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Swarthmore Students Receive Array of National Awards

Clothier bell tower as seen from the ground against a blue sky with few clouds

Swarthmore students recently earned a wide array of awards — a testament to their efforts and achievements in the classroom and for the common good.

Majoring in subjects ranging from engineering and economics to music and mathematics, the students reflect Swarthmore’s interdisciplinary spirit and people-centered approach to solving problems in their communities and across the world.

The awardees:

Daniel Torres BalauroDaniel Torres Balauro ’23 was named to the fourth cohort of the Public Voices Fellowship on the Climate Crisis. The honor was bestowed by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, which works to diversify and amplify the voices behind climate change action. Balauro is the only undergraduate among the distinguished cohort of 20 thought leaders dedicated to diversifying environmental justice discourse and advancing climate solutions. 

“Raised in the South Pacific, I've witnessed firsthand the ecological and sociocultural impacts of the climate crisis, and unfortunately, the exclusion of Pacific voices in policy,” says Balauro, an environmental governance and policy special major from American Samoa. “At Swarthmore, I've worked to highlight these inequalities through my involvement in formative programs such as the President's Sustainability Research Fellowship (PSRF) and the Lang Opportunity Scholarship program, which supported the launch of my organization, the American Samoa Climate Action Network. We work to empower Pacific Islanders to engage in climate discourse through policy development, and I'm excited to leverage this fellowship as a platform to publish a series of op-eds focusing on environmental injustice and community resilience in the Pacific.”

David DiazDavid Diaz ’25 earned an honorable mention from the Udall Foundation, which offers scholarships to college sophomores and juniors for leadership, public service, and commitment to issues related to Native American nations or the environment. 

Diaz is an engineering major who seeks to apply what he learns about energy efficiency to solve problems for underserved populations. As a member of the student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers and a committee chair of the student chapter of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, Diaz seeks to support Indigenous nations in California and elsewhere with clean renewable energy and infrastructure. “This energy sovereignty, combined with food sovereignty, will allow independence from systems that have prevented Indigenous nations from achieving their full potential,” notes Professor of Engineering Carr Everbach, the College’s liaison to Udall.

“I feel I was identified for this honorable mention because of my emphasis for people-centric approaches in which sustainable solutions question who and what we are optimizing technology for,” says Diaz, of El Monte, Calif. “Especially when communities most impacted by those technologies are actively dismissed in the projects, programs, and development that have actively caused them harm.”

Sophie EngelsSophie Engels ’23 has been awarded the Amsterdam Merit Scholarship, which will provide her with full tuition and a living stipend to attend the University of Amsterdam. Engels was the only student to receive the award this year, out of several hundred applicants, and will enroll in a master’s in computational science program.

“I'll be studying and creating models and simulations with applications that span many disciplines in this program,” says Engels, a mathematics major from Holland, Mich. “I am most excited to focus on different applications. It's super flexible, so I can really choose any domain of specialization I like. There are a lot of opportunities to explore the intersection of computational science with healthcare and medicine, which is my primary interest.”

Harry HouHarry Hou ’25 received a Newman Civic Fellowship, a yearlong program that recognizes and supports student public-problem solvers at Campus Compact member institutions.  

“I suspect having good mentors helped [lead to the honor], as many of them nominated me,” says Hou, an Honors philosophy and English literature major from North Wales, Pa. “I have tried to build long-lasting relationships.”

In letter of nomination, President Valerie Smith cited Hou as deeply passionate, intellectually curious, and civically engaged, both on and off campus. Among his efforts on campus are serving as an advisory board member of the Intercultural Center, a student academic mentor, and a teaching assistant for the Chester Semester course. Hou was also an advocacy and outreach intern with the Pennsylvania Prison Society and an active volunteer with the social services organization Chester Eastside, Inc.

Emma KleinEmma Klein ’23 received a Gaither Junior Fellowship, a one-year program from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, D.C. One of only 18 Gaither Junior fellows selected for the fellowship this year, Klein enters the Global Order and Institutions Program.

Each year, Carnegie offers the fellowships to “uniquely qualified” graduating seniors and those who graduated earlier in the academic year. Selected from a pool of nominations from several hundred participating colleges and universities, the fellows work as research assistants to Carnegie’s senior scholars.

