Honors College Awards

Honors College Virtual Award Ceremonies Spring 2021

We are pleased to announce that Mason will be hosting a Virtual Honors College Awards Ceremony for Spring 2021. The Honors College deeply values civic engagement and a commitment to research, and we are so excited to celebrate students who embody our mission to create engaged, lifelong scholars. We are proud of our students and all the contributions they have made to our community!

This year’s Honors College Awards Ceremony will be held daily from Monday, April 26th to Thursday, April 29th on YouTube Live at 12:00 PM EDT (UTC-4:00 hours). Learn more about each of the awards below. 


Schedule of Events


Monday, April 26th, 2021

12:00 PM - 12:20 PM

Schwartzstein Award for First-Year Research

Michelle Litwiller Memorial Scholarship

Dr. John Woolsey and Dean Zofia Burr

Tuesday, April 27th, 2021

12:00 PM - 12:20 PM

Honors College Outstanding Achievement Award

Honors College Concerned Citizen Award

Dr. Jan Allbeck and Mr. Valentino Bryant

Wednesday, April 28th, 2021

12:00 PM - 12:20 PM

Dr. Gerald L. Gordon Scholarship

Odin, Feldman, and Pittleman Scholarship

Dean Zofia Burr

Thursday, April 29th, 2021

12:00 PM - 12:20 PM

Honors College Service Awards

Ms. Eva Bramesco


Michelle Litwiller Memorial Scholarship

The Michelle Litwiller Memorial Scholarship was created by Dr. & Mrs. Roger W.  Litwiller in memory of their daughter, Michelle, who was a student in Mason’s Plan for Alternative General Education (PAGE) program in 1987. Though the PAGE program no longer exists, the innovative humanities and social sciences curriculum that was created for PAGE provided the original template for the Honors College Curriculum, and we are proud to continue the scholarship. The award is given to distinguished or exceptional first-year students each year.

Johan Jeson (2020-2021 Winner)

Portrait of Johan

What are your extracurricular activities at Mason? How did you get involved in these?
Jeson: Many of my extracurricular activities come from being a part of the Honors College and student organizations like the Mason Ambassadors and TEDxGMU. For the Mason Ambassador program, I applied online to be an Ambassador, and after an initial screening, I could join the team and give virtual campus tours. It has been a rewarding experience connecting with prospective students and sharing the amazing features Mason offers to all students, faculty, and employees at the university. I have learned a lot from being a Mason Ambassador, and this role has helped me develop some crucial skills and valuable relationships with my peers. I have also been a Marketing Assistant for TEDxGMU, assisting with the design of various promotional materials and programs that foster a network of ideas worth spreading. I also had the opportunity of ideating creative branding strategies that aimed to increase the organization’s visibility in the student community at Mason. I have worked with a group of talented folks at TEDx on some interactive events like the bi-monthly TED circles event and the Spring Conference. What made this experience even more special was that all the team members at TEDxGMU came from diverse backgrounds and contributed to a larger cause that transcended all boundaries. It has been a joy being a part of these two student organizations.

Have you done any community service at Mason?
Jeson: There was an opportunity for students to join the Honoring Our Community program within the Honors College. I had the privilege of being a part of this unique program, where individuals could talk about the pressing issues of our society and think about ways to celebrate diversity while advancing social justice. This program was, at heart, [about] serving the community by speaking about different social justice issues in the light of reality and taking actionable steps to reconcile with others and rejoice in our identities. I also got the opportunity to work with a nonprofit organization through the Honors College Connects Program, where I could brainstorm different plans and solutions to support the nonprofit partners in the local community and provide them with resources to continue assisting individuals in need across the Fairfax-DC area.

Have you done any research at Mason?
Jeson: When I took the Honors 110 class at Mason during the fall of 2020, I got the opportunity to research online child trafficking and ways to prevent cybercrime through legislation and community action. [...]Another research program that I participated in was in the Schar School of Policy and Government at Mason, where I was an [OSCAR-funded] Research Assistant learning about various nonprofit organizations and their local operations across diverse communities.

