Meet Our Inaugural ‘Pillar Awards’ Recipients

While the Honors College regularly watches its students excel in a variety of areas both in and outside the classroom, some go above and beyond to truly embody the pillars of the Honors College. Consequently, the Honors College Pillar Awards recognize those individuals who demonstrate great promise in each of our four foundational pillars: Interdisciplinary Academics, Undergraduate Research, Leadership, and Community and Global Engagement.

“Recognizing students for their outstanding achievements is beneficial for their professional development and for subsequent opportunities in their college careers,” explained Rosanne Altstatt, dean’s fellow for Purdue’s National and International Scholarship Office. “Moreover, the awards application process is a reflexive process: through the process of assembling an award application, students are able to reflect on the experiences, skills, and competencies they have acquired and continue to hone. Awards also serve a normative function — embodying a set of expectations for and inspiring the behavior of members of the Honors College learning community.”

Cognizant that students at different stages of their academic careers have experiences commensurate with their time at Purdue, the Honors College Pillar Awards are categorized based on a students’ year in school. Our inaugural recipients include second-year winners, third-year winners, and two “Outstanding Senior” recipients. This year’s outstanding seniors are Maya Black and Joshua Randall. 

Maya Black, Outstanding Senior
Maya Black, Outstanding Senior

Maya Black

Maya Black is a graduating senior with majors in genetics and cellular, molecular, and developmental biology. She also has a minor in Spanish and is completing the certificate program in learning beyond the classroom.   

The selection committee was extremely impressed with Black’s committed perusal of each of the Honors College Pillars. Even more, the rigor and integrity with which she intertwined all four pillars made it apparent that she not only maximized her time in the Honors College — allowing it to transform her in radical ways — but also went on to contribute to the Honors community through her leadership as a Student Diversity Officer and mentor.

Black’s focus on the professional and personal relationships she has built during her time at Purdue, and particularly in Honors College, reveal the value she places on each of her experiences. Whether in research, study abroad, or interdisciplinary academics, Black recognizes and explores the ways these opportunities influence each other. According to the committee, this makes her a stellar member of the Honors College community and more than deserving of this award. 

Joshua Randall, Outstanding Senior
Joshua Randall, Outstanding Senior

Joshua Randall

Joshua Randall is a graduating senior with a major in plant science and minors in plant biology, urban forestry, environmental politics & policy, and soil science.  

Randall has performed remarkable work in the three most formative experiences that shaped his time at Purdue and in Honors College. The selection committee appreciated both the nuance and enthusiasm with which he has connected these experiences to the four pillars of the Honors College.

“We valued the precision of his research, bringing knowledge from his lab research into an ambitious and innovative Solutions Lab pitch (and that he’s imagining an afterlife for it),” explained Natasha Duncan, associate dean for international education and affairs within the Honors College. “His related commitment to community development and engagement, expressed through his prolonged work in local public parks, is also admirable.”
Committee members say the comprehensiveness of Randall’s development, as well as the ease with which he has imbibed and implemented the Honors College’s four pillars, makes him an ideal Outstanding Senior.
Ethan Edwards
Ethan Edwards
Third-Year Awards
Undergraduate Research/Creative Endeavors: Ethan Edwards
Ethan Edwards has demonstrated a multifaceted commitment to research in the related areas of air and water quality. His series of building investments span from research in national laboratories to improve air quality, to evaluating the efficacy of water filters in a Purdue University laboratory.

The committee was impressed by the completion of his scholarly project as a sophomore. Furthermore, the civil engineering major understands the value of communicating his findings to the peers in his field as well as broader audiences. He has taken advantage of multiple campus venues to present his work and is presenting at national conferences.

The committee lauds his current efforts to publish findings from the study he designed to investigate the effectiveness of the water filtration devices being used in the wake of large-scale water disasters. It also encourages him to submit the results of his future research to peer reviewed journals, while continuing to inform larger publics.

