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The College recognizes academic excellence with fall 2023 Dean’s Medalists

Hand holding a Dean's Medal in front of a large 2023 sign.

Photo by Meghan Finnerty

December 07, 2023

On Dec. 12, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University will recognize its highest-achieving students from the humanities, natural sciences and social sciences at the fall 2023 convocation ceremony.

Each semester, departments and schools within The College select outstanding students who have demonstrated a steadfast commitment to academic excellence while at ASU. These students are awarded the prestigious Dean’s Medal for their academic achievements.

Meet the outstanding Dean’s Medalist awardees from The College for fall 2023:

Austin Adams. Photo by Meghan Finnerty

Austin Adams

Dean’s Medal: School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences

Major: Actuarial science

An Illinois native, Adams excelled in his coursework and internships while pursuing his degree in actuarial science at ASU.

Adams was treasurer of Gamma Iota Sigma Kappa and a member of the ASU Actuarial Science Program, where he collaborated on hands-on projects with other members.

He also interned with Toyota Financial Services, helping to price insurance and warranty products offered to vehicle buyers. Currently, he is an intern with an insurance company based in Scottsdale.

Adams plans to finish his Master of Science in the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences's accelerated program next fall.

Fajr Ahmad. Photo by Meghan Finnerty

Fajr Ahmad

Dean’s Medal: Hugh Downs School of Human Communication

Major: Communication

Ahmad, a Barrett, The Honors College student, received a bachelor’s degree in communication.

While at ASU, Ahmad studied abroad in London, Dublin and Edinburgh, Scotland, and held a research position in Alberta with Fulbright Canada — Mitacs Globalink Research Internship, studying political perceptions of local communities.

As a mentor in the Barrett Mentoring Program, she supported other undergraduate students in pursuing their passions in the social sciences.

Ahmad hopes to pursue higher education and obtain a degree in educational policy.

Cameron Batchelor. Courtesy photo

Cameron Batchelor

Dean’s Medal: School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning

Major: Geography

Certificate: Geographic information science

A decorated, active service member in the United States Army, Batchelor received his bachelor’s degree in geography while completing a certificate in geographic information science.

He currently serves as a geospatial intelligence analyst with the U.S. Army, helping to solve national challenges in defense, intelligence, humanities and beyond. Batchelor was the first soldier to serve in the United States Space Force.

While completing his degree at ASU, he studied the effects of continuously transforming the urban geography in Southwest Washington, D.C., and through his certificate program in geographic information science, he studied the propensity for wildfires in New Mexico.

Looking ahead, Batchelor is excited about using the skills and experience he learned during his education to help serve his country with the Army.

Analicia Castro. Photo by Meghan Finnerty

Analicia Castro

Dean’s Medal: T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics

Major: Sociology

Minor: Transborder Chicana/o and Latina/o studies

Certificate: Social research methods

A first-generation college student, Castro received her degree in sociology and a minor in transborder Chicana/o and Latina/o studies.

Castro maintained a 4.4 GPA at ASU and participated in a research project on romance and dating for her sociology degree in later life. As part of her transborder studies minor, she assisted in a study on American Indian youth and resilience.

In the ASU community, she represented the Sanford school as a welcome speaker and helped mentor a cohort of first-year students with The Sociology of Summer Camp.

She plans to attend graduate school and obtain her PhD in sociology to become a professor. She hopes to foster a sense of community within academics in ways that have helped her feel supported and connected.

Meghna Chowdhury. Photo by Meghan Finnerty

Meghna Chowdhury

Dean’s Medal: Department of Psychology

Major: Psychology

Certificate: Law and human behavior

A Barrett student, Chowdhury is graduating with a Bachelor of Science in psychology with a certificate in law and human behavior.

As a student, Chowdhury participated in Project Excellence, which exposed her to law courses and faculty members. She took a course in public interest litigation and pursued a research position studying electronic incarceration technologies in the Anti-Racist Digital Health Futures Lab.

Following her sophomore year, she studied abroad in London with the Exit Foundation, an organization dedicated to helping youth involved in the criminal justice system.

That experience allowed her to see the importance of mentorship. It opened her mind to a whole new world that she is passionate about, ultimately inspiring her to attend law school after graduation.

Kaley Danks. Photo by Meghan Finnerty

Kaley Danks

Dean’s Medal: School of International Letters and Cultures

Major: Spanish, biological sciences (biology and society)

Danks, a Barrett student, pursued a double major in Spanish and biological sciences with an emphasis on biology and society during her time at ASU.

While completing her degree, Danks prepared a strategic three-year business plan for a hypothetical nonprofit immigration law firm, inspired by her passion for the caretaking of refugees, and presented it to U.S. officials.

A Beus Family Scholarship recipient, Danks interned for Congressman Joe Wilson in Washington, D.C., where she helped draft speeches, attended hearings, and learned the ins and outs of working in politics.

Outside the classroom, she was a youth ambassador and counselor for Phoenix Sister Cities and participated in church-related volunteer work.

