LPS Student Awards for 2024

Undergraduate programs

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.

Rafael Álvarez Febo is graduating with a Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences in Literature, Culture, and Tradition. Rafael currently serves as vice president for Advocacy and Community Development at Esperanza leading community development and organizing efforts, which include corridor management for neighborhood businesses, environmental justice initiatives, voter outreach and education, and neighborhood planning. Rafael comes to Esperanza from the Pennsylvania governor’s office where he served as executive director for the Pennsylvania Commission on LGBTQ Affairs. Prior to his tenure at the governor’s office, Rafael worked as community and economic development director for the office of Councilwoman Maria Quiñones Sánchez with a focus on zoning, planning, greening initiatives, and public investments.

Prior to his employment with Councilwoman Quiñones Sánchez, Rafael was the program director of Norris Square Neighborhood Project’s Puerto Rican urban gardens, Las Parcelas. While at Norris Square Neighborhood Project he helped create programming with community members, youth, and volunteers that focused on cultural empowerment, healthy lifestyles, urban gardening, and community organizing.

Rafael also has worked at Youth United for Change as a youth organizer and the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society in their Parks and Vacant Land departments. Rafael has served as president of the Board of Directors of Galaei—a Queer Latine social justice organization. While chair of the Board, Rafael led efforts to carry out Galaei’s strategic plan and the organization’s physical move to Eastern North Philadelphia (Norris Square).

Rafael also served as a board member of the Philadelphia Latino Film Festival (PHLAFF), and as a member of the endorsement committee for Liberty City LGBT Democratic Club since 2016. Rafael has a strong passion for social justice and advocacy, especially in the areas of education, the environment, racial justice, gender and LGBTQ equity, and Puerto Rican Empowerment.

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

Joe Barreto is graduating with a Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences in Physical and Life Sciences and has earned four certificates: Science Foundations, Advanced Neuroscience, Data Analytics, and Leadership and Communication. Before his studies at Penn, Joe was a chemistry major in Puerto Rico while working full time as a caretaker. After taking one of his first courses at Penn, Foundations of Life Sciences with Megan Ruth Elliott, Joe was inspired to pursue a career in neuroscience research. This led him to pursue a number of opportunities beginning with a role as the lead of grant writing at Esurgi Biotech. He then completed a Research Experience for Undergraduates with Stanford’s Radiological Sciences Laboratory at the laboratory of Dr. Jennifer McNab, working on a project to optimize MRI data pre-processing. He eventually presented this work as a plenary speaker at Harvard’s National Collegiate Conference 2022. He then began working at Penn, first as a research assistant at the laboratory of Dr. Sharon Thompson-Schill and then as a research specialist at the laboratory of Dr. Benjamin Scholl where he also participated in the MindCORE Summer Fellowship Program. Following his graduation, Joe has continued working with Dr. Scholl’s laboratory after their move to the University of Colorado. He is passionate about his projects with the lab, studying synaptic networks in the visual systems of mammalian species. He is applying to PhD programs in neuroscience to begin graduate studies in fall 2025.

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.

Trevor is graduating summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences degree with a concentration in Individualized Studies focusing on leadership, organizational anthropology, and global studies. 

A recipient of the Quaker Completion Scholarship, he will also graduate with undergraduate certificates in Advanced Professional Writing, Advanced Upskill, Global and Regional Studies, Digital Strategies and Culture, and extracurricular Wharton Online certificates in Fintech: Foundations and Applications of Financial Technologies and Entrepreneurship Specialization.

Having grown up with cerebral palsy, Trevor recognized that the traditional path to higher education wasn’t for him. Instead, he opted for a more independent approach that Penn allowed through the LPS Online program.

With a firm commitment to accessibility in education, Trevor founded Brudda, an online tutoring platform, while at Penn through the Wharton Venture Lab and has since received grants from the Venture Lab’s Innovation Fund, the VELA Education Fund, and the 4.0 Tiny Fellowship. He looks forward to growing his startup to reach any student in need of flexible learning pathways.

After graduation, he will continue to work as a member of the faculty of Trinity Classical Academy in the growing Libertas Preparatory School independent study program, teaching social studies, personal finance, and math, in addition to scaling Brudda’s platform reach.

