LPS Student Awards for 2023

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.

Cheryl feels that statistically, she is not supposed to be here. In 1981, she graduated from high school three months pregnant as an unwed teenager, knowing all the odds were stacked against her as she became, and remained, a single mother. She eventually married in 1996 and had two more children. By 2008, she earned a certificate and associate degree in dental hygiene, then began working at the University of Pennsylvania in 2011. Cheryl thought the tuition benefits package would be terrific for her children; a dentist she worked with thought they would be terrific for her, and convinced her to complete her undergraduate degree. In 2012, she was accepted into the Penn LPS Bachelor of Arts program, where she completed courses when possible. Many life circumstances stood in the way: working full time, raising a family, her husband becoming injured in a training for the fire department, and of course, the pandemic. She recently transferred to the Penn LPS Online Bachelor of Applied Arts in Sciences degree. The scheduling flexibility of the asynchronous format allowed her to complete her degree earlier, and here she is. Cheryl would like to impart that there isn’t one person in the world that is able to be successful alone, no matter their definition of success. It has taken a long time, pep talks, and other people imparting their confidence in her, to get where she is today. She credits her husband’s unwavering support and belief in her, her family, her colleagues, and the faculty and staff at Penn for keeping her motivated. Her advice to others is: tap into every resource out there, ask for help, know that you have it in you to get to the finish line, whatever it is. The hardest part is facing your fear and self-doubt and moving forward anyway.

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.

Ade earned a Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences studying data analytics, climate change, and global studies. While managing a full-time course load, he worked three remote technology jobs to enliven his formal and informal learning experiences and to stand out during his student recruitment cycles at various investment banks, tech companies, and consulting firms. The goal of those work experiences, and for pursuing an education at Penn, was to modernize and contextualize a background that was largely rooted in grassroots, nonprofit, and public sector work with a number of organizations. Ade's work in the nonprofit and public sectors ranged from working with AmeriCorps, The Nature Conservancy, and Habitat for Humanity to working for the US Forest Service, US Fish & Wildlife Service, and the National Park Service.

After graduating from Penn, Ade will join a global consulting firm at their Washington, DC, office, where his aim is to work with some of the world's largest nonprofits, NGOs, governments, and private entities focused on global development, social impact, and sustainability. His ultimate goal is to maintain a curiosity-driven, service-oriented approach to his work and to broaden his impact on the world around him in a meaningful way.

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

Gabrielle Solair is graduating with a Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences in leadership and professional writing and Certificates in Leadership and Communication, Advanced Professional Writing, and Creative Writing. She is a recipient of the Bread Upon the Waters Scholarship. After taking her first course at Penn in digital culture, Gabrielle proposed and procured an internship with a diversity-equity-inclusion consulting firm. Since then, she has been promoted twice and is now a client executive in the firm’s multicultural marketing and advertising division. Her experience at Penn has refined her personal and professional mission: to uplift and help underserved communities by making important information and resources accessible by developing inclusive marketing and communications strategies for health research, for-profit, and nonprofit projects.

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

Emrys Stromberg is graduating with a Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences degree with additional Certificates in Climate Change, Science Foundations, and Professional Writing. Before his studies at Penn, Emrys graduated from the Professional Horticulture Program at Longwood Gardens, where he completed a capstone project on the historic Longwood Disa orchid collection and its conservation efforts. Simultaneous to his studies at Penn, Emrys has spent considerable time conducting ethnobotanical fieldwork with the Huichol indigenous peoples in the rural communities of the Sierra Madre Occidental in Jalisco, Mexico. Emrys is passionate about ethnobotany, a discipline that investigates the interrelationship of people and plants. He believes that the interdisciplinary approach of ethnobotany can be an effective tool for examining the impacts of climate change and revealing solutions to enhance climate resilience throughout the world.

In September, Emrys will continue his studies as an MSc Ethnobotany student at the University of Kent in Canterbury, where he will conduct research on climate resilience with local communities in the temperate rainforests of the UK. Emrys particularly enjoys the communication of science and plans to present the results of his work at universities, botanical gardens, and scientific institutions. 

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.

Michael Sun is graduating with a Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences in physical and life sciences. Having begun his academic career at Emory University, Michael came to the University of Pennsylvania in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Overcoming a severe health challenge, Michael was able to finish his degree with a renewed passion for education. Having experienced firsthand the advantages of educational technology, Michael is currently working in the ed tech space, bringing accessible learning to students across the globe. Michael is incredibly grateful to his friends, family, classmates, and professors for helping him achieve this milestone.

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.

Nicholas grew up in Abington, Pennsylvania, and graduated from Thomas Jefferson University magna cum laude in chemistry/pre-med studies. He started working at Penn Medicine in Dr. Susan Weiss’s lab in the Department of Microbiology under the mentorship of Dr. Jillian Whelan studying the pathogenesis of Zika virus and HPV virus research. He has earned his degree attending the Master of Chemical Sciences program part-time. His capstone research project is focused on highly conserved residues of coronavirus and translational equilibrium toward viral protein production. Nicholas has an interest in law at Penn as well.

