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LPS Student Awards for 2022

Undergraduate programs

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.

I am an adopted Black-White biracial woman. My unique upbringing and life experiences give me a rich perspective and fuel my desire to help others flourish and thrive. During my Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences (BAAS) journey, I developed a deep love and passion for positive psychology with a keen interest in studying strengths and resilience in response to adversity. My interest stems from my introduction to Dr. Karen Reivich's book The Resilience Factor in APOP 1200. It helped me learn about myself, how I have agency, and the ability to overcome adversity in my life, and I want to help others realize the same. Being biracial, I spent much of my life trying to find acceptance in our monocentric society. However, having the opportunity to study applied positive psychology in the BAAS program, I learned how overcoming these challenges shaped the resilient woman I am today. Nevertheless, this realization came with the knowledge that others may be facing unique racialized risks—identity-based challenges, discrimination, and psychological distress—as I did. Therefore, I want to amplify mixed-race voices and raise awareness of the mixed-race experience to better support this fast-increasing population. I intend to continue studying positive psychology in the Master of Applied Positive Psychology program and endeavor to research and write about the biracial identity, multiracial pride, and character strengths that predict resilience. I want to help mixed-race people develop strong racial identities by offering character strengths-based interventions to improve self-esteem and social connectedness. My goal is to specialize in supporting mixed-race individuals, interracial families, transracial adoptees, and the community, promoting resiliencies from a strengths-based perspective.

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

Christina Gill earned a Bachelor of Arts in biology with a minor in chemistry. With Dr. John Wagner and Dr. Jennifer Punt, she conducted research investigating peripheral blood mononuclear cells from pig blood, with respect to pig hierarchy. Dr. Wagner also supervised her independent research in the Cellular Immunotherapies Ovarian Cancer Research Center at Abramson Cancer Center’s Department of Pathology and Lab Medicine. Under the supervision of Dr. George Cotsarelis in the Department of Dermatology, Christina conducted a two-semester study focused on stem cells, hair follicles, wounding, aging, and skin cancer.

Christina served as head assistant to Cassandra Velasco, director at the Women's Resource Center (WRC), providing operational support for the organization which serves women and children of domestic abuse and violence. She works as a personal trainer and taught yoga and meditation to clients and to the WRC. Christina is considering medical school but is also exploring a research career focused on immunology and cancer.

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

Nancy Makale is graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in political science. She is an immigrant from Kenya with an interest in research on advocacy support for legal immigrants in the United States as they transition into new communities. Nancy was awarded a Gelfman International Summer Fund grant, through which she led a small team on a trip to Kenya to distribute reusable sanitary pads to teenage girls. In 2021, she participated in the Penn in Washington program and interned at the US Senate, working on foreign relations in the office of Senator Bob Casey. During this internship, Nancy was involved in writing the decision memo for the BURMA Act, which Senator Casey agreed to co-sponsor. Nancy is the founder of the Dada Safarini Club, a club that strives to support and educate women in Kenya about menstrual health.

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.

A native of the Bronx, New York, I grew up in the '80s at the height of the crack epidemic. My early years saw my parents and family members incarcerated, strung out, and on welfare. The uncertainty at home prevented any focus on schoolwork, which came second to the free food offered to me in the cafeteria. I made it through this time with the help of friends and neighbors, and a love of playing basketball. I eventually enrolled in a trade school where I earned a certificate for Post-Production Audio Recording. It was 2004 and the landscape of classroom and event technology was rapidly changing. As fate would have it, the school I was working for as an overnight security guard was looking to fill a brand-new position, an Audio-Visual Coordinator.

For the next 11 years, I mastered the role as a one-man team, supporting all the classroom and event technology on campus. I attended college courses at CUNY schools when my schedule allowed, but my progress was slow. I started looking for degree programs aimed at working professionals, with my sights set on Penn's College of Liberal and Professional Studies (LPS). In 2017, I applied for a Senior IT/AV role within HireIT, a division of Penn Information Systems and Computing (ISC), and in 2018, I was able to enroll in classes as an LPS student. Here I am, over 20 years later from when I started my degree journey. A kid from the South Bronx who wondered if I’d make it out alive, graduating with a Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences from the University of Pennsylvania! I am thrilled to have been given this opportunity, and thankful to my family, peers, professors, and advisors, who helped me finally reach this goal.

