News Story

Huang, Zhao Named 2018 Gillis Award Honorees

December 3, 2018 — The College Academic Council (CAC) has issued the second annual Chester Gillis Award to two students in Georgetown College.

Lawrence Huang (C’19) and Susu Zhao (C’19) each received a stipend that will help fund their academic and research expenses for the coming semester.

The Gillis Award, named for the longtime Department of Theology professor and College Dean, honors students who exemplify the value of a liberal arts education in the Jesuit tradition.

“Lawrence and Susu are living out the Jesuit values rather than just writing about them,” CAC President Jacqueline Crispino (C’19) said. “All of their activities connect with their academic goals in a way that shows their genuine passion.”


A senior government major, Lawrence Huang is currently working on his honors thesis, which examines the political theory of Hannah Arendt as it relates to refugees, border policy and migration.

Huang’s research ties in with his interests outside academic as well. He served as president of the GU College Democrats and spent a year organizing on behalf of pro-immigrants’-rights candidates and causes.

“My advocacy sparked my interest in building responsibilities across borders, and now my research is building those responsibilities as necessary to making rights claims,” Huang said.

The senior expects to pursue a career in academia after leaving the Hilltop. He intends for research and activism on issues of migration to be tied in with his work throughout his career.

“I can never separate my research from my activism, and as an immigrant myself, I won’t ever stop researching and advocating for the rights of migrants,” Huang said.


Susu Zhao is a senior majoring in justice and peace studies with minors in disability studies and Chinese. She was inspired to pursue law school while taking Prof. Randall Amster’s introduction course within her major.

“Introduction to Justice and Peace Studies further fueled my existing passion for civil rights and provided the opportunity to examine my interests in activism, the United States judicial system, and criminal justice reform through an academic lens,” Zhao said.

Zhao combined her interests in legal studies and Chinese while studying abroad in Beijing this past summer.

“This opportunity paired an immersive environment, conducive to advanced language learning, with wholly unfamiliar societal context and surroundings,” Zhao said. “It allowed me to learn more about the differences between the American and Chinese legal systems and variations in civil rights norms, perceptions, and legislation.”

A financially independent student, Zhao says the Gillis Award will help her dedicate more time to academics and extracurricular activities rather than working extra to pay for textbooks.

“These funds will allow me to give back to the community that has profoundly influenced my personal growth,” she said.


Both Huang and Zhao emphasized the role the Georgetown College education has played in shaping their lives since arriving on the Hilltop.

Zhao believes the strong liberal arts basis of the College curriculum has provided a strong foundation on which her goals have developed.

“The College education has helped me explore, focus, and define my academic goals and future career goals,” Zhao said. “The emphasis upon a well-rounded liberal arts education, aligning with the mission of cura personalis, has given me the opportunity to delve into diverse course offerings — ranging from environmental sciences to anthropology to philosophy — in search of the academic disciplines that I find most stimulating.”

Huang highlighted the role of the Jesuit mission in animating his academic and career interests.

“Educationally, I am deeply motivated by the mission President DeGioia gave us from the Jesuits at Convocation: Go Set the World on Fire,” Huang said. “Political theory research is often abstract and distant from practice. My work is and always will be directly practicable.”

— Patrick Curran

College Academic Council