For the Oak and Ivy Award, given to the student in the graduating class who is outstanding in scholarship, contributions to community, and leadership, the Committee recommends two students: Raven Bennett and Madeleine Feldman.
Raven Bennett recently achieved High Honors with a major in psychology and a minor in educational studies. She combines her intellectual and social justice interests in order to have a positive impact at Swarthmore and in the broader community. Specifically, Raven has become an effective and powerful activist for the prevention of sexual violence.
As a sophomore, Raven won a Lang Opportunity Scholarship to create and implement a sexual violence prevention program for Los Angeles youth called the Youth Activist Institute. Working with the UCLA Center for Mental Health in Schools and the UCLA Rape Treatment Center, she developed a summer program to educate high school students on sexual assault, dating violence, and social justice. The Youth Activist Institute incorporates college-aged mentors – people much closer in age and experience to high school students – into its curriculum. Raven recently received the newly created Lang Social Impact Fellowship, a post-baccalaureate award that will help her scale up her social impact project.
Raven was an active member of the College’s Title IX Advisory Team and helped design and create Swarthmore’s “It’s on Us” video to help educate students about issues of consent and sexual assault prevention. She has worked closely with the campus fraternities to develop educational and mentoring programs around sexual violence attitudes and informational intervention. She has utilized her academic training to analyze the impact and success of this work.
In addition, Raven was a co-founder of the popular SwatDeck initiative that has enhanced community engagement on campus, and has worked diligently as a resident assistant.
Maddy Feldman is a special major in sociology & anthropology and educational studies. She recently achieved Highest Honors. Her thesis examines the transformation of an urban public school in a gentrifying neighborhood over the last 20 years. Maddy was recently awarded the AERA Research Training Fellowship from the premier international research association in education.
Maddy is credited with being the primary mover and shaker in revitalizing the College’s Learning for Life (L4L) program. This past year, Maddy took a leadership role in L4L, including the responsibilities of rebooting the school term partnership program and the Summer of Learning, and leading the L4L retreat. She applied for and won a Lang Public Scholarship Engagement grant to work with L4L to develop new programming and to continue her work on an interview project capturing participant experiences in L4L. Her work will have an enduring impact on L4L for years to come. She is described as being "beloved” by the EVS and Sharples staff who know her as being “cheerful, respectful, and kind.”
In addition, Maddy has worked as site coordinator for the Dare 2 Soar tutoring program and has worked for the last three years as properties coordinator at the Lang Performing Arts Center.
Rhiannon is a double major in linguistics and astrophysics who has distinguished herself in two demanding and substantially distinct fields.
Within physics, Rhiannon has done cutting edge research. Over the summer of 2016, she worked with Assistant Professor pf Physics Tristan Smith and made significant contributions to a research project that has been submitted for peer review at Physical Review D. The paper, titled “Baryons still trace dark matter: probing CMB lensing maps for hidden isocurvature,” explores constraints to exotic physics that may have occurred in the very early universe.
Rhiannon’s senior thesis in linguistics is titled, “Sandwich Constructions and Narrative Coherence in ASL (American Sign Language) Storytelling.”
In addition to her exceptional work in two departments, Rhiannon is a talented dancer. She has been deeply involved in the Terpsichore Dance Collective and performed at the Philadelphia Fringe Arts Festival.
Atousa Normahnad, an engineering major and chemistry minor, began her career at Swarthmore with a strong interest in biomedical engineering. After both her first and second years, Atousa worked as a summer researcher in Professor of Engineering Carr Everbach’s ultrasonics lab on dissolving blood clots using microbubbles and ultrasound. In her coursework, she often chose projects of biomedical relevance and followed a pre-medical path that is unusual for engineering students. During the summer after her third year, Atousa worked at the California Institute of Technology (CalTech) in a lab investigating the properties of microscopic gas vesicles produced by genetically-engineered bacteria. There she discovered that the gas vesicles could be made to collapse by ultrasound, potentially releasing chemotherapeutic drugs directly into cancer tumors. Her senior design project at Swarthmore explored the parameters of this effect, leading to new potential cancer therapies. Following graduation, Atousa will be working as a researcher at the CalTech lab and hopes to attend medical school thereafter, possibly seeking an MD/Ph.D.
Christian Morrow came to Swarthmore with interests in both engineering and physics and distinguished himself with double honors majors in both disciplines. During the summer after his second year, Christian conducted research in the Physics Department with Assistant Professor Tristan Smith. His research involved simulating conditions in the very early universe, modeling different cosmological scenarios. Christian investigated the nature of cosmic inflation and reheating with the goal of constraining cosmological parameters, and developed tools for the animation of the inflation field using MATLAB™.
The summer after his third year, Christian worked with Professor of Engineering Lynne Molter to develop a finely-tuned setup for generating interference patterns by passing a high-powered laser through four-core optical fibers. This work demonstrated the practicality of using four-fore optical fibers as highly sensitive flex and twisting sensors. For his senior design project, Christian examined the dynamics of essential tremor of the hand and designed a control system to mitigate its effects.
In addition to his academic endeavors, Christian was captain of the Swarthmore College Ultimate Frisbee Team, where he designed exercises to help improve agility. He was the treasurer of the Swarthmore College Shogi Club and organized the 2016 National Shogi Championships. Following graduation, Christian will join the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, where he will pursue graduate work.