Student and Academic Life

5 Lewis Honors Students Receive Top Honors

photo of Emma Vaught
photo of Rebecca Caldbeck
photo of Andrew Moak
photo of Clarissa Somers
photo of Michael Di Girolamo

LEXINGTON, Ky. (June 11, 2021) — Earlier this month, the University of Kentucky Lewis Honors College held its Spring 2021 Medal Ceremony in two physically distant ceremonies in the Gatton Student Center. As is tradition, all of the Lewis Honors College graduation awards were announced at the ceremony.

Associate Dean Czarena Crofcheck announced the nominees and winners for the five annual honors awards: the Raymond Betts Crystal Award, the Diachun Award, the Leadership Award, the Diachun Scholar Award and the Evans Scholar Award. 

The Raymond Betts Crystal Award is awarded to a student for outstanding service to the Lewis Honors College and the UK community at large. The winner is awarded a crystal globe award to represent the potential for excellence in service and to have a global impact. The 2021 nominees were Thomas Calderaro, Anna Foose, Auburn Mattingly, Philip Meersman, Kamryn Stewart and Emma Vaught. The winner was Emma Vaught. 

Vaught served as a Lewis Honors College peer mentor, was one of the founding members of the Lewis Student Diversity and Inclusivity Coalition and served the Lexington community through a variety of service opportunities. She majored in human health sciences, with a minor in health advocacy

The Diachun Award is given to a graduating senior who has demonstrated outstanding research talent in the form of an independent project and who holds high promise for further professional development in professional or graduate school. The winner receives a certificate and a $1,000 award to be used for expenses in graduate or professional school. The 2021 nominees were Rebecca Caldbeck, Rachel Mooney, Lily Silverstein and Emma Vaught. The winner was Rebecca Caldbeck. 

Caldbeck has been doing undergraduate research at UK for several years and spent a summer as research intern with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. She was also the first-place winner in physical and engineering sciences in the Oswald Research Competition in 2020. She majored in agricultural and medical biotechnology and in natural resources and environmental science, and also earned the Distillation, Wine and Brewing Certificate.

The Leadership Award is given to a graduating senior who has excelled in leadership positions at the university, department, college or community level. The 2021 nominees were Javid Fathi, Andrew Moak, Alyssa Williams and Jacob Zimmerman. The winner was Andrew Moak.

Moak served as the president of his fraternity, where he led efforts to address the importance of mental health. In 2020-21, he served as the president of the Accounting and Finance Honors Fraternity, where the membership recently doubled. He majored in accounting and finance and was a member the Global Scholars Honors Pathway program.

The final two awards, the Diachun and Evans Scholar awards, were a result of a gift from Karen and Jan Henson, established to recognize the highest academic achievement. All Lewis Honors College students are eligible to receive these awards. Candidates are selected based on their GPA and course rigor at the end of December before their graduating year. This distinction includes a monetary award of $3,000. 

The Diachun Scholar Award is given to a senior majoring in science or a related field. The 2021 finalists were Emily Andreasson, Thomas Calderaro, Carson Hardee, Claire Scott and Clarissa Somers. The winner was Clarissa Somers.

Somers majored in food science, was active in undergraduate research, gained experience as a production management intern and has served as a peer leader. She plans to attend graduate school at University College Cork to continue her studies in food science.

Somers' research interests are in the study of human breast milk and Assistant Professor Rachel Schendel from the College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment believes that Somers will achieve many great things in her future scientific research.

“As I got to know Clarissa better and discuss her career goals, I was impressed by her extraordinary long-term vision, organization and commitment to her chosen field," Schendel said in her recommendation for Sommers. "Clarissa’s lightbulb ‘I want to dedicate my life to this’ moment happened in high school, where she had the opportunity to join a university research lab as a research intern investigating barriers to breastfeeding implementation. She realized that she wanted to understand breast milk at a chemical and physiological level and thus needed to choose an undergraduate program that would provide a solid basic science foundation as well as specialized training in food chemistry, analysis, nutrition and processing. Food science as an undergraduate major has well-prepared her for building a career in breast milk research, and her decision to pursue a taught master's in food science at University College Cork is a sound follow-up."

The Evans Scholar Award is given to a senior majoring in humanities or a related field. The 2021 finalists were Nicole Blackstone, Michael Di Girolamo, Kristen Karem, Michaela Lansdale, Chelsea Russell, Kayla Stroud and Anna Wagner. The winner was Michael Di Girolamo. 

Di Girolamo double majored in foreign language and international economics, with a focus in Chinese and international studies, with a concentration on comparative politics and societies. He also minored in Italian and Spanish. Michael was a Chellgren Fellow and co-founded two student organizations, one for Chinese and one for Korean language and culture. Di Girolamo plans to attend graduate school to study international relations and hopes to spend a year teaching English abroad prior to entering his graduate program.

Associate Professor of Chinese Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences Liang Luo spoke to Girolamo's impact as a student at UK and his promising future. 

“Michael spearheaded the introduction of Korean language instruction at the University of Kentucky. With his leadership and with the help of Korean faculty and community members, I was able to secure a Korea Foundation Grant to seed a lecturer position, hence introducing Korean language formally to students at the University of Kentucky starting Fall 2019," Luo said in his recommendation for Di Girolamo. "Michael has consistently maintained academic excellence and a strong leadership record during his studies and service at the University of Kentucky. His broad interests in at least four foreign languages (Chinese, Korean, Italian and Spanish) in both social sciences and humanities prepared him well for a promising career in diplomacy and international relations."

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.