Continuing his education with a future in startup investment, development, and venture capital in mind, Trevor plans on attending the Harvard Extension School to pursue a Master of Liberal Arts in the field of finance.

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.

Kristina Clark’s professional journey at Penn began in 1982, but her educational pursuit took flight in 1990 with a single history class credit. Life's trials and caregiving responsibilities periodically paused her academic ambitions. Despite these challenges, Kristina's determination never wavered.

In 2005, she resumed her studies until 2008, when family health challenges demanded her attention. Anchored in her dedication to family, education, and community, she juggled her roles as a mother, spouse, caregiver, community volunteer, and professional. In 2019, Kristina seized the opportunity to reignite her educational path through Penn's LPS online degree program.

Kristina will graduate with her Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences degree, accompanied by five program certificates. Beyond her academic achievements, her journey has been enriched by the friendships made with classmates and the guidance received from brilliant faculty members. From collaborative projects to late-night study sessions, the camaraderie she has experienced has been invaluable.

When she's not immersed in schoolwork, Kristina manages her responsibilities as the director of Operations and Special Programs at Penn Alumni Relations, eagerly anticipating her upcoming status as a Penn alumna. This dedication extends seamlessly into her family life, where she approaches her 35th wedding anniversary with pride in her children's accomplishments and active involvement in their lives.

Kristina's story is a testament to resilience, determination, and the unwavering support of loved ones, friends, classmates, and colleagues for whom she is so incredibly grateful. Her advice to others? It's never too late! Embrace every opportunity for growth, ask for help when needed, and cherish the connections made along the way!

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.

Growing up in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Fernanda had one dream—to become a professional ballet dancer. The daughter of a car mechanic and a homemaker, she learned early on that the journey to become a ballerina was going to be long and difficult, but with much luck and much help she received a scholarship to the Washington School of Ballet at age 17. In the US, Fernanda was able to build a career as a professional ballet dancer, instructor, and choreographer, most recently as a member of Philadelphia Ballet, one of the country’s top ballet companies.

As a professional, Fernanda became concerned with the lack of mental health support available to help dancers cope with the demands of their craft. Determined to become a sports psychologist to be the resource the industry needed, she completed her associate degree at a community college and transferred to Penn LPS as a Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences (BAAS) student, which allowed her to continue dancing and accelerated the pace of her education.

Fernanda’s efforts to make conditions better for the dancers led her to take an active role in the dancers’ union, which is when she discovered her true calling. In advocating for her colleagues and helping to negotiate contracts, Fernanda saw the power of the law to create meaningful, positive change in the lives of others, and decided to pursue a legal career after retiring from the stage in May of 2024. With a unique blend of discipline and imagination characteristic of professional dancers, as well as the knowledge of psychological sciences and the analytical thinking skills gained as a BAAS student, Fernanda feels ready to begin her legal journey this fall. She will be attending New York University School of Law with a full tuition scholarship as an AnBryce Scholar, with the goal of becoming a public interest attorney representing disadvantaged communities like the ones she comes from.

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

Erin F. McClain is graduating with a Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences degree with a concentration in Individualized Studies focusing on climate change, creative writing, and mathematical sciences. She is a recipient of the Bread Upon the Waters Scholarship and a scholarship from the Charlotte W. Newcombe Foundation. Erin is a 2021 Summa Cum Laude graduate from the Community College of Allegheny County with an Associate of Science in mathematics and sciences. At Penn, Erin has been an executive editor for the Penn Undergraduate Law Journal’s Roundtable blog and a member of Seniors for the Penn Fund. In addition to her studies at Penn, Erin is a National Climate Fellow with Change the Chamber-Lobby for Climate, where she helped develop and write How to Become an Environmental Changemaker and co-led the Congressional and Corporate Outreach team. In this capacity, Erin has met with the offices for many members of Congress, focused especially on the many environmental concerns for the people of Pennsylvania. Recently, Erin was named by the Fulbright Commission as an alternate candidate for graduate study in the United Kingdom.

