Four students win national awards

A number of current College students have been selected as winners of various prestigious national scholarships and fellowships that will give assistance to the future goals of these students. Emanuel Yekutiel ’11 received a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, Newton Davis ’12 was honored with a Harry S. Truman Scholarship, Jack Berry ’12 was named a 2011 Goldwater Scholar and Hannah Cunningham ’11 received a St. Andrew’s Scholarship.

Yekutiel, a former College Council co-president, is one of 40 students from 23 private liberal arts colleges awarded the Watson this year, and he will receive a grant of $25,000 for a year of “independent, purposeful exploration and travel.”
“I spoke to Jose Martinez [’10] who had won it last year, and after talking to him I became very excited at the prospect of being a Watson fellow,” Yekutiel said. “I spoke to professors, friends and especially the Fellowships Office staff to come up with a proposal that matched my interests in organizing and social change and that would work for what the Watson was looking for.”

The Thomas J. Watson Fellowship Program was established in 1968 by the children of Thomas J. Watson Sr., founder of the International Business Machines Corps (IMB), and his wife Jeannette K. Watson, to honor their parents’ interest in education and world affairs. Additionally, only 40 liberal art colleges with an undergraduate population of under 3000 students are eligible to nominate students for this award. Those awarded the fellowship must plan and administer the project themselves, and they may not reenter their home country for one year while they pursue their project. The program has given out over 2500 fellowships since its inception in 1968.

Yekutiel, who is majoring in political science with a concentration in leadership studies, will carry out a self-guided project titled “On the Cusp: Gay Marriage Across the Globe, a Worldwide Struggle,” which will explore grassroots movements for same-sex marriage equality in Ireland, the U.K., Australia, India and Brazil. “I will interview gay rights activists, attend rallies and marches, read about the countries’ political history related to activism and volunteer for particular grassroots activist organizations,” Yekutiel said. “I will do all this with the hopes of educating myself as to what is happening in these countries around gay rights work. I want to know what they are doing, how they are doing it and why.”

During Winter Study 2010, Yekutiel received a Gaudino Fellowship with which he traveled to Israel and wrote an ethnographic report of the Afghan-Jewish community living there. He describes his journey as being “a difficult and moving experience for me. It taught me a lot about my history and the proud legacy that I am a part of.

“My father is from Herat, Afghanistan and my Afghan heritage was a very important part of my upbringing,” Yekutiel said. “There are only a few thousand Afghan-Jews left in the world and most of them live in Israel. Many of them are very old and I wanted to preserve as much as I could of my culture when it still existed in the flesh.”

Yekutiel attributes his four years of experience on CC as one of his inspirations for his decision to apply for a Watson Fellowship. “I realized with my work on [CC] how much I love the strategy, the communicating and the work that comes with addressing the issues that affect a community,” he said. “My Watson year will be devoted to meeting and learning from the people that are doing just that all over the world.”

Davis was awarded the Harry S. Truman Scholarship, which is given to college juniors who are committed to public service careers and show phenomenal leadership potential.

The scholarship was founded in 1975, created by an Act of Congress and signed into law by President Gerald Ford. Rooted in President Truman’s passion for public welfare, the Truman Scholarship commits itself to encouraging future “change-agents” of America, according to the Truman Fellowship official explanation. The selection process requires that the candidates have a strong background involving public service as well as a self-written project that encompasses a specific issue at large in society. “For me the road to the Truman scholarship started in high school,” Davis said. “From my participation in student organizations to the school board, I was always trying to find ways to make my school better. That spirit carried over to my time in college. As a member of College Council, Claiming Williams Steering Committee and numerous other organizations, I was always trying to find a way to make Williams better.”

Davis was one of 60 recipients out of 602 applications from 264 colleges and universities across the nation. “I am so excited not only about the opportunities that the award provides, but also about the opportunity to meet the other incredible Truman Scholars from across the country,” Davis said.

Davis plans to pursue a career as a leader in public education administration, earn a graduate degree in education that would focus on administration and policy and later begin work in public schooling. His goals also include becoming a superintendent in a public school system.

