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Meet 2024’s University Student Award Winners

Winners of Top Awards for Scholarship, Service and Achievement Named

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2024 University Student Award winners

Each year, 18 students are honored with AU’s highest awards for service, leadership and scholarship - the University Student Achievement Awards.

In a tradition that goes back nearly a century, students are nominated for specific ways they have excelled at AU and impacted the community, from academics to leadership. This year’s award winners will be feted on May 9 at an Awards Program, and honored during their commencement ceremonies, where they will also be seated on stage. Winners also receive cash awards.

Here are the 2024 graduates who will be honored for their outstanding contributions.

Outstanding Scholarship

Four students are honored each year for exceptional scholarship: two undergraduates and two graduate students. This year's awardees for the Scott A. Bass Outstanding Scholarship at the Undergraduate Level Award are David Brostoff, SIS/BA ‘24, and TreVaughn Ellis, CAS/BS ‘24. Hehewutei Amakali, SIS/MA ’24, and Samantha White, CAS/PhD ’23, will receive awards for Outstanding Scholarship at the Graduate Level.

David Brostoff, SIS/BA ’24, graduates with a bachelor's degree in international studies and certificate in Political Thought. David’s senior thesis research on the philosophy of nuclear strategy was lauded by faculty for its nuance. His essay “Politics Among Realists” received an undergraduate research paper award from the University Library and will be published in the Crimson Historical Review. An intellectual leader on campus, David served as president of the Alexander Hamilton Society, which hosts numerous events and book discussions; as co-founder and director of The Pericles Institute, a student-run foreign affairs think tank at AU; and as the student advisor of the SIS Foreign Policy & Global Security House. He also landed competitive internships at the Council on Foreign Relations and Department of State Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs and was awarded the War Studies Fellowship and National Defense Fellowship.

David Brostoff, SIS/BA ’24David Brostoff (SIS/BA ’24)

TreVaughn Ellis, CAS/BS ’24, will receive his bachelor of science degree in biology, with a minor in dance. TreVaughn journeyed to Alaska to conduct fieldwork as a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Hollings Scholar and received the prestigious Udall Scholarship recognizing future leaders in environmental policy. He was selected for multiple competitive research experiences, including the National Science Foundation REU Program, STEMSEAS microplastics cruise, and Black in Marine Science Tidal Wave Program. In addition to building his experimental expertise in John Bracht’s lab, TreVaughn is involved across campus. He served in leadership roles in the Beekeeping Society, Garden Club, and Brother Brother mentorship program. This summer, following his graduation, TreVaughn will participate in The Diversity Project at UCLA before ultimately pursuing a PhD.

TreVaughn Ellis, CAS/BS ’24TreVaughn Ellis (CAS/BS ’24)

Hehewutei Amakali, SIS/MA ’24, will receive a master’s degree in Global Environmental Policy. Her Substantial Research Paper (SRP) went above and beyond expectations and made important contributions to the study of environmental justice and indigenous-led carbon removal solutions. She was also one of the lead authors of the first-ever societal impacts chapter for the National Petroleum Council study. Hehewutei received many honors and awards during her time at AU, including the Climatebase Fellowship and the DACOR Bacon House Fellowship. She was also selected for the Energy Leadership Institute’s 2024 EnGen Cohort and served as a panelist for the Carbon Dioxide Removal Symposium. Post-graduation, Hehewutei will continue her important work as the Low Carbon Policy Advisor for ExxonMobil Low Carbon Solutions.

Hehewutei Amakali, SIS/MA ’24Hehewutei Amakali (SIS/MA ’24)

Samantha White, CAS/PhD ’23, graduated in December 2023 with her PhD in Behavior, Cognition, and Neuroscience. Her dissertation examined the dynamics of decision-making using behavioral, computational, and neurobiological methods. Samantha is already an accomplished scholar, having published multiple peer-reviewed scientific papers, including several as first or co-first author. In recognition of her talents, she was invited to join the inaugural Early Career Advisory Board for the Journal of Neuroscience. Samantha has won many competitive research awards, was named a Cosmo Scholar by the Cosmos Club Foundation Grant Program, and received the Trainee Professional Development Award from the Society for Neuroscience. Samantha was selected as a postdoctoral fellow for the Section on Neurobiology of Compulsive Behaviors at the National Institute of Mental Health.

Samantha White (CAS/PhD ’23)Samantha White (CAS/PhD ’23)

Outstanding Service to the Community

The award for Outstanding Service to the University Community goes to two students — graduate or undergraduate — who have made a lasting impact on the AU community.

Jehane Djedjro, SIS/BA ’24, served as Student Trustee for AU’s Board of Trustees. Providing the trustees with the student perspective, she thoughtfully and enthusiastically advocated for her peers and the university’s diversity and inclusion efforts. Jehane was also appointed as the sole student representative on the Presidential search Committee. She was involved with many student organizations, including the Kennedy Political Union, Residence Hall Association, and African Students’ Organization. In the words of one of her recommenders: “Jehane reflects the highest ideals of American University – integrity, leadership, service, and academic achievement.”

