Service-minded students awarded scholarships through Center for Civic Leadership

Rice students were awarded $35,000 in scholarships and prizes for their charitable commitments to the Rice community and beyond. (Photo by Katharine Shilcutt)

Rice students were awarded $35k in scholarships and prizes for their charitable commitments to the Rice community and beyond. (Photo by Katharine Shilcutt)

A generous $35K in scholarships and prizes was given to students at the Center for Civic Leadership’s (CCL) 2018 Service Awards ceremony April 23 at Farnsworth Pavilion in the Ley Student Center.

Hanszen College junior Akash Dhawan and McMurtry College junior Emma McCormick, Rice Student Volunteer Program co-presidents, served as masters of ceremonies and welcomed the scholarship donors and community partners that made the awards possible.

“As a graduate of Rice University many years ago, I have continuously been inspired by the vibrant way in which students engage our community,” said John Collier, executive director of Caring Friends In Deed, which provides an annual scholarship of $2,000 to students whose religious, humanitarian or philosophical traditions support their commitment to compassionate service.

“Each time I come onto the campus — whether it’s visiting Engineers Without Borders or whether it’s with the Partnership for the Advancement and Immersion of Refugees program or (the Rice 360˚ Institute for Global Health) in the engineering design lab — it’s just inspiring to those of us who are a far different generation to see the kind of life and vitality that’s coming from Rice students, connecting not only your uncommon intellectual gifts, which are quite obvious, but the generosity of your heart and spirit,” Collier added.

Mac Jensen, who headed up this year’s Caring Friends In Deed scholarship committee, agreed, explaining that it was impossible to choose just one Rice student to recognize in 2018 — which is how the scholarship, which is normally in the amount of $2,500 for one student, ended up being awarded to two: McMurtry College sophomore Shravya Kakulamarri and McMurtry College junior Elijah Li.

“The quality of the submissions we had this year was very high and it made our selection very difficult,” said Jensen. “We came up with an absolute tie with no objective way to break that tie. Shravya shared how dharma and Hindu scriptures undergird her personal commitment to compassionate service toward others at risk. Elijah tied his personal commitment to those in need to the life of Christ, being inspired and nurtured by his example.”

Faced with the tie, Jensen said: “We added $500 to the annual award, divided that number by two, and today we present Shravya and Elijah with $1,500 awards.”

Honey Leveen represented the West University Rotary Club, which presented a $3,000 scholarship to Martel College junior Thresa Skeslien-Jenkins. “Wherever she’s needed, she pitches in,” Leveen said of Skeslien-Jenkins, who is involved in Teach For America, Community Bridges, BakerRipley, America Reads, Rice Splash and Friendship House, among many other activities. “If they need extra volunteers at the Chevron Houston Marathon, she jumps in; same thing with Covenant House food bank, End Violence and Rise Against Hunger.”

The Alan Grob Prize is named in honor of “a great teacher of literature at Rice University,” said Dhawan, “for 40 years a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves.” The $5,000 scholarship was divided among three undergraduates whose service to the larger community demonstrated devotion to the needs and interests of the economically and culturally disadvantaged: Brown College senior Isabel Patten, Lovett College junior Alberto Maldonado and Sid Richardson senior Michelle Tran.

Patten, who was awarded $2,000, is the co-president of the American Association of University Women and has organized voter registration drives when not studying sociology. Upon graduation in May, she be teaching eighth-grade English at YES Prep Southwest through Teach For America. Maldonado, who was also awarded $2,000, has served as vice president of Generation College since his freshman year and currently serves as co-president of the Hispanic Association for Cultural Enrichment at Rice. The civil and environmental engineering major hopes to open a federally qualified health center dedicated to serving low-income residents and undocumented immigrants. Tran, who was awarded $1,000, founded the American Red Cross chapter at Rice and is president of Rice Women in STEM. She spent a summer serving at a public health center in Nicaragua with the Foundation for Sustainable Development and hopes to one day develop solutions to women’s cancers across the world.

The annual Morty Rich Scholarship awarded $24,000 this year to three students: Brown College junior Carly Frieders, Lovett College senior Chloe Wilson and McMurtry College junior Mahesh Krishna. “The recipients have recognized a need in the community, developed objectives and implemented or established programs that would benefit the community, and will realize no personal gain for these efforts,” said McCormick.

Krishna, who was awarded $4,000, works with Rice’s English as a Second Language program as a conversation partner in addition to helping high school students with scientific research papers and playing sports with children who have disabilities. The double major in policy studies and biochemistry and cell biology hopes to one day found his own nonprofit to provide better information and quality of care to people with chronic illnesses.

Wilson, who was awarded $10,000, has served as the co-president of the American Association of University Women and the advocacy coordinator of the Rice Women’s Resource Center in addition to her work with Rice’s Partnership for the Advancement and Immersion of Refugees. In her capacity as the outreach coordinator for Lovett College, she rallied her fellow Lovetteers to action in flood-stricken Houston neighborhoods following Hurricane Harvey.

Frieders, who was awarded $10,000, has worked with the Rice chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and Mi Familia Vota to organize voter registration drives and helped organize the Rice Unites for DACA rally in March. She currently serves as student ambassador for the Center for Civic Leadership, where she first became involved in advocacy and service work during her freshman year.

“I’m so impressed by those of you being recognized today because you came to Rice and you thought about your education in a much broader way than many students do,” said Caroline Quenemoen, the associate dean of undergraduates and director of Inquiry-Based Learning, who oversees the CCL. “We all know there are many students who just think about a Rice education being books, tests, papers and study, study, study and don’t think more broadly about why they are studying. For all of you, this incredible education, this knowledge you’re building at this university, is to put toward the larger public good. We all applaud you.”

About Katharine Shilcutt

Katharine Shilcutt is a media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.