Eleven graduating seniors honored with top Yale College prizes
Eleven members of the Yale College Class of 2023 who distinguished themselves in the classroom, on the athletic field, and in their communities were honored with top prizes today in one of Class Day’s most treasured traditions. The prizes were awarded by Yale College Dean Pericles Lewis and other Yale leaders.
The recipients of the top five academic prizes will have the privilege of carrying an official flag or banner during the Yale Commencement procession on May 22. The winner of the Warren Memorial Prize carries the American ﬂag. The winner of the Russell Henry Chittenden Prize carries the Connecticut ﬂag. The winner of the Arthur Twining Hadley Prize carries the Yale College banner. The winners of the Sudler Prize carry the president’s banners. Finally, the winner of the Alpheus Henry Snow Prize carries the Yale University banner.
The names of the prizewinners, and their citations, are listed below, in the order of their presentation.
The Nellie Pratt Elliot Award
Awarded to a senior woman who, on the field of play and in her life at Yale, best represents the highest ideals of American sportsmanship and Yale tradition.
AMI GIANCHANDANI, Ezra Stiles College
“She is one of the greatest Yale women golfers of all time. In a sport where lower scores are better, she has the lowest scoring average of any woman Yale golfer ever. She also has the lowest career scoring average of any Yale woman golfer ever. That’s amazing!
“She also holds the 18-hole and 54-hole Yale women’s golf scoring record. And as an undergraduate, she has been an elite enough golfer to play in the U.S. Women’s Amateur Golf Tournament three times, in 2019, 2020, and 2021.
“But that’s not all. While doing all of this she earned a 3.63 grade average in Statistics and Data Science, graduating with distinction in the major, and received the Francis Gordon Brown Prize last fall — all while being the first Yale student to be the vice chair of the NCAA Division I Student Athlete Advisory Committee. Her coach calls her one of the hardest working individuals she has ever met, a creative problem solver, and her team’s biggest cheerleader.
“For representing tremendous athletic accomplishment on the field, and for being everything that a Yale student-athlete should be off the field, Yale takes pride in awarding the Nellie P. Elliott Award to Ami Gianchandani.”
The William Neely Mallory Award
Awarded to a senior man who, on the field of play and in his life at Yale, best represents the highest ideals of American sportsmanship and Yale tradition.
DAN WILLIAMSON, Pauli Murray College
“In a collegiate rowing program that is one of the best, if not the best, in the nation, he stands out. An Olympic competitor in the summer 2021 games, who returned to Yale with a gold medal that marked him as one of the most elite rowers in the world, he nevertheless has given his very best to his college.
“He was the first first-year oarsmen at Yale ever to sit in the stroke seat of the winning Varsity 8. He was a member of the 2019 and 2022 IRA national championship crew — and in the years in between when COVID canceled Yale’s rowing season.
“An Astronomy major with a 3.39 average, his athletic achievement has been called by his coach — one of the greatest rowing coaches of all time — “close to incomprehensible.”
“For his tremendous athletic accomplishment on one of the greatest Yale rowing teams of all time, his relentlessly hard work, and his excellence as a person and a teammate on a team that requires that every man pull hard at the oar, Yale takes great pride in awarding the William Neely Mallory Award to Dan Williamson.”
The Nakanishi Prize
Awarded to two graduating seniors who, while maintaining high academic achievement, have provided exemplary leadership in enhancing race and/or ethnic relations at Yale College.
SHAEZMINA KHAN, Trumbull College
“Shaezmina Khan has been a powerful force for community on and beyond our campus. A political chair, then president, of the Muslim Students Association, she has created interfaith partnerships and service projects for the Yale and New Haven communities. She has also promoted social justice by building bridges among student organizations, bringing them together on phone banks, vigils, and fundraisers in the wake of the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
“A Global Affairs major graduating cum laude, Shaezmina’s view of community extends past the bounds of the Yale campus. As the executive director of Yale’s International Relations Association, she has devoted herself to refugee populations, cultural coalition building, and marginalized communities. Shaezmina organized the first-ever “Yale 4 Afghanistan” fundraiser, then worked with New Haven community groups to help with local refugee resettlement. She has also created events to raise awareness of Uyghur genocide and to support the Ukrainian people.
“Friends and nominators describe Shaezmina as an activist with a keen desire to engage with issues of human rights and human dignity through education and advocacy. She facilitates spaces where students can learn from and engage with contemporary challenges.
“For her extraordinary service and leadership, Yale College is honored to award the Nakanishi Prize to Shaezmina Khan.”
