Y-Work Awards honor student employees for their dedication, initiative

Dean of Yale College Marvin Chun recognized the 10 student recipients of the inaugural Y-Work Award for Outstanding Undergraduate Student Employees in a reception at the Dean’s Residence.

In his remarks to winners on April 30, Chun praised the students for their “dedication and professionalism in the workplace” and their “initiative and innovation to go above and beyond the call of duty.” He also thanked the supervisors who nominated the award winners for providing “opportunities to extend learning beyond the classroom” and valuable mentorship.

In the 2016-2017 academic year 59% of Yale undergraduates held an on-campus job, working an average of four hours per week. Those students earned a total of more than $5.6 million from on-campus jobs, and 84% of the Class of 2017 graduated with no loan debt. 

The Yale College Dean’s Office created the Y-Work Award to celebrate student employment on campus and to highlight great opportunities for and critical contributions by our student employees.

The 10 winners, listed below, were chosen by a committee composed of representatives from several Yale College administrative offices and resource centers.

10 student recipients of the inaugural Y-Work Award for Outstanding Undergraduate Student Employees.
Top row, left to right: Benito Flores ’20, Jaster Francis ’20, Cesar Garcia Lopez ’18, Raffi Donatich ’19. Bottom row, left to right: Andrew Lingenfelter ’19, Maria Eduarda Santana ’20, Leah Shrestinian ’18, Harper Loonsk ’18. Not pictured: Pong Trairatvorakul ’18 and Sydney Young ’18. (Photo credit: Mara Lavitt)

Cesar Garcia Lopez — Ezra Stiles College ’18

  • Position: Student Museum Assistant
  • Organization: Peabody Museum, Vertebrate Zoology Collection
  • Nominating Supervisor: Greg Watkins-Colwell, Collection Manager, Herpetology and Ichthyology
  • What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned on the job? “Be receptive to new ideas and opportunities. There are so many things I've done at the Peabody simply because I've said yes to new opportunities.”
  • From the nominator: “Cesar's own specimens have been loaned to researchers around the world. In fact, one of his salamander specimens will be the sole representative of its Genus to be C.T. Scanned as part of an NSF-funded initiative. Soon, researchers and educators around the world will have high resolution scan data of a salamander Cesar collected.”

Harper Loonsk — Ezra Stiles College ’18

  • Position: College Aide
  • Organization: Ezra Stiles College Head of College Office
  • Nominating Supervisor: Kathryn Dunn, Senior Administrative Assistant to the Head of Stiles College
  • Favorite Part of the Job: “Working in the Ezra Stiles Head of College Office has introduced me to the most wonderful staff and coworkers on campus and working with them has been a highlight of my Yale experience. Their support and encouragement has empowered me to try new things, find new skills, and find joy on even very hard days. I really value this opportunity.”
  • From the nominator: “Harper’s impact can be felt most in the example she sets for others in her generosity of spirit, thoughtfulness, and enthusiasm and dedication to creating a residential community that truly feels like home away from home for her and her peers.”

Leah Shrestinian — Morse College ’18

  • Position: Head Gallery Guide
  • Organization: Yale University Art Gallery
  • Nominating Supervisor: Daniel Jones, Museum Educator
  • How has your job connected to your career plans? “I'm definitely considering working in art museums or education in the future.”
  • From the nominator: “Leah has consistently challenged me and the group to think differently about the art in the gallery and to consider how our teaching is reflective of our own narratives of the world.”

Pong Trairatvorakul — Ezra Stiles College ’18

  • Position: Student Design Aide
  • Organization: Center for Engineering Innovation and Design
  • Nominating Supervisor: Sofya Zeylikman, Postgraduate Associate in Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science
  • What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned on the job? “The ability to explain concepts to other people. Since the CEID is open to everybody in the Yale community, naturally there are members with various levels of experience with tools in the space and engineering practices. Part of the role is to offer help to other members which often involves explaining how to do a certain thing in a way that will allow them to do it by themselves in the future.”
  • From the Nominator: “Pong and a fellow student put together Arduino and Light Saber workshops at the CEID once a semester. They make sure to poll members after the workshop
  • to see if there are ways they can improve. Pong and his fellow student aide came up with the system completely on their own.”

Sydney Young — Silliman College ’18

  • Position: Student Manager of the Student Developer & Mentorship Program
  • Organization: ITS Campus Community Technologies
  • Nominating Supervisor: Oren Kanner, Software Engineer & Application Development Manager
  • From the Nominator: “Sydney came to Yale with an impressive skill set to begin with, and immediately jumped in to start working on an application used by over 20 libraries and departments across campus to manage equipment lending. She was quick to learn new skills or more advanced techniques and apply them to her work, as well as take on more of a leadership role on the team, starting within a year of being a student developer.”
Cesar Garcia Lopez ’18 receives his award from Dean Chun.
Cesar Garcia Lopez ’18 receives his award from Dean Chun. (Photo credit: Mara Lavitt)

Raffi Donatich — Berkeley College ’19

  • Position: Student Research Assistant
  • Organization: Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library - Collection of American Literature and James Weldon Johnson Memorial Collection of African American Arts and Letters
  • Nominating Supervisor: Nancy Kuhl, Curator
  • How has your job connected to something you’ve studied? “The opportunity to read James Baldwin's drafts, Gertrude Stein's letters, or study the different covers of Leaves of Grass has enriched my education in American literature exponentially.”
  • From the Nominator: “Raffi has proposed creative and compelling research projects in our collections and used her work to expose important areas of our holdings. Raffi’s research has helped highlight materials other students might investigate in the Beinecke’s collections.”   

Andrew Lingenfelter — Morse College ’19

  • Position: Lab Assistant
  • Organization: Quantronics Lab, Applied Physics
  • Nominating Supervisor: Shyam Shankar, Senior Research Scientist
  • How has your job connected to your career plans? “I plan to go to graduate school for physics and hope to stay in academia for my career. Working in an academic physics laboratory has only affirmed my desire to do physics research.”
  • From the nominator: “Andrew started in our lab as a first-year and immediately impressed me… Andrew’s notable quality was an ungrudging willingness to undertake tasks that other students declined, despite being essential to the success of our enterprise, thus saving the lab both money and time.”

Benito Flores — Trumbull College ’20

  • Position: Student Tech
  • Organization: Information Technology Services
  • Nominating Supervisor: Bianca Li, Student Technology Collaborative Coordinator
  • Favorite Part of the Job: “Getting to learn new things that I can immediately do something real with.”
  • From the nominator: “Though Student Techs are only employed for as long as they attend Yale, Benito's hard work on projects will last far beyond his four years as an undergraduate.”

Jaster Francis — Branford College ’20

  • Position: Work Leader
  • Organization: Sterling Memorial Library, Collections Maintenance
  • Nominating Supervisor: Anthony Riccio, Collections Maintenance Supervisor
  • Favorite Part of the Job: “Interacting with the many amazing full-time staff members that work in the Stacks Operation.”
  • From the Nominator: “Jaster is the kind of young leader who sets the highest standards for himself and others, providing a positive example for his peers to follow.”

Maria Eduarda Pimentel Santana — Jonathan Edwards College ’20

  • Position: Peer Tutor, Physics 180 & Physics 181
  • Organization: Yale Physics Department
  • Nominating Supervisor: Adriane Steinacker, Lecturer in Physics
  • From the Nominator: “The impact Maria has had on students in my class is clearly visible in their improvement on exam performances and in their impeccably executed weekly problem sets. Along with this goes my students' growth in self-confidence, which goes in pace with their improved ability to think through problems. For many of them, this would not have happened in the same way without Maria's tireless support.”

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