Skip to main content

Pillar Awards

Students in the John Martinson Honors College excel in a variety of areas both in and outside of the classroom as they engage in endeavors that embody the values of our curriculum. To recognize those students who have achieved above and beyond their peers or who demonstrate great promise of excellence, the Honors College annually bestows the Pillar Awards, a recognition of student work in each of the four pillars of our curriculum: Interdisciplinary Academics, Undergraduate Research, Leadership, and Community and Global Engagement plus Belonging, Equity, and Inclusion (BEI).

Interdisciplinary Academics

Interdisciplinarity is the pursuit of knowledge by means of more than one discipline or field of study, especially in an attempt to understand complex problems. Pursuing interdisciplinary academics can mean taking classes or engaging in extracurricular activities outside your disciplinary home, but at its highest levels it entails breaking down or breaking through the traditional “silos” of these academic disciplines to reach across fields, modes of thought, or communities of practice to find novel ways to think, create, and thrive.

Undergraduate Research

Research is the production of new knowledge by means of scholarly inquiry, including creative pursuits. It requires dedication to answering questions that matter to individuals, communities and the world; strong reasoning, organizational, and interpersonal skills; an understanding of and commitment to research ethics; and follow-through to ensure that results are disseminated and shared with other scholars and the public.

Leadership Development

Leadership is the utilization of your best academic, professional, and personal qualities to empower others, build community, forward knowledge, and/or foster meaningful change in the world. Great and effective leaders demonstrate vision, take initiative, enact empathy and openness, learn and evolve, and ultimately, work inclusively with others to achieve shared goals.

Community and Global Engagement

Community is a concept that goes to the very heart of the Honors College experience. The Honors College values local engagement, global citizenship and cross-cultural exchanges between communities (domestic or international) that are different. Moreover, we recognize the importance of experiences that take place beyond classroom when students engage in local or global communities civically or as participants in study aways or research. Engagement in these experiences at the local level (Honors College, campus, and/or the Greater Lafayette area) or abroad expands one’s worldview and fosters complex understandings of the interconnectedness of our lives and communities as well as the nature of these relationships.

Belonging, Equity, and Inclusion (BEI)

Issues of BEI are integral to JMHC’s understanding of what an inclusive and collaborative living- learning experience entails. Attentiveness to BEI ensures that all students, from diverse backgrounds, in terms of their gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, abilities, receive the institutional, academic, and emotional support to thrive and succeed in the college and at Purdue. This award acknowledges the students as partners and collaborators in doing this important work. It recognizes students who support the college’s mission to embed and advance BEI in programs, leadership positions, academic and/or co-curricular experiences, build capacity around BEI-skills, and facilitate connections between and across communities, to advance a sense of belonging for others.

Apply for a John Martinson Honors College Student Pillar Award!

To recognize the great strides that our students make in each of these areas, each year the Student Pillar Awards will honor:

  • One 2nd and one 3rd year student who excel in Interdisciplinary Academics
  • One 2nd and one 3rd year student who excel in Undergraduate Research
  • One 2nd and one 3rd year student who excel in Leadership Development
  • One 2nd and one 3rd year student who excel in Community & Global Experiences
  • One 2nd and one 3rd year student or student team that excels in Belonging, Equity, and Inclusion
  • Two graduating seniors who embody all four pillars of an Honors Education

The deadline for applications is March 1, 2024.

2024 Pillar Awards Application

2022-2023 Recipients

Outstanding Senior Pillar Award—Bianca Caminada

Bianca Caminada is recognized for her outstanding achievements over the course of the past four years. As a self-described international student and Latina woman in STEM looking for a place to belong, she identified with the Honors College's emphasis on internationality and cross-cultural experience, which allowed her to advocate for international students and the added difficulties they face during the undergraduate experience, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. She has been an active participant in the John Martinson Honors College community, having served as an Honors Mentor, and becoming co-president of the Mentor Program in 2022. Bianca collaborated with faculty and students to overhaul the program’s peer-mentor diversity training, pushing for greater consideration of barriers faced by international students and to promote an inclusive classroom environment. Bianca values interdisciplinary academics and conducted research in single-molecule biophysics with Dr. Kenneth Ritchie, focused on studying protein folding processes under force. In the summer, she will be joining a research lab at the University of British Columbia and starting her doctoral studies, continuing to apply physics to understand DNAs and proteins. She will continue to pursue opportunities for leadership and service, as she plans to mentor undergraduates as a teaching assistant and lab mentor.

 Outstanding Senior Pillar Award—Laura Chuppe

Lara Chuppe is recognized for her leadership in global engagement, which supports her growing expertise in international education and human rights. A computer science major, Chuppe has been an active and visible contributor to the JMHC’s Global House, joining the community in her second year as a mentor and serving on its leadership council for the last two years.  Chuppe seeks to make meaningful change in the world, and she has done so through engagements with the JMHC Global House and far beyond, serving as an online tutor with multiple non-profit organizations including College Mentors for Kids, Light and Salt Academy, and Pax Populi. At times, Chuppe has connected this work back to her JMHC courses and facilitated other Purdue honors students to do the same. Since 2021, She has notably taught and mentored more than 23 students from Afghanistan, providing critical educational support during a period of significant political, economic, and social crisis in that country. She has assisted many of these students in their successful applications to U.S. universities, serving most recently as an intern at the Advocates for Human Rights in Minneapolis, MN to support Afghan immigration to the United States. Chuppe is currently learning Dari language and will go on to attend law school specializing in public service, immigration law, and human rights next year.