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.

Patrick earned a Bachelor of Arts in Hispanic studies, where he conducted independent research on the intertextual strains in Gabriel García Márquez's novel Love in the Times of Cholera. He received an Honorable Mention for the Lina A. Ruiz y Ruiz Memorial Award in Hispanic Studies. He served as a Hispanic studies department representative on the Major Advisory Board and at the virtual major fair.

Patrick has been employed at the University for over 20 years, and currently works as the web host services manager in Information Systems and Computing. He plans to continue his employment at Penn and is currently working on freelance translation projects.

Master of Chemical Sciences

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

Juncheng (Luke) Lu is a second-year master’s student pursuing a degree in chemical sciences. As a part of the Percec lab, Juncheng is working on the targeted delivery of mRNA. He investigated the development of one-component sequence-defined amphiphilic Janus dendrimers (IAJDs) as an alternative to the current delivery of COVID-19 vaccines. His research has resulted in two publications and two patent disclosures in the field of nanomedicine. He grew up in Hangzhou, China, and received his bachelor’s degree in biochemistry at The Ohio State University. His interest and dedication to biochemistry and drug development stems from his own family member’s illness and wanting to alleviate that pain for others.

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

Akshay Venkatesh is a second-year master's student pursuing a degree in chemical sciences. He grew up in Chennai, India, and pursued an undergraduate degree in chemistry and mechanical engineering from Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani—Goa Campus. Akshay’s early industrial experience involved using data-driven analysis for brand creation in the food industry and exploring drug development at Novartis. At the University of Pennsylvania, Akshay currently works with Professor Thomas E. Mallouk on research identifying Pt-free catalysts and understanding the mass transport mechanisms in alkaline fuel cells. Akshay is passionate about clean energy. He hopes to advance the field of fuel cells with his research at Penn. Outside of research, he participates in literary competitions and enjoys the theater, reading, and football.

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.

Yansong Li is a Master of Environmental Studies student concentrating in sustainability and obtained his undergraduate degree in environmental studies from the University of Connecticut. Yansong exhibits a deep interest in sustainability-related work and research, which stems from his experience of witnessing the need for sustainable development in fast-growing countries such as China. Meanwhile, he invests deeply in the idea of a circular economy that holds the promise of regenerating the natural environment while allowing for continuous improvement in people’s quality of life.

During his time at Penn, Yansong expanded into new territories such as sustainable agriculture, environmental policy, and renewable energy to widen his research horizon while deepening his past research interest in sustainability and circular economy. His capstone project reflects his interests in sustainable development and circular economy opportunities within developing countries by assessing the potential reductions in the environmental impact of Chinese bike-share programs with different recycling rates and recycling efficiency.

Beyond schoolwork, Yansong also actively serves his community. His belief in multicultural understanding motivated him to serve on the Master of Environmental Studies Diversity and Inclusion Group, which later led to his role as the MES representative on the Climate, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee and became a liaison between the committee and the Pan-Asian American Community House at Penn. Meanwhile, he also actively tries to reach out to the public on the concept of sustainability and circular economy. To this end, he became an associate sustainability podcaster at the One Planet Podcast and participated in the 2022 Penn Grad Talks event to discuss his research and introduce more people to the concept of circular economy and sustainability.

