LPS Student Awards for 2013

Congratulations to our Student Award Winners for 2013.



Undergraduate Dean’s Scholar

Andrew Borstein

Bachelor of Arts

Andrew started at Penn in Fall 2011 and earned Dean’s List Honors for several semesters and served on the LPS Student Association Board as director of online communications. He created the new student organization's website ( as a vehicle to help LPS students find even more avenues for peer support and community.

Andrew has engaged in research outside of the classroom, worked with Dr. Melissa Hunt and managed an original research study about the effect of media messages on germ beliefs and behavior. In August he will begin working with Dr. Connie Kasari, an internationally-renowned researcher at UCLA, investigating behavioral interventions for children with autism in the LA public school system.

He eventually plans to pursue a PhD in clinical psychology en route to a career where he can improve the lives of adults with autism and their families. His desire is to facilitate change on a large scale, particularly with evidence-based interventions, novel treatments, better models for care and community integration, and social policies that affect individuals with developmental disabilities.

Memorable experiences for Andrew at Penn include “getting notified that my independent research proposal was approved by the IRB. I was so excited that I forwarded the email to my parents! I remember thinking, ‘One day, someone will say they 'know' something because of me.’ Creating knowledge is an awesome privilege.”

Andrew offers the following thought about his experience at Penn, “If you're interested in something, you don't have to just read about it—Penn will help provide you with the guidance and resources to investigate it yourself. “

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Ronald J. Caridi Award

Kurt August

Bachelor of Arts

Awarded annually to the College of Liberal and Professional Studies graduate who best exemplifies the uncompromising commitment to scholarship, hard work, and the life of the mind which the late Ronald J. Caridi embodied and shared with so many.

Kurt August enrolled in Temple University directly out of high school and withdrew after his second semester due to the untimely death of his father. He entered the workforce for a time but felt driven to do something that would make a positive difference in the world so he enrolled in the Community College of Philadelphia as a Secondary Education major and volunteered as a tutor. After completing his AA degree he applied to several institutions and was accepted to Penn.

He will be graduating with a major in Social Science with concentrations in Sociology, History, and Urban Studies and he credits his experiences with brilliant professors like Andy Lamas, Bob Stokes, and Robin Leidner as forever changing his perspective. Kurt applied, and was accepted, to the University’s School of Social Policy & Practice as a sub-matriculation candidate, but was unable to take advantage of this opportunity due to his current financial limitations. He has held work-study positions at Penn in addition to a variety of jobs in order to maintain a base standard of living while completing his degree. He has supplemented his formal education in the social sciences with practical experiences as a volunteer with Philabundance’s Community Food Center and is interning in their community kitchen.

Upon graduation, he plans to seek employment in the social services area in Philadelphia. His experiences at Penn “have made my goals appear more tangible than at any other time in my life. I am confident that the knowledge gained, as well as the renowned academic credentials earned during my time at Penn will serve me well into the future.” He intends to apply to full and part-time graduate programs in either Social Work or Urban Studies with the hope of being enrolled in a program by the Fall of 2014. Kurt comments, “The path to earning a living wage while continuing to pursue more complex levels of intellectual work is much longer than I anticipated when I first enrolled in Temple University at the age of 18, but today I am facing that path with my eyes wide open.”

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Linda Bowen Santoro Award

Kathryn Clayton

Bachelor of Arts

Awarded annually by the College of Liberal and Professional Studies to a graduating LPS student with unusual motivation and dedication in the pursuit of an undergraduate degree.

Kate Clayton has received accolades both in and out of the classroom as evidenced by her induction into Phi Beta Kappa, presence on the Dean’s list each semester, and recognition as the 2012 Fine Arts Junior Award recipient. She was honored with the Lawrence Shprintz and the Kelly Family Travel awards to study last summer at the Copenhagen Institute for Interaction Design. Additionally, Kate won a logo competition for the Lipman Family, hosted by the Wharton School at Penn. Her participation as part of a design research group that worked with Lego in Turkey also resulted in her group’s work being presented at the Lego headquarters in Denmark.

In an effort to combine her classroom experience with practical experience, Kate completed internships at Penn Press and Freeman’s Auction House, has worked in the Digital Media Lab at the Penn Museum, and has been an assistant to several professors in undergraduate design department. As Kate reflects on her time at Penn she states, “The people in the community here were outstanding—professors, staff, and students. It was an exceptionally rigorous and rewarding experience.”

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Association of Alumnae Continuing Education Award

Brenna McGinnis

Bachelor of Arts

Awarded annually to the student whose scholarship and personal qualities of leadership are regarded as being the most outstanding.

Brenna McGinnis attended the Community College of Philadelphia and Drexel University prior to coming to Penn. She has earned Dean’s List recognition each semester from 2010-2012 and will be graduating with a BA degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics.

Her favorite Penn memories include a painting that she completed as a final project for a class on community economic development that synthesized coursework for the semester. Her entire class engaged in a critique of the project. Her other fond memory is eating crepes while studying in Houston Hall late at night.

