Twenty-nine graduates receive Phi Beta Kappa honors

November 21, 2017
Phi Beta Kappa Sign
Photo by Chris Pham, via Flickr

In the lead-up to Commencement, 29 graduates were honored as Phi Beta Kappa members at an initiation ceremony and dinner on May 12 at the Athenaeum.

Tau of California Chapter President and Associate Professor of Government Jennifer Taw welcomed the honorees and their families, Associate Professor of History Tarara Venit-Shelton gave a brief history of Phi Beta Kappa, followed by the introduction of new members and awarding of certificates from Crown Professor of Psychology and George R. Roberts Fellow Shana Levin and Roy Crocker Professor of Politics Jack Pitney. President Chodosh introduced Associate Professor of Modern Languages and Literature Lee Skinner who gave the program address. Professor Pitney gave the banquet presentation at the dinner.

Phi Beta Kappa, which celebrates excellence in the liberal arts and sciences, is the oldest honor society in the nation having been established in 1776, it has also become one of the most prestigious.

Read the following briefs on each new Phi Beta Kappa member from the Class of 2016, taken from Prof. Pitney’s remarks at the ceremony:

Caroline Dorothy Bowman, of Sarasota, Florida, won the award for best overall student in philosophy. She spent the spring of her junior year in Copenhagen.  She served as editor-in-chief of The Student Life newspaper, and as a writing consultant at the Center for Writing and Public Discourse. She also copy-edited for The Los Angeles Review of Books. In her senior thesis, which won the award for best thesis in philosophy, she defended Kant's argument that human reason inevitably leads philosophy into contradiction, and the only way to escape such contradiction is to recognize the limits of our knowledge.  Next up, she will be pursuing a PhD in philosophy at New York University. In the long run, she hopes to be a philosophy professor.

Byron Lev Mentis Cohen, of Cambridge, Massachusetts, majored in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, or PPE. Byron founded the Claremont Journal of Law & Public Policy.  He did summer internships at the Prison University Project at San Quentin and in northern Uganda at the Gulu Agricultural Development Company.  He co-founded an NGO that fights water-borne diseases in northern Uganda.  His thesis examined why some countries in sub-Saharan Africa succeed and others fail to provide water and sanitation. He won the George J. Mitchell Scholarship to complete a graduate degree in Ireland, where he will undertake a Master’s in Public Health at University College Dublin. His long-term goal is public service, fostering international peace and development.

Jessica Haston Davis, from Santa Barbara, majored in PPE and government. For seven years, Jess has worked with Everybody Dance Now, a nonprofit that provides free dance programming to low-income students. She has served as its national director.  She took part in our Washington program, where she interned at the American Constitution Society. She also served as a Judicial Intern in the Office of the Counselor to the Chief Justice at the Supreme Court.  In her senior thesis, which won the award for best thesis in government, she argued that both economic liberty and economic equality are central to the American constitutional design.  Next, she will be working as a researcher at the Tobin Project in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She plans a career as a professor of constitutional law and politics.

Annika Rose Deurlington [Der-ling-tun], from Truckee, California, majored in geology and physics. She worked at two consulting firms that are frequently contracted by water districts, and she interned at Stanford University’s Water in the West research program.  Her senior thesis was titled “Arsenic Mobilization from Aquifer Sediments in Two Groundwater Basins within the Santa Ana River Watershed, California.” This summer, she will be backpacking with friends and road-tripping with her family. In the long run, she would like to work at the interface of science and policy to improve water management.  She says: “From researching pedogenic ooids to Venusian radial dikes, I have learned the importance of knowing jargon.”

Brian Arthur Eckhardt, from Paradise Valley, Arizona, majored in economics. Last summer, he interned in the investment banking division of Merrill Lynch. The summer before that, he interned with Hawk Ridge Management, a hedge fund. When asked what he learned on the job, he replied: “Details matter.”  His senior thesis was titled “Show Me the Money: Performance Evaluation of Professional Stock Recommendations.”  It won the award for best RDS thesis. He tested for inefficiencies in the U.S. stock market, specifically how financial news media such as The Wall Street Journal or CNBC affect short-term stock returns. In late July, he starts as a full-time analyst with BDT Capital Partners, a private equity firm in Chicago. He says that his long-term goal is to keep learning and challenging himself.