A two-time alumna of AmeriCorps National Service, Erin is a dedicated community volunteer. She’s the current treasurer for the historic preservation nonprofit Preservation Pittsburgh, and a former president of the Mary Roberts Rinehart Chapter of Sisters in Crime, a crime fiction writers group. Erin has had several short fiction stories published under the name EM Beck.

Graduate programs

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

Abigail P. Blyler is pursuing her Master of Applied Positive Psychology. Under the mentorship of Professor Martin Seligman, Abigail has taken a pioneering role in integrating artificial intelligence with psychological research. Her work in developing highly accurate and detailed AI-generated personal narratives from an individual’s stream of consciousness led to two first-author publications in the Journal of Positive Psychology and continues to be investigated at scale in collaboration with an organization that provides workplace coaching solutions in more than 60 countries. Abigail is currently applying to PhD programs in psychology and seeking a National Science Foundation fellowship.

Given to an LPS graduate student who has enhanced the well-being of their community (either within or outside of the University of Pennsylvania) and has made efforts to transform society during their time as a graduate student at Penn. A recipient of the Community Impact Award has displayed a commitment to collaboration and equity through community-centered leadership.

In her time at Penn, Emily Rego has become a dedicated advocate for community building both on campus and in Philadelphia. In her role as the sustainability graduate intern at Penn’s Sustainability Office, she actively created impactful resources for Penn students, staff, and faculty, including interactive maps, recycling guides, and Penn's STARS report. Her work has been instrumental in improving campus-wide sustainability. Last September, Emily was invited to participate in a sustainability focus group session with Penn's president, where she highlighted ongoing sustainability initiatives on campus and proposed actionable strategies for Penn to further enhance its sustainability efforts and connect with students. As a project manager at Penn Sustainability, Emily directed a life-cycle assessment for a local business, embedding sustainable practices into the community fabric. She extends her passion to volunteering, helping maintain local parks and addressing food security with local emergency food donation organizations. In leading the Graduate Student Hiking Club, Emily fosters community engagement and environmental stewardship among her peers. As she embarks on her post-grad journey, Emily is determined to prioritize sustainability and community-building in both her career and personal life.

This award is given to an LPS graduate student who has demonstrated perseverance in the face of adversity and/or obstacles during their time as a graduate student at Penn. This award is intended to recognize the work done and resilience displayed outside of the classroom by LPS graduate students who might otherwise go unnoticed.

Leneice Rice is graduating with a Master of Applied Positive Psychology (MAAP) degree from Penn. Prior to her studies at Penn, Leneice obtained a bachelor's degree in psychology and a minor in journalism from Tusculum University. Leneice's decade-long professional journey in suicide and substance abuse prevention, life and career coaching, and talent acquisition has instilled in her the significance of resilience when it comes to conquering hardships.

Leneice’s journey has been defined by an unwavering quest for knowledge and a deep-seated desire to uplift marginalized communities. As a crisis clinician and life and career coach, she has designed culturally responsive programs tailored to the unique needs of women and families of color, effectively merging personal and professional development. In her role as the inaugural community engagement coordinator for Multnomah County, Leneice has worked closely with local authorities to address disparities within criminal justice and mental health systems, advocating for systemic change rooted in hope and resilience.

Now, as Leneice nears completion of the MAPP program, she envisions a culturally responsive community center for youth grounded in positive psychology principles. She's passionate about creating spaces where hope, resilience, and agency are not just words but lived experiences. Through unwavering dedication and a commitment to inclusivity, Leneice is determined to create a brighter future where every individual feels empowered to thrive despite life's challenges.

This award is given to an LPS graduate student who has demonstrated remarkable leadership through their commitment to service and community during their time as a graduate student at Penn. This service-oriented leadership might have been displayed through a formal leadership role or through an informal one—such as within a classroom setting or within one's community.

Student bio coming.

This award is given to an LPS graduate student who has demonstrated remarkable leadership through their commitment to service and community during their time as a graduate student at Penn. This service-oriented leadership might have been displayed through a formal leadership role or through an informal one—such as within a classroom setting or within one's community.