As Brenna reflects on her memories of faculty she says, “I was fortunate to take a class with Andrew Lamas who uses non-traditional pedagogical methods that allow students to be democratic participants in the design and content of their educational experience. The work that we did that semester really inspired me to question the methods we use to pursue ends generally, and especially highlighted the frameworks that we use to evaluate economic and social systems.  I used the work that I produced in his class to create a research project that will explore investment in the arts as a method of economic development for an independent study this semester.”

When considering her entire Penn experience she summarizes it by saying, “Studying at Penn reawakened my self-confidence as a student and a person and made me realize how much I am able to accomplish when I challenge myself.”

Brenna’s next steps after graduation include securing a position in community economic development and applying for graduate programs in the coming year.

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LPS Award for Academic Achievement in the Natural Sciences

Saida Kent

Bachelor of Arts

Saida Kent came to the United States from her native Kenya to fulfill her dream of becoming a physician. She was inspired to take this path by the physicians from Doctors Without Borders who made a difference in her family’s life when she was a child. Although her journey was troubled, Saida was able to attend one year in Indiana University and received an Associate Degree from West Hills Community College (CA) prior to coming to Penn. Simultaneous to being accepted to Penn she was awarded the Donna Brooks Medical Scholarship, a full scholarship, to complete her BA degree. Donna Brooks received her medical training at the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania and as an OB-GYN and surgeon initiated programs for women with disabilities. Unfortunately illness forced Donna Brooks’ early retirement from practice, and she took up the role of patient advocate at the bedsides and in the operating rooms and instituted the scholarship.

Upon arrival at Penn, Saida’s interest in medicine and the sciences was still strong and she joined Dr. Halpern’s research group in end of life care and after two years became a member of his FIELDS group which looks at various aspects of end of life care. The group is comprised of doctors and medical support staff, including different levels of students, from fellows at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania to Saida, an LPS transfer student. She is currently working on two different projects in addition to her regular coursework and the passion she has found in clinical research has helped guide her next decision.

Saida is a Biological Basis of Behavior major and May 2013 graduate who plans to continue working with the FIELDS team and gain more hands on experience in clinical research and end of life care. Her goal is to apply to medical school and MD/PHD programs in 2014. She credits the realization of her dreams to the wonderful women at the Athena Foundation who awarded her the Donna Brooks scholarship, her family (both biological and adopted) and Penn, about which she says “[It] gave me all the equipment needed to branch out of my dream and form solid plans and goals.”

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Dean’s Scholar Award for Professional Masters Programs

Jaivime Evaristo

Jaivime has served as a member of the Graduate Student Advisory Board for the Masters of Science in Applied Geosciences. In this capacity he has given suggestions and advice on how to bring our diverse population of students together for events. He has worked extensively on research at the Luquillo Critical Zone Observatory (LCZO) in Puerto Rico. This research has allowed Jaivime to work with faculty from both the Department of Earth & Environmental Science and the Department of Biology here at Penn and has lead him to present a poster entitled “Ecohydrology of Tropical Forests: Processes, Feedbacks, and Change II” at the American Geophysical Union’s National Conference in December. He will also give an oral presentation at the May 2013 HydroEcology Conference in Rennes, France. Jaivime’s work on the LCZO will result in two peer reviewed publications now in preparation. This research will lead to a better understanding of the functioning of cloud forests and will establish a base line for future research in climate change.

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Institute for Environmental Studies Award for Excellence in Applied Geosciences

Melanie T. Stephens

Awarded to a Graduating MSAG student who has not only contributed to the field of Applied Geosciences, but has also helped the MSAG program and/or EES department in a significant way.

While an MSAG student, Melanie enrolled with full-time status concentrating in Environmental Geology. She helped re-establish the MSAG Graduate Student Advisory Board, which has held student meetings to discuss curriculum and bring the needs of the students to the faculty. She has also helped organized geologic themed trips for students in the program. This past summer Melanie served as a Geology Intern at Talisman Energy USA.

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IES Award for Excellence in Environmental Studies

Arjun Bhargava

Awarded to a Graduating MES student who has not only contributed to the field of Environmental Studies but has also helped the MES program and/or EES department in a significant way.

Arjun joined the MES program in 2010 and has been an active member of the Environmental Community. He served as Academic Liaison on the MES Graduate Advisory Board, where he developed the student mentor program, hosted advisor coffee hours, and met with faculty to talk about student issues. Arjun volunteered for the Philadelphia Global Water Initiative on many of their events and served as a lead reviewer/editor for wH20, the student-run journal on women and water issues. He served as a Student Reporter for Oikos International at the World Water Forum VI in Marseilles France last spring and was a panel speaker at the White House for “Greening our Congregations Through Energy Efficiency.” 

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Frederick N. Scatena Award for Excellence in Research

Anna Shipp

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.

This year the award will go to an MES student, for her contribution to Research in Urban Forestry.

Anna was the recipient of a USDA Forest Service Philadelphia Field Station Fellowship for research examining the perceptions of and preferences for green space among residents in South Philadelphia. Understanding community preferences and concerns is foundational to offering socially relevant green spaces, which in turn encourages use and fosters stewardship. Anna also facilitated a Roundtable on Urban EcoHydrology, an event co-hosted by USFS, Drexel University, and the Consortium for Climate Risk in the Urban Northeast. This research work has lead Anna to a position as a Project Coordinator for the Business United for Conservation (BUC) Industry Partnership Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia.


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