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Meet 2023’s University Student Award Winners

Winners of Top Awards for Scholarship, Service and Achievement Named

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2023 University Student Award winners

Each year, 18 students are honored with AU’s highest awards for service, leadership and scholarship - the University Student Achievement Awards.

In a tradition that goes back nearly a century, students are nominated for specific ways they have excelled at AU and impacted the community, from academics to leadership. This year’s award winners will be feted on May 11 at a virtual Awards Program, which can be joined by families and friends around the world, and honored during their commencement ceremonies, where they will also be seated on stage. Winners also receive cash awards.

Here are the 2023 graduates who will be honored for their outstanding contributions.

Outstanding Scholarship

Four students are honored each year for exceptional scholarship: two undergraduates and two graduate students. This year's awardees for the Scott A. Bass Outstanding Scholarship at the Undergraduate Level Award are Sydney Cerveny, CAS/BS ’23, and Lily Duboff, CAS/BS ’23. Aishwarya Ponugoti, WCL/LLM ’22, and David Traugott, SIS/MA ’23, will receive awards for Outstanding Scholarship at the Graduate Level.

Sydney Cerveny, CAS/BS ’23, graduates with a degree in neuroscience and minor in communication. In Anthony Riley’s Psychopharmacology Lab, she played a key role in research investigating the issue of dysregulated drug intake, co-authoring manuscripts for future publication, presenting her work at conferences, and completing an impressive capstone project in her major. Sydney also contributed to Catherine Stoodley’s Developmental Neuroscience Lab, supporting data collection for an NIH-funded study that explores the role of the cerebellum in autism. In addition to serving as a Supplemental Instructor for General Biology, she has trained and mentored fellow student researchers. Sydney will soon begin a two-year position in the Post-Baccalaureate Fellowship Program at the National Institutes of Health and later intends to pursue a PhD in neuroscience. 

Sydney CervenySydney Cerveny (CAS/BS ’23)

Lily Duboff, CAS/BS ’23, will receive her bachelor of science degree in public health, with a minor in biology. She made important contributions as a research assistant for Melissa Hawkins, working on a project with the US Food and Drug Administration on birth control knowledge and attitudes. She expanded this research for her Honors in Health Studies independent project, which she presented at the American Public Health Association conference last fall. Lily also supported research funded by the DC Department of Health to evaluate the Safe at Home Program, aimed at reducing fall risk among older adults, and co-authored a project report. She was selected to receive the Health Impact Beyond DC Award by AU’s Department of Health Studies in 2022. Following graduation, Lily will pursue an MPH in applied epidemiology at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. 

Lily DuboffLily Duboff (CAS/BS ‘23)

Aishwarya Ponugoti, WCL/LLM ’22, has been an exemplary student, professional, and leader. While earning her master of laws (LL.M.) degree in international legal studies, she exceeded the program's requirements - earning specializations in both international business law and international environmental law. Elected as president and communication chair of the LL.M. Board, she helped to increase collaboration among students, faculty, and members of the DC community. Aishwarya also received finalist honors in the LL.M. International Arbitration Moot Court competition and served as a legal assistant for the Global Toxic Project and Inter-American Institution of Justice and Sustainability. She is now putting her education into action as an associate with the Shah and Kishore law firm and legal intern with Pangea Filtration Technology while also working on creating a new podcast series. 

Aishwarya PonugotiAishwarya Ponugoti (WCL/LLM ’22)

David Traugott, SIS/MA ’23, has already established a strong record of scholarship, leadership, and global impact as he graduates with his master of arts degree in international peace and conflict resolution. Along with his practicum team, he completed a study exploring the challenges of measuring progress toward attaining the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 16 that was well-received by the Alliance for Peacebuilding. David’s internships and research have taken him to Kenya, where he explored the possibility of electoral violence, and to Rwanda, where he contributed to peacebuilding efforts. His research has been published in AU’s Journal of International Service and, this summer, he will present his work at 16th Biennial Meeting of the International Association of Genocide Scholars in Barcelona. Post-graduation, David will concentrate on furthering peacebuilding and development in Africa with efforts at home and abroad.

David TraugottDavid Traugott (SIS/MA ’23)

Outstanding Service to the Community

The award for Outstanding Service to the University Community goes to two students — graduate or undergraduate — who have made a lasting impact on the AU community.

