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Meet the 2021 Tropaia and Faculty of Languages and Linguistics Award Recipients

Georgetown College gathered virtually to celebrate the Class of 2021 and honor our exceptional seniors at the annual Tropaia and Faculty of Languages and Linguistics (FLL) ceremonies. The Cohonguroton address was presented by Onrei Ladao (C’21), Sophie Chen (C’21) was the student speaker at the FLL ceremony and 12 graduating seniors received special awards. 

The Cohonguroton Address

Onrei Ladao

The Cohonguroton address, which is equivalent to a valedictory address, is delivered by one of the most academically accomplished students in the College at the invitation of the Dean. Cohonguroton is another, and perhaps the oldest, Algonquian name for the river that flows through Washington. This year, Onrei Ladao (C’21), an Art and Art History and Sociology double major with a minor in Film and Media Studies, was chosen for the honor of delivering the address. 

In his impassioned speech, Ladao focused on the importance of the Jesuit idea of cura personalis and how the embodiment of this ideal helped to improve his experience at the university through mentors like Department of History professor Ananya Chakravarti. 

Ladao also emphasized the significance of naming those who have had an impact on us “because it is deeply connected to and informed by the memory of the subject who is named.”

“The value of naming originated in the Black Lives Matter movement with the #SayHerName campaign, wherein Black women have often been pushed to the margins in discussions of police violence,” Ladao explains. “At Georgetown, we have seen the names of the folx who were enslaved who lived, died and were buried on the main campus. On Sunday, the class of 2021 will have their names read to concretize a milestone in our individual lives to forever etch our names as the class who endured a pandemic.”

He concluded by tasking his fellow graduates to work to be a mentor for others moving forward. 

“Georgetown in itself is not a community,” Ladao says. “It is the people within it that choose to make it so.”

The Coakley Medal 

Amber Stanford at the tidal bassin with cherry blossoms

Amber Stanford

Founded in memory of “Hank” Coakley, the Coakley Medal is presented annually to the member of the senior class who, in the opinion of the faculty, manifested, above all others, the qualities of loving service, honor and courage in all phases of his or her college life.

This year, Amber Stanford  (C’21), a government and theology and religious studies double major has been chosen for this award. A Figge Fellow with the Catholic Studies program, Stanford investigated the role of black women in the Jonestown massacre in order to give voice to this largely unstudied and marginalized group.  

Stanford is also the recipient of a Marshall Scholarship, which she will use to pursue a master’s degree in history with a concentration in slavery studies at the University of Bristol and a master’s degree in religion at Durham University in the United Kingdom.

An RA, Stanford holds a leadership position on the Inter-Residence Hall Council. She is also a leader on the council of GU Politics where she facilitated the discussion series IdentiTEA that promoted dialogue to ensure that underrepresented voices in the Georgetown community are heard and appreciated.

Marlene Canlas and Aia Yousef, deans of the College, write that “Amber’s commitment to giving voice to the voiceless has, in fact, been a central theme of her studies and scholarship while at Georgetown and we fully expect that she will be a leader and pioneer in her field where her self-stated goal is ‘to elevate not only the voices of Black women who have been excluded from religious and historical narratives, but also public discourses that seek justice for marginalized communities.’”

Stanford is also a team leader for ESCAPE and a course assistant for the First Year Seminar taught by Erin Cline, a professor in the theology department. After earning her masters degrees, Stanford plans to pursue a Ph.D. in theology. Cline writes that “two of Amber’s most remarkable qualities are her inquisitiveness and the drive that leads her to pursue it.”

“In addition to her academic excellence, she is self-motivated and a natural leader,” Cline explains. “Amber has told me that she would love to go on to graduate school and one day come back to teach at Georgetown. I must say, it would be a highlight of my career if I were to witness that as she is not only a student I’d love to have in every class I teach, but she will be the kind of colleague that I would love to have.” 

The Katherine Kraft Medal 

Katerina Marroquin in regalia in front of flowers

Katerina Marroquin

The Katherine Kraft Medal is given each year to the graduating student who best manifested a spirit of humility, cooperation and commitment as a woman or man for others in all phases of her or his college life. Katerina Marroquin (C’21), an anthropology major minoring in public health and Education, Inquiry and Justice, was selected for this award for her continued work, not only as an excellent scholar, but as a person dedicated to improving the lives of those around her.  

A first-generation student, Marroquin has been deeply involved in the Georgetown community. She worked as a GSP peer mentor, a CSJ immigration advocacy case worker and HOME Program Intern. Marroquin was also a McCourt Public Policy Institute communications assistant, a Lauinger and Gelardin student assistant supervisor and the communications director for Hoyas for Immigrant Rights. To supplement her coursework in public health and EDIJ, Marroquin also served as the vice president of Health Education for the GU Students for Health and Medical Equity and as a research assistant for Kalmanovitz Public Health. 

An advocate for the LGBTQIA+ community, Marroquin Last spring, Katerina applied for and was awarded the chance to be a Victory Congressional Cohort Member. Post graduation, she will complete an internship with a member of the LGBT Equality Caucus in Congress to learn about the federal legislative process. 

Marroquin’s instructor and mentor Sabrina Wesley-Nero, of the Education, Inquiry and Justice program, says that “Katerina’s personal experience and past narrative fuel her passion and commitment.”