Third-Year Undergraduate Research or Creative Endeavors Pillar Award—Charles King

Charles King is recognized to receive the Third Year Undergraduate Research Award. As a member of Dykhuizen Lab at Purdue University, Charles King conducts research to computationally design a drug for one of the epigenetic complexes studied in the lab. King has presented his work at multiple symposiums oriented at graduate students and won numerous awards within the College of Pharmacy, as well as participated in summer research with Babson Diagnostics and Mayo Clinic. We are honored to laud King’s achievements and dedication in his research.

Third-Year Leadership Development Pillar Award—Cynthia Wan

As Cynthia Wan prepares to enter the pharmaceutical industry, she strives to be an inclusive leader with a patient-first mindset. Her philosophy toward leadership entails sharing ideas, opinions, and responsibilities to allow everyone to develop themselves as leaders, regardless of hierarchy. Cynthia puts her philosophy into action in the Honors Leadership Council as an Executive Board member for the College of Pharmacy, a team of students that build community for Honors College pharmacy students. Her leadership practice is characterized by a strong sense of professionalism in her own actions, and the activities she and her team developed this year have furthered their fellow honors college pharmacy students’ professional development while improving their abilities to succeed as future leaders.

Third-Year Interdisciplinary Academics Pillar Award—Megan Johnson

Megan Johnson is recognized for her novel interdisciplinary pursuits in the areas of science communication and photojournalism. A double-major in Biology and Communication, Johnson brings these fields together to enliven and inspire the public’s understanding of science and the natural world. She has applied and developed these areas of expertise through her honors coursework, working on an interdisciplinary team in the Honors Memory Book course to communicate about the academic practices of the JMHC, integrating areas of oral history, historical research, and photography to share these stories with the public. Johnson has also taken film and photography classes through the JMHC, enhancing her understanding of critical perspectives in these fields of inquiry.

Third-Year Community and Global Experiences Pillar Award—Sofia Hrubiak

Sofia Hrubiak is recognized to receive the Third Year Community and Global Engagement Award. Her commitment to serving the Greater Lafayette Community has positively impacted twelve nursing homes within the area by building lasting relationships with those living with dementia. Hrubiak clearly upholds the values of the Honors College by fostering cross-cultural exchanges and building relationships with the seniors in the area. Additionally, Hrubiak's global engagement in the study abroad program to Italy demonstrated her dedication to reproductive rights education. We are proud of Hrubiak and her strides towards improving worldwide access to reproductive healthcare. 

Second-Year Undergraduate Research or Creative Endeavors Pillar Award—Jenna Schoonmaker

Jenna Schoonmaker is recognized for her extensive work in the Plaut Mammary Gland Biology Lab. She aspires to use her research as a means of preventing further damage to the Earth’s ecosystems by studying toxic substances that are harmful to wildlife. In addition to engaging in undergraduate research for nearly four years in the Plaut Mammary Gland Biology Lab, she was part of the Zhang Genetics Lab last summer and joined the Sepulveda Ecotoxicology Lab this semester. Additionally, she will be conducting research as an intern at Cook Biotechnology this summer. Jenna presented her scholarly project at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology national conference in March 2023, after successfully applying for an Honors College student grant. This project focused on the effects of pre-pregnancy obesity and continuous light exposure, which disrupts circadian rhythms, on the mitochondria of lactating mice. Jenna will be an author on this paper and seeks to reach out to other scientists interested in mammary gland biology to help further this research, as well as to lactating mothers who can use the information to successfully breastfeed.

Second-Year Leadership Development Pillar Award—Reilly Bresnahan

Reilly Bresnahan shows outstanding leadership development through a combination of efforts that range from making the most of opportunities to learn leadership skills to putting what she learns into practice. Her quest to learn includes taking part in the Honors Mentor Program, Honors Mentor Council, Boilers for Education, Alpha Psi Omega, Omicron Delta Kappa, and in the Student Pedagogy Advocates program. She has put her leadership skills into practice while troubleshooting during live performances with her team as a stage manager for Purdue Theatre. Notably, Reilly has led the creation of Purdue’s Irish Club as its founder and President to create a forum where students make new connections and share experiences in a relaxed environment. The Pillar Awards committee commends Reilly not only for her accomplishments but also for her desire to continue setting goals to grow as a leader and future educator.

Second-Year Interdisciplinary Academics Pillar Award—Samuel Gray

Samuel Gray has sought an ambitious program of study to utilize the diverse perspectives of the social sciences to benefit marginalized communities. A triple major in Psychological Sciences, Sociology, and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Gray seeks to put critical cultural analysis to work with activism in his academic pursuits. As a second-year student, Gray is already contributing to two research labs on campus and has plans to complete a scholarly project through a research-focused honors program. Gray will also join the JMHC’s World Readiness Mentoring Network next fall, where he will connect with JMHC alumni to foster social justice.

Second-Year Community and Global Experiences Pillar Award—Charlotte Yeung

Charlotte Yeung is recognized for contribution and dedication to serving the global community. Yeung, who is the author of an Amazon best-selling children's book, has served various communities around the world with her gift in poetry. As a Midwest Ambassador Finalist for the National Youth Poet Laureate Title, Yeung founded and led a poetry workshop series for women and girls in Afghanistan. This sparked Yeung to continue to inspire others through the power of art and is planning the exhibition of such poetry. Yeung has been actively working with administrations to foster healing and peace after the destructions of war. Some of these administrations include mayor and governor of Hiroshima, the Biden-Harris Transition Team, and the Indiana House of Representatives. We are proud to honor Charlotte Yeung for these commitments.

10th Anniversary Image