

Haley Zeliff is a Master of Environmental Studies student with a concentration in environmental biology. She is interested in vertebrate and invertebrate biology, ecology, species interaction, and zoonotic disease. While at the University of Pennsylvania she worked as a teaching assistant and grader in the Department of Earth and Environmental Science and was involved in the undergraduate academically-based community services courses in the department. Zeliff also worked as an animal behavior and education intern at the Philadelphia Zoo. Her capstone research is with Penn Vet in the molecular biology laboratory part of the Pennsylvania Animal Diagnostic Laboratory System at the New Bolton Center. Her research included the validation of a SARS-CoV-2 PCR assay to be used as a diagnostic test to test for the virus in bats, which was also used to test bats in rehab facilities and zoos throughout the Northeastern US. Her research also included surveying bat samples for all coronaviruses to explore what is circulating in bats in the Northeastern US. Outside of academics, Zeliff is a volunteer at Penn Medicine’s and Mercy Hospital's COVID-19 vaccination clinic helping to promote vaccine equity and serving the community of West Philadelphia. Her plans are to continue her research and become a veterinarian, and she is hoping to join Penn's VMD/PhD program in the future. 

Master of Science in Applied Geosciences

Awarded to a graduating Master of Science in Applied Geosciences student who has not only contributed to the field of applied geosciences but has also helped the Master of Science in Applied Geosciences program and/or the Earth and Environmental Science Department in a significant way.

Emma Tardiff graduated in fall 2020 with a Master of Science in Applied Geosciences (MSAG) and a concentration in hydrogeology. She came from a biology background with an interest in water quality and remediation. Shortly after joining the MSAG program, she became interested in a career in environmental consulting. Tardiff helped organize alumni panels and networking events for the MSAG program to help students connect with alumni that are working in their fields of interest. She was able to land herself a full-time job in environmental consulting after networking with alumni at the All-Ivy Environmental Career Fair. She also served as a teaching assistant for GEOL 100 Introduction to Geology.

Tardiff collaborated with the Water Center at Penn for her capstone project analyzing the policy and water management challenges in the Delaware River basin. Using geographic information systems (GIS), Emma used a precipitation model to simulate different storm intensities in the region. From this model, Emma determined areas vulnerable to flooding within Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania and Mercer County, New Jersey and compared her results to multiple vulnerability metrics.

Master of Science in Organizational Dynamics

This award is named for the late Penn professor and internationally known British literature scholar who taught in Organizational Dynamics for many years. It is annually awarded to a Master of Science in Organizational Dynamics graduating student who has shown outstanding scholastic achievement in coursework.

David James Earley is an outstanding student—and has been throughout his studies in the Organizational Dynamics program. He has impressed all his instructors with his piercing diagnostic abilities and his attention to detail in all his work. Perhaps more importantly, Earley has distinguished himself in his collaboration and teamwork with fellow students. He served his country in the Marine Corp and now works for Penn as the Director of Penn’s Information Security Operations Center.

This award is presented to a graduating student who has completed the best capstone upon recommendation of the Organizational Dynamics faculty.

Hannah Datz identifies the benefits of the authentic leadership style for both individuals and organizations and asks if diverse leaders can truly access this type of leadership style without being penalized by bias and discrimination, either explicit or implicit. She dissects the accessibility of authentic leadership through the lens of gender, sexual orientation, race, and disability, leveraging the stories of four diverse profit and loss leaders with current authentic leadership literature. Through this, Datz determined which aspects of the style can support a diverse leader in their quest to attain and retain their leadership role, and which aspects of the style can hurt them. Datz’s study recognizes the additional areas that need to be explored to better understand how diverse leaders can be their authentic selves at the boardroom table. Her capstone, titled “The Cost of Being Yourself: Can Every Leader Afford to be Authentic at Work?” is born of the head, the heart, and the human spirit. Her work is of the moment as America grapples with diversity, equity, inclusion, and access, and Datz addresses a difficult topic in a fresh, thoughtful, and positive way.

This award is named for the late Penn professor and internationally known British literature scholar who taught in Organizational Dynamics for many years. It is annually awarded to a Master of Science in Organizational Dynamics graduating student who has shown outstanding scholastic achievement in coursework.

Natalie Hagerty is an accomplished architect and polished scholar. Her course work has focused on complex project management, leadership, and culture change. This academic scholarship informs her work as an architect and as a healthcare facilities leader at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where she is currently Senior Director of Facilities Planning and Design.

This award is presented to a graduating student who has completed the best capstone upon recommendation of the Organizational Dynamics faculty.

Kelly Lauersen’s capstone, titled “Time, Talent, and Treasure: Exploring Development and Alumni Relations Metrics,” started out as an attempt to develop more accurate alumni engagement metrics. While she did discover new and more effective measures, the more significant contribution of her research is the identification of key organizational changes that can significantly improve the dynamics between alumni relations and development teams. Her inquiry went beyond the limited research currently available on the topic and addressed a much broader range of topics including goal setting, the relationship between donations of time and money, and alternative measures of giving time. Using an action research approach, Lauersen surveyed key individuals in her own organization, as well as peer institutions, and produced an action framework she is now implementing in her own organization. The result is a capstone remarkable for the rigor of its research, the quality of its writing, and the relevance and practical value of its recommendations.

Master of Philosophy in Organizational Dynamics

This award is named for Lois Ginsberg, community development leader and former Associate Director of Organizational Dynamics.  It is presented annually to a graduating student who has demonstrated outstanding leadership and significantly contributed to the Organizational Dynamics community.

