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HSS Applauds Its 2020 Student Prize Winners

The Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences is pleased to present the winners of the 2019-2020 writing and research prizes. Due to the extraordinary circumstances created by the COVID-19 outbreak, Caltech students had to quickly adjust to online learning this spring while continuing their studies, and today we celebrate the class of 2020 in a virtual commencement ceremony. We may not be able to celebrate together, but that does not make us any less proud of the accomplishments of our outstanding students.

Seniors Nivetha Karthikeyan and Leonardo (Leo) Balestri, both graduating with a second option in history, received the Eleanor Searle Prize in Law, Politics, and Institutions. They were nominated by Assistant Professor of History Maura Dykstra and Professor of History and Social Science J. Morgan Kousser, respectively. Named for the late Edie and Lew Wasserman Professor of History at Caltech, the prize honors an undergraduate or graduate student whose work in history or the social sciences exemplifies Searle's interests in the use of power, government, and law.

The Mary A. Earl McKinney Prize in Literature, established in 1946 by Samuel P. McKinney, promotes proficiency in writing and is awarded for the best original poetry and fiction. The humanities faculty selected sophomore Melba Nuzen for her fiction piece, "Exogenesis," and senior Karen Pham for her poem, "maybe i thought growing up would be more glamorous." Junior Andrew Chan received an honorable mention for his poem, "In Memory of Kendrick Castillo."

Each year, the Gordon McClure Memorial Communications Prizes reward undergraduates for their academic writing in three categories: English, history, and philosophy. The latest honorees are junior Victoria Liu (English, "On Lily Bart's Specializations and Survival in the Upper Class"), senior Karen Pham (History, "'Otherness': Examining the Relationship Between Human and Non-Human"), and freshman Lucca de Mello (Philosophy, "What criteria should be used to determine whether an automated decision procedure is fair?").

Professor of History Warren Brown nominated senior Margaret (Maggie) Anderson for the 2020 Rodman W. Paul History Prize. Since its establishment in 1986, the prize recognizes a junior or senior with an unusual interest or affinity for the past. Anderson graduates today with a second option in history.

The social sciences faculty awarded the David M. Grether Prize in Social Science to senior David Fager, who is graduating with a BS in mathematics and economics. Professor of Economics and Statistics Bob Sherman nominated Fager to reward his outstanding work in two classes and his 2018 Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF), during which Fager vetted a statistical model Sherman had developed.

The Hallett Smith Prize, which recognizes an outstanding essay related to the work of Shakespeare, was granted to sophomore Nivedita Kanrar. Her winning essay is entitled, "Types of Femininity in Shakespeare's Tragedies."

For her composition, "Utilitarian Calculations and the Moral Status of Strong AI," freshman Elsa Palumbo received the Alexander P. and Adelaide F. Hixon Prize for Writing. The prize is awarded annually to an undergraduate student for the best composition in a freshman humanities course.

Congratulations to Nivetha, Leo, Melba, Karen, Victoria, Lucca, Maggie, David, Nivedita, and Elsa, and the graduating class of 2020!

Updated July 20, 2020