House Life

2013 College House Deans' Integrated Knowledge Awards Banquet

Faculty and staff celebrated the winners of the 2013 College House Deans Integrated Knowledge Awards on April 4, with Prof. Dennis DeTurck, Dean of The College and Faculty Director of Riepe College House, providing opening remarks. For the third year, the 11 Deans of Penn’s undergraduate College Houses have selected and honored their residents who best exemplify the College House mission: the successful integration of knowledge gained from the classroom with the everyday life of the House for the betterment of all residents.Winners of the 2013 Integrated Knowledge Award 

The 2013 first-place winner from Stouffer College House, Kristin Zuhone, says she arrived freshman year "introverted and and intensely serious" about her studies as a Benjamin Franklin scholar. That is, until her involvement with the House “transformed her college experience.” 

Ms. Zuhone’s notable work in ENVS 406, led by Prof. Richard Pepino from Penn's Perelman School of Medicine, revealed a talent for problem solving within complex communities—in this case, vaccination rates among the at-risk populations in Kensington. Prof. Pepino even forwarded her findings to the Philadelphia Health Department for consideration.  Back home in Stouffer, her Faculty Director Prof. Phil Nichols observed how she gradually developed into a House leader capable of enriching that complex community as well.

Upon accepting their awards, all of the evening’s honorees acknowledged their pride in what they’d achieved in their Houses, and how deeply the House faculty and staffs had impacted their college careers.  Gabriela Moreno Cesar of Kings Court English College House, who will be headed to Carnegie Mellon University for graduate school, became emotional when noting that without Dean Krimo Bokreta and Faculty Director Jorge Santiago-Aviles she wouldn’t have made it through Penn. Christina Wu of Rodin College House posed for a photograph with her entire supportive network that included House Dean Ryan Keytack and her GA.

This year, the Deans created a “Rising Star” award for an outstanding freshman. No one fit that description better than Cat Peirce in Fisher Hassenfeld College House. Rising to accept her award, she dazzled everyone with her powerful words about spreading positivity and her desire to comfort, educate, and aid those in need—an impulse that was inspired by her Gender and Society coursework with Dr. Shannon Lundeen, formerly a House Fellow.

For some students, the College Houses may simply serve as a safe, familiar environment to come home to at the end of a long day. For others, the countless opportunities to grow, learn, lead, thrive and educate others in the College Houses has made all of the difference to the quality of their lives at Penn. 

Kristin Zuhone, Stouffer College House

Kristin Zuhone and Amanda AtkinsonMs. Zuhone is a junior Benjamin Franklin Scholar majoring in Russian, French, and Political Science. Initially reserved as a freshman, her first accomplishments in Stouffer College House included serving on the Steering Committee, taking part in the GA and Fellow selection processes, and photographing the House Semi-Formal. As her career at Penn deepened, she began to integrate her passion for environmental sustainability into her House community life, planning events such as the Local Produce Dinner Party. On her own initiative, she also created a successful summer reading group for Stouffer residents in order to encourage intellectual activity and community over the weeks away from one another.  Buoyed by her success, she took Her House Dean’s advice and applied to be the House Special Events manager, a role in which she now coordinates, publicizes, and launches events such as the Walking Club to explore the city’s treasures, and the Philadelphia Speaker Series in 2012, which brought numerous faculty to the House for intimate dinners with residents.

“Kristen ties together ideas about politics and public policy with living issues such as environment, energy, and equality ... and has contributed incalculably to a diverse body of knowledge within our House.” 

— Prof. Philip Nichols, Faculty Director, Stouffer College House


Gabriela Moreno Cesar, Krimo Bokreta and Jorge Santiago-AvilesGabriela Moreno Cesar, Kings Court English College House

Ms. Moreno Cesar is a senior majoring in Digital Media Design.  She is the co-founder of the Women in Computer Science Residential Program in Kings Court English College House.  Building up the Board of this Residential Program so that it will continue in future years has been one of her chief concerns, an effort in which she has taken much pride.

“Gaby is a doer, a no-nonsense manager willing to push the boundaries when needed to achieve her goal.”

— Prof. Jorge Santiago-Aviles, Faculty Director, Kings Court English


Christina Wu, Rodin College House

Christina Wu and Rodin supportersMs. Wu is a junior majoring in the History & Sociology of Science; she is also the 2013-14 Rodin College House Research Fellow. One of her goals is to “transform the way our residents think about research.” Her honors thesis, contrasting the experiences of Philadelphia’s elderly Chinese immigrant and elderly African American populations, will serve as a springboard for an in-House seminar on conducting research in the city. 

“Christina has a rare ability to see the big picture and to integrate various bits of specialized knowledge... She has an inquiring mind and a relentless drive to go where her questions take her.”

— Prof. John Kimberly, Henry Bower Professor of Entrepreneurial Management, Wharton



Farrah Alkhaleel and Patricia WilliamsFarrah Alkhaleel, Du Bois College House

Ms. Alkhaleel, a junior Biology major, has lived in Du Bois for 3 years as an active community member.  She has long served as a member of the House Judiciary Committee and the House Council, as well as mentored residents interested in research—especially those in pre-med programs.  For her service she was awarded the W.E.B. Du Bois Citizenship Award last year. She also brings non-resident students, such as fellow members of the Penn Women’s Biomedical Society, to the House so that, as she states, they can “experience Du Bois for what it is: a welcoming home.”


Andrew Dierkes


Andrew Dierkes

Mr. Dierkes is a sophomore in the School of Nursing. An active, long-time member of Gregory College House’s Casa Hispanica program, he recently joined the Film Culture Program. His interest in film has consequently developed to the point that he’s acted in a number of short films produced by Gregory residents. He manages the successful Dinner with Gregory series and is excited to be serving as an RA next year, “to maintain a positive living environment for residents.”


Jonelle Lesniak, Harrison College House

Jonelle Lesniak and Frank PelliconeMs. Lesniak is a junior in the Wharton School. As a 3-year resident in Harrison, she engaged in the Freshman Experience program as a mentor and events planner. This role led to her appointment in the House Office as the Ticketing Coordinator. To integrate her interests into the life of the House, she offers free weekly classes in Zumba® and yoga. She also created Year of Proof events focusing on faith and religion. She attributes her growing leadership skills to the numerous opportunities afforded by life in Harrison.





Cat Peirce and April HerringCathryn “Cat” Peirce, Fisher Hassenfeld College House

Ms. Peirce is a freshman in the College and the first recipient of the Deans’ “Rising Star” award.  Her experiences with the PENNacle pre-orientation program ignited her potential a leader, and today she serves as Vice President of Programming for Fisher Hassenfeld.  “Cat,” as she is called, installed an innovative method for improving morale and building community: residents who’ve pulled out a “Cat Cares” slip from the communal bucket have started to spread positivity and connect with one another.  She also serves as a resource for those affected by sexual assault, inspired by the Gender and Society class she took with Dr. Shannon Lundeen.  “I do believe that my small acts build up to make an important difference.”

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