Jenya Bruria Green, from Sacramento, majored in  international relations. She studied abroad in Amman, Jordan and in Jerusalem. She gained an appreciation for the immense diversity of perspectives that exist on the future of the region.  Her thesis was titled “Recontextualizing Sectarian Rhetoric: Towards a Realist Framework for Understanding Conflict and Cooperation in the Middle East.”  The thesis placed discussions of alignments between Middle Eastern actors in a realist framework.  Next up, she will return to Jordan for the summer to continue her study of Arabic with the State Department’s Critical Language Scholarship Program. Her long-term career goal is to influence U.S. foreign policy toward the Middle East.

Kelsey Leigh Heflin, from Irvine, California, majored in EEP and won the award for best student in the major. She played varsity soccer and won several awards including the William Dickinson Athletic Award.  On campus, she tutored economics, gave admissions tours, and co-led the CMS Christian Athlete organization. She took part in an archaeological dig in Israel with Professor Gary Gilbert and spent a semester abroad in Copenhagen. This past summer, she interned at the Claremont Institute’s Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, and hiked to the top of Mount Whitney. Her thesis explored the costs and benefits of using desalination technology to mitigate drought.  In the long run, she plans on attending grad school and working on environmental issues.

Tanner Ryenn Anbe Hoke, from Honolulu, majored in biology and played four years on the CMS Women’s Volleyball team.  She completed research internships with Hawaii Pacific Health and the Department of Native Hawaiian Health in Honolulu, Hawaii. She says that she gained a better understanding of what medical research entails, as well as an appreciation for how quality healthcare necessitates the art of understanding the human condition.  Her thesis was titled: “Outcomes after Immobilization of ankle sprains.” Next step in life is the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.  Her long-term goal is to return to Hawaii upon the completion of medical training and be a practicing physician, working in pediatrics or family medicine.

Michael John Irvine, from Falls Church, Virginia, majored in PPE and won the Alamshah Award.  He interned on Capitol Hill with Congressman Jim Moran and did campaign internships in Virginia. Last summer, he interned as a software engineer at the technology firm NGP VAN, whose software is used by Democratic campaigns. He says: “It’s the software that accidentally gave Bernie Sanders access to Hillary Clinton’s data a few months ago, but I probably wasn’t responsible for that.”  His thesis was titled: “Representation Yesterday and Today: The Changing Link between Public Opinion and Policy Outcomes over Time.” Next up, he will be working at a technology company in San Francisco called LiveRamp. He is looking forward to a career in politics and technology.

Nina Arati Kamath, from Saratoga, California, majored in PPE and economics. She took part in the Silicon Valley Program, where she worked at a startup called Sumo Logic. In her senior thesis, she found that compulsory voting would have increased participation rates to over 90 percent in the past four US presidential elections. After graduation, she will be working in the Bay Area at Analysis Group (AG), a firm that provides economic, financial and strategy consulting to law firms, corporations and government agencies. Her long-term career goal is to work in a high growth startup (or found her own) in the Silicon Valley, after attending business school. She says: “I would especially like to thank the support of my parents, professors, and friends, who have supported me to get to where I am today!”

Nikhil Kanade, from Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, won the award for best major in history. In 2015, he won the Stasneck Archival Research Award and won the RDS Case Competition. He did internships at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher and the US Department of Education.  He served as an English teacher with World Teach Morocco, where he spent three difficult months in a slum. His thesis sought combat Islamophobia by revealing the complexities of the religion and force people to critically question preconceived notions about Islam.  His next step is a Business Leadership Program at LinkedIn, San Francisco.  He says, “CMC has been an absolute roller coaster of an experience,” but “CMC has been the best decision/experience, planned or unplanned, in my life.

