Some AU students wake up like this, aiming for flawless performances in the classroom, on campus, and in the community beyond. As with President’s Award winner Alexis Dobbs, the university recognizes this handful of graduating students who embody the AU ideal.
These students will accept their awards in person at President Kerwin’s Awards Program and Reception on May 9.
PhD candidates Erica Munkwitz and Kia Hall drew honors for Outstanding Scholarship at the Graduate Level this year. Hall’s research and service explore approaches to development in Honduras, while Munkwitz has studied women in equestrian sports of the British Empire.
“The real credit goes to the history department,” Munkwitz said. “Without all their mentoring and support throughout all these four years, I wouldn’t be here or be half the scholar that I am.”
On the undergraduate side of academic excellence, Zoé Orfanos and Chris Jasinski nabbed top honors. Jasinski, a first-generation college graduate from AU’s School of Communication, completed a prestigious internship with USA Today.
Orfanos took her learning into the community, where she worked with ex-offender aid and rehabilitation. “I’m a law and society major, but I’ve been doing a lot outside of the classroom, because I really wanted to learn more about what that meant,“ she explained.
AU rewards efforts to improve campus through two Outstanding Service to the University Community awards. Graduating magna cum laude, anthropology student Jessica Nesbitt leveraged positions in Student Government’s Women’s Initiative and the Center for Diversity & Inclusion to make the university a safer space.
She was more than surprised by the recognition. “The thing is that almost every kid at AU does this much stuff, and everyone’s really committed and involved,” she said. “So, being honored as someone who’s even more so is awesome.”
Global Scholar Kate Brunette, who took the remaining service award, moved the university toward an even more eco-friendly and sustainable path through her roles with Eco-Sense, Fossil-Free AU, and Student Government.
AU has a long history of high-achieving wonks. Each year, the Student Achievement Awards go to 10 such students whose accomplishments mirror those of standout students, staff, and faculty from decades past.
Honors Program senior Alifa Watkins received the Fletcher Scholar Award for her compelling efforts in public health both on campus and even abroad during her studies in the Netherlands.
“AU helped me broaden my expectations of what I could do,” she said. “It was great that I was able to hone in on these opportunities to get into my field and really make a difference that way.”
Honors student Tori Vogel will accept the Charles W. Van Way Award for excelling in almost every campus community-building position available, from resident assistant to orientation coordinator and peer educator.
Meanwhile, the School of Public Affairs Leadership Program’s Ki’tay Davidson led disability and LGBTQ advocacy that netted recognition from the White House. For his leadership work, he earned the Bruce Hughes Award.
As two-year editor of American Literary Magazine and passionate student dramatist, Lilly McGee’s strides to improve AU’s arts community earned her the Evelyn Swarthout Hayes Award.
She lauds the College of Arts & Sciences for the diversity of artistic options available. “We have a fantastic literature department,” she said. “One of the great things about it being a relatively small school is that you can dabble in different aspects of the arts.”
As a leader in AU Student Government, Kinsman-Hurst Award recipient Abby Finn organized the annual Founders’ Day Ball—one of AU’s oldest traditions—successfully managing an event budget of more than $110,000.
Disability Rights Coalition founder and president Allie Cannington worked tirelessly to shape a more open, inclusive environment on campus—a fact that landed her the Harold Johnson Award.
Similarly, through positions such as director of Student Government’s Women’s Initiative, Hannah Sydnor-Greenberg earned the Cathryn Seckler-Hudson Award for an unwavering commitment to equity and justice.
Achievement & Graduation, Flawless
Charles C. Glover Award recipient Jasmine Simawang translated her passionate for business into educating others, serving as a mentor to her peers. Graduating in just three years with a position waiting for her at Ernst & Young, Simawang believes couldn’t have had a better experience at AU’s Kogod School of Business.
“It was amazing. I really like that Kogod supported my dreams,” she said. “The advising team and the Career Center supported me the entire way, and I was able to land a job in my field of accounting.”
When Japanese student Fu Hamabe heard she received the Carlton Savage Award for organizing student dialogue groups to promote peace in East Asia, she was thrilled on several levels. “I felt like I was officially recognized as a student at American University, not just a visiting student. I’m just so grateful,” she said.
Hamabe will use her award moneys to cover the cost of planting a tree on campus to symbolize peace in East Asia.
Elected Washington, D.C., Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner and honors student Joe Wisniewski received the Stafford H. Cassell Award for his energy and dedication to the University and to public service. He echoed all the recipients, from academic to achievement standouts, saying the award represented a true, flawless honor—heartfelt recognition from the AU community.
“When it was an organized group of students, faculty, and staff that came together to nominate me, that was fantastic,” he said. “I couldn’t have asked for anything better to end my college career. That’s the way to go.”