Georgetown College Celebrates 2022 Tropaia Award Winners
Georgetown University’s College of Arts and Sciences gathered to honor exceptional seniors and outstanding faculty members at today’s annual Tropaia ceremony in Gaston Hall.
The Tropaia ceremony, which takes its name from the ancient Greek word for trophy, honors exceptional graduating seniors for their outstanding accomplishments, both within and outside of the classroom.
Sabrina Sawhney (C’22) delivered the Cohonguroton Address at the invitation of the dean, Rosario Ceballo. Taking its name from the original Native American word for the Potomac, the Cohongurton Address is delivered by one of the graduating class’s most outstanding students.
Sawhney, who majored in biology of global health and minored in Spanish, remained committed to not only academic excellence but service throughout her time at Georgetown. She volunteered with the Arlington Vaccination Clinic and worked at a gynecology practice in DC.
“When I started at Georgetown as a pre-med student, I was determined to give back in any way I could to support struggling individuals,” Sawhney reflects. “became increasingly passionate about how we could, on a systemic and an individual level, make the days and hopefully lives of the children and women I interacted with better.”
In addition to immersing herself in the healthcare sphere outside of class, Sawhney led the tutoring club Sweetstrips, where she worked to develop a virtual implementation of science and math tutoring along with nutritional programming to support the 6th and 7th graders in the DC Scholars Classes.
Sawhney participated in the Research Intensive Senior Experience, or RISE program, which allows students to delve deeply into a research project over the course of their final year. For her senior thesis, Sawhney relied on both her Spanish language skills and medical know-how to study the ÁRBOLES Familiares program, which trains health workers to detect cancers in Latina communities.
“I wanted to assess the feasibility and interest of implementing the ÁRBOLES Familiares model and programming in Mexico, Guatemala and Colombia,” Sawhney says. “The program addresses a critical disparity among community health educators’ awareness of – and patient referral to – appropriate genetic services among Latinas at increased risk for Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer.”
After graduating, Sawhney will work as a clinical research coordinator at Mount Sinai Hospital’s Adolescent Health Center in Manhattan.
“I am so grateful that Georgetown has allowed me to grow as a person, learner and leader,” Sawhney says. “I will carry these skills with me through my research, medical school and eventually as a physician for the people most marginalized by society.”
Katie Woodhouse (C’22) received the Coakley Medal, awarded annually to the Georgetown College senior who, in the opinion of the faculty, most embodies the “qualities of loving service, honor and courage in all phases of their college life.”
Woodhouse is a psychology major, music history minor and pre-med student. She has pursued a liberal arts degree in its truest form, learning and studying a variety of courses and topics to become a more well-rounded person. To fulfill her language requirement, Woodhouse took American Sign Language courses at Gallaudet University through the College Consortium of Washington, DC.
“The robust and manifold education I have received from Georgetown College is integral to my future goals in the medical field,” Woodhouse says. “I want to both treat and understand my patients with the dual skills of a trained psychologist and medical expert, delivering care led by empathy, respect and the pursuit of a greater good.”
Before matriculating to medical school, Woodhouse will serve for a year in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. Pursuing her interest in the field of medicine, Woodhouse will work as a child nutrition and health community advocate at the Missoula Food Bank and Community Center in Missoula, Montana.
“I plan to put a capstone on my Jesuit education by immersing myself in a year of service,” Woodhouse says. “I plan for this experience to shed light on the myriad of needs to address child health injustice, informing and motivating my future medical practice.”
Georgetown’s academic rigor and Jesuit values have made an indelible contribution to Woodhouse’s outlook on life.
“It may seem idealistic, but the drive within me speaks to the most significant contribution of Georgetown College to my being: a passion for the pursuit of knowledge and the common good,” Woodhouse says.
The Coakley medal was established in memory of Henry “Hank” Coakley, a Georgetown alumnus and U.S. Air Force pilot, by his wife, Elizabeth Coakley.
Miles Aceves-Lewis (C’22) received the Kraft Medal, given to the graduating student who embodies a “spirit of humility, cooperation and commitment as a woman or man for others in all facets of college life.”