KAREN LI, Pauli Murray College
“Karen Li has committed herself to fostering community. A joyful volunteer and a fierce advocate for low-income and first-generation students, she has served as co-president for Yale’s QuestBridge chapter and its FGLI Advocacy Movement. Karen is an Ethnicity, Race, and Migration major who has made meaningful connections between her studies and her commitment to community. She served as a facilitator for the inaugural cohort of Coalition of Allyship Advocates for the university’s Office of Student Life, an organization that provides Yale College Students with access to DEI training and programs. Together with other students, she has developed workshops on race, power, and privilege with the goal of creating an inclusive environment at Yale and beyond. Karen has also served as a staff member for the Asian American Cultural Center, where she facilitated retreats, ongoing programming, and special events like the 40th AACC’s Anniversary event.
“Karen’s peers know her as a positive and powerful force for building community, and for fostering inclusivity and belonging. Just as important, they praise her for promoting racial equality as a life-long effort that calls for consistent care, betterment, and thought.
“For her leadership and her commitment to community, Yale College is honored to award the Nakanishi Prize to Karen Li.”
The James Andrew Haas Prize
Awarded to that senior whose breadth of intellectual achievement, strength of character, and fundamental humanity shall be adjudged by the faculty to have provided leadership for his or her fellow students, inspiring in them a love of learning and concern for others.
JULIA HONTARUK-LEVKO, Branford College
“Julia Hontaruk-Levko graduates cum laude with distinction in her major, Sociology (Intensive). Dedicated to gender equity and human rights, Julia has combined her academic pursuits with a rich record of service. She has served as the initial undergraduate director of the Lowenstein International Human Rights Project at the Law School, as a European Studies Undergraduate Fellow at the MacMillan Center, and as a policy intern with the City of New Haven. Earlier this year, she was the recipient of the Roosevelt L. Thompson Prize, awarded by the Council of Heads of College for service to the college and the community.
“Julia’s commitment to inclusion has left its mark: as head aide in the Branford College Office, she has been integral to our community’s recovery from the pandemic. As part of Matriculate at Yale, she has supported students around the U.S. to apply to college, developing remote programming for underserved communities. In her leadership of the Yale Slavic Chorus, she has uplifted the voices of a diverse group of singers, on and off the stage. She has been a tireless advocate for those affected by the war in Ukraine, and an educator on the conflict’s most complex questions.
“For her outstanding academic achievements and her impressive record of public service, Yale College is proud to bestow the James Andrew Haas Memorial Prize upon Julia Hontaruk-Levko.”
The Warren Memorial Prize
Awarded to the graduating senior majoring in the humanities who ranks highest in scholarship.
ADAM DAVID CHEN, Timothy Dwight College
“Adam Chen graduates summa cum laude with distinction in his major, History of Art, and with the degrees of Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts. Elected to Phi Beta Kappa after only four terms of enrollment, and the recipient of this year's Wrexham Prize in the Humanities, he has completed 43.5 credits with no grade other than a straight A.
“He has been an extraordinary student and practitioner of the arts and humanities. He has co-curated an exhibition of 17th-century Dutch art for the Yale University Art Gallery and Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. He is also a musician who has been part of the Guild of Carillonneurs and a pianist in the Timothy Dwight College orchestra.
“In recognition of his extraordinary scholarly achievements and the depth of his intellectual and cultural commitments, Yale College is proud to award the Warren Memorial High Scholarship Prize this year to Adam David Chen.”
The Arthur Twining Hadley Prize
Awarded to the graduating senior majoring in the social sciences who ranks highest in scholarship.
AARON J. DICKSTEIN, Saybrook College
“Aaron Dickstein graduates summa cum laude. A double major, with Economics & Mathematics as his first major and Statistics and Data Science his second, he also graduates with distinction in Economics & Mathematics. He was elected to Phi Beta Kappa in the spring of 2022, his first term of eligibility, and even before then his instructors have commended him again and again for performing at the top of his courses.
“Aaron has also served as an Economics research assistant. Using data on academic publications, he has written scripts to track the success of doctorate recipients. He has been instrumental in campus organizations like Fed Challenge, Mathcounts, and Hack Yale. He has also been a valued presence in the Yale Political Union and YIHY, Yale’s community organization for Orthodox Jewish students, and an MVP on the intramural basketball and chess teams.
“A gifted scholar at home in academia, he is beginning his professional path in the private sector as a quantitative researcher in the months ahead.
“In recognition of his exceptional record and promise of future success, Yale College proudly confers the Arthur Twining High Scholarship prize this year upon Aaron Dickstein.”
The Russell Henry Chittenden Prize
Awarded to the graduating senior majoring in the natural sciences who ranks highest in scholarship.
NGA NHI NGUYEN, Trumbull College
“Nhi Nguyen was elected to Phi Beta Kappa in her junior year and graduates summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and Applied Mathematics, with distinction in her major, and with a Master of Science in Computer Science. But “distinction” applies to her entire academic record at Yale: She has earned an A in every one of her 45 course credits.