Wan Han Nataly Lim, from Singapore, won the award for best major in psychology.  Describing her summer internships, she says: “Working with children with autism means that every day is different from the last. … I love working with children with autism not only because I am able to make an impact on their lives but also because they teach me something new every time.” Her thesis was an empirical study comparing the effects of play sessions conducted in English versus heritage language on a bilingual child with autism’s play, language, and social skills.  Next step is the University of Texas, Austin, where she will pursue MA/Ph.D in Special Education with a concentration in Autism and Developmental Disorders.

Robert Howland Owlett, from Wellsboro, Pennsylvania, majored in economics.  He studied abroad at the University of Edinburgh. He says: “Being immersed in Scotland’s amazing, friendly culture was an excellent addition to my experience at CMC.”  He interned at Owlett & Lewis, Northwestern Mutual, and Wells Fargo Securities. His thesis studied the triple-A tranches of collateralized debt obligations to examine the effect of multiple credit agency ratings on credit spreads and downgrades from 2009 to 2013.  Next in life, he will be working for Wells Fargo Securities in the Asset Backed Finance division of the investment bank. He will join Subscription Finance, which underwrites and originates revolving credit facilities for private equity firms.

Joel Michael Porter, from Lake Oswego, Oregon, majored in Spanish and PPE. The summer after sophomore year, he interned in Mexico at a children’s shelter.  He studied abroad in Chile and Argentina through an SIT program. He says that he was shocked by the educational inequality in Chile, and his experiences in these countries helped form his drive to work in education.  His creative PPE thesis incorporated politics and philosophy in the format of a fantasy novel, addressing themes of morality, justice, and the role of government. Starting this summer, he will be attending Stanford’s Graduate School of Education in order to gain an elementary teaching credential and a Master’s in Education. He hopes to teach elementary school, and then possibly go into education policy or administration.

Varun Puri, from New Delhi, India, majored in economics and was a Robert Day Scholar.  He had four internships:  two with Intuit, one with Infosys and one with Google. He won the award for Best Attorney at the Opening Round of US National Mock Trial Championship 2016. He placed 11th in the US National Debate Championships 2015 with his partner. Individually, he was ranked as the 25th best debater in the country. His senior thesis attempted to understand whether Google search volumes for the word Bitcoin could be used to predict prices for Bitcoin. He will soon be joining Google’s APMM (Associate Product Marketing Manager) Program.  His ultimate goal is to launch his own startup in the Valley and then potentially move to India.  He is our 2016 class commencement speaker. 

Daniel James Schmidt, from Chester Springs, Pennsylvania, majored in psychology and Middle Eastern studies.  He studied in both Jordan and Morocco, where he worked in a Moroccan travel agency. His thesis investigated whether distracted people would be more likely to use stereotypes when they decide how much to punish someone. He won the award for best overall achievement in military science and will soon serve as an infantry officer in the US Army.  He is headed to Fort Benning in November to begin training. (Hooah!) He would like to serve as an intelligence officer before continuing his education in psychology. He says:  “I owe all of my success to my incredibly supportive parents, siblings, girlfriend, and friends. I would be headed back to work at Chick-Fil-A were it not for your support and guidance.”

Fred Crawford Taylor, from Falls Church, Virginia, majored in applied mathematics. Crawford took a year off after sophomore year to study Chinese, and says: “Learning Chinese enabled me to access the experiences and perspectives of a whole new group of people.” He spent summers in China and South Africa interning with businesses and also volunteered in South Africa.   His thesis explained a math/ finance paper that addressed the process of portfolio selection, primarily by algebraically working through the various proofs of the paper.  He will be in Indonesia this summer to study the language, Bahasa Indonesia.  Then he will be looking for opportunities to return to Southeast Asia.  In the long run, Crawford hopes for a career in international business, with a focus on Southeast Asia.