Keiry Yessinia Chicas (2020-2021 Winner) 

Portrait of Keiry Chicas

What are your extracurricular activities at Mason? How did you get involved in these?
Chicas: At the end of my first semester at Mason, my Spanish Professor recommended me to volunteer in the Hispanic Literature Review which is a bilingual academic journal distributed by George Mason University. I love it a lot [...] I work on reading submissions advertising and at the moment working on the layout to publish the final product. I am also working and volunteering with the Early Identification Program - I am an Academic Success Coach and work with Middle school High school students from 9 different counties. I have [also] been able to be a part of Destino and Cru. I was introduced to Cru when I went for in-person class and club members were advertising and I just happened to bump into them and they told me about their club and I got interested in it and from there I was introduced to Destino and I loved it so far. 

What research have you done?
Chicas: This past year I worked along with eight other first-generation students in a study conducted by Bethany Monea and the University of Pennsylvania. In this research study, we analyze our college experiences as a first-generation college student which began senior year. In the past year, I had the opportunity to represent the team and present to middle and high schools in Florida, Illinois, Texas, and even participate in an ethnography in education research forum hosted by Penn State University.



Schwartzstein Award for First-Year Research

Every year, HNRS 110 faculty nominates one student paper from each section which demonstrates outstanding research practice. Of these nominees, one Schwartzstein Prize winner is selected with the goal of honoring students whose projects display exceptional intellectual curiosity and creativity and supporting them in future research.

Likhitha Addagatla (2020-2021 Winner)

Portrait of Likhitha

What did you study in your HNRS 110 research project?

Addagatla: As the presence of multicultural education increases, teaching classical Indian dance looks drastically different from how it was like in the past. Many teachers and students encounter challenges when teaching and learning this art form outside of India due to the complex, rigorous nature of classical dance and its heavy emphasis on culture. My project looks at identifying and testing adaptive pedagogy for Indian classical dance in a modern context.


Have you done any other research at Mason?

Addagatla: As a freshman, this was my first time getting involved with research at Mason. 

Why do you think research is valuable?

Addagatla: Research not only helps us develop our inquiry skills, but it also allows us to engage with existing scholarly work that can provide us with a deeper, more meaningful understanding of our area of interest. Research can enhance our academic and professional experience while pushing us to challenge ourselves and potentially contribute to the discipline. 

Do you have plans to conduct more research in the future?

Addagatla: I plan to continue my involvement with research in the future, starting with my project on adaptive pedagogy for classical Indian dance. 

Honors College Outstanding Achievement Award

Awards recognize the distinguished or exceptional achievements of second-year students whose achievements represent the disciplinary range of students in the Honors College.

Rosy Sultana (2020-2021 winner)

Portrait of Rosy

How are you involved in the Honors College?

Sultana: So there are a few things that I'm currently involved in. I'm also the director of the Honors College Recruitment Team, a sub-organization that works with the Admissions Department, which includes planning for fall and spring previews, admission events, panels, and meeting with prospective families and students each week. As the director, I'm in charge of handling the board meetings, getting together the team, creating the agenda, being able to communicate with the admission department counselors that are present. Aside from that, I'm also part of Mason Ambassadors. As an Ambassador, I also work with the admissions department again, but this is more with all of Mason rather than just the Honors College.

What inspired you to get involved? 

Sultana: As a freshman I wanted to be involved in organizations immediately, I decided to go for it and apply for those positions—turns out, I was accepted. It was just something that I really wanted to do and plus I really loved the idea of being able to share my experience as a student and explain the process that I had to go through, especially as a first generation student to attend college, which was something that was beyond my dreams because I'm the first person in my family to attend college. I felt even more motivated to let prospective families know about these experiences so that they could find some solace as they're going through their own process.

How do you hope to continue to make a difference in the future?

Sultana: Right now, doing internships is what I’m focused on. The reason that I went into computer science in the first place was because I realized that this is one of those fields where I wouldn't be judged, based on my appearance or background, but rather, based on my skills and technical ability to solve problems and issues. And because of that, one of the things that has been my focus was the use of technology to aid projects relevant to the global community, rather than just myself. This is why as a student I'm focusing on prosthetics rather than just focusing on programming and coding; I want to focus on things that I can learn and experience from in order to pass that knowledge onwards.