It is of special note that Edwards has used research as a means of building community. As Journal Coordinator of the Journal of Purdue Undergraduate Research (JPUR), he organized the restructuring of its solicitation and collection methods to improve student-faculty interaction. 
Anjali Byappanahalli
Anjali Byappanahalli
Leadership Development: Anjali Byappanahalli
Anjali Byappanahalli exemplifies the leadership development pillar by developing her own leadership to better serve others, while also helping them become stronger leaders. She has dedicated herself to continuous learning and enhancing her ability to promote equality through ethical leadership. She is majoring in cellular, molecular, and developmental biology as well as neurobiology and physiology.

This dedication to leadership can be seen in the independent study she undertook with a faculty member on critical leadership studies. It focused on issues of power, privilege, and inequality. Byappanahalli has taken deliberate steps to apply what she has learned to her leadership context, which resulted in meaningful change within the Honors Mentor Program.
Sohinee Bera
Sohinee Bera
Community and Global Experiences: Sohinee Bera
The committee appreciated Sohinee Bera’s prioritization of community-led engagement in the increasingly important work of developing environmental management strategies in the face of climate change.

As a student of agricultural communications studying abroad in New Zealand, she has provided a collaborative platform as part of a team combining the Māori indigenous people’s tradition of oral communication with a Western science perspective to improve the ocean’s abalone population and preserve local indigenous culture.

The committee values her goal and potential to apply her educational experiences inside and outside the Honors College. She aims to develop solutions in the U.S. which are both culturally accessible and effective for rising environmental challenges. Bera is pursuing minors in art and design as well as international studies in agriculture.
Rachael Feinberg, Second-Year Pillar Awards
Rachael Feinberg
Second-Year Awards
Interdisciplinary Academics: Rachael Feinberg
Solutions to global and local problems often require skills and knowledge from a range of disciplines. The committee was deeply impressed by Feinberg’s commitment to combining language skills with proficiencies in mathematics and engineering.
This was apparent in the industrial engineering major’s work with GEARE, a global engineering program, as well as in her work tutoring native Spanish speaking students in math through a local service-learning program. Feinberg not only recognizes the value of interdisciplinary academics, but has also enacted those values to make the world a better place.  

Madeline Powers, Second-Year Pillar Awards
Madeline Powers
Undergraduate Research/Creative Endeavors: Madeline Powers

The committee was impressed by the intricacies of Powers’ research experiences. Committee members especially valued that the public health major’s research endeavors were followed by consistent efforts to present her research to wider audiences, and that she has taken on the responsibility to mentor future student researchers at Purdue.
Finally, they appreciated Powers’ capacity to express the ways in which research had contributed to her overall development and future goals.  

Mili Jha
Mili Jha
Leadership Development: Mili Jha

The committee values Jha’s sense of initiative to stage a three-day symposium on the evolution of technology and its relationship to humanity — despite the cancellation of its original university venue. She and her co-leader, Layan Yunis, independently designed three days of student and faculty-led workshops, persuaded experts from on and off campus to take part in a multidisciplinary panel discussion, and coordinated with Honors College to incorporate a presentation by an astronaut into the symposium.
This endeavor was completely student-led, while folding in the resources and advising of Honors College faculty and staff. The committee applauds Jha for demonstrating the leadership necessary to not only conceive a full-scale event of this order, but to see it to completion. This reveals mastery of the principles of collaboration and organization. Jha knows how to produce results.

Kanika Garg
Kanika Garg
Community and Global Experiences: Kanika Garg

Garg demonstrates clearly that making global connections does not require one to leave their own community. Rather, she has made impressive efforts to galvanize the global community that already exists at Purdue through her work with UR Multicultural Connections.
Inherent in this work is a deep appreciation for diversity, as well as a strong commitment to recognizing and addressing the needs of others around her. In this way, Garg has brought to life the values of the community and global experience pillar.