Oak and Ivy Award | Lang Award | McCabe Engineering Award
Oak and Ivy Award
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 three students: Sierra Mondragon, Yifan Ping, and Shayena Shah.
Sierra Mondragon is a major in history with a special major in Indigenous interdisciplinary studies who is graduating with Highest Honors. Her Indigenous studies thesis builds upon her partnership with a non-profit organization in Northern New Mexico, focusing on the experiences of members of Tewa Indigenous communities. Sierra’s special major reflects her passion for expanding the academic study of underrepresented voices.
Sierra is also noted for being a gifted creative writer and reader and interpreter of texts, and a canny literary theorist.
Sierra has led critical conversations on campus including, most notably, an interdisciplinary round table with author Tommy Orange in 2020.
In addition to her scholarly work, Sierra has been fully engaged in the life of the College — as a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow, a Writing Associate, an Intercultural Center intern, a Diversity Peer Advisor, and a member of the Varsity Cross-Country and Track Team, among other roles.
Yifan Ping is a major in sociology and anthropology with minors in educational studies and Japanese. They are graduating with Highest Honors.
Yifan’s interests in global, comparative schooling have focused on language and policies. Their senior thesis examines an understudied cohort of international students: the top achievers from China’s affluent and ambitious middle class. Yifan’s creative and timely research sheds new light into the anthropologies of migration, education, and cosmopolitan mobilities.
Yifan was a Lead Fellow in the Writing Associates Program, working primarily with students for whom English is a second (or third or fourth) language.
Through their Educational Studies minor, Yifan has developed literacy, mathematics, science, and history activities that are anti-racist.
Next year they will be undertaking an M.S. in education at the University of Oxford.
Shayena Shah is a major in economics. She is a social entrepreneur and Lang Opportunity Scholar (LOS) working among the rural poor of India. She founded SaniStitch, an initiative that aims to improve menstrual health in women in rural Gujarat, India, through awareness workshops, pad-making workshops, and by training peer menstrual health workers.
Shayena piloted the SaniStitch workshop series in six villages. She and her community partners trained over 1000 women to sew and disinfect their own sanitary products, offering safe alternative to dangerous traditional approaches, and serving as a pathway towards personal autonomy and independence.
Thanks to Shayena, this year’s LOS graduating cohort wore special stoles that she initiated creating. In the fall she will enroll in the Stanford University School of Medicine to pursue an M.D.
The Lang Award
The Lang Award is given to “a graduating senior in recognition of outstanding academic accomplishment.” This year the Committee recommends that the award be given to Kelly Finke and Matthew Salah.
Kelly Finke is a special major in cognitive science with a second special major in computational biology. In her sophomore year she became a Goldwater Scholar in recognition of her outstanding potential as a STEM researcher. She is a published author and was recently awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.
In the fall, Kelly will pursue Ph.D. at Princeton in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department, working at the intersection of ecology and the social sciences.
Matthew Salah is a double major in economics and political science and recently earned High Honors. He is noted for his diverse skill set, mastering both quantitative and qualitative approaches.
Matt is published in one of the top undergraduate journals in the country, Columbia University’s inter-disciplinary Journal of Politics and Society; and is co-author, along with Associate Professor of Political Science Ayse Kaya, on another paper.
Matthew’s intellectual and professional energies are focused on environmental political economy, with a particular interest in public policy, green energy finance, and tech. Matthew is the recipient of the prestigious Marshall Scholarship which he will use to pursue a a master’s degree in ecological economics at the University of Leeds.
McCabe Engineering Award
The McCabe Engineering Award, presented each year to the "outstanding engineering student of the graduating class," was awarded to Zane Meyer.
Graduating with a B.S. in engineering and a B.A. in computer science, Zane Meyer shines as an outstanding example of the general engineering mindset that we hope to develop in our majors. His considerable skills range from training machine learning classifiers for computer vision applications, to fabricating robot parts on computer-controlled milling machines and 3D printers, to blacksmithing and metalworking. He is a co-author, along with Professor of Engineering Lynne Molter, of a peer-reviewed article entitled “A four-core optical fiber twist sensor,” which he presented at a top-tier optics conference.
Zane has served the department in many capacities, as a teaching assistant for Electrical Circuit Analysis and Computer Vision, and also as a volunteer for prospective student visits and first-year orientation events. In Fall 2019 he co-founded a robotics club which will continue next year, and he was also a co-organizer of this year’s Engineering April Fools prank, which brought together dozens of students collaborating on late-night plans to create a vacuum-powered rubber duckie cannon.
There are 12 credits in Engineering required for the major – Zane is graduating with 16. He holds memberships in the Optical Society of America, the Sigma Xi research society, and the Tau Beta Pi engineering honors society. This summer, Zane will continue his multidisciplinary work at Swarthmore in the lab of biology professor Eva-Maria Collins, to complete his work on a robotic system for high-throughput experiments on planarian worms.