Isabel Barbara Wade, from Vancouver, British Columbia, majored in international relations and French and won the award for best overall student in French. During her senior year, Isabel worked as the Resident Assistant for Boswell Hall and the Secretary General of McKenna Model UN. During her junior year, Isabel spent 7 months in West Africa (Ghana, Senegal, and Mauritania). There Isabel began her thesis, conducting fieldwork in Mauritania. Isabel wrote her senior thesis on the relationship between human rights and U.S. security interests in Mauritania. This thesis was awarded Best Thesis in International Security by the Keck Center for International and Strategic Studies. Isabel looks forward to pursuing a career in law and global human rights policy.

Dejun Wan, from Chengdu, China, majored in economics and math.  He studied abroad at Cambridge University and London School of Economics. He says: “I was impressed by the rich cultures and fascinating history of Britain. The experience abroad inspired me to pursue further liberal arts education in the future when I have a chance.” His thesis introduced a simple and fast algorithm that solves the overdetermined linear systems. Next up, he will pursue an MPhil in Economics at Cambridge University.  He says: “I would like to give thanks to my Lord and savior Jesus Christ for making everything happen. I also thank CMC for these wonderful four years and also my professors and friends who supported me all the way.”

Caroline Bell Ward, from Edina, Minnesota, majored in economics-accounting and literature.  She studied abroad in Granada, Spain during summer of 2014.  She spent summer of 2015 working at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco on the team responsible for regulating Wells Fargo.  Her thesis examined the role of commerce in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, and the way in which it influences notions of identity, friendship, religion, love, and social status in the play.  Caroline will be returning to St. Paul, to work as a Credit Research Analyst on the Fixed-Income Investment team of Travelers Insurance, beginning in July.  Caroline is interested in pursuing an MBA, and is hoping to gain a variety of experiences in the financial world in order to determine a long-term career.

Christine Noelle Wilkes, from Mesa, Arizona, won the award for best major in International Relation.  She studied abroad in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She interned with an NGO that supports Rio de Janeiro’s slum populations (favelas) especially in the run up to the 2016 Olympics. Her thesis discussed Brazil’s history of impunity in corruption scandals and why the criminal justice system is becoming more effective at holding powerful individuals accountable.  Next up, she will be joining Accenture Federal Services in Washington, D.C. as an analyst. Her long term goal is to work in the federal government helping to shape U.S. foreign policy.  She says: “I would like to thank my parents for my college experience. Without their sacrifices, I would not have had such an incredible four years at CMC.”

Austin Wu, from Walnut, California, majored in science and management.  He undertook an internship at the Cedars Sinai Medical Center, where helped to identify a protein, Nerve Growth Factor (NGF), and its association with the inflammatory symptoms of Kawasaki disease. In his thesis, he worked with master’s students at the Keck Graduate Institute to understand the market landscape for instruments that test for diseases on a molecular level. Next fall, he will attend The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences.  His long-term career goal is to be a physician, potentially a cardiologist. He would like to be involved in healthcare policy and work towards a medical professorship.

Shang Xuan Yeo, from Singapore, won the award for best overall student in government.  He spent his college summers with the Singapore Navy. His thesis sought to explain the variety of ways in which the states in Southeast Asia have chosen to respond to China’s rise and growing assertiveness in the region. Next, he will be heading back to Singapore to serve as a combat officer in the Singapore Navy. He says: “That is where I will be working for at least the next six years of my life. I look forward to the opportunities at leadership a career with the Navy provides at the very outset.”  He hopes to spend a substantial period of his life in China, and contribute towards strengthening relations between China and Singapore, and more broadly, China and ASEAN.

Alyssa Xinmei Yoshino, from Tucson, majored in science and management. She did a summer internship at the Diamond Children’s Research Center.  Her project was to determine whether a specific patient’s gene mutation was responsible for acute medical conditions to explore the possibility of developing a treatment.  Her thesis examined whether a group of proteins in the model organism Tetrahymena thermophile are more like a group of mammalian proteins called Polycomb group proteins, or a group called HP1 proteins.  Starting in August, she will be working in Chicago for Procured Health as a medical device analyst. Her dream is to help develop communities that encourage healthcare education in order to minimize preventable diseases and complications.

Iris Liu, Kunal Raj Menda, Hee Yoon Lee, Lina Pan and Shiyu Zhang were honored in absentia.





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