Hao (Nathan) Wu is a 10-year serial entrepreneur who has launched four enterprises and ventures in the fields of international education, advertising and marketing, digital consulting, etcetera. Before becoming an entrepreneur, Hao worked for the aviation, investment, and government agency sectors. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania’s Master of Science in Organizational Dynamics (MSOD) program in December 2023. Hao participated in multiple start-up projects, Wharton investment competitions, and campus organizations, and was able to maintain excellent academic records during his two years at Penn. He also held positions as the previous MSOD program representative, GBM chair at Wharton Management Club, and project manager at Penn Graduate Consulting Club. Hao co-designed and organized various alumni and student events that brought Penn LPS students, alumni, and faculty together to exchange ideas. He also led LPS students to research and provided feedback on how to promote the MSOD program to the next level. Hao has a diverse history as well; he has studied and worked for many years in Australia, the US, Hong Kong, and mainland China. He has also been recognized as an Australian "End-of-Year Entrepreneur" by Westpac Bank and has published an article in the official magazine of the University of Sydney. In addition, Hao served as a panel speaker at the 2018 Hong Kong Talent Conference and delivered speeches at several educational institutions when he was in Australia.

Award description and student bio coming.

Presented to graduate or professional students, upon their graduation from Penn, who have been a catalyst for transformative and lasting new developments that have enhanced graduate and professional student life at Penn. The award is reserved for those who have created something new and institutionalized it.

Student bio coming.

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.

Wenqi Li is a Master of Chemical Science (MCS) graduate student with a concentration in Physical Chemistry and a focus on material science. She graduated from Stony Brook University with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. Her undergraduate research involved studying absorbents and membranes made by nanocellulose from biomass. For her capstone research at Penn, she works in Christopher Murray’s research group and studies the synthesis of gold nanocrystals (AuNCs) with selective size and morphology. She selectively synthesized triangle and tetrahedra shaped AuNCs that are being used to study the localized surface plasmon resonance (LSPR) by varying the morphology of its nanostructures. This discovery research may lead to a variety of applications, such as in solar cells materials, sensing, bioimaging, optical recording, surface-enhanced spectroscopies, and therapeutics. Wenqi Li recently gave an oral presentation on her research at the National American Chemical Society Meeting on March 20, 2024, in New Orleans, LA, on Self-Assembled Metal Nanocrystals on Colloidal Crystals as Hybrid Materials. In addition to her academic pursuits, Wenqi is an active graduate student in the chemistry department and MCS activities. She will continue research in her doctoral studies in the future.

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.

Yaning Liu is a Master of Chemical Science (MCS) graduate student with a concentration in Organic Chemistry. Yaning Liu was born and raised in Changchun, Jilin, China. Yan received her BS degree in chemistry from Emory University in 2022. Her undergraduate research was on implementing computational models to predict excited state molecular properties. After graduation, she joined the Kozlowski group at Penn where she explores the synergy between computation and experimental synthetic methodology. Specifically, she works on oxidative photocatalytic phenol coupling and base-assisted C-H which may be useful in catalysis used for energy in the future. Yaning recently gave a poster presentation on her research at the National American Chemical Society Meeting on March 19, 2024, in New Orleans, LA, on Visible-Light TiO2-Catalyzed Synthesis of Dihydrobenzofurans by Oxidative [3+2] Annulation of Phenols with Alkenyl Phenols, which is also in press publication. Upon completing her degree, she aspires to pursue a PhD in organic chemistry and eventually a career in process chemistry to make more efficient pharmaceuticals.

The MCS Leadership Award is awarded in grateful recognition of a student’s time and dedication to being a leader to the MCS community.