Corey Wills is a dual degree student in the University of Pennsylvania’s Master of Environmental Studies and Master of City Planning programs with a focus on resilience and adaptation practices, an Environmental Equity Fellow with the Netter Center for Community Partnerships, and a Hazard Mitigation Planner with Michael Baker International. Their work has ranged from regional to site-specific resilience planning. At the regional level, they recently worked to mobilize regional watershed stakeholders in southwestern Pennsylvania to build a coalition for cross-boundary water resource management, worked with Dewberry to write and conduct stakeholder outreach for the Virginia Coastal Resilience Master Plan, and co-designed a social vulnerability index to identify at-risk communities in the US Virgin Islands. At the local level, they created a GIS analysis of potential locations for urban food forests for food desert alleviation in Philadelphia and conducted stakeholder outreach to lay the foundation for a Cobbs Creek watershed coalition, whose goal is to collaboratively and equitably manage and advocate for sustainable urban water resources. At the site-specific level, Corey wrote a successful grant proposal to site green roofs on the University of Pennsylvania’s campus to address various climate change scenarios, is working with a variety of diverse stakeholders to design and implement green stormwater infrastructure at Andrew Hamilton School in West Philadelphia, recently taught a guest lecture on green stormwater infrastructure planning at the University of Pennsylvania, and is working to facilitate University of Pennsylvania educational events concerning sea level rise and other coastal hazards.

Corey is passionate about sustainable water resource management, natural hazard mitigation and adaptation planning, and climate change resilience planning, and is particularly interested in equitable floodplain management and managed retreat strategies. Their professional goal is to leverage ethical, sustainable, and community-driven resilience planning to address climate change impacts in the urban environment.

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.

Ahmad Kamal Mubarok is a Master of Science in Applied Geosciences (MSAG) student with a concentration in environmental geology. Before coming to Penn, Kamal received his BS in geology from the Bandung Institute of Technology, Indonesia. At Penn, he served as a teaching assistant for Natural Disasters and Disturbances and Modeling Geographic Objects, and actively engaged with MES/MSAG and EES events. He also attended the American Geophysical Union (AGU) 2021 Fall Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Kamal is specifically interested in environmental geochemistry and its relation to human health, leading him to investigate road dust in Philadelphia for his capstone project. The project, which was supervised by Dr. Reto Gieré and Dr. David Vann, emphasized the mineralogical and geochemical characterizations by utilizing XRD, XRF, and ICP-OES. The research also inquired about its effects on the environment and the human body through experiments using synthetic rainwater, simulated gastric fluid, and Gamble's solution (artificial lung fluid).

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.

Dacia Carter currently works for the Department of Diversity, Inclusion, and Social Justice at the University of Northern Iowa (UNI). She is a proud native of Waterloo, Iowa, and brings over ten years of experience serving youth, adults, and families within her community through relationship building, program facilitation, and ongoing support. She is committed to assisting others to lead their best lives by way of meaningful interactions that encourage growth. In her current role as the Retention and Mentoring Program Coordinator, she works closely with college students of underrepresented and underserved communities providing daily counsel, group mentoring, and personal and professional development opportunities. At any given moment you can find her producing music or doing something of the arts, but spends most of her time with family, and volunteering at The Best Kept Secret, a women’s transitional home owned and operated by her wonderful mother, where she serves as the residential growth coach.

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.

Jasmine is a registered social worker with a master's degree in social work from the University of Hong Kong. Since 2009, she began receiving professional training in positive psychology and focused on designing and developing positive psychology projects in a variety of social services within a non-government organization. She also founded her own training firm—Make Positive—with a clear dedication to enhancing people’s wellbeing and expanding her audience from social service users to many others who expressed interest, including school principals, teachers, parents, organizational staff, as well as church members and other individuals. She is thankful to have the opportunity to work with numerous local universities, schools, and families to put these evidence-based strategies into practice in Hong Kong. She has also been applying the science of positive psychology in her own family life as a wife and mother of two children, aged 12 and 13.

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.