Reagan Emmerling (2020-2021 winner)

Portrait of Reagan

What has Reagan been recognized for?

Reagan works as a research assistant at the Roy Rozensweig Center for History and New Media at Mason and will be participating in a Summer Team Impact Project on “COVID-19’s Impact on Under-Resourced/Underrepresented College Students and their Peers” this Summer. Reagan is a member of the Honors College Recruitment Team, a Mason Ambassador, a Peer Mentor for Mason Disability Services, and the President of Generation Action Planned Parenthood.

Honors College Concerned Citizen Award

This scholarship was created by Dr. Charles Thomas to support African American students who have demonstrated an exceptional commitment to community service.

Zuri Hodnett (2020-2021 winner)

Portrait of Zuri

What are some of your community service activities? 

Hodnett: With COVID going on my presence in the Mason Community was interrupted being home all the way in Virginia Beach. Freshman year, I was able to participate in an event which educated the Mason community about how to be an ally to undocumented students and how to better serve the community. I have also participated in an event with the campus’s NAACP which encouraged Mason students to register to vote. I think it is important for young adults like myself to be politically active.

Coming back to campus in the fall, I have a lot planned to better serve Mason Nation as well as the Fairfax community.

 What is the value of community to you?

Hodnett: As someone who has depended on what my community had to offer, I always found it important to return the favor. To me, our communities have some responsibility for how the youth come up into the society, and we can better prepare them if we put more effort into providing them with opportunities and resources. We all benefit from something our community provides and it is our responsibility to give something back to continue the growth of our future.

If you could share a piece of advice with your community, what would it be?

Hodnett: Remember your “why.”  If we remember the reason we’re doing what we do it will make the journey much easier.


Dr. Gerald L. Gordon Scholarship

Established in recognition of Dr. Gordon’s many extraordinary contributions to the development of Fairfax County as the President and CEO of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority, the scholarship supports students who are pursuing a degree in a STEM field, economics, or another discipline relevant to economic development in Fairfax County.  The award is given to a distinguished student pursuing a degree in a STEM field, economics, or another discipline relevant to economic development in Fairfax County. 

Patrick Arcienega (2020-2021 winner)

Portrait of Patrick

Why is Patrick being recognized??

The Dr. Gerald L. Gordon Scholarship supports a student pursuing a discipline connected to the economic development of Fairfax County. It was created to honor the contributions that Dr. Gerald L. Gordon made during his tenure as the President and CEO of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority and as the founding chair of the Honors College Advisory Board.


An alumnus of the Early Identification Program, Patrick Arcienega is now an Honors College Student pursuing a degree in Mechanical Engineering. He continues to give back to first generation students at Mason, for instance, by serving as mentor in the Student Transition Empowerment program. He also has worked as a contract administrator for ASA Express Cabinets.


Odin, Feldman, and Pittleman Scholarship

This scholarship is an award for students from any field who are planning a career that involves improving the lives of those who live in developing countries. 

Elizabeth Fortson (2020-2021 Winner)

Portrait of Elizabeth Fortson

What did you study in your HNRS 110 research project?

Fortson: I researched the effects of Western peacebuilding efforts on local gender relations. In particular, I researched the effects on the Akan ethnic-cultural group in modern day Cote d’Ivoire.

What are your career goals? How do you hope to impact the world?

Fortson: I would like to work with developing nations to help battle poverty. I would like to help develop infrastructure to give rural communities access to clean water, food and medicine.

Why is it important to work with/for low-income countries?

Fortson: The world is increasingly connected, and oftentimes our success is a direct result of where we were born and the relationship our country has with lower-income countries. I want to give the same opportunities that I have access to due to being an American to people in other countries. Additionally, I believe that world problems shouldn’t be relegated simply to upper-income countries, and that working with different countries and different points of view, we can find solutions and improvements that can benefit the entire international community.

Mariam Sanad (2020-2021 Winner)

Portrait of Mariam Sanad

What did you study in your HNRS 110 research project?