“Her perseverance and determination enable her to turn each obstacle into an opportunity,” Wesley-Nero explains. “However, she doesn’t rest after overcoming an obstacle. Katerina seeks to dismantle systems that perpetuate obstacles so that they do not remain and impede the progress of others.”

The Louis McCahill Award 

Arisaid Gonzalez Porras on steps of Healy in regalia

Arisaid Gonzalez Porras

Eugene and Francis McCahill founded this medal in 1960 in memory of their brother, Louis, who died in the service of his country in the first World War. It is awarded to the student(s) of the graduating class who has shown perseverance and determination of a high order in pursuing his or her educational objectives at Georgetown. This year, Arisaid Gonzalez Porras (C’21) and Rachel Singer (C’21) are the recipients of the award. 

A first-generation student, Porras has been a fierce advocate for undocumented rights on campus through her leadership with Hoyas for Immigrant Rights (HFIR). An American Studies major with a Spanish minor, Porras is a Baker Scholar and member of the Community Scholars Program. In her petition to run on the Georgetown University Student Association ballot in 2020, Porras advocated for LGBTQ and undocumented rights. 

Katie Benton-Cohen says that Porras is a “brave activist and leader.”

“She has reenergized the organization of the undocumented student community at

Georgetown and has been willing to publicize that work on campus and to other student

Rachel Singer headshot

Rachel Singer

Organizations,” Benton-Cohen says. 

A history major with a linguistics minor, Singer worked as a course assistant for a First Year Seminar taught by professors Amy Leonard and Alison Games and as an assistant to the director of undergraduate studies. Graduating a year early, Singer completed an honors thesis in history to supplement her coursework. 

Though she is an impressive scholar, Games, a Dorothy M. Brown Distinguished Professor of History notes that “while I am in awe of Rachel’s erudition and skills, I’m also impressed by how generous she is as a colleague.”

“She is a gifted scholar and a generous classmate and colleague whose presence improves and enlivens any setting,” Games explains.

The Spronck Medal

The Lambert H. Spronck Medal is awarded to the student who has combined good scholarship with significant contributions to extracurricular activities, and who has manifested a spirit of giving completely to whatever Georgetown project of activity she or he has engaged in while at the university. This year, Saham David Ali (C’21) was chosen for this award for her embodiment of the Jesuit values of being a person for others. 

Headshot of Saham David Ali

Saham David Ali

In addition to her coursework as a biology of global health major, Ali served as an ESCAPE leader from 2018-2019 and was the recruitment lead for the program in the following year. A community scholar, Ali was involved in both formal and informal mentorship opportunities and was an active participant in Campus Ministry. 

Ali eagerly sought ways to give back to the Georgetown community, most notably through her participation in leading Hoya Saxa Weekend (HSW) which is a multicultural recruitment overnight experience for prospective BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) students.  

“Her commitment to this program has not only helped many students choose Georgetown, but more importantly, she has helped others find community and acceptance on the Hilltop,” says Devita Bishundat, director of the Community Scholars Program. “Saham is a light and her work with HSW has illuminated the many ways in which Georgetown can be a home for those who are on the margins.”

Faculty of Languages and Linguistics Awards

As part of the awards ceremony, a student speaker is chosen to deliver a message to their peers. The student who is selected is picked from a group of students with the highest GPAs in the FLL. This year’s student speaker was Sophie Chen (C’21), a Classics major with a psychology minor. In her speech, Chen spoke of how studying languages has shaped her into a more empathetic person and how she and her fellow classmates “have a responsibility to wield our power for the good of others” after graduation. 

The Regent’s Medal for Academic Excellence is awarded each year to the senior who has earned the highest academic grade point average among the graduating FLL students. This year’s award winner is French and government double major Falyn Leigh Dwyer (C’21). 

The Martha Khoury Semaan Memorial Award was established in 1989 in memory of Martha Khoury Semaan, by her son, Khalil (BSLA 1954). The annual income from this fund is awarded to the graduating senior demonstrating the greatest achievement in Arabic. This year’s award winner is Arabic and philosophy double major Ivana Gabriele-Smith (C’21). 

The Dean Robert Lado Award is named in honor of Robert Lado, who served as dean of the School of Languages and Linguistics from 1961 to 1973.  It is presented annually by the Linguistics Department to the outstanding senior who is committed to service through teaching. This year’s award winner is linguistics major and French minor Olivia Brown Stevens (C’21). 

The Goethe Institut Award is given annually to a German major for outstanding academic achievement combined with contributions to extracurricular activities in the German Department. This year’s award winner is biology major and German minor Ethan Missigman (C’21).

The Alliance Française of Washington, D.C. presents a gift annually to a graduating senior in recognition of his or her outstanding scholarship in the study of French language and culture. This year’s award winner is French major and Spanish minor Olivia Whitman Giacomo (C’21). 

The Italian Cultural Society–Cesarina Horing Award is given annually to students of Italian who have maintained outstanding scholarship throughout their academic career and contributed to the growth of Italian Studies at Georgetown. This year’s award winner is economics and Italian double major Danielle Kwon Guida (C’21). 

The Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz Prize was established by an anonymous alumna to celebrate this 17th century Mexican intellectual’s love of knowledge. This year’s award winner is Spanish and psychology double major Samuel Gerard Cormier (C’21). 

-by Shelby Roller (G’19)