Jehane Djedjro, SIS/BA ’24Jehane Djedjro (SIS/BA ’24)

Kyle Ta-ay, SIS/MA ’24, is a committed leader in the School of International Service. As a Student Advisor for International Student and Scholar Services, he assisted fellow international students in navigating AU. As Vice President of Finance for the Graduate Leadership Council, Kyle ensured equitable distribution of funds among the various graduate organizations and graduate student councils. And through his scholarship and research at the ASEAN Studies Initiative, as one recommender put it, “Kyle has consistently exhibited a profound passion for advancing knowledge and understanding in the Indo-Pacific region both inside and outside of the university setting.”

Kyle Ta-ay, SIS/MA ’24Kyle Ta-ay (SIS/MA ’24)

Student Achievement Awards

Eleven of AU’s most active, engaged, and high-achieving undergraduates are being honored for their impact on the community with Student Achievement Awards.

Chaitanya Venkateswaran, SIS/BA ’24, receives the Bruce Hughes Award, which goes to a student who has performed outstanding service to the university community and demonstrated unusual depth and maturity in leadership. She has been deeply involved across AU; she was the Student Director of the School of Public Affairs Leadership program, and she served as both an AU Ambassador and AU Diplomat where she welcomed prospective students with professionalism and enthusiasm. Chaitanya has worked as Managing Editor of Clocks and Clouds - an undergraduate research journal at AU, and closely worked with and mentored students in her role as Complex Problems Program Leader and Supplemental Instruction Leader for introductory economics and statistics courses over her time at AU. In the words of one nominator: “Through her tireless efforts, she has significantly contributed to fostering collaborative learning environments where all students feel valued, supported, and empowered to thrive.”

Chaitanya Venkateswaran, SIS/BA ’24Chaitanya Venkateswaran (SIS/BA ’24)

Kyra Thordsen, SPA/BA ’24, earns the Catheryn Seckler-Hudson Award, given to a senior who exemplifies character and achievement while making significant contributions to Student Government. Kyra single-handedly rebuilt the School of Public Affairs Undergraduate Council, which had ceased to exit before her arrival at AU. As President, she transformed the SPA Council into the most thriving undergraduate council at AU. Kyra also organized the Spring 2023 AU Changemakers Summit, advancing conversations about social change in and outside of the university. Her nominators lauded her belief in “in student empowerment, in improving specialized university programming, and in bettering the university community as a whole.”

Kyra Thordsen, SPA/BA ’24Kyra Thordsen (SPA/BA ’24)

Amira Tripp Folsom, SIS/CAS/BA ’24, is the recipient of this year’s Harold Johnson Award, which honors a student for promoting cultural and racial diversity and understanding. As Editor-in-Chief of The Blackprint, Amira shared stories and experiences of DC’s communities of color around crucial issues like gun violence. As an intern at AQ Studios, she amplified the voices of queer people across Africa and the African diaspora. Amira also led an Alternative Break to South Africa with a co-leader, focusing on the anti-apartheid movement. In the words of one recommender, “Amira's character and her actions speak to her commitment to living a life of purpose and impact raising awareness around issues of diversity, equity and inclusion and positively impacting traditionally marginalized communities.”

Amira Tripp Folsom, SIS/CAS/BA ’24Amira Tripp Folsom (SIS/CAS/BA ’24)

Madyson Brown, SPA/BA ’24, earns the Kinsman-Hurst Award, which recognizes service in Student Government or the Student Conduct system. As President and Director of Special Projects for the School of Public Affairs Undergraduate Council, Madyson oversaw the planning and execution of many events for the SPA community. She was also an AU Student Ambassador, welcoming prospective Eagles to campus. Madyson also worked at the Department of Homeland Security as a Women, Peace, and Security intern and was a Democracy Summer Fellow for Congressman Andy Kim. Her nominators praised her “exemplary leadership and service within both the university and broader community.”

Madyson Brown, SPA/BA ’24Madyson Brown (SPA/BA ’24)

Emily Brignand, SIS/BA ’24, has been awarded the Charles W. Van Way Award for her contributions to building community. As President of Project Pengyou, Emily forged connections between Chinese international, Chinese-American, and other AAPI students through collaborative events and programming. She was also Treasurer and then Vice President of the SIS Undergraduate Council, spearheading and supporting many community-based and student-centered projects and initiatives. To bridge community through advocacy, Emily also wrote for The Eagle and the Pericles Institute as an Op-ed writer. Celebrating her work building community, Emily’s recommenders noted that she “promotes equality and inclusion in every aspect of her life.”

