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Joslin Award recipients represent an array of leaders

Twelve seniors were nominated for their efforts to improve Brown communities

At the end of each year, the Joslin Awards recognize seniors who have not only enhanced their personal experience at Brown but also the quality of the community through their leadership and involvement in extracurricular activities.

All members of the Brown community, including peers and alums, can nominate a current senior for the award. A selection committee then evaluates the nominees based not only on their commitment to and impact on the Brown community but also on personal character.

Aiming to grant around 10 awards, the committee selects recipients who represent different kinds of leadership that exist on campus.

“There is an interplay between the accomplishments of the individuals and the sense of the whole,” said Ricky Gresh, head of the nomination committee and senior director for student engagement.

This year, 12 nominees were selected — seniors Benjamin Marcus, Rahel Dette, Sarah Forman, Emily Gonzalez, Lindsay Nickel, Andrew Kim, Gopika Krishna, Alexandra Linn, Evan Schwartz, Ryan McDuff, Gladys Ndagire and Rebecca Rast.


Benjamin Marcus

Marcus has worked to improve religious literacy of Brown students. He started the not-for-credit course “Brown Religious Literacy Project” and served as co-leader of the Religious Studies Department Undergraduate Group. He was a Meiklejohn and is a member of the Campus Access Advisory Committee.

In the competing roles of a student in the Religious Studies department and a worker in the Office of the Chaplains, Marcus experienced different approaches to religion and learned its pervasiveness in diverse issues. Just as his course expands students’ understanding of this pervasiveness, Marcus said his work in Religious Studies helped him “learn to be comfortable in liminality.”

“I came to Brown wanting a concrete identity,” he said. “This taught me to be comfortable standing on shaky ground.”


Sarah Forman, former Herald senior staff writer 

A Middle Eastern studies and chemistry double concentrator, Forman has been involved in the Women’s Peer Counselor program, now in the capacity  as a Community Assistant. She is also involved with Brown RISD Hillel and the interfaith community. Listening to the experiences of first-years as a WPC exposed her to the many differences among her peers, she said.

“There isn’t just one right way to do something,” she said, adding that she has loved learning from the diverse people in each of the communities of which she is a member.

Forman nominated her peers for Joslin awards. She said standing among them as a recipient is “really humbling.”


Emily Gonzalez

“My biggest challenge as a freshman was asking for help,” Gonzalez said. Involved in the Third World Center, specifically with the Latino community, Gonzalez has worked to support underclassmen who were like her — confused about where they fit at Brown. Gonzalez was also a Minority Peer Counselor and participates in the Brown Arts Mentoring Program through the Swearer Center.

She said working with the TWC has helped shape her own identity as much as it did the identities of the people she advised. “It’s important to be a person of value rather than success,” she said, citing one of her favorite sayings.

Receiving the award “is kind of like a pat on the back that I’m doing okay,” she said, adding that her nomination held particular meaning because she had only just met the person who nominated her.


Lindsay Nickel

A community health concentrator and member of the women’s basketball team, Nickel has been very involved in the student-athlete community on campus and abroad. A recipient of the Royce Fellowship, Nickel led an AIDS awareness curriculum in South Africa for students ages 11-17. There she combined her passions for sports and health as she engaged youth in basketball games while informing them about AIDS and life skills. She said she felt a stronger dedication to the Brown community after she returned from South Africa.

“I felt the need to not be defined by my sport and to take advantage of my opportunities here,” she said. Nickel has also completed an UTRA on student-athlete drinking behavior and is the co-president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.


Andrew Kim

As a first-year, Kim said he knew he wanted to improve health access around the world. He is a cofounder of Students for Students: South Sudan, a medical student organization that helps develop medical education for aspiring doctors in South Sudan — the world’s youngest nation. He said the group has helped him learn the mechanics of fundraising and running an organization, but his involvement with faith at the University has allowed him the most personal growth. Becoming involved with the Brown Christian Fellowship “taught me a lot and was very surprising for me,” he said. He is now a core group leader of the Brown Christian Fellowship and cofounder of the Brown Cornerstone, a Christian literary arts magazine.


