House Life

2014 College House Deans' Integrated Knowledge Award Winners

College Houses and Academic Services is pleased to announce the winners of the 2014 College House Deans Integrated Knowledge Award.  We had a tremendous group of applicants — all vibrant and interesting in their unique ways — and all energetic contributors to the life of their respective Houses.  Our 11 Deans, who select the winners, were extraordinarily impressed with this year’s candidates.

Winners of the 2014 CHDIKA Awards

Winners Elizabeth Dresselhaus, Jennifer Matte, Igor Bazay, Taylor Blackston and Trisha Kothari were honored at a dinner on Monday, April 21st.  At that time, Provost Vincent Price presented the cash prizes, plaques and certificates.


FIRST PRIZE:   Elizabeth Dresselhaus, C’17
  Kings Court English College House

Elizabeth Dresselhaus

A freshman in the Vagelos Program in the Molecular Life Sciences and a member of STWing, Lizzy is currently working towards a double major in Physics and Environmental Science. She strives to apply her coursework in chemistry and physics to the Kings Court English community.  Her contributions, as a member of the House Garden Club, include researching and applying for a Green Fund grant to replace the aging hardscape of the courtyard with a permeable paving system which is sustainable and potentially water-saving.  In addition, her passion for environmental activism spurred her to become a KCE Eco-Rep and sponsor the House’s first zero-waste event and other initiatives such as an energy audit and dinner discussions to encourage residents to reduce waste.  She has volunteered at local elementary schools in West Philadelphia planting trees and painting. Next year, Lizzy will manage the KCE Biosphere residential program so that future freshmen can have “just as great an experience as I have had," and to inspire them to become involved in campus-wide sustainability projects.  

Campbell Grey, Associate Professor of Roman History and a Fellow in Kings Court English wrote, "She is a model of how we, as mentors and teachers, would wish our residents and students to involve themselves in the community around us: generous spirited and knowledgeable, respectful and hard-working. Her mastery of this type of integration — the integration of college and community, and the exemplification and representation of ‘big picture’ issues on a small scale — speaks eloquently of Lizzy’s abilities and her commitment to the project of effecting meaningful change."

Max Mintz, Professor of CIS, first met Lizzy last fall at a meeting of the University Scholars Program (of which he is the Associate Chair).  At that time, Lizzy reported on her summer project at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. Prof. Mintz notes, “I fully expect her to have a brilliant career at Penn . . .”

Lizzy herself writes, “This community has given me the support to pursue my intellectual passions and inspiration to use the knowledge I am acquiring in class in the House, and ultimately in the larger world as I go forward with my career."


SECOND PRIZE:    Jennifer Matte, C’14
  Rodin College House

Jennifer MatteCurrently in her third year at Rodin College House, Jennie serves as the Residential Program Manager, handling a broad range of events; she is also juggling a double major in Economics and Jewish Studies with a minor in Music. She has lived in both the Musical and Theatre Engagement programs and serves on the Residential Program Steering Board that helps keep residents actively engaged in the programs’ themes.  One highlight of that work has been the staging of the annual Showcase filled with performances, workshops, a fair, a history project, and a visual arts gallery.  Herself a devotee of musicals and plays, managing the Dinner with the Dean plays to her strengths; through the trips to New York that she organized some residents got to experience their first-ever Broadway show.  She writes, “After graduate I plan to pursue a career in arts development and event planning, and I actively work to use these interests and skills in Rodin.” And while theatre, music, and arts enrichment are key to her successes in Rodin, Jennie also hosted a Jewish Studies/Religious Studies Majors Dinner and participated by contributing her own experiences as a Jewish Studies major. 

Jay Reise, Professor of Music and Rodin Faculty Director writes, “Jennie has been involved in virtually every student activity concerning life in Rodin College House.  In my 15 years as a Faculty Director, I do not recall any RA, GA or House manager who has had more energy, enthusiasm, and success in touching the lives of her fellow students as Jennie.  She is also fun-loving and very likable, a born leader, a reliable worker, and a trustworthy colleague.”

Megan Edelman, House Coordinator of Rodin, offered her highest praise, for Jennie's “commitment to creating an intellectually stimulating, artistically engaging, and stress relieving experiences for all her peers."

As a senior, Jennie’s comments are especially meaningful:  “I cannot express how much I too have learned from my time in the House. Rodin has become a home for me at Penn that I never expected to have, and I will certainly miss all of the opportunities the House provides when I graduate.”


THIRD PRIZE TIE / Co-Winner:    Igor Bazay, C’15
  Harrison College House

Igor BazayOne of the first members of the residentially-based, freshman Integrated Studies Program (part of Ben Franklin Scholars), Igor helped to spearhead the creation of an upperclass version (Integrated Living Program of which he is now the director) that was established in Harrison College House.  This grassroots student effort has led to a collaboration of residents from Riepe College House and Harrison from every class year and worldview. In that first year of ILP, he ran events exploring consciousness and meaning, music and mathematics. To continue to integration theme, they adapted “Food and Culture” as their starting point the following semester.  In his sophomore year, Igor used vital knowledge gained in his Wharton classes on management and incentives to reformat ILP and boost program engagement, and he created an assessment system, established Hall Coordinators with whom he met frequently. Another of Igor’s successes with ILP was a faculty-led panel on LGBT discrimination at the Sochi Olympics, viewed from many perspectives. “The ability to explore such a controversial topic through different disciplines allowed for an interpretation outside of what was portrayed in media . . .” he said.  Further, his work with ILP has led to collaborations with the Penn Russian Club, PATH, and The Wharton Alliance. 