Klein, an Honors economics and political science major from Auburndale, Mass., served as a lead fellow with Swarthmore’s Writing Associates and Speaking Associates program. She also worked as a resident assistant, a political science research assistant, and a math coach with the Chester Children’s Chorus program.

Owen MortnerOwen Mortner ’23 received a Keasbey Scholarship, which provides funding to graduating American college students to pursue degrees and fully experience life in the British university system. Swarthmore is one of just 12 schools across the U.S. invited to nominate students for the scholarship, with which Mortner will pursue a fully funded master of philosophy at the University of Cambridge.

“I'm excited to spend a year in the U.K. gaining a deeper understanding of socio-legal theory and contrasting global perspectives on criminal justice,” says Mortner, an Honors political science major from Dublin, N.H., who last year transferred to Swarthmore and received a Truman Scholarship.

In a virtual interview in December to assess Mortner’s qualifications for the scholarship, Keasbey Foundation trustees “mentioned that they liked that I had a broad range of experiences,” he says, “including both my work in public policy and journalism.”

Steven MukumSteven Mukum ’26 was named a Davis Project for Peace grantee. The global program encourages young adults to develop innovative, community-centered, and scalable responses to the world’s most pressing issues, providing them with $10,000 grants to tackle a “project for peace” anywhere in the world.

“I am a Cameroonian and displaced person from the ongoing socio-political crisis in Cameroon,” says Mukum. “My project [Growing food, Growing Communities, and Growing Hope (G3) for Peace], will focus on setting up a sustainable agricultural scheme for displaced women who moved from the northwest and southwest of war to the capital city, Yaoundé, with little or no income to provide for themselves nor their families. 

“We will be renting farmland for a period of three years, providing seeds and farming tools for displaced women of the crisis to farm,” he adds. “Also we would create a trust fund where women will save money from crops harvested and sold. This would permit the sustainability of the project. The second part of the project will be to create a sense of imagined communities between women by using tailored group-building activities to create a sense of ‘home,’ even far away from home.”

Zoe MarkmanZoe Markman ’25 and Kyra Roepke ’24 received the Goldwater Scholarship, which provides $7,500 to support the undergraduate expenses of talented young STEM researchers. They are among 413 scholars this year, chosen from more than 5,000 applications.

“I'm so grateful to be connected to such a phenomenal group of students who also want to pursue scientific research and academia,” says Markman (left), an Honors mathematics major from New York City who plans to pursue a Ph.D. in theoretical mathematics. “In addition to pursuing math research, I am very passionate about making the mathematics community more equitable. I'm very happy to be a part of a community — both at Swarthmore and through the Goldwater — that considers this a priority.”

Kyra RoepkeRoepke (left), a linguistics and biochemistry special major from Hillsborough, Calif., identifies career goals of conducting research in biochemical pathology and teaching at the university level.

“Winning the Goldwater was so exciting for me because of what it represents: It's a big, prestigious award, and I'm so honored to be in the same category as the other Goldwater Scholars who do such incredible work,” she says. “More tangibly, winning the Goldwater has been inspiring because it's given me access to a different perspective on science. I get to hear advice from students who are currently at Ph.D. programs that I'm interested in, and from established scientists across different careers. That's been pretty amazing.”

Lauren ParkLauren Park ’24 received a Beinecke Scholarship, which provides $35,000 to college juniors planning to pursue graduate studies in the humanities. Park is one of just 20 students from across the U.S. to receive the honor, becoming the 13th Swarthmore student to receive it and the first since 2018. She plans to pursue graduate studies in music history and receive a Ph.D. in musicology. 

“I wish to continue my current study of French musical exoticism, or music that portrays a foreign ‘Other,’” says Park, an Honors music and French and Francophone studies major from Swarthmore. “Specifically, I’m interested in comparing nineteenth-century operas and other musical works that depict an exotic ‘Orient’ with seventeenth-century and eighteenth-century music that portray French provincial peasants as foreign.

“My work will challenge enduring stereotypes while also complicating current discussions about the ethics of depicting the ‘Other’, revealing that people can harness musical exoticism for ill or positive effect,” says Park. “This approach is especially relevant in today’s world where people increasingly value multiculturalism and consume cultural exports centered around national and ethnic identity.”

Also honored earlier this year: Watson Fellow Olivia Stoetzer ’23, who will explore different approaches to urban climate resistance in Denmark, India, Mexico, and New Zealand cities next year.

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