Alexander Graf. Courtesy photo

Alexander Graf

Dean’s Medal: School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies

Major: History, philosophy (morality, politics and law), political science and religious studies (religion, culture and public life)

A Washington native, Graf moved south to Arizona and pursued concurrent degrees in history, philosophy, political science and religious studies at ASU.

Graf navigated all four degrees and demonstrated professionalism and dedication to his work and research.

While completing his degree, he wrote impactful essays on religion, ethics and international affairs. He dug deep into the idea of climate skepticism among American Evangelicals, relating it to a longstanding history of distrust in scientific knowledge.

An excellent student with impressive attention to detail and leadership skills, Graf can tackle whatever he sets his mind to, according to his professors.

Thea Eigo. Photo by Meghan Finnerty

Thea Eigo

Dean’s Medal: School of Social Transformation

Major: Gender, women and sexuality studies

Minor: Asian Pacific American studies

Eigo came to ASU in 2019 to pursue a degree in women and gender studies.

A remarkable student, they were described by their professors in the School of Social Transformation as best illustrating the school's values. Eigo has maintained a 3.91 GPA and was named to the Dean’s List three times.

Eigo followed their passions in gender and racial justice, LGBTQ, and Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Their research was community-embedded as they worked alongside local organizations involved in sexual violence prevention and justice.

At ASU, they served in different capacities with the Asian/Asian Pacific American Student Coalition, planning events and overseeing the coalition's operations. Eigo also interned with Stop AAPI Hate, assisting in the creation of policy regarding anti-Asian hate crimes.

After graduation, Eigo will continue to pursue their passions and commit to always serving their community in whichever capacity they choose.

Rachel Einecker. Photo by Meghan Finnerty

Rachel Einecker

Dean’s Medal: School of Molecular Sciences

Major: Chemistry (environmental chemistry)

Einecker, a Barrett student, is graduating with a degree in environmental chemistry.

While completing her degree, she actively researched biogeochemical processes in sediments. During her summer fellowship with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, she measured various chemical and nutrient parameters in the Herring Estuary River of Massachusetts.

In addition to her academic and research pursuits, Einekcer actively supports her peers in their research. Her talents extend beyond the lab, as she is a gifted musician and actively involved in community service.

Her multifaceted talents and academic achievements have prepared her for any challenges that come her way.

Brandon Lewis. Photo by Meghan Finnerty

Brandon Lewis

Dean’s Medal: Department of Military Science

Major: Mechanical engineering

Minor: Military leadership

Lewis received his degree in mechanical engineering and a minor in military leadership and is a member of ASU’s Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC).

He joined the program in 2019 and has represented ASU in a national internship at MIT Lincoln Laboratory. He also completed Cadet Summer Training at Fort Knox, Kentucky, and graduated with high marks from the U.S. Army Mountain Warfare Course.

He displayed the highest levels of leadership and was hand-picked to serve as a cadet company commander, leading and mentoring 42 cadets.

Upon receiving his commission, he will serve in the Army Reserves as a second lieutenant and work at Honeywell as a mechanical engineer.

Manuel Lewis. Photo by Meghan Finnerty

Manuel Lewis

Dean’s Medal: School of Human Evolution and Social Change

Major: Anthropology

A first-generation college student, Lewis came to ASU as a transfer student to pursue his degree in anthropology.

He acclimated quickly into the ASU community, bringing enthusiasm and dedication to his coursework and social science research opportunities. While interning at ASU’s Center for Archaeology and Society Repository, Lewis collected data at a local O’odham archaeological site and collaborated with nearby tribal governments on various cultural and historic preservation efforts.

Outside the classroom, Lewis works full time as an emergency telephone operator for the Gila River police and fire departments.

Upon graduation, he plans to continue his education and pursue a legal career.

Alena McQuarter. Courtesy photo

Alena McQuarter

Dean’s Medal: School of Life Sciences

Major: Biological sciences (biomedical sciences)

Minor: Global health

McQuarter, a Barrett student, received her degree in biological sciences with an emphasis on biomedical sciences.

Alena has made national headlines for her academic achievements. At 13, she became the youngest Black student accepted into medical school only a year after graduating high school.

While completing her degree at ASU, she worked with Meghan Jehn on the Clean Indoor Air Project and with the Student Outbreak Response Team (SORT). She also became the youngest intern at NASA in 2021, working in their jet propulsion laboratory.

She’s received several awards and honors, including the United States Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award and being named one of Hope Magazine's Top 25 Women of the Year in 2022. 

In the community, she also founded The Brown STEM Girl, a platform for girls of color that aims to engage, empower and educate girls as they begin their journey to making a difference in the world through STEM.

Dane Melder. Photo by Meghan Finnerty

Dane Melder

Dean’s Medal: Department of Naval Science

Major: Business communications

Melder is a member of ASU’s Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps and received a bachelor’s degree in business communication.

He exemplifies leadership and academic excellence, serving in battalion roles such as unit sergeant major, command fitness leader and pre-officer candidate school instructor. 

His dedication extends beyond the ASU community, as demonstrated by his work with the Special Olympics, fostering dogs for local animal shelters and tutoring members of the NROTC unit.

Following graduation, he will be commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps and designated as a student naval aviator.

