9 honored for contributions to University community
This year’s winners are Lydia Arias ’12, Omar Carrillo ’12, Christina Chang ’12, Benjamin Cogan ’12, Jonathan Ford ’12, Shirley Gao ’13, Yu-Sung Huang ’12, Faaez Ul Haq ’12 and Haley White ’12.
Four of the nine winners are residential college advisers, and three are majoring in the Wilson School. Two of the nine are engineering students, and one is an international student. This was the second year in a row that one junior received the award, and the first year since 2007 that more than eight students have been recognized. The winners are invited to a special dinner where they will receive a book prize and a certificate.
Founded in 1995, the Spirit of Princeton Award chooses its winners based on nominations from members of the University community. All undergraduates are eligible.
Arias, from Atlanta, Ga., is a Spanish and Portuguese major and is earning a certificate in Latin American studies. She is a pole-vaulter on the track team, a McGraw Center Learning Consultant, a peer adviser and an RCA in Butler College. She also participates in the Aquinas Catholic Chaplaincy and Princeton Faith in Action.
Arias said she was both surprised and touched to hear she had won the award after her track coach nominated her for the prize.
“I feel blessed to have found rewarding opportunities to work for causes I feel strongly about — like helping students make the most of their academic lives at McGraw, helping freshmen adjust to and enjoy life here in the RCA program and being a part of the supportive and amazing group of scholar-athletes that is the women’s track team,” she said in an email.
Carrillo, a Wilson School major from Los Angeles, Calif., is pursuing certificates in American studies and urban studies. He is an RCA in Forbes, a member of the Student Advisory Council for the Program in American Studies, coordinator for an English as a Second Language program in Trenton through the Student Volunteer Council and a coordinator for Latinos Unidos for Networking and Advising. He is also a former Associate Editor for News for The Daily Princetonian.
Chang is a chemistry major from Austin, Texas. She is a founding member of the Princeton Chemical Society, the president and founder of the Women in Science Colloquium, coordinator for the Integrated Science Curriculum Mentorship and a tutor for Community House.
Chang said in an email that she was honored to receive the award, which she described as an award to recognize “the desire to help others develop their passions and share them.”
Cogan is a philosophy major from New York, N.Y. He is a founder of the Princeton chapter of Giving What We Can, a member of the a cappella group Koleinu, president of the Human Values Forum and an undergraduate associate in the Princeton Program in Law and Public Affairs.
After his sophomore year, Cogan lived in and worked at an orphanage outside of New Delhi, India.
Ford is an anthropology major from Huntsville, Ala. He is an RCA in Rockefeller College, an actor in BAC Drama, a tenor in the Princeton University Gospel Ensemble and a member of the club basketball team. Ford also serves in an advisory capacity to the Black Men’s Awareness Group.
Ford said he was humbled to receive the award and described what he thought was at the core of Princeton spirit.
“I think that at the heart of Princeton is a tense dialectic between adhering to traditions and striving against the grain,” he said in an email. “Growth and improvement in this environment comes when those who engage in these traditions encounter and interact with those who choose to challenge the traditions in dynamic ways, with elements of their own backgrounds.”
Gao is a Wilson School major from Davis, Calif., pursuing a certificate in global health and health policy. She is a co-chair of the Pace Council for Civic Values, a peer adviser in Mathey College, a member of the University Press Club and a member of the Priorities Committee. She is also the former chair of the Mathey College Council and former treasurer for Greening Princeton.
Huang is majoring in operations research and financial engineering and is from Grapevine, Texas. He is an Outdoor Action leader, an RCA in Rockefeller College, former President of the Taiwanese American Students Association and a former member of the Priorities Committee, Alcohol Coalition Committee and Orientations Implementation group.
However, he devotes most of his time to Leadership for Change, which he described as “a student-led initiative out of ODUS that aims to provide students with intentional leadership development opportunities and build relationships among students with different leadership styles.”
He said he was pleasantly surprised to receive the Spirit of Princeton Award.
“On campus, I have simply been pursuing my passions and haven’t given much thought to awards at all,” he said in an email. “Looking at the winners of the Award, I realized that they’re all leaders who are passionate about making a positive impact on their organization and the larger Princeton community.”
Ul Haq, from Islamabad, Pakistan, is a computer science major. He co-founded the Princeton Social Entrepreneurship Initiative, plays Club Cricket and worked with One Laptop Per Child to distribute laptops in a remote village in Sierra Leone. He also co-founded em[POWER], a nonprofit that works with communities living on landfill sites in Pakistan and Bangladesh to create waste-to-energy businesses that are run by the community.
Ul Haq said he was elated and humbled to receive the award. “I meet people everyday who are doing amazing things on this campus and who would deserve this recognition more,” he said.
Finally, White is a Wilson School major from Chatham, N.J. She is the former co-chair of the PCCV, a Breakout trip organizer, a former member of the Priorities Committee and an ESL teacher for the Petey Greene Prisoner Assistance Program. She also founded the Banana Project, which started a campaign to convince University Dining Services to sell Fair Trade bananas.
White won the 2011 Truman Scholarship and a Fulbright Scholarship. She is also a former columnist for the ‘Prince.’
White said it was an honor to win the Award and believes that devotion to community and commitment to excellence are at the heart of the Spirit of Princeton Award.
“Over the course of my four years at Princeton, I have really cherished my non-academic activities. They have taught me valuable lessons I never could have learned in any classroom. It is a tremendous honor to be recognized for them,” she said in an email.
Carrillo and Gao did not respond to a request for comment.
Correction: Due to incorrect information provided to The Daily Princetonian, a previous version of this article misstated the role of Shirley Gao '13 in Greening Princeton. Gao is the former treasurer. Due to a reporting error, a previous version of this article misstated the goal of Leadership for Change. It focuses on intentional, not international, leadership development. The 'Prince' regrets the error.