Stevie Marvin, CAS/BA ’22, is described by one of their nominators as a “quintessential intellectual/activist.” Their work has ranged from organizing a speaker series to bring global activists and scholars to campus to developing the Incommensurability zine, a guide to creating anti-racist curricula that has been given to all First-Year Advisers. It addresses challenging topics such as settler colonialism, intersectionality, racial capitalism, and decolonial thinking in a way that helps to build a bridge between these concepts as academic theories and what they can mean for everyday practice. Their work, as a nominator put it, “has left an indelible mark on the AU community and beyond.”

Stevie MarvinStevie Marvin (CAS/BA ’22)

Chyna Brodie, SPA/BA ’23, is the first person in recent memory to be elected to two back-to-back terms as President of AU Student Government. She has been a well-known presence in her time on campus, often found on the quad as she reached out to many communities and worked to challenge racial bias. Chyna created the Black Student Success Series, weekly meetings for Black students to discuss their AU experiences, and also served at the Women and Politics Institute, as an AUx facilitator, and in AUSG. As AUSG President, a key achievement was bringing back the AU Yearbook for 2022.

Chyna BrodieChyna Brodie (SPA/BA ’23)

Student Achievement Awards

Eleven of AU’s most active, engaged, and high-achieving undergraduates are being honored for their impact on the community with Student Achievement Awards.

Rebeka Rafi, CAS/BS ’23, receives the Bruce Hughes Award, which goes to a student who has performed outstanding service to the university community and demonstrated unusual depth and maturity in leadership. In addition to her impact as Orientation Leader, Senior Program Leader for the Complex Problem, and President of the service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega (APO), she won an Eagle Endowment grant to create ‘feel good’ bags with food, toiletries, and other donated goods to help combat food insecurity during the height of the pandemic. On top of her many commitments, she also found time to suit up as Clawed the Eagle for special events. As one recommender’s words: “Rebeka truly embodies what it means to be a community and campus leader.”

Rebeka RafiRebeka Rafi (CAS/BS ’23)

Maxwell Rubin, SPA/BA ’23, earns the Catheryn Seckler-Hudson Award, given to a senior who exemplifies character and achievement while making significant contributions to Student Government. As a Campus-At-Large Senator and Chair of the Campus Life Committee in Student Government, he led many working groups to address campus issues, including access to mental health resources, accessibility services, and sustainability. He also was instrumental in the work to encourage voting in the AU community through a university holiday on election day. In the words of one nominator, “he stands out in his leadership potential and his commitment to a just society.”

Maxwell RubinMaxwell Rubin (SPA/BA ’23)

Predrag Sutanovac, SIS/BA ‘23, wins the Carlton Savage Award for his work to increase intercultural understanding at AU. He served as an AU Diplomat, a member of the international student ambassadors’ program; supported new Eagles as an Orientation Leader; and, as a Resident Assistant, helped residents find a sense of belonging that included connecting across cultural differences. As Program Assistant for the Said Peace Scholars Program, he facilitated many intercultural opportunities, including helping to bring the Serbian Ambassador to the US to campus. Nominators were struck by how “he has used his own unique background and experiences interacting interculturally to guide and inspire other students to do the same.”

Predrag SutanovacPredrag Sutanovac (SIS/BA ‘23)

Khushi Khungar, KSB/BS ’23, lands the Charles Glover Award for her citizenship and business leadership. She touched the lives of hundreds of Kogod students as a teaching assistant, creating a supportive sense of community through semesters of virtual learning. She was not only peer consultant at Kogod’s ProComms Center—where she coached and mentored students—but also in Kogod’s Office of Career Engagement. Her business leadership helped her sorority, Chi Omega, raise over $15,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. As President of the AU Bhangra Crew, she also led the team to national competitions and shared South Asian dance with the AU community.

Khushi KhungarKhushi Khungar (KSB/BS ’23)

Kiran Kochar McCabe, SIS/BA ’23, has been awarded the Charles Van Way Award for her contributions to building community. During the height of the pandemic, when new students in particular were in need of support, she helped to create a sense of community among first-year students as a mentor in SIS’s Diplomatic Corps. She served as Chief Executive Officer for AU’s Model G20 Summit and, off campus, through her work with CARE International and Giving Circles, worked to help communities in DC and across the country. Nominators were struck by “the humanity with which she approaches her passion for learning and giving.”

Kiran Kochar McCabeKiran Kochar McCabe (SIS/BA ’23)

Deborah Tadesse, CAS/BA ’23, will be the second recipient of AU’s Gail Short Hanson Award for Advocacy. It recognizes a student for principled and informed leadership in advancing a cause, policy, or program that benefits the campus community or a community beyond the campus.