Sanad: My research proposal analyzes the most prominent risk factors that are associated with childhood poverty in developing countries such as inadequate cognitive stimulation, stunting, iodine deficiency, and iron deficiency. In addition, it examines how these risk factors have impacted the development of several brain regions. Both, the risk factors and hindered brain development, explain the prevalence of poor academic performance among children in developing countries; this ultimately can lead to major economic implications as well. Understanding these key areas is critical to create more effective interventions for children who face the biggest burden. 

What are your career goals? How do you hope to impact the world?

Sanad: Public health is a very broad field; however, one of my career goals is to work in the education literacy sector of public health. The lack of health literacy is very prominent in impoverished communities, which are mostly located in developing countries. Therefore, I would love to inform and teach such communities about basic health issues such as hygiene and sanitation, pregnancy, diseases, and other developmental issues. To achieve my career goal, I plan on working with agencies that serve an international global health agenda such as the World Bank, CDC, and UNICEF. I hope to impact the world by improving the health of the most vulnerable groups around the world, to help them prosper in life.

Why is it important to work with/for low-income countries?

Sanad: As an individual who was born and raised in a developing country, I’ve witnessed the struggles and burden people in low-income countries often face. Growing up in Egypt, I was exposed to numerous issues including poverty, lack of education, sexual harassment, gender inequality, homelessness, and a spectrum of other developmental issues. While I wasn't directly impacted by those issues, I've seen how much they can diminish one's health and quality of life. Furthermore, as a community health major, I now have a better understanding of the prevalence of such issues in low-income countries. This has all motivated me to play an active role in the lives of the vulnerable and less fortunate, particularly children in developing countries.



Honors College Service Awards

Certificates and cords are awarded to graduating students who served in leadership and service positions for the Honors College. 

Service Award winners TBA

Honors College Outstanding Service Award

Awards recognize the distinguished or exceptional achievements of graduating students who have served exceptionally in multiple roles over their years in the Honors College.

Michaela Pereira (2020-2021 Winner)

Portrait of Michaela Pereira

What are you most proud about from your time serving the Honors College as a peer mentor and, later, a lead mentor?

Pereira: I am most proud of the students I was able to help along the way as well as being able to contribute to creating a better sense of community within the Honors College. 

How do you understand the benefits of peer and lead mentorship to the Honors College community?

Pereira: Peer mentorship gives other students the opportunity to actively engage with their fellow students for support, ideas, and academic advancement. It encourages a culture of support within the Honors College which contributes to an overall atmosphere of healthy learning and exploration as opposed to isolated competition and academic insecurity.

How did you personally benefit from being a peer mentor and, later, a lead mentor?

Pereira: Aside from gaining leadership skills, peer mentorship gave me early appreciation for the pedagogical process which has only contributed to my current dream of becoming a school psychologist.  

Taye Folk (2020-2021 Winner)

Portrait of Taye Folk

Why was Taye recognized?

Taye has been a key supporter of the Honors College community. 

In our Learning Community, Taye served as a Peer mentor and a Community Assistant. She has helped to recruit new students to our community, through her ongoing service on the Honors College Recruitment team. 

Academically, she has served as a Peer Mentor to students taking HNRS 110 and participated in the Curriculum Development Team. 

Finally, in order to help give students more of a voice in the Honors College, she helped to found the Honors College Student Advisory Board.


Sammy Moore (2020-2021 Winner)

Portrait of Sammy Moore

Why was Sammy recognized?

Sammy has helped to encourage community engagement within the Honors College community.

Sammy has served the Honors College Connects programs through multiple redesigns and has taken a key leadership role on the current executive board, where she has served as the Chief Executive Officer.

Because of her service, Honors College students have access to a range of experiential learning opportunities with local nonprofits.

Sammy has been active in our community in countless other ways, for instance by participating in the shaping our curricular offerings as part of the Curriculum Development Team.

Pratyusha Chaluvadi (2020-2021 Winner)

Portrait of Pratyusha Chaluvadi

Why was Pratyusha recognized?

Pratyusha helped recruit the next generation of Honors College students as part of the Honors College Recruitment Team for four consecutive years.

She also has helped contribute to our academic community through service as a Peer Mentor, Lead Mentor, and on the Curriculum Development Team.