A native of Houston, Texas, Aceves-Lewis approached his Georgetown career with a compassionate spirit, and leaves with a desire to set the world on fire.
“My life journey has been about paying it forward so that everyone can have the opportunities I’ve had,” Aceves-Lewis says. “Georgetown attracted me because of its heritage as a Jesuit institution, and I resonate with many Jesuit values and practices.”
While a student, Aceves-Lewis worked with at-risk youth in East DC through several nonprofit programs. And he plans to continue working with children in Houston, where he will teach high school math for two years through Teach for America.
“At Georgetown, I was surrounded by many positive role models for good teaching,” Aceves-Lewis says. “I’ve been inspired by many of my teachers and the unconventional ways they have gone about helping me gain a deeper understanding of what education is, and what it ought to be.”
The Kraft Medal was established by Mrs. Cornerlia Kraft McKee in memory of her mother, Katherine Kraft.
Judy Wang (C’22) received the Louis McCahill Award, awarded to the student of the graduating class who has “shown perseverance and determination of a high order in pursuing his or her educational objectives at Georgetown.”
A psychology major, Wang persevered through a mental health crisis in her junior year that informed not only her choice of major, but her extracurricular activities. Last year, Wang joined Project Lighthouse, an anonymous chat service that provided peer-to-peer support for students. As someone dedicated to mental health, Wang was able to not only receive extensive training, but eventually lead training sessions for other volunteers.
“Students in Project Lighthouse were some of the kindest, most down-to-earth people I’ve met,” Wang reflects. “We could be open about our mental health struggles and all the stresses of being a student at Georgetown, so it was a very open and honest atmosphere.”
After completing her degree a semester early, Wang began a job as a government contractor that works with mental health agencies like the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the National Institute of Mental Health. Already, she’s putting her degree to use and making the world a better place.
“I’m creating and analyzing surveys concerning issues like adolescent substance abuse, then writing up research reports summarizing the results, which are tasks that my psych classes involve,” Wang says. “I’ve been commended at my workplace for my hard work, and I have my Georgetown education to thank for that!”
Reflecting on her undergraduate career, Wang recognizes the good and the bad. Her strength and perseverance are readily apparent.
“During my first two years here, I struggled in nearly every aspect of college life–social, academic, extracurricular,” Wang says. “But after coming back from a medical leave, finding a club that I fit into, meeting some great professors, and becoming close to my academic Dean, this place finally began to feel like a second home. Being at Georgetown made me grow in ways that I knew would not have happened at other colleges, and I have those incredibly tough times to thank for that–the real value of a Georgetown education.”
The McCahill Award was established in 1960 by Mr. Eugene McCahill and Mr. Francis McCahill in memory of their brother, Louis, who died in the service of his country in the first World War.
Established in 1967 to honor Rev. Edward B. Bunn, S.J., the award is chosen by a vote of the senior class and presented to the member of the College faculty who “is admired and respected by all students for their service to Georgetown in the classroom and on the campus community.”
“Professor Marsh brings creativity, enthusiasm and care to every classroom, learning environment and exchange that she has with students,” says Dean Rosario Ceballo.
Marsh addressed the assembled students and faculty upon receipt of her award, touching on her own research into the neuroscience of altruism and her experience teaching and working with Georgetown students. As part of her work, Marsh and her students have conducted MRI brain scans and behavioral tests on altruistic kidney donors to “identify the neural and cognitive processes that give rise to altruism.
“One thing I’ve learned from my research is that altruism is fundamentally about love,” Marsh says. “Those who sacrifice to help strangers – the good Samaritans around us – really do seem to love strangers.”
For Marsh, the underpinnings of altruism go beyond scientific understanding, they should inform how we view the world around us and our actions that shape it.
“More than anything I teach my students about the amygdala or the striatum, I want them to remember how deeply embedded the capacity for love is in humans — and not just love for a few, but for many,“ Marsh says.
-Hayden Frye (C’17)