Davis has also received several other scholarships and fellowships, including a Questbridge Scholarship, the Carl and Nancy Samuelson Scholarship, the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Research Fellowship and the Class of 1945 Student World Fellowship.

Majoring in history and Arabic studies, Davis is spending his junior year studying abroad; he is currently in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil. In the fall, he studied in Granada, Spain, at the prestigious University of Granada’s Center of Modern Languages, where he focused on the historical Muslim presence in southern Spain.

Berry was named a 2011 Goldwater Scholar by the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation. The scholarship awards $7500 per year towards the cost of tuition, fees, books and room and board of the college attended by the recipient. Berry, the 38th Goldwater Scholar from the College since 1989, joins 275 nationwide recipients of the scholarship this year, which is awarded to sophomores and juniors who thrive in the fields of mathematics, science and engineering. The Goldwater Foundation was established in 1986 in honor of Senator Barry M. Goldwater, with the goals of encouraging talented students to pursue careers in science and mathematical fields.

A biology and chemistry major, Berry plans to pursue a Ph.D. in neuroscience with special emphasis on understanding the biological basis of neurodegenerative disorders. This coming academic year, he plans to conduct research for a thesis examining the role of dopamine receptor D1 in arousal-based modulation of visual processing in fruit flies.

Berry is currently studying abroad for his junior year through the Williams-Exeter Programme at Oxford. At the College, he participated in many extracurricular activities, such as community service endeavors, volunteering with Alzheimer’s patients at a local nursing home, tutoring his peers at the Math and Science Resource Center as well as students at Mount Greylock Middle School and editing the science magazine ScientEPHic.

Berry has a strong background in research and lab involvement in several scientific studies and institutions. His recent summers were spent working in the Lab of Clinical Infectious Diseases at the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases in Bethesda, Md. During Winter Study 2009, he worked in the lab of Professor of Biology Wendy Raymond, where he helped investigate a cell-cycle dependent role tRNA modification enzymes in a yeast model. Recently, he researched DNA replication at the Whitehead Institution in Cambridge, Mass.

Cunningham was awarded a St. Andrews Scholarship from the St. Andrew’s Society of the State of New York, becoming just one of two students nationally to receive the award this year and the third College student to be named a Scholar. The scholarship awards a $30,000 grant for graduate study, which she plans to pursue at a Scottish university.

The St. Andrew’s Society Scholarship Program, founded in 1956, has given out more than 150 scholarships to students that “promote cultural interchange and goodwill between Scotland and the United States,” according to its official statement. The society provides funding for two Scottish-American students to study in Scotland, as well as two Scottish graduate students to study in the United States.

As a sociology major finishing up her premed fulfillment, Cunningham will pursue a master’s in global health and anthropology at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Social and Political Science. She then plans to attend medical school and work internationally.

Cunningham boasts an impressive scholastic record, with her collaborative research in the H1N1 virus with Duke University Department of Infectious Disease published in the Journal of Clinical Virology, and she was accepted for publication to the Journal of American College Health. Her findings were also presented at several conferences on infections disease and antimicrobial agents.
Cunningham has worked with prominent molecular biologist and biochemists in her participation as a Class of 1960 Scholar and Class of 1957 research fellow, where she worked with Professor of Anthropology Peter Just to develop the syllabus for a course on masculinity. She also received a Gaudino Fellowship in which she conducted independent anthropological research on female genital modification among the Abuganda tribe in Uganda.

Cunningham spent six months during 2007 on a leave of absence from the College in Masaka as a member of the Uganda Rural Fund. She participated in various projects such as organizing a women’s domestic violence prevention project, teaching English and computer skills and helping to build a school and a orphanage. She traveled to Kampala, where she worked for separate HIV clinics conducting research and treatment.

Cunningham has been active at the College as well. She was a member of the ice hockey and lacrosse teams and performed with the student symphony and concert choir. She was also the co-president and treasurer of Students for Social Justice and the president and co-founder of Peace Talk Africa; additionally, she was a founding member of the All-Acoustic Alliance.

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