GW Celebrates Excellence

The 32nd annual Excellence in Student Life ceremony recognizes contributions of students, faculty and staff to campus life.

April 23, 2017


GW Vibes was voted Students' Choice Performance Group of the Year. (William Atkins/GW Today)

By B.L. Wilson

The nation’s capital offers plenty to lure George Washington University students off campus. That makes the contributions of students, faculty and staff to a vibrant student life on campus all the more important, GW President Steven Knapp said in his opening remarks Wednesday for the 32nd annual Excellence in Student Life Awards before a spirited audience at Lisner Auditorium.

“At a large research university in a big city we need to be very intentional and deliberate about the way we build opportunities for students to have experience of community on our campus for these precious years of your education,” Dr. Knapp said.

He thanked the more than 320 faculty, students and staff nominated for awards for enhancing campus life for students whom he said will become a community of GW alumni supporting and opening doors for students the rest of their lives.

Twenty awards were presented to members of the GW community in a tradition organized by the Center for Student Engagement in the Division of Student Affairs.

The GW Jazz Orchestra got the evening started with the first of several performances that included a capella singers, dancers and musical revues. The audience selected one of the groups as a favorite by the end of the evening.

In a year when politics have preoccupied the United States and campus life, Samuel Goldman, an assistant professor of political science, received the Honey Nashman Spark a Life Award for Faculty Member of the Year. He was recognized for his work with the Politics and Values Program “that engaged and motivated students to learn through a lens of diverse ideas and multiple perspectives.”

Renee Kashawlic’s “strong relationships and unwavering support” in advising student organizations as the assistant director of residential engagement in the Center for Student Engagement was acknowledged with the Robert A. Chernak Spark A Life Award for Staff Member of the Year.

The Baer Awards for Individual Excellence were conferred on seniors Kate Bell, a philosophy major, and Austin Hansen, an economics and political science major and a member of GW’s economic honors society; juniors Kapana Vissa, a public health major; Iman Lee, an international affairs major; and Anna Wadhwani, a guide with GW TRAiLS who is majoring in public health and women’s gender and sexuality studies.  

In addition to voting for the best live performance of the evening, the audience also selected a favorite #OnlyAtGW Photo Award from among five nominees. Bridie Connell received the award for the winning photograph, a close up of an American flag against the backdrop of the crowd at the Women’s March in January.

For advocating that students be able to use dining dollars to purchase fresh local produce through a community supported agriculture subscription, Kayla Williams, a senior sociology major, was awarded the Manatt-Trachtenberg Prize that is given to students who most significantly challenge the social and intellectual conscience of the GW community.

The International Affairs Society, the largest non-partisan organization at GW, came out on top in the Learning Through Action Award after hosting two student driven and executed Model UN conferences that brought to campus thousands of high school and middle school students to debate international and domestic issues.

The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Award for exemplifying the values embodied by the civil rights icon was presented to four seniors:

  • Thomas Falcigno, a political science and journalism and mass communications major, and Student Association executive vice president
  • Abeke Teyibo, a geography major
  • Kayla Williams, a sociology and creative writing major
  • Carlo Wood, a business administration major

The Excellence in Diversity Award was carried away by the GW South Asian Society for collaborating with other student organizations and building bridges with multicultural organizations on campus.  

Jocelyn Lobos, a sophomore peace studies, human services and social justice major, has been known to wake up as early as 5 a.m. to volunteer at Miriam’s Kitchen. Her “passion and affinity for service to the university and beyond” locked up the Class of 2009 University Pride Award, a gift of $500 at the student bookstore made possible by the graduating Class of 2009. The award goes to a civically and philanthropically engaged student.

The Class of 2005 9/11 Memorial Scholarship of $2,500 for a rising senior was bestowed on Liliana Luevano, a junior and leader of GW EMeRG who was recognized “as skilled and compassionate with an ability to establish trust in stressful situations.”

Stephanie Ishoo, a senior student staff member active in intramural sports, was honored with the Marc A. Zambetti Award for “building relationships, a positive attitude and problem solving abilities.” The $750 award is given in memory of Marc A. Zambetti, a member of the Class of 1985 who was killed in the 1989 San Francisco earthquake.

The Joint Committee of Faculty and Students’ Scholarship awarded $3,000 each to six students who have demonstrated the potential for exceptional leadership based on contributions they have already made to campus activities. They are juniors Maria Silva and Priyanka Walimbe; sophomores Carolina Fuentes, Laura Gomez Cadena and Samatha Lumpkin; and freshman Desiree Perez.

Five new faces will be added to the fifth floor Wall of Fame caricatures in the Marvin Center. Joining the Wall of Fame are:

  • Thomas Falcigno, a senior who as SA executive vice president championed a fall break and freshman forgiveness policy
  • Christina Giordano, a senior who led the Women In Business conference
  • Gabriela Madrid, a senior and strong supporter of first generation students
  • Harry Knabe, the senior associate director for GW Housing for unmatched professionalism in his work with the Summer Housing Program
  • Anne Scammon, the managing director of curricular and strategic initiatives with the Center for Career Services for advocacy and passionate support of GW’s international students

There were 46 nominees for Student Employee of the Year Award. The graduate student winner was Alexandra Rosenberg, a graduate student in public health who serves as an assistant with the Department of Clinical Research and Leadership in the School of Medicine and Health Sciences. The undergraduate student winner was Morgan Kurtz, a junior in public health.

For community service, the Outstanding Service Award for a group was given to GW Alternative Breaks, and for an individual, to Lydia Johnson, a junior human services and social justice major. The Pyramid Award for Student Organization of the Year had three winners: the Feminist Student Union, GW Women in Business and GW Dance Marathon. Madelaine Daley won the Student Organization Officer of the Year Award. For being a supportive and contributing member on the Mount Vernon Campus, Dinal Jayasekera, a junior biomedical engineering major, was given the Mount Vernon Award.

Tyler Wu, a master’s student in higher education, collected the Graduate Award for Individual Excellence for his impact and guidance as a residence director. Olivia Garcia was given the Resident Advisor of the Year Award.

Again this year, the GW Vibes, performing “Awake My Soul” by Mumford and Sons was voted the Students' Choice Performance Group of the Year.