Graduating students recognized for outstanding achievement

The College of Letters and Science celebrated the class of 2012 on June 16 and 17, with over 5,000 graduates taking part in five ceremonies over these two days. Every graduate is a success story, as their proud and happy families will attest, but several outstanding students received special recognition at Commencement.

Harrison Weber (photo at left), who earned a B.A. with distinction in the history of public policy, received the Thomas More Storke Award from Chancellor Henry Yang. The Storke Award is presented each year to a graduating senior who has demonstrated outstanding scholarship and extraordinary service to the university, its students, and the community. Harrison, who was President of  Associated Students and active in a wide range of student affairs for four years, wrote an honors thesis on the recent history of higher education policy in California. His research paper, “A Covenant Undone: Understanding the 1960 Master Plan for Higher Education in California as a Promise to and Agreement with the People,” combined his expertise in public policy and his experience as a student leader and advocate who has had an impact on policy and practice in the University of California. Harrison plans to attend law school and to help shape public policy in the area of education.

Business economics major Alexei Mlodinow (photo right) received the Luis Leal Award for outstanding achievement in the social sciences. He graduated with a perfect 4.0 GPA, for which he received the 2012 University Mortar Board Award, recognizing the graduating senior with the highest cumulative grade point average for four years of college. Alexei was also recognized by the Department of Economics for outstanding scholastic achievement. During his sophomore year, Alexei developed an interest in  medicine and, in addition to his economics major, took pre-med classes in which he earned grades of A and  A+.  He excelled at organic chemistry and became a tutor in that subject as well, while volunteering at Cottage Hospital and the Eastside Neighborhood Clinic. Alexei also studied abroad in France, and subsequently volunteered as a Global Intern  at the Education Abroad Program. His hard work and dedication have paid off, as he has been admitted to the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University with a full scholarship.

Janet O’Neill, who was also the student speaker at Sunday's humanities and arts ceremony,  received the Collegeof Lettersand Science Dean’s Prize, which recognizes outstanding scholarship and contributions to the campus community. Janet graduated with a double major in Theater and Communication, with a minor in German. A gifted costume designer, Janet participated in 16 productions in the Department of Theater and Dance as designer and student assistant, while also studying the history of costume and design. Janet also completed a senior honor's project entitled “Under The Armor: An Analysis of the Political, Economic, and Aesthetic Ideology of Military Armor,” a study of British and German armor of the 14th and 15th centuries. Supported by an Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities Grant, she translated her academic research into designs for suits of armor for characters in plays by Shakespeare and the German playwright Hans Sachs. Janet has been accepted into the prestigious MFA program in costume design at UC San Diego.

The William R. Reardon Undergraduate Award for outstanding scholarly achievement in the humanities and arts was presented to Brian Karvelas, who earned a B.A. in linguistics, with a minor in ethnomusicology, with  highest honors. Brian had a GPA of 3.99, including a grade of A+ in 19 courses. He was a data analyst for Professor Mary Bucholtz’s National Science Foundation-funded research project on the role of peer interaction in the persistence of undergraduate women in science majors, Brian published a research paper entitled “Segregationist Ideology in the Early Twentieth Century Record Industry,” focusing on the way the record industry during the 1920's created an artificial racial divide division between "black" blues and "white" Appalachian folk music. Brian himself is a gifted musician. As a member of the UCSB Middle East Ensemble,  he studied Hindustani classical music, learned to play the sitar, and performed in Egypt. Brian also studied abroad at the University of Otago in New Zealand, where he gained a deep appreciation for the indigenous Maori culture.

James Proffitt (photo left, with Prof. Stanley Awramik), who graduated with a double major in zoology and in Earth Science with a paleo-biology emphasis, received the Francis Colville and Terry Dearborn Memorial Award for outstanding academic achievement as an honors student majoring in the sciences. For three years, James worked with Earth Science Professor Stanley Awramik on a project examining the paleontology of stromatolites from the 50 million-year-green Green River Formation in Wyoming. He continued this research for his senior thesis, presented his initial results at the 2011 meeting of the Cordilleran Geological Society of America, and is preparing a manuscript for publication. James also earned a prestigious summer internship at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, where he conducted research on fossil and living vampire bats, part of an NSF-funded project on the evolutionary relationships of extinct and living bats headed by Dr. Nancy Simmons. Next fall, James will begin graduate work in the PhD program in paleobiology and geosciences at the University of Texas, Austin.

In recognition of her outstanding work in the Department of Feminist Studies, Jessica Moore received the Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Research. Professor Eileen Boris, Hull Professor and Chair of Feminist Studies, said “Jessica has displayed the curiosity, skills, independence, vision, and perseverance necessary for success in the research process, and that her honors project, on  attitudes and practices of college women concerning body hair is “imaginatively conceived, expertly executed, and theoretically sophisticated.” Professor Leila Rupp, Jessica’s adviser, says that this project builds on work by historians and feminist scholars who have analyzed the development of expectations about women’s bodies, relating these practices to consumerism, fashion, changes in women’s status, and large-scale social and economic change. The project explores questions of the relationship among societal pressure, generational change, and women’s agency.  Professor Rupp says that she has never advised a student as motivated and passionate about her research. Jessica plans to pursue her Ph.D. and ultimately become a professor herself.

News Date: 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012