When she won the Spirit of Princeton award, her reaction was “‘LET’S GOOOOO!!!!!’ followed [by] tears of joy and dancing,” Ryan Champeau told The Daily Princetonian.
Champeau was one of seven members of the Class of 2023 to win the prize, which annually recognizes “students with a strong commitment to enhancing the undergraduate experience through contributions to student organizations, athletics, community service, religious life, residential life, and the arts.” The winners were announced on May 5. The winners, all members of the Class of 2023, are Emilio Cano Renteria, Champeau, Hannah Kapoor, Aaron Leung, Serena Starks, Mutemwa Masheke, and Alexander Mrkalj.
All undergraduate students are eligible for the award, and any individual in the Princeton community can submit a nomination. These nominations are reviewed by a committee made of “administrators from departments throughout Campus Life,” according to a University website describing undergraduate awards.
This year, the selection committee received more than 200 nominations.
The recipients listed an average of 6.9 activities or positions in their profiles.
Over the past five years, the School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA) has been the most popular department among award winners.
Moreover, 14 of the winners since 2018 have been varsity athletes. Being a Peer Academic Adviser (PAA) and member of the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) is also common among winners.
In a statement to The Daily Princetonian, Renteria, a civil and environmental engineering major from Bethesda, Md., said that the award is a good recognition of dedication to non-academic pursuits.
“I feel like students are able to receive regular recognition for academic work through feedback on assignments, grades, theses, etc., but it is less often that extracurricular leadership is recognized,” he wrote. He added that he is particularly proud of his work filming and editing the Class of 2025 Welcome Video with Bradley Rindos ’23.
During his time at Princeton, Renteria has served as the president of club soccer, recruitment chair for Orange Key tour guides, a PAA in Whitman College, a practice player with the women’s varsity soccer team, and lead of the Latinx Affinity Group for Tiger Inn.
“It made me feel so happy to know that my enthusiasm, spirit, and service made a real impact during my time at Princeton,” Champeau said, adding that her time as a Residential College Adviser (RCA) in Whitman College was particularly memorable.
“The best moments of my life were rapping at Clash of the Colleges, coming together with my zees at Whitman Olympics, and being there for one another no matter what life threw at us,” she said.
Kapoor, hailing from Parkland, Fla., is also majoring in SPIA. She told the ‘Prince’ that she “will forever be indebted to Princeton for all hope and possibility it has shown me.”
“My Princeton experience was made bright by incredible mentors, peers, faculty, and administrators, each of whom gave me space and made me feel valued,” she added.
Kapoor is the former Vice President of the USG and a Community Action Leader. She serves as a PAA in Forbes College, and as a student representative of the resources committee of the Council of the Princeton University Committee (CPUC).
Leung is an operations research and financial engineering major from Toronto, Canada. He told the ‘Prince’ that he has been motivated to help “others reach their potential.”
“It is my sincere hope, and mission, that we each find something we love, somewhere we belong, and people we belong with, in communities that we find and in communities that we build,” he said.
He is also a member of the varsity men’s heavyweight rowing team and served as a Service Focus Fellow, Community Action Leader, Undergraduate Student Life Committee Chair with USG, and an artistic director with Theatre Intime.
Leung’s bio also notes he was a Digital Advertising Lead for the ‘Prince.’ He served briefly in the position in the Spring of 2020.
Starks is a senior in SPIA and captain of the varsity softball team. She told the ‘Prince’ that her establishing Asian Student Athletes at Princeton, a group dedicated to fostering community among Asian student-athletes, has been an important part of her Princeton experience.
“As a student-athlete it is extremely difficult to find time to serve because practice always conflicts with service opportunities,” she told the ‘Prince.’
Masheke is a computer science major from Lusaka, Zambia who serves as an RCA in Butler College, Vice President of The Society of African Internationals at Princeton, and Vice President of the National Society of Black Engineers.
Masheke is currently running for Young Alumni Trustee (YAT) in a competitive election. He is the only candidate on the list.
He told the ‘Prince’ that he has been formally and informally committed to “promoting equity among the student communities whose experiences still need to be prioritized at Princeton.”
Masheke described how when he received an email notifying him about the award, he “immediately broke down.”
“In proper Mutemwa fashion, I then called my mom and cried on the phone — and cried again at the Spirit of Princeton Award dinner,” he wrote.
Masheke also spoke to the significance of being honored alongside the fellow recipients of the Spirit of Princeton award. “What the fellow recipients do is a true labor of love and you can tangibly see how many lives on campus they make better, including mine,” he wrote.
According to his YAT profile, “after Princeton, he will begin his career with Microsoft’s Cloud Division as a product manager and hopes to help provide more affordable cloud computing to emerging economies across the globe.”
Mrkalj is an economics major from St. Catharines, Canada, as well as captain of the varsity men’s volleyball team. He formerly served as athletics liaison to USG and president of Cannon Dial Elm club, among other positions, according to the University announcement.
Mrkalj did not respond to requests for comment from the ‘Prince.’
The award winners were recognized with a certificate, book prize, and a dinner at Palmer House with University administrators, including President Christopher L. Eisgruber ’83, Vice President for Campus Life Rochelle Calhoun, and Deputy Dean of Undergraduate Students Thomas Dunne.
Isabel Yip is a head News editor for the ‘Prince.’
Sandeep Mangat is a head News editor for the ‘Prince.’
Please send any corrections to corrections[at]dailyprincetonian.com.