The 2019-2020 academic year began like many other years before bringing us all into the chaos of the global pandemic. In this environment, empathetic leadership is essential, and our Organizational Dynamics community was fortunate to have just this type of leadership from Lucia DiNapoli.

DiNapoli dove into her role as our LPSGov representative in the fall with warm-hearted determination in support of our community. She worked tirelessly to open opportunities and to bring opportunities across Penn to our students, all in service of building a stronger Organizational Dynamics community and a stronger connection to the larger Penn community for our students.

The Organizational Dynamics and LPS communities are stronger today because of DiNapoli’s commitment to them both. It is for this commitment and dedication to our student communities that we award Lucia DiNapoli the Lois Ginsberg Prize for Community Service.

Master of Applied Positive Psychology

This award is named for Christopher Peterson, a leading researcher in positive psychology and a founding instructor in the Master of Applied Positive Psychology program, who taught in word and deed that “other people matter.” It is presented annually to a Master of Applied Positive Psychology student in recognition of service to others, academic merit, economic need, and personal or professional diversity.

Dawaine Cosey is a self-proclaimed pusher of purpose, proponent of people, and promoter of potential. A published author and motivational speaker who hails from Washington DC, Cosey, as he is affectionately called, believes in the best of others. Cosey is a proud graduate of the illustrious Bowie State University and currently serves in multiple professional roles including an impact leader for a non-profit that serves black male educators, a culture consultant for local high schools and colleges, and the Director of Culture and Empowerment at the all-male Ron Brown College Preparatory High School. Cosey endeavors to create access points for flourishing amongst Black men and students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities across the nation as well as designing curriculum, content, and courses that help to create positive institutions, providing tools to enhance well-being, and pushing others to be the best version of themselves. Cosey is a proud father to daughter Jayde, and a godfather to many.

This award is named for Christopher Peterson, a leading researcher in positive psychology and a founding instructor in the Master of Applied Positive Psychology program, who taught in word and deed that “other people matter.” It is presented annually to a Master of Applied Positive Psychology student in recognition of service to others, academic merit, economic need, and personal or professional diversity.

Frank Jackson was brought to the Master of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program through his commitment to destigmatizing mental health in the Black community, specifically in Black males. He is connected to positive psychology as it has captured the essence of who he is and how he wants to impact the world. MAPP has given him the research and vocabulary behind work he has committed to as a brother, educator, and leader. As a “MAPPster,” this idea of mental health has since expanded into his overall well-being and pursuit of the good life. Jackson hopes to bring this holistic approach into his future endeavors as a practicing positive psychologist. Currently, Jackson brings what he’s learning into the classroom with his Spanish II students and is working on a curriculum with his school’s administration to integrate positive psychology into his entire school, K-12. Jackson thanks his wonderful sisters who continue to push and encourage him on his journey.

This award is named for Christopher Peterson, a leading researcher in positive psychology and a founding instructor in the Master of Applied Positive Psychology program, who taught in word and deed that “other people matter.” It is presented annually to a Master of Applied Positive Psychology student in recognition of service to others, academic merit, economic need, and personal or professional diversity.

Jozlyn A. McCaw, a graduate of The United States Military Academy at West Point, is honored to receive the Christopher Peterson Memorial Fellowship. McCaw served as a master resilience trainer and applied positive psychology to help junior soldiers and West Point cadets to thrive in academics, leadership, and physical fitness. She is fascinated by the concept of self-concordant goals, which allows one to choose goals and paths that are most aligned and authentic to the individual. McCaw believes that decisions such as where to attend college, which passions to pursue, and employment are some of the most impactful and consequential life decisions one faces. With tools learned in the Master of Applied Positive Psychology program, she has developed a framework to help others pursue self-concordant goals through a focus on spirituality, purpose, and character development. In this next chapter, McCaw looks forward to the pursuit of mastering the art of acting, a lifetime self-concordant goal.

This award, funded by the Bei Shan Tang Foundation, is given to students who want to bring positive psychology to the education system in Hong Kong.

A trained psychologist and “pracademic,” Dr. Maggie Zhao gained a broad range of research, teaching, and professional practice experiences in K-12 and higher education. She is passionate about learning and sharing the science of positive psychology and discovering positive humanities through the lens of the arts. Her research has appeared in journals like Lancet Psychiatry, Quality of Life Research, and Assessment. With ongoing passion and dedication for advancing quality education, Zhao has been working actively toward bridging research and practice through her community engagement. She was invited to conduct a thematic review on Sustainable Development Goal 4 – Education for UNESCO and serves as an honorary advisor for a local college and an academic board member for a local institute. With the profound knowledge, perspectives, and experience gained from MAPP, Zhao aspires to bring in added values to the strengths of Bei Shan Tang Foundation and contribute to advancing positive education in Hong Kong. 

Master of Chemical Sciences

The MCS Capstone Award annually recognizes the capstone conducted during the completion of the MCS program that significantly adds to the body of knowledge in their concentration.

Youngtae Song is a Master of Chemical Sciences student in the physical chemistry concentration. He completed his Bachelor of Arts degree in chemistry at Kalamazoo College in 2019. The capstone project he completed is entitled “Investigating the development of wrinkle-like morphologies in diblock copolymer thin films” under the mentorship of Professor Zahra Fakhraai at Penn Chemistry. Youngtae studied thin films created from block co-polymers (BCP). He used atomic force microscopy (AFM) to probe the degree of ordering between the thin film phases. The interesting and surprising results obtained have important technological applications in BCP properties. Youngtae completed an extensive literature search during the COVID lockdown that was instrumental in driving the direction of the project. He was accepted in the Penn Chemistry PhD program, where he will continue to develop this project further.