Peter Struck, Professor of Classical Studies and Director of BFS, writes, “I have followed [Igor’s] progress closely. He has succeeded mightily at this, and the senior staff at Harrison have been helpful to him in expanding the size and mission of the program. Next year they’ll include a second floor of students in their group, with the possibility to expand further.”

Ilya Vinitsky, Professor and Chair of the Slavic Department, noted, “I have always been impressed with his ability to transform his interest in and knowledge of Russian culture into concrete public events, as well as his organizational skills and work ethics: he possesses integrity, responsibility and responsiveness: he has established the highest standards for himself and he is always willing to learn from others and expand his cultural horizons.”

Igor notes that he will continue to participate in College House life until graduation “because of the unique opportunity I have been given to extend my positive experience with ISP/ILP to the living experience.  Without this crazy urge to integrate everything, learning in classes and living in a College House just wouldn’t be the same.”


THIRD PRIZE TIE / Co-Winner:    Taylor Blackston, C’15
  Du Bois College House

Taylor Blackston and House Dean Ms. Trish WilliamsAs a recipient of the W.E.B. Du Bois College House Endowed Scholarship, Taylor says she is continuing the values of her parents who stressed the significance of relationships and the importance of humility.  By volunteering her time for whatever the House needs, and promoting House spirit through her House Council leadership, Taylor makes a point to give back to others:  “Representing Du Bois is never a chore for me, whether I’m serving as a flag bearer for the New College House Groundbreaking Ceremony or as a singer in a program that honors the House.”  With training from her Communications major, she serves as the House Communications and Media Manager, updating the Du Bois Facebook page, coordinating House-wide emails, and creating advertising campaigns.  Taylor is an active member of the House Book Club, and arranged for the New Spirit of Penn Gospel Choir to fill the halls with music. This past January, Taylor was chosen as the House Research Fellow; her project will be interdisciplinary in nature, encompassing Communications and Africana Studies.  Recently, she approached Faculty Director Gipson about a residentially-based program to provide community services to West Philadelphia, and a video project to document the history of Du Bois College House is also on her mind.  To that end, she is attending workshops at Weigle and taking Video I. She notes, “While this project is only in the initial planning phase, I believe it demonstrates my love for the House as well as my determination to utilize my education skill sets outside out the classroom to serve my “home away from home” in a practical way.”

William Gipson, Associate Vice Provost for Equity and Access and Du Bois Faculty Director, wrote that Taylor is “an exemplary young woman who has made tremendous contributions to Du Bois College House, and by extension, to the [mission of all] College Houses.”

Brian Peterson, Director of Makuu: The Black Cultural Center, also supported her candidacy.  “As her resume reflects, Taylor is deeply committed to Du Bois College House. Moreover, she has a vibrant passion for community building. She has integrated her knowledge about Penn’s Black history, current student groups, academic needs of students of color, and the ongoing challenges of Black communities globally that are striving to do better, to challenge Du Bois —through House Council— to continue to fulfill its founding mission.”

Taylor was a strong participant early on: “. . . the first student group I joined was the Du Bois House Council. I have remained committed to the council, serving as Secretary during my sophomore year and now as the Vice President” but she also underscores the simple goal of “being a friendly neighbor and mentor to younger residents."


HONORABLE MENTION:    Trisha Kothari, SEAS ‘14
  Kings Court English College House

Trisha KothariAfter being selected, sophomore year, to be the student representative of the Women in Computer Science group for the Computer Science department at Penn, Trisha became a strong advocate for greater gender equality in the field. That led to the creation of the first Women in Computer Science (WICS) Residential Program in Kings Court English College House. Trisha, along with upperclass friend Gaby Morena, sought to “foster a learning community where women interested in computing could live together to not only teach each other and support each other, but also benefit from field trips, faculty dinners and workshops, boosting their confidence and knowledge of the field.”  The program is currently in its second year and thriving, with Trisha at the helm as the Resident Advisor (RA).  Some of her achievements are organizing GBMs, tech workshops, and a visit to Google NYC headquarters that resulted in several people deciding on CIS as a major. They recently hosted Camp WiCs, an event for high school girls to become introduced to technology. Every step of her undergraduate career has resulted in a clarification of her vision which is to reach a goal of "true knowledge." 

Jorge Santiago-Aviles, Professor of Electrical Engineering and Faculty Director of Kings Court English, wrote, “Trisha helped organize an ecumenical type of activity between two College Houses, where PIK professors were invited to share with student residents in open discussions of multiple themes. [She] is one of the computer science and engineering students with the strongest sense of community and inter-disciplinarity I know.”

Gabriela Moreno Cesar, Master of Human-Computer Interaction Candidate at Carnegie Mellon University and former collaborator in Kings Court English wrote, “Trisha held a workshop on Artificial Intelligence . . . she is an amazing academic, especially when it comes to the theory of computer science such as Algorithms and Theory . . . Not only has she excelled but she is also passing those lessons on to her community. . .”

Being at Penn has been an enriching journey. Trisha writes that today, after "several personal projects, participation in different conferences, and rich internship experiences, [she] can sincerely say that [she] has grown immensely over the last 3 years in this field."


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