Outstanding Seniors Receive 2020 Honors Awards

As a result of the COVID-19 crisis, the Lewis Honors College held its Spring 2020 Medal Ceremony virtually for graduates on May 7. Keeping with tradition, Associate Dean Czarena Crofcheck announced the nominees and winners for the five annual honors awards: the Raymond Betts Crystal Award, the Diachun Award, the Leadership Award, the Diachun Scholar Award and the Evans Scholar Award. 

The Raymond Betts Crystal Award is awarded to an Honors student for outstanding service to the Lewis Honors College and the University of Kentucky community at large. The winner is awarded a crystal globe award to represent the potential for excellence in service and to have a global impact. The 2020 nominees were Emma Vallee and Maya Woolfolk. The winner was Maya Woolfolk. 

Maya, a biology major, served as an ambassador for the Honors College and for the College of Arts & Science. She has been a part of the DanceBlue leadership team, secretary of her sorority and interned at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. Maya volunteers at the UK Children's hospital, Wildcats for H.O.M.E.S and Arbor Youth Services. In addition, she was a Singletary Scholar, Chellgren Fellow, Lyman T. Johnson Torchbearer Award recipient and was a part of the UK Homecoming Court in 2019. In the fall, Maya will attend Harvard University to join the Organismic and Evolutionary Biology Ph.D. program.

The Diachun Award is given to a graduating senior who has demonstrated outstanding research talent in the form of an independent project and who holds high promise for further professional development in professional or graduate school. The winner receives a certificate and a $1,000 award to be used for expenses in graduate or professional school. The 2020 nominees were Caylyn Railey, Lucas Barrett and Mitchell Dennis. The winner was Mitchell Dennis. 

Mitchell earned three degrees in physics, computer science and mathematics with a 3.9 GPA. Mitchell researched under Dr. Christopher Crawford in the Department of Physics & Astronomy, and has also served under Doug Klein as a lab technician in the College of Engineering. He has been invited to multiple conferences to present his research, including National Conferences on Undergraduate Research (NCUR). He is a Chellgren Fellow, president of Omicron Delta Kappa and has served as a resident advisor every semester since his sophomore year. He was chosen for an internship at NASA and served in the Office of Chief Scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. Mitchell will be attending the University of Hawaii's prestigious Institute for Astronomy. 

The Leadership Award is given to a graduating senior who has excelled in leadership positions at the university, department, college, or community level. 
The 2020 nominees were Niki Rajendran, Emma Bateman and Montre’ale Jones. The winner was Montre’ale Jones. 

Montre’ale was an architecture major with a minor in political science. He was a Gaines Fellow, a national senator for MANRRS (Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences), the diversity & inclusion chair for the University of Kentucky Student Government Association and a U.K. Alumni Ambassador. He served as president of the U.K. chapter of the American Institute of Architecture Students and was a Torch Bearer award recipient at this year’s Lyman T. Johnson Torch of Excellence Awards. Montre’ale intends to attend graduate school for architecture.

The final two awards, the Diachun and Evans Scholar awards, were a result of a gift from Karen and Jan Henson, established to recognize the highest academic achievement. All Lewis Honors College students are eligible to receive these awards. Candidates are selected based on their GPA and course rigor at the end of December before their graduating year. This distinction includes a monetary award of $2,500. 

The Diachun Scholar Award is given to a senior majoring in science or a related field. The 2020 finalists were Habiba Ahmed, Dylan Baker, Eden Janesch, Rebika Khanal, Elise Kreger and Thomas Ostertag. The winner was Habiba Ahmed. 

Habiba graduated with a degree in neuroscience. She was a Singletary Scholar, Chellgren Fellow, Neuroscience Scholar, Phi Delta Epsilon Distinguished Member and member of the Omicron Delta Kappa National Leadership Honors Society. Her research projects included: "Healthcare Student Attitudes towards Cultural Competency and Diversity," "The Efficacy of the Flipped Classroom Style in Higher STEM Education" and "Drosophila Spermatogenesis Genetics Project."

Dr. Randa Remer from the College of Health Sciences said of Habiba, “Her leadership and advocacy within the field demonstrate a clear understanding of the ability to use her academic and research knowledge to improve health outcomes for various marginalized populations.”

The Evans Scholar Award is given to a senior majoring in humanities or a related field. The 2020 finalists were Douglas Center, III, Danielle Hunt, Madeline Kraft, Laura McAllister and Lesley Phillips. The winner was Douglas Center, III. 

Douglas graduated with two majors in two different colleges. In the College of Arts & Sciences, he was a major in history with minors in classics, Hebrew and Jewish Studies and world religions. In the College of Education, he was a major in secondary social studies education with a minor in political science. He was also a Chellgren Fellow. He completed two research projects: "Cartoon History of the pre-World War II United States" and "The Struggle for Home on the Israeli-Gaza Border: Frontline of Competing Narratives."

Dr. Valerio Caldesi Valeri from the College of Arts & Sciences spoke to the rigor of Douglas's academic pursuits. "Ancient Greek is a notoriously complex language, a language that requires of students a substantial time commitment, effective and consistent study habits and self-discipline along with a good measure of talent for rapid language acquisition. Not only did he take seriously the challenge that the Greek courses presented, he also unfailingly sported a positive and constructive attitude serving as an inspirational model to his classmates.”