“Outside of the classroom, Nhi has devoted herself to teaching: She has served as an undergraduate learning assistant for nine different courses over three years in the Departments of Mathematics, Computer Science, Statistics & Data Science and Economics, and she has also served as a grader for the Mathematics department for three years. Nhi has also been an active participant and board member of the Vietnamese Students Association at Yale, providing leadership as social chair, secretary and co-president. She has also been on the Events Team for the Computer Science Society.
“An aspiring professor, Nhi will begin her graduate studies at NYU this fall, where she plans to pursue a Ph.D. in Computer Science.
“For her exceptional scholarship and future promise in her field, Yale College proudly awards the Russell Henry Chittenden Prize to Nhi Nguyen.”
The Louis Sudler Prize
Awarded to two graduating seniors for excellence in the performing or creative arts.
DIEGO MIRÓ (creative arts), Trumbull College
“Diego Miró graduates cum laude with distinction in both of his majors, Art and Cognitive Science. More than a visual artist — or even thinker, seer, or doer — he is a dreamer who opens his audiences’ eyes to new ways of looking at the world around them. Through interventions and installations designed to change perspectives and moods, and by turns grandiose and subtle, even sly, Diego is acutely aware that he has the ability to alter the reality we interact with as we go about our daily lives. Through his art, he strives to change the world one moment of beauty and poetry at a time.
“And in this same spirit of change, Diego in his unofficial role as Mayor of the Art Major Class of 2023 has also laid the foundation for the first-ever, dedicated undergraduate art space, providing a much-needed outlet for collaborative work and curatorial practice.
“For his ambitious nature, his vision, and his gifts for bringing dreams to life, Yale College is delighted to award the Louis Sudler Prize for Excellence in the Creative Arts to Diego Miró.”
ANNELISE RATNER (performing arts), Silliman College
“Annelise Ratner graduates summa cum laude with distinction in her major, Film and Media Studies. Her films are formally inventive, emotionally resonant, and deeply thoughtful, and they explore complex, intensely personal subjects with courage and creativity. A child and grandchild of survivors of the Cambodian genocide, Annelise has used her artistic practice to excavate and share the truths — of intergenerational trauma, of grief, of grace — that have shaped her. Whether using hand-drawn animation to transform archival news footage into pointed poetry, or light, sound, and set dressing to turn a safe suburban home into a fraught fantastical dreamscape, Annelise creates richly layered works of cinema.
“Ambitious and meticulous as a writer and director, Annelise is also gifted and giving as a producer, cinematographer, and mentor. Through her work with Yale Cinematic Productions and her service on countless student film sets, Annelise has invested as much care in the growth of her fellow students as she has in her own.
“For her exceptional talent as a filmmaker, and for her lasting contributions to Yale’s film culture, Yale College is delighted to award the Louis Sudler Prize for Excellence in the Performing Arts to Annelise Ratner.”
The Alpheus Henry Snow Prize
Awarded to the senior who, through the combination of intellectual achievement, character, and personality, shall be adjudged by the faculty to have done most for Yale by inspiring in his or her classmates an admiration for the traditions of high scholarship.
MICHAEL CHEN, Branford College
“Michael Chen graduates cum laude with distinction in his two majors: Political Science and Ethnicity, Race, and Migration. Elected to PBK at commencement, he has also completed the Brady-Johnson Program in Grand Strategy and an Advanced Language Certificate in Chinese. A finalist for the Rhodes and Keasbey Scholarships, next year Michael will pursue a Masters in Migration Studies at Oxford University as a Marshall Scholar.
“Michael, who previously received Yale’s David Everett Chantler Award, is guided by his ethical commitments in his scholarship and service. His senior thesis, which celebrates the efforts of immigrant communities to secure the Elm City Resident Card, was awarded the Richard Hegel Prize for excellence in scholarship about New Haven. Michael has also served as co-director of New Haven’s Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services’ census project, as a research assistant for the Law School’s Lowenstein Human Rights Project and its Justice Collaboratory, and as an intern with the Legal Aid Society Immigration Law Unit in New York City.
“A first-generation, low-income student [FGLI], Michael has been a transformative advocate for the FGLI community. He was Head Recruitment Coordinator for Yale Admissions, Lead Academic Strategies Mentor for the Poorvu Center, Peer Liaison for the Asian-American Cultural Center, and a First-Year Counselor for Branford. His efforts in expanding the “Yale & You” program for FGLI applicants resulted in an unprecedented yield for the class of 2027, the most diverse in Yale’s history.
“For his remarkable generosity toward others, for all that he has done, and in admiring anticipation of all he will do, Yale College takes great pleasure in bestowing the Alpheus Henry Snow Prize upon Michael Chen.”