Emily Brignand, SIS/BA ’24Emily Brignand (SIS/BA ’24)

Gabrielle MacKay, SIS/BA ’24, lands the Charles Glover Award for her citizenship and business leadership. Gabrielle served as the Chief Financial Officer for American University Model United Nations Conference, AmeriMUNC, which attracts over 900 high school students every year. She managed a $175,000 budget with ease, becoming the first AmeriMUNC CFO to successfully negotiate and sign a multiyear contract with a hotel. Gabrielle also expanded access to financial aid, distributing the largest amount of financial aid in the organization’s history. She also served as a Program Leader for several Complex Problems seminars and interned several times in Congress. Her recommenders noted that “work toward increasing accessibility has been a constant throughout Gabby’s formal and informal leadership.”

Gabrielle MacKay, SIS/BA ’24Gabrielle MacKay (SIS/BA ’24)

Alexandra Drakeford, SPA/BA ’24, has been awarded the Fletcher Scholar Award for her combination of leadership, citizenship, and scholarship. Alexandra was as a Core Leader for Power, Privilege, and Inequality, an AU core curriculum course. She was also a member of Student Government, and Director of Inclusivity, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility for the AU College Democrats. Off campus, she worked with the Youth Activism Project and was selected as a Social Justice Fellow by the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Foundation. Additionally, Alexandra interned with the White House, the Smithsonian, and the at the Office of President and Mrs. Obama during her time at AU. She also gave a talk at TEDxOxford and sits on the Washington DC board for the Princeton Prize in Race Relations. In one nominator’s words: “She has brought her passion, courage, vulnerability, and authenticity to the totality of her AU experience both on and off its campus.”

Alexandra Drakeford, SPA/BA ’24Alexandra Drakeford (SPA/BA ’24)

Yohan Moon, SIS/BA ’24, wins the Carlton Savage Award for his work to increase intercultural understanding at AU. Yohan founded the Korean International Scholar Association (KISA), celebrating his Korean heritage with his peers and facilitating intercultural dialogue across campus. Yohan also served as a Core Leader for Visual Culture in Korea, an AU core curriculum course, and he supported international relations work as an intern at Woodrow Willson International Center for Scholars. In one recommender’s words: “His call to shape a future valuing diversity, fostering understanding, and championing peace reflects a deep commitment to making a positive impact in the community.”

Yohan Moon, SIS/BA ’24Yohan Moon (SIS/BA ’24)

Magnolia Mead, SPA/BA ’24, receives the Gail Short Hanson Award for Advocacy for principled and informed leadership in advancing a cause, policy, or program that benefits the campus community or a community beyond the campus. Magnolia was a dedicated advocate for climate justice. As the National Organizing Director for the youth-led climate justice organization Zero Hour, she advocated for climate legislation at the Capitol and was invited to the White House to celebrate the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, the largest federal climate legislation in US history. On campus, Magnolia was President of the Sunrise Movement at AU, engaging the university community on issues of climate justice. As one nominator said, “she strives to make the university a community-centered institution that can lead with the innovative and visionary knowledge required to address the climate crisis.”

Magnolia Mead, SPA/BA ’24Magnolia Mead (SPA/BA ’24)

David Hobbs, SPA/BA ’24, has earned the Evelyn Swarthout-Hayes Award for contributing to the community through the arts while demonstrating impressive academic achievement. Playing both piano and saxophone, David was a powerful presence in multiple musical ensembles, including the Symphony Orchestra, Symphonic Band, and Chamber ensemble. He also supported the Musical Theatre program as a rehearsal pianist and pit orchestra musician. Not only a leader in the music program, David also served as an AU Ambassador, welcoming prospective students to campus and delivering a keynote at Boston New Eagle Welcome. He was also involved on campus as a section editor at The Eagle and audio director for Kennedy Political Union. One recommender described David as “someone who not only gets along with everyone but also thrives on collaboration and the exchange of ideas.”

David Hobbs, SPA/BA ’24David Hobbs (SPA/BA ’24)

Bryn Underwood, Kogod/BS ’24, receives the Stafford H. Cassell Award, which recognizes a student who exemplifies the traits of Stafford Cassell—total, selfless dedication to AU, profound energy, reliability, intellectual curiosity, friendliness, and helpfulness. Bryn was a student athlete on the field hockey team and a member of two Patriot League Championship teams. Named the Patriot League Scholar Athlete of the Year in 2023, Bryn also supported her fellow athletes as Vice President of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. Beyond athletics, she was the Treasurer and Student Leader for Cru and participated in several musical theatre productions. Bryn also was a Teaching Assistant for the Business and Entertainment program and a Peer Consultant for Kogod’s Center of Professionalism and Communications. Speaking to her character, one recommender said: “Beyond all of her academic and athletic success there is a light that shines brightly within Bryn.”

Bryn Underwood, Kogod/BS ’24Bryn Underwood (Kogod/BS ’24)

President’s Award

Ekua Hudson, CAS/BA ’24, is the 2024 President’s Award winner – the highest distinction for an AU undergraduate. Ekua is a public health major creating more equitable food systems in DC and beyond. Read all about Ekua and her work fighting food insecurity in the profile, “2024 President’s Award Winner Has a Hunger for Addressing Food Deserts.”

Ekua Hudson, CAS/BA ’24Ekua Hudson (CAS/BA ’24)