Sai Nehete is a Master of Chemical Science (MCS) graduate student with a concentration in Organic Chemistry. Sai grew up in the city of Mumbai in India. She completed her Bachelor of Technology degree at the Institute of Chemical Technology focusing on dye research, specifically on lab scale and industrial scale synthesis of C.I. Pigment Red 177 and other dyes by organic synthesis. Sai joined Kozlowski Lab at Penn Chemistry and has been working on the synthesis of substituted hydroxy carbazoles to test their oxidative couplings to yield of hydroxy carbazole hetero-dimeric natural products—Clausenawallines (A, E, B). Clausenawallines are alkaloids that exhibit interesting pharmacological activities such as anti-cancer (cytotoxicity), anti-malarial, anti-bacterial, anti-tuberculosis, and anti-HIV. Sai has worked tirelessly as an advocate for the MCS program in the LPS student government. Her leadership has included addressing concerns of the students and making sure there were fun activities for the students during the last two years. Sai’s future direction is to work in the pharmaceutical industry and utilize her knowledge in chemistry and biology to drive important breakthroughs in the field of science and be a part of projects that benefit society.

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.

Tianhongyi Zhao is a Master of Chemical Science (MCS) graduate student with a concentration in Physical Chemistry. Tianhongyi Zhao is from Dalian, China, a coastal city located in the northeastern region. He earned an undergraduate degree in materials physics from Xi’an Jiaotong University in 2022. At the University of Pennsylvania, Tianhongyi works under the guidance of Professor Andrew Rappe. Tianhongyi’s investigation into Hafnium dioxide (HfO2) has yielded significant insights into the discovery, stability, and transformation of novel phases. Hafnium dioxide historically has been used in optical coatings and advanced metal-oxide-semiconductor devices. Currently, there is interest in the use of hafnium dioxide in resistive switching memories and CMOS compatible ferroelectric field effect transistors (FeFET memory) and memory chips. Tianhongyi’s meticulous combination of computational methods discovered three previously unknown phases, supported by rigorous structural stability assessments and energetics calculations. He presented his findings at the National American Chemical Society meeting March 19, 2024, in New Orleans, LA, Unexplored Phases in HfO2 from First Principles, in a poster presentation. These findings not only advance our fundamental understanding of materials science but also hold promise for practical applications, particularly in the realm of materials design and engineering. In essence, the research underscores the multifaceted nature of phase transitions and the profound impact of theoretical insights on the development of novel materials with tailored properties. Additionally, Tianhongyi is a prominent member of the MCS community. He is quiet, but an effective communicator, in addition to always being kind and always quick to volunteer to help program staff or his classmates. In the future, he hopes to pursue a PhD further exploring HfO2 or similar research to help address sustainability in energy.

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.

Bo is a Master of Environmental Studies candidate with a concentration in Resource Management. He completed a Bachelor of Science in environmental science at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. His main interests surround all things water quality and wetlands, and he hopes to work in the field to improve the conservation and accessibility of both. While at Penn he worked with the Water Center at Penn beginning in the summer of 2023. Through this work, he has been part of a summer enrichment program where he and his colleagues worked with about a dozen students from Paul Roberson High School in West Philadelphia, teaching them about the history of water and the natural environment of Philadelphia. This project was designed to instill a sense of place and an increased awareness of not only what kinds of problems there are in Philadelphia regarding water quality, but what many organizations are doing to solve them. Other work with the Water Center consisted of piloting a water quality monitoring program for Cobbs Creek where he measured and sampled the water to determine the quality of the water body. During his time at Penn, he attended World Water Week, hosted by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) in Stockholm, Sweden. Throughout that week, he was able to see the diversity of not only problems, but also solutions when it comes to water. He plans to use each one of these experiences throughout the MES program to improve water quality and habitats for both people and the environment in the future.

This award is given each year to an undergraduate or graduate student in EES who has done significant research in one of Dr. Scatena’s fields of study.

Marin Sklan is a Master of Environmental Studies student with a concentration in Environmental Sustainability. Prior to attending the University of Pennsylvania, Marin received her bachelor’s degree in English from Reed College, and Master of Fine Arts from Emerson College. Her capstone was shaped by a love for storytelling and is an exploration of wetlands around the world, from the cloud forests of Puerto Rico to the permafrost peatlands of Alaska, and many in between. This travelogue covers eight unique wetland types, each with their own complicated histories, ecosystems, and role in mitigating the climate crisis.

During her time at Penn, Marin was awarded a Green Fund grant to install pollinator hotels in the Penn Park Orchard. For this project, Marin teamed up with Philadelphia Orchard Project (POP) to install the pollinator habitats and participate in Bartram’s Garden’s annual Honey Fest. While attending the festival, she shared a number of educational resources including an overview of native solitary pollinator species, preferred food sources, and a step-by-step guide for attendees looking to create their own hotels at home.