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.

Amitesh Soni is a second-year Master of Chemical Sciences student at the University of Pennsylvania. Originally from Ujjain, India, Amitesh holds a Bachelor of Engineering (Hons.) degree in electronics and communication engineering and a Master of Science (Hons.) degree in chemistry from the Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani, India. His research interests revolve around synthesizing innovative organometallic complexes and exploring their reactivity toward small molecule activation. Amitesh brings a unique perspective to his research projects with his diverse background in chemistry and software development. Currently, Amitesh is working in Professor Goldberg’s research laboratory on the development of homogenous palladium complex for oxidations using molecular oxygen in energy research. Following the completion of his Master of Chemical Sciences degree at the University of Pennsylvania, Amitesh plans to pursue a PhD in chemistry at Penn and ultimately work as an industrial chemist.

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.

Yiwen is originally from Shanghai and obtained a Bachelor of Science in applied chemistry at Tongji University while working in Zhixin Tian’s lab on mass spectrometry-based N-glycoproteomics for biomarker discovery for cancer research. She arrived in Philadelphia in spring 2021 for the Master of Chemical Sciences program and has been working on her capstone research project in the lab of Professor Dmochowski. Her project has been in a new area of focus on the design of novel nanoparticle-based bispecific T-cell engagers (BiTEs), which utilize ferritin as a multivalent platform for presenting antigens. After earning her Master of Chemical Sciences, Yiwen will continue to PhD studies at Penn where she will continue this important research treating one of the most fatal childhood cancers—neuroblastoma.

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.

Jingze was born in Shenzhen, China. He attended Purdue University in Indiana, earning a Bachelor of Science with honors in chemistry. At the University of Pennsylvania, Jingze works in Professor Kozikowski’s lab researching a photocatalytic method for phenol and alkylphenol oxidative coupling using an inexpensive heterogeneous titanium dioxide photocatalyst with air and visible light. After the completion of his Master of Chemical Sciences degree, Jingze will continue his doctoral studies at Penn with Professor Kozikowski.

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.

Dimple Acharya is a Master of Environmental Studies (MES) student concentrating in environmental sustainability. She completed her Bachelor of Business Administration from India and had previously worked as a business development strategist before realizing her passion for environmental issues. Dimple's interest in sustainability was ignited when she participated in local protests to protect the forests in her city, Mumbai. She is particularly interested in matters related to social sustainability and community outreach, as evidenced by her deep involvement in such issues.

While pursuing her Master of Environmental Studies full time, Dimple served as an Environmental Equity Fellow and then as a Silverman Fellow with the Netter Center. In these roles, she focused on community outreach with under-resourced schools in West Philadelphia. Additionally, she contributed to the Penn Libraries Community Engagement department and served as a community assistant for Wharton's summer high school program. Her responsibilities in this capacity included developing educational programs related to environmental issues for students hailing from over 120 different countries.

Dimple also served as the MES representative on the Climate, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee. She was selected to participate in the Intercultural Dialogues: Engagement and Awareness (IDEA) program by International Student and Scholar Services. Dimple also took on several leadership positions during her time at Penn, serving as the chair of finance for PennFems, a student organization focused on promoting feminism on campus. Furthermore, she served as the president of the Graduate Advisory Board for Master of Environmental Studies and Master of Science in Applied Geosciences, demonstrating her dedication to serving the graduate students within her academic program.

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.

Stacey Sosenko Daniels is a Master of Science in Applied Geosciences (MSAG) candidate with a concentration in hydrogeology. She received her BA in geosciences and classics from Franklin & Marshall College in 2009. Stacey has spent much of her career involved in groundwater exploration, researching areas across the globe for renewable groundwater solutions. Outside of her exploration work, Stacey has also developed an interest in education and a desire to work with youth to build interest and confidence in STEM.

At Penn, she has focused on expanding her knowledge and experience in hydrogeology while exploring ways to use this knowledge for the benefit of society. Stacey’s capstone project builds on her interest in geoscience education and hydrogeology by developing and proposing a hands-on field school for high school students focused on telling the story of mill dams, legacy sediments, and stream restoration strategies for water quality improvement in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. She wrote a successful grant proposal to the Chesapeake Watershed Initiative to fund this work. Stacey has also presented posters on her project at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting 2022 in Chicago, IL, and at the Geological Society of America 2023 Southeastern and Northeastern Section Joint Meeting in Reston, VA.

In addition to her schoolwork at Penn, Stacey has served as a teaching assistant for EESC 1000 Introduction to Geology, aided in the filming of fieldwork for use in MSAG online course materials, and volunteered as a representative of the program at regional conferences. After graduation, Stacey will begin work as the grant and outreach coordinator for the Geologic Mapping Division at the Pennsylvania DCNR Bureau of Geological Survey.