Claire Mullings. Photo by Meghan Finnerty

Claire Mullings

Dean’s Medal: School of Politics and Global Studies

Major: Political science

Minors: Gender, women and sexuality studies, Spanish

Mullings represents the School of Politics and Global Studies as their Dean’s Medal recipient due to her impressive balance of academic accomplishments, professional experiences and volunteerism.

As a student, she has gained extensive experience in politics and law by working on political campaigns, in law offices and in the state legislature.

While completing her degree, she participated in the School of Politics and Global Studies’ Junior Fellows Program, assisting faculty in research on conceptualizing democracy in autocracy settings. 

After graduation, Mullings will be attending law school.

Paden Nevitt. Photo by Meghan Finnerty

Paden Nevitt

Dean’s Medal: Department of Economics

Major: Economics

Minor: Political science

Nevitt received a Bachelor of Science in economics with a minor in political science.

While completing his degree, he worked 30-plus hours weekly for Sugartree Ranch in Coolidge, Arizona, and commuted to ASU’s Tempe campus. Nevitt has worked his way from traditional ranch work to price forecasting and analyzing data as an intern.

Nevitt developed an interest in government and policy work in the money and banking course, where he learned about the effects of Federal Reserve policy. He connected his course experiences with his work in the agriculture sector to better understand both sides.

Upon graduation, he hopes to find work in government or policy that will allow him to draw on his knowledge of economics and political science.

Benjamin Pan. Courtesy photo

Benjamin Pan

Dean’s Medal: Interplanetary Initiative

Major: Technological leadership

Minor: Engineering management

Pan received a bachelor’s degree in technological leadership with a minor in engineering management.

One of the top students in Interplanetary Initiative, his determination and deep thinking challenged him in every aspect of his educational journey.

Throughout his time at ASU, he worked as a researcher with the Mars on the Field initiative, establishing foundational research topics on Mars for a virtual reality experience and using mapping techniques to generate new ideas and identify potential areas for further exploration.

Phillip Raphael. Photo by Meghan Finnerty

Phillip Raphael

Dean’s Medal: American Indian Studies

Major: American Indian studies

Raphael is graduating this fall with a bachelor’s degree in American Indian studies.

He is a member of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community and is passionate about giving back to his community.

During his time at ASU, he learned more about the role of cultural preservation and repatriation efforts in Indigenous communities. 

Raphael will apply what he learned in college to his goal of returning to the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian community to help advance its preservation efforts.

Ellie Smith. Photo by Meghan Finnerty

Ellie Smith

Dean’s Medal: Department of English

Major: Film (film and media studies)

Minor: Film and media production

Smith, an Oregon native, represents the Department of English as a Dean’s Medalist, receiving a bachelor’s degree in film and media studies.

While completing her degree, Smith studied art and architecture abroad in Rome. She honed her skills by completing an industry-focused internship with two summer film institutes at UCLA, where she pitched her first television show pilot.

Smith is also a published poet and spoke at the first annual Film and Media Studies Student Showcase, reading her essay on performances of femininity on reality television. 

After graduation, she plans to start her career in film and television, hoping to be a showrunner or writer for a television show.

Olivia Stanley. Photo by Meghan Finnerty

Olivia Stanley

Dean’s Medal: School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership

Major: Civic and economic thought and leadership

Certificate: Politics, philosophy and economics

A native of Maine, Stanley pursued a degree in civic and economic thought and leadership at ASU.

As a student, she excelled in her courses and led her community through local political action. She demonstrated the ability to draw on her courses to shape discussion in class and the larger discourse of politics.

Stanley interned with the Flinn Foundation’s Arizona Center for Civic Leadership, providing professional services to individuals and enhancing civic engagement in Arizona through education, engagement and leadership programs.

She was also part of the on-campus sailing club at ASU.

Brigitta Tiff. Photo by Meghan Finnerty

Brigitta Tifft

Dean’s Medal: School of Earth and Space Exploration

Major: Earth and space exploration (geological sciences)

Certificate: Geographic information science

An Arizona native, Tiff pursued a bachelor’s degree in geological sciences and a certificate in geographic information science.

Tiff spent her time at ASU as a trainee geologist, compiling data, preparing reports, creating maps and developing real-time data interpretation and communication strategies for field investigations.

Through some of her most challenging courses, she excelled as a student, made a determined effort to engage with everyone, and was consistently among the first students to be prepared to begin the day’s project.

Samuel Webster. Courtesy photo

Samuel Webster

Dean’s Medal: Department of Physics

Major: Biophysics

As a Barrett student, Webster pursued a degree in physics, focusing on biophysics and answering questions to improve medicine.

While in school, he researched gait changes in male patients with abnormal DaTscans and confirmed synucleinopathy with Associate Professor Daniel Peterson in the Gait and Balance Disorders Laboratory.

Outside of the classroom, Webster works as a medical assistant with the Movement Disorder Center of Arizona, helping patients, assisting with medical procedures and diagnostic testing, research, billing and more.

His passion for research and science has been evident since day one and will continue to shine through in everything he does.

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