Marin currently works in the sustainability sector for EcoVadis, a globally recognized assessment platform that rates businesses’ sustainability performance based on their environmental impact, labor and human rights standards, ethics, and procurement practices. Her work focuses on driving adoption of sustainability risk management solutions to help companies identify and mitigate ESG (environmental, social, and governance) risks throughout their supply chains.

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 Department of Earth and Environmental Science in a significant way.

Likhwa Ndlovu is a Master of Science in Applied Geosciences (MSAG) candidate with a concentration in hydrogeology. Having received a dual Bachelor of Arts degree in geology and geography from Macalester College in 2021, Likhwa has always aspired to blend technical acumen with social analysis. His undergraduate capstone project, the Permission to Pollute podcast, examined the complex permitting process of Enbridge's Line 3 replacement project in Minnesota, USA, serving as a catalyst for his interest in geosciences and environmental justice. In his adoption of scientific principles, Likhwa strives to center care and people, ensuring that his scientific pursuits prioritize the well-being of communities and ecosystems alike.

Transitioning to the MSAG program, Likhwa further enriched his academic journey by participating in the Multi-Master’s Degree in International Environmental Management (IEM) program. This interdisciplinary program allowed him to broaden his perspectives by engaging with environmental engineering coursework at Tsinghua University and earning a master's degree in international environmental management from École Des Mines Paris. During this program Likhwa developed a keen interest in the deployment of carbon dioxide removal (CDR) technology, a passion later demonstrated in his capstone research. In collaboration with the Penn Clean Energy Conversion Lab, Likhwa’s thesis explored responsible siting when pairing direct air capture (DAC) with geothermal energy in Nevada. Under the leadership of Dr. Peter Psarras, Likhwa’s thesis explored geothermal-DAC deployment pathways in Nevada that minimized competition for renewable electricity whilst prioritizing environmental justice and adhering to environmental conservation practices.

In addition to his academic pursuits, Likhwa served as a teaching assistant for Introduction to Geology: Earth Through Time, interned at Langan Environmental Engineering, was recognized as a Verge 23 Emerging Leader, and advised potential IEM candidates. After graduation, Likhwa will continue his academic journey as he embarks on a PhD candidacy in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania. Through his research, Likhwa hopes to deepen his understanding of CDR technologies and prioritize justice-oriented climate interventions.

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.

Hailing from Ukraine, Alla has played an important role in implementing the practical application of positive psychology tools in Ukrainian society, including schools, universities, and conferences. Her groundbreaking course Positive Psychology for Ukraine, developed with Martin Seligman, has garnered immense acclaim. To this day, Alla has touched the lives of over 270,000 students and continues to bring her psychology expertise to the masses. Beyond her educational pursuits, Alla is a prolific author, penning several self-improvement workbooks and inspirational journals. She is also a revered presence at the World Happiness Summit, where she remains actively engaged in the global happiness movement. Covering topics ranging from motivation and goal-setting to resilience and mindfulness, Alla's work has left an indelible mark on the lives of countless individuals.

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.

Mariam believes that when given the right resources and environment, learners of all ages, from all corners of the world, can develop authentically and holistically. After working in children’s publishing at Scholastic to bring affordable and high-quality books to classrooms in the United States, Mariam shifted gears to cross-cultural education management. As a project manager at an Armenian nonprofit, Mariam created interdisciplinary learning programs accessible to all teens in local cities and villages. Currently, she is focused on bringing positive psychology to the Armenian community. In the works: leading the communications department for Kaitzak, a new nonprofit aimed at amplifying success stories in the Diaspora and connecting community members with their roots.

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.