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.

For the last six years, Nicole has been on a mission to contribute to Latin American growth through entrepreneurship. In the past, she worked in a startup studio that builds solutions to improve the lives of the underserved low- and middle-class by providing them with access to income-generating opportunities and financial inclusion through technology. She is now creating a new startup to close the gender gap in the region by developing women in the tech ecosystem into leadership positions. Her vision is to translate the science of optimal performance into practical interventions that can be leveraged through technology with the objective to expand its reach across Latin American communities. Nicole believes democratizing the learnings from the science of positive psychology, starting with Latin American women, can maximize the impact of the region's talent and contribute to its development.

Master of Liberal Arts

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

Elana (Ellie) Forman (she/her) is in her final semester of the Master of Liberal Arts (MLA) program. Situated at the interdisciplinary cross-section of psychology, anthropology, and public health, her current research interests include: the roles of storytelling and narrative in public health communications, cultural and religious barriers for behavior change in a health context, and new modes of media and their impact on community and behavioral health. While in the MLA program, Ellie obtained a graduate research position at the Social Action Lab at the Annenberg School for Communication, where she is currently assisting with an NIH-funded digital initiative for protecting rural populations amid the US opioid epidemic. Ellie also served as the 2021/2022 MLA representative for the LPS student government. Outside of Penn, Ellie is certified as a Peer Recovery Specialist and volunteers as a health educator, presenting interactive workshops to middle and high school students on substance use and mental health. She also enjoys running in local races, playing piano, and café-hopping until she finds the best cup of coffee in Philly. 

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.

Kanchi Desai is a true liberal artist. When faculty speak of Kanchi, they use words like curiosity, understanding, and enthusiasm as they describe her deep passion for learning, research, and the exchange of ideas.

They praise her work ethic and confess that her high level of engagement and rigorous process of inquiry led them to work harder in the classroom. Not only did the faculty benefit, but Kanchi’s “insightful points on the world’s most pressing social and environmental challenges” also stimulated and engaged her peers in class discussion.

An international student from India, Kanchi did her undergraduate studies at Kenyon College, a highly respected and challenging liberal arts institution. Kanchi’s unflagging application of interdisciplinary lenses led one faculty to comment that she appreciates “when an accomplished individual as talented as Kanchi brings a fresh perspective and verve to their studies, and Kanchi did just that—posing probing questions of readings,” and “thoughtful critical summaries of scholarship drawing from multiple disciplines.”

Kanchi has focused her organizational dynamics studies on sustainable development; in particular, she is interested in “the integral role of human capital in organizations and how innovation, adaptation, and networks are a product of the cultural mindset shifts.” Her capstone examines “the future of leadership competencies within sustainable business model innovation.” With her hard work, innovative ideas, and dedication to learning, there is no doubt that Kanchi will make an impact in the world of sustainability.

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

In the Organizational Dynamics program, our students’ work experience and academic experience are equally important to the learning process. Melissa Otto’s capstone project exemplifies this co-creation of knowledge through experience and academic rigor.

In her capstone, entitled “Managing Shareholders and Stakeholders: The Path to Increased Corporate Responsibility Learning From Microsoft’s Transformation,” Melissa focused on the role of the organization in a public company’s goal of generating profit and return for shareholders while also managing the company’s responsibility to society and the environment they operate in. Melissa explored the tension of these roles by analyzing how the redefinition of Microsoft’s assessment metrics enabled them to enhance their culture from a tech bad boy to collaborative partner. Melissa’s analysis of Microsoft shows that a committed group of leaders and a resilient organizational culture can help firms navigate the ever-changing competitive environment and put them on a path to sustainability and growth.

About her capstone, her capstone committee, Drs. Janet Greco and Alan Barstow said, “Melissa has made a significant and needed contribution to the nascent importance of civic goals to the success of financial organizations. She has an argument that will stand her well in her leadership roles in those organizations. We look forward to hearing more about her mission to marry these dual returns on Wall Street.”

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.

In Organizational Dynamics, we often talk about how we are a community of learners—that the faculty, the students, and the staff all have something to learn from each other and the opportunity to share their knowledge with the community. The building and maintaining of this community is a group effort that benefits from the leadership of a dedicated student. Fuyu (Yumi) Zhu is that dedicated student. Joining the program during the pandemic, Yumi swiftly took advantage of loosening restrictions in her position as one of Dynamics’ LPSGov representatives to create events for the community. Encapsulating James Beard’s philosophy that “Food is our common ground, a universal experience,” Yumi brought students and faculty together over a brunch that the faculty are still talking about. And she also brought swag—another essential and universally loved way for our community to show off their pride.

After two years of isolation and uncertainty, Yumi’s hard work was exactly what Organizational Dynamics needed to come together again. We, as a community, are thrilled to present Yumi with the Lois Ginsberg Prize for her dedication to the community. She leaves us more connected and sets a high bar for future LPSGov representatives.