Gopika Krishna

“I didn’t come to Brown thinking I could be a leader because I didn’t have those traditional leadership qualities,” Krishna said, reflecting on her freshman self. Her involvement with the TWC showed her that she could be a leader as an active listener. A Minority Peer Counselor as a sophomore and now a Minority Peer Counselor Friend who leads workshops and other TWC events, Krishna said she found a space where she could create change.

Krishna has also participated in Sexual Health Awareness Group and FemSex over her four years at Brown.

Through these experiences, she was able to become more in touch with other parts of her identity, she said.

“(These activities) made me grapple with different aspects of myself and learn self-advocacy,” she said.

She said receiving the Joslin Award was both a complete surprise and an affirmation of the great relationships she has formed here. “It tells me I’ve become somewhat of a leader,” she added.


Alexandra Linn

“It’s so cool to be honored for something that you do just because you love it,” Linn said about receiving the Joslin Award.

Linn has worked as a coordinator for the Women in Science and Engineering program, a Meiklejohn and a Teaching Assistant — only three of her many mentoring roles on campus. She said her desire to get a job with Teach for America in Chicago evolved from her advising roles at Brown.

Originally overwhelmed as a freshman, Linn participated in Brown Outdoor Leadership Training  before her sophomore year. She said this trip improved her Brown experience because she was able to meet so many people. Linn became a BOLT leader and has inspired many of her ‘BOLTees’ to become leaders themselves, she said.

Mentoring is enjoyable because “not only do I advise and mentor them, but they advise me,” she said.


Evan Schwartz

Schwartz has worked to help Brown students study what they enjoy and communicate about the structure of their education through the Brown Conversation, which he helped found. He also works at the Curricular Resource Center as a coordinator of Independent Concentrations and Studies.


Ryan McDuff

McDuff is a co-president of the men’s  soccer team and uses his passion for sports to give back to the Brown community. He is currently co-president of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee, helping to bridge the gap between athletes and non-athletes. As a Business, Entrepreneurship and Organization concentrator, he helps younger students as a Meiklejohn and as Head Teaching Assistant of ENGN 0900: “Managerial Decision Making.”

“As a freshman, I thought I knew how to lead,” McDuff said. “I have learned a lot but overall have learned that I still have so much to learn.”


Gladys Ndagire

“You know when you do something and don’t expect any reward?” Ndagire asked. “And then your friends recognize you? It’s exciting.”

Growing up in Uganda, Ndagire said she was in an environment where someone was always in need. “For me, it feels like an instinct to be like, ‘Oh, can I help you?’” she said. On campus, Ndagire has helped the Brown community through her work as an Residential Peer Leader, as an academic advisor and as part of the African Students Association.

During her freshman year, she saw involvement in these communities as a way to make friends and learn from her peers, she said. Now as a senior, she said, “I’m very proud to be a mentor and be in a position where I can share my experiences.”


Rebecca Rast

Rast entered Brown with a desire to pursue social justice after being involved in community organization around the wars in Iraq in high school. She became involved with the Student Labor Alliance at the beginning of her freshman year. Now on the board of Rhode Island Jobs for Justice, a major participant in the Brown Divest Coal Campaign and a coordinator of emPower, she said she has “tried to push Brown in a positive direction with social justice and with Providence.” From her experience, she realized the extent of Brown’s impact on the city, she added.

Rast, who is concentrating in environmental studies, said it was an honor to be nominated for the Joslin Award by people who have given her so much.


The magic number twelve

The Joslin Awards are very competitive, and “making the cut is a pretty hard decision,” Gresh said, adding that the committee tries to limit the number of winners to 10 to avoid diluting the impact of the award. Character aspect plays a large part in selection, Gresh said.

“You could tell that the person would say, ‘You’re choosing me? What about everyone else?’” he added.


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