Norris, the first in-service teacher from Hong Kong to receive the Bei Shan Tang Scholarship for the Master of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program, is deeply committed to bridging the gap between theory and practice in positive education. Being a native of Hong Kong, she recognizes the pressing need to enact positive change in the local education system. Norris' primary goal is to enhance the well-being of school communities in Hong Kong by implementing practical interventions rooted in the science of positive psychology. As an educational leader, she eagerly embraces challenges, seizes opportunities, and relentlessly pursues knowledge to uplift the education systems in Hong Kong and neighboring countries through the principles of positive psychology. Norris feels honored to collaborate with fellow MAPPsters worldwide, united in their pursuit of realizing Martin Seligman's vision of “Flourish 51.” Motivated by the scholarship's support, she humbly but resolutely strives to make a lasting impact and contribute to the betterment of humanity through her MAPP education.

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.

In Organizational Dynamics, we are a community of learners—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. We are the Dynamics community, but we are also part of other communities—the College of Liberal and Professional Studies, the School of Arts and Sciences, and the University of Pennsylvania—that broaden and enrich our community experience.

The building and maintaining of community is a group effort that benefits from the leadership of a dedicated student, and Cyd Chai has been dedicated to enriching the Dynamics and LPS communities through her work with LPSGov. As executive co-president of LPSGov, Cyd worked tirelessly for our student communities. From organizing new events that brought LPS students together with professional master’s students from other schools at Penn to creating a monthly newsletter of happenings, Cyd created spaces for communities to flourish.

We, as a community, are thrilled to present Cyd with the Lois Ginsberg Award for her dedication. She leaves us more connected and sets a high bar for future LPSGov leaders.

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 their academic experience are equally important to their learning. Erica Hildenbrand’s capstone project exemplifies this co-creation of knowledge through experience and academic rigor.

In her capstone, entitled Work Friends: Examining the Impact of Social Connection in the Higher Education Workplace, Erica focuses on the impact of friendship and social connection in the post-COVID-19 pandemic higher education workplace. Specifically, she asks: What does the changing landscape of the modern workplace, with employees valuing flexibility and autonomy, mean for workplace friendships? Using the lens of her own strong work friendships, Erica examines what motivates employees in higher education to build social networks and friendships at work.

Through this framework, Erica puts a spotlight on the importance of networking, friendships, and social connectedness in the workplace while she seeks to expand definitions of “life” and “work” and how they relate to work-life balance.

As director of Recreation Programs at Penn, Erica’s professional experience in the wellness industry informs her study of workplace friendships and provides an opportunity for her exploration and support of workplace friendships to have positive impacts not only for the staff who greet you at the gyms, teach the group exercise classes, and maintain the equipment, but also for the whole of the University community. We look forward to seeing the impact of Erica’s work across Penn’s community.

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.

Anne Huang Dharma is the consummate Organizational Dynamics student. A solver of process problems, she understands that the secret to positive change is to empower and enable people to do their best work.

Anne has applied her problem-solving and people-supporting skills to her Organizational Dynamics program—truly embracing the program’s focus on understanding the people side of work. She excelled in courses focused on the strategic management of human capital, influence and persuasion, and organizational diagnosis.

Anne combines global work experience with strong interpersonal skills and is a champion for diversity in organizations as well as for women in leadership within the financial industry. With her work background and her deep study of the human side of enterprise, Anne is well-poised for her post-program goal of working in human resources in finance and, later, running her own HR consultancy.

With her hard work, deep understanding of managing people, innovative ideas, and dedication to learning, there is no doubt that Anne will make an impact in the world.

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

In her capstone DEI, Here I Come! Five Lessons from Organizational Dynamics for DEI, Dajana Denes Walters takes a reflective approach: she examines five valuable lessons she gleaned from her Organizational Dynamics program. Dajana brings these lessons together to build a framework through which she can continue to work to create inclusive, just, and safe work environments for all employees.

Through her capstone, Dajana urges us to stay curious and ask questions; to learn to unlearn to relearn; to contain chaos; to examine our implicit biases; and, finally, to embrace feedback. Dajana explains the theories and lenses behind each of the lessons and articulates how each of the lessons can be applied in support of DEI in organizations.

Dajana’s capstone advisor, Dr. Charline Russo, said of her capstone: “Each lesson explores a different concept with methods that can be used to practice and apply DEI, creating a broad spectrum of organizational solutions for building a human-centered and learning-oriented organization.”