Elana Burack is one of those rare graduate students who pursue learning and knowledge with a deeply thoughtful and fervent drive. She probes further when others have already called it a night. She challenges herself to understand complexities, not satisfied with answers that are “good enough.” In her coursework during the Organizational Dynamics program, she consistently raised questions and issues that challenged current knowledge and was always ready to help and support her colleagues. Elana’s writing is one of her many strengths; she wields words masterfully, and her writing always sheds light on issues not previously highlighted. Her capstone research, a qualitative study of pregnant women contrasting their pregnancy experiences when they were working in person and when they were working from home, examines an often-neglected issue of women who are working full time. Elana is a blossoming qualitative researcher as she listened carefully to the participants in her study, and uncovered depth and nuances in their pregnancy work-related experiences that help us understand the subtleties of discrimination and issues women carry during pregnancy. We are grateful to Elana for enriching our educational journeys.    

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

Rachel has completed both the Master of Science degree (August 2020) and the Master of Philosophy (MPhil) degree (December 2021) in the Organizational Dynamics program. Her course work has always been of the highest quality. The title of her MPhil capstone is "The Impact of Organizational Culture on the Employees of A-Star Company." The objective of this research was to determine how organizational culture (values, beliefs, climate, norms, symbols, and philosophy) affects employee performance and productivity.

Rachel’s area of concentration in her graduate studies has been coaching; however, she has taken a wide range of courses and has impressed the Organizational Dynamics faculty in courses ranging from Project Management, Systems Thinking, Executive Coaching, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, Organizational Power, and Influence and Persuasion. In addition, she has contributed significantly to the learning of her fellow students in these subject areas. Her fellow students praise her for her time and commitment to working in learning groups and mentoring others.

The combination of Rachel’s boundless energy and strong organizational skills, not to mention her very bright thinking and writing, adds up to outstanding academic achievement. When you add her demonstrated activities of caring and helping others, this puts her over the top as one of the best students, scholars, and human beings who has graduated from Organizational Dynamics at Penn. Rachel is currently studying for her PhD in human development at Fielding Graduate University.

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.

It is often said that "life is what happens when you’re making other plans." As our Organizational Dynamics community knows, plans need to be flexible, collaborative, adaptive, growth-minded, people-focused, and inclusive of all stakeholder voices—whether those voices are your colleagues, your supervisor, or your family. Throughout her time earning her Master of Science in Organizational Dynamics, Pamela McMellon has embodied these principles and has contributed to the learning of our community. From giving hours of her time for our Penn Projects for Progress grant application that aimed to leverage Organizational Dynamics’ strengths to support a more inclusive Penn, to offering insights on event ideas to enrich the community, to assisting faculty building expert panels from her network, Pam has shown her sincere dedication to our community and to making our community more diverse, equitable, and inclusive. Pam’s warmth and generosity are felt by all those who encounter her. Those who are fortunate to learn and collaborate with her have benefited from her perceptive perspective and her hard work. Pam is a most trusted and valued colleague, a passionate and tireless advocate, and a generous mentor. The faculty who have had the pleasure of having Pam in their class, the fellow participants who have been fortunate to learn alongside her, and the staff who have benefited from her contributions all know that our community is stronger for Pam’s place in it. And we as a community hope that Pam plans to continue to share her gifts with us as an alum.

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

Andrea is the consummate Organizational Dynamics student: Referred to the program by an alum, she began her studies with an award-winning longtime faculty member, applied her experience and knowledge in both classic and new, cutting-edge courses, and culminated her program with an individualized study that supported the passion for research she discovered along the way. A passion—and a skillfulness—that she demonstrated in her capstone, titled Primera Pero No La Última: Exploring Cultural Impact in the Early Career Development of First-Generation, Latina College Graduates.

Andrea’s capstone focuses on the first-generation experience for Latina students and their post-graduation integration into corporate America—an integration often challenged by not having the cultural capital they need to move up the social mobility ladder. Through a rigorous examination of Latinas who attended Penn and her own alma mater, a Hispanic-serving institution, Andrea examines both how Latinas thrive within the corporate mainstream and how corporate America must change for true inclusion of Latina women. Andrea’s capstone committee had the highest praises for her work, saying “[s]he has provided deep insight and defined a pathway to help Latinas and their organizations recognize and understand some critical dynamics to achieve success,” and, “[i]t is simply one of the best capstones I have ever had.”