Swarthmore volleyball players Emma Morgan-Bennett ’20 and Mehra den Braven ’20 have been selected as the Centennial Conference nominees for the prestigious 2020 NCAA Woman of the Year award.
Morgan-Bennett and den Braven are the seventh and eighth Garnet student-athletes to receive the nomination from the conference, joining Caitlin Mullarkey ’09, Katie Lytle ’14, Aarti Rao ’14, Supriya Davis ’15, Tess Wei ’17, and Marin McCoy ’19. Swarthmore’s eight selections is the most by any school in the conference.
The award focuses on four pillars: academics, athletics, service, and leadership. To be eligible, a nominee must have competed and earned a varsity letter in an NCAA-sponsored sport, completed eligibility in her primary sport, and earned her undergraduate degree by summer 2020.
Morgan-Bennett, a New York City native and honors medical anthropology special major, excelled on the court and in the classroom. She was recently named a 2020 Marshall Scholar, one of just 46 students from the United States to receive the prestigious honor. Through this program, Morgan-Bennett will pursue a master of arts degree in screen documentary from Goldsmiths, University of London, and then continue to pursue a doctorate in social policy and intervention from Oxford University.
She was a member of the 2019 Philadelphia Inquirer Academic All-Area Team, the Academic All-Centennial Team (2018, 2019), and conference Academic Honor Roll (2017, 2018, 2019). As a middle blocker, she earned American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) All-America Honorable Mention honors in 2018. Morgan-Bennett is also a two-time AVCA All-Region pick (2018, 2019) and a two-time All-Centennial Second Team selection (2018, 2019).
A leader on campus and in the Swarthmore community, Morgan-Bennett founded Athletics for Diversity and Inclusion (ADI), a campuswide coalition that works to “establish Swarthmore as a place that is dedicated to supporting and advocating for individuals of all backgrounds.” This coalition hosts two representatives from every team on campus and organizes campuswide events, educational programs, and community service throughout the year.
With help from ADI, she was awarded Swarthmore’s William J. Cooper Foundation Grant, which supports topical events featuring eminent guests in their fields of expertise. Morgan-Bennett helped spearhead an event titled “Beyond The Field: Activism, Athletics, and Empowerment in the Modern Political Era,” a teach-in that occurred in February and featured former Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl champion, All-Pro, and social justice activist Malcolm Jenkins.
Den Braven, a Santa Clara, Calif., native and economics major, received numerous academic awards throughout her career, including three-time recognition as a College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) Academic All-District honoree and three selections to the Philadelphia Inquirer Academic All-Area Team, including a Performer of the Year honor in 2017. That year, den Braven was additionally named third-team CoSIDA Academic All-America.
On the court, den Braven was a two-time AVCA All-America Honorable Mention honoree. All four years, the outside hitter was named to the All-Centennial team, landing on the first team twice (2017, 2018) and the second team twice (2016, 2019).
Den Braven was also an active member in Swarthmore and the surrounding community. At State Correctional Institution–Chester, a local medium-security prison, she facilitated community workshops and devised projects with incarcerated and nonincarcerated community members. At CADES, a nonprofit dedicated to improving the lives of children and adults with intellectual and physical disabilities, she assisted children with completing art projects. At Pathways PA, she volunteered to provide tax help to low-income households, conducting interviews and completing tax returns.
Experience with these community-based initiatives has led her to take up the position of Reentry Housing AmeriCorps VISTA in Philadelphia to support the community-led initiatives creating a better pathway home for individuals.
The top 30 honorees for the award will be announced in September, and the 2020 NCAA Woman of the Year will be announced later in the fall.