Deborah designed and co-led an Alternative Break to South Africa on the challenging topic of xenophobic violence, connecting students to South African communities and leaders to apply what they learned about injustice to lived experience. On campus, she worked with the Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI) to foster community for students of all backgrounds. Off campus, she worked to further healthcare education for communities in the DC area and abroad in Nairobi, Kenya. She is also an impressive scholar in the three-year Public Health Scholars program. As one recommender put it, her thoughtful and committed work to expand awareness and advance justice “benefits the community here and beyond.”

Deborah TadesseDeborah Tadesse (CAS/BA ’23)

Isaiah Washington, CAS/BA ’23, is the recipient of this year’s Harold Johnson Award, which honors a student for promoting cultural and racial diversity and understanding. As co-editor-in-chief of The Blackprint, he amplified voices that it is important for the community to hear. He has been a committed and impactful mentor – whether for AU students through the BIPOC Student Affinity Group and Frederick Douglass Distinguished Scholars Program or for young men of color in middle and high school through From The Fire Leadership Academy. As a teaching assistant, he helped students find ways to implement their original ideas about ways that art conveys social values. Isaiah, as one recommender said, “has contributed mightily to making American University a better place.”

Isaiah WashingtonIsaiah Washington (CAS/BA ’23)

Caroline Cascio, CAS/BA ’23, has earned the Evelyn Swarthout-Hayes Award for contributing to the community through the arts while demonstrating impressive academic achievement. As AU Symphony Orchestra concertmaster, she not only led the violin and string sections but was a vital force that guided the entire group. Through her work with the service-based music fraternity Mu Beta Psi, she raised money to help at-risk youth through the arts. She has been an ambassador for the Music Program, volunteering at Preview Days, New Eagle Days, and other community events. She’s even known to bring cookies to share after concerts or rehearsal—another example of her spirit and generosity. As one recommender observed, Caroline is “a positive and powerful force for excellence on behalf of her community.”

Caroline CascioCaroline Cascio (CAS/BA ’23)

Benjamin Calzini, SIS/BA ’23, has been awarded the Fletcher Scholar Award for his combination of leadership, citizenship, and scholarship. As a member of the Olson Scholars program, he researched global inequality, economic governance, and international relations. On the Model UN Team, he was noted for his combination of knowledge and leadership skills as a delegate on the Model UN Team, helping the team to achieve its ranking as number one in North America. He also raised awareness about substance abuse, overdose prevention, and harm reduction with his fraternity, Pi Kappa Alpha. In the words of one faculty member, “Ben is a true leader at American University and in the world.”

Benjamin CalziniBenjamin Calzini (SIS/BA ’23)

Julianna Mack, CAS/BA ’23, earns the Kinsman-Hurst Award, which recognizes service in Student Government or the Student Conduct system. For the past two years, she served as a Resident Assistant, supporting her residents with enthusiasm, empathy, and dedication. She worked regularly within the Student Conduct system, guiding residents through the disciplinary process with sensitivity and care. On the AU Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, she advocated for the well-being of student athletes, including work to promote mental health awareness in athletics. She also brought her enthusiasm to the basketball court as a student-athlete on the Cheer Team, As one nominator put it, “Julianna has unequivocally bettered the AU community and represented the University with grace and vigor.”

Julianna MackJulianna Mack (CAS/BA ’23)

Sophie Myers, SOC/BA ’23, receives the Stafford H. Cassell Award, which recognizes a student who exemplifies the traits of Stafford Cassell—total, selfless dedication to AU, profound energy, reliability, intellectual curiosity, friendliness, and helpfulness. As President of the Public Relations Student Society of America, Sophie organized dozens of professional networking events for peers and spearheaded a campaign to support the AU Market, including a food drive. Her leadership ranges from her work with The Eagle, with Consult Your Community, and as a founding member of SOC’s student communications agency SOC3. She also helped adult learners from the DC community navigate a virtual learning environment as a virtual class facilitator for AU’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. As one recommender put it, “Sophie’s energy, her constant availability to help others, her passion to care, all exude what this award stands for.”

Sophie MyersSophie Myers (SOC/BA ’23)

President’s Award

Annie Przypyszny, CAS/BA ’22, is the 2023 President’s Award winner – the highest distinction for an AU undergraduate. A creative writing major, she is a published poet who explores her mental health struggles in her creative work and hopes her vulnerability and honesty inspire others in similar situations. Read all about Annie and her poetry in the profile, “2023 President’s Award Winner Finds Creativity Through Darkness.

Annie PrzypysznyAnnie Przypyszny (CAS/BA ’22)