Graduates and Awards
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College of Humanities Student Awards
2020 Convocation Speaker
Excellence in Humanities
2020 Convocation Speaker
What happens when love of physics meets its match in philosophy, literature and classical languages? A “humanities star” is born. Madeleine Parkinson fell in love with astrophysics and literature at the age of 14 because she “could find poetic similarities between the two.” Earning an associate’s degree in physics, it wasn’t until she was working as a nanny in France that she immersed in the writings of Kierkegaard, Beauvoirand Frankl. “I loved how philosophy allowed me to begin answering the questions that arose from my study of physics and literature,” she explained. When she returned home and began taking philosophy courses at the U, she met her match. “I realized philosophy was my life passion.”
Madeleine quickly emerged as a rising star in the philosophy department, where her combined quantitative physics training and engaging personality led to an invitation to run a logic lab for the department. “Her contagious enthusiasm for the material and skill at teaching others helped dozens of students succeedin our courses,” said Department Chair Matt Haber. “That's a truly rare and unique talent, and we're all excited to see what successes are sure to follow.” In her time at the U, Madeleine has been heavily involved in research, earning more than a dozen academic awards; in translation, engaging in multiple projects translating Euripides’ “Alcestis,”Lucian’s “A True Story,” and Plato’s “Apology & Symposium;” and in conferences, presenting on historical philosophers including Hobbesand Malebranche.
Madeleine is graduating Magna Cum Laude with double majors in philosophy and English literature, and a minor in classics in both Attic Greek and Latin. Reflecting on her experience in these disciplines, she writes, “Philosophy has taught me critical thinking, clear writing and logical argumentation. English has taught me empathy and has revealed to me the deep similarities of human experience. Classics has taught me that I can relate personally to those who existed centuries ago. These disciplines have opened my mind to new perspectives. I realize that I exist in a world with myriad perspectives, cultures and belief systems that all offer something beautiful and informative.”
After graduating, Madeleine will attend U.C. Berkeley’s ten-week summer Latin program.
She ultimately plans to pursue a Ph.D. in a joint classics and philosophy program,
continuing on to become a professor of philosophy. “I hope that by teaching philosophy
I can share my sense of curiosity and wonder with others. Further, I hope to begin
bridging the gap of disparate fields of study so that new connections and advances
can be made in each.”
Excellence in Humanities
One of Maria Stokes’ favorite ways to spend time is to sit with someone and learn what brings them to life. Sometimes, this requires her to travel across time and space. This is what led her to double major in history and physics. “I chose my history major because I wanted to understand what motivates people across time and space. I chose physics to study spacetime,” she writes.
Maria quickly gained an appreciation for each of the fields, building analytical and communication skills in history and a disciplined yet flexible approach to problem-solving through physics. “I began approaching each field with an interdisciplinary skill set, which opened doors to manners of inquiry I did not anticipate,” she writes. This skill set launched Maria on a trajectory engaging her in interdisciplinary research, service, and teaching. Her research spans four centuries to juxtapose the work of the seventeenth-century astronomer, Galileo Galilei, in optical astronomy and the recent work of the LIGO-Virgo Collaboration in gravitational astronomy, exploring the relationship between theoretical and experimental processes in the discovery of knowledge. Her service engaged her in more than 300 hours on the streets of Salt Lake City and Denver addressing the poverty of loneliness and developing trainings to serve the service resistant. Her teaching placed her in 8 classrooms as a learning assistant through the Center for Math and Science Education.
“Maria’s intelligence and character, the interdisciplinary nature of her work, and
her extensive service commitments exemplify what it means to be a graduate of the
humanities,” writes her academic advisor, Amarilys Scott. Described by faculty as
“a super student,” “an intrepid interlocutor,” “a model scholar,” and “an imaginative
thinker,” Maria has left a lasting mark on the history department and her faculty
mentors. Maria is graduating with honors degrees in history and physics, with an emphasis
in astrophysics and astronomy, and with the Undergraduate Research Scholar Designation.
She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Alpha Theta history honors society, and is
an Eccles Distinguished Scholar. Her immediate plans after graduation include interning
at the American Institute of Physics, working with both the Niels Bohr Library and
Archives, as well as the Center for History of Physics. After completing her internship,
Maria intends to do service work with the chronically homeless and to ultimately continue
her graduate education in the history of science.
Megan Peterson has always loved stories. Inspired and entertained by role models such as Parks & Recreation’s Leslie Knope, she found herself drawn to the study of digital story telling. Upon pursuing her strategic communication degree however, she soon discovered a deeper passion, stories as a catalyst for justice. “The idea of opening a person’s eyes to an issue and motivating them to take action is exactly what I want to do,” she writes. “Information is key to ourdemocracy. In order to be a civically engaged citizen, we need to be informed. To be a small piece of this process has been amazing and something I want to continue doing.”
Megan has been a large piece of this process throughout her time at the U where she has used her own voice to tackle challenging topics such as feminism in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, how the governor’s Multicultural Commission addresses issues faced by communities of color and how non-profits address issues such as the achievement gap. Spotlighting these stories revealed yet an even deeper drive, the desire to do more than just tell stories, but to act to improve community.
Megan’s passion for civic engagement connected her to the Lowell Bennion Community Service Center where she devoted more than 400 hours of community service as a Bennion Scholar. “I feel a deep sense of responsibility to engage with the community and work for justice,” she writes. Megan has volunteered at the Feed UPantry, tutored at Guadalupe School and won a grant through the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program to design and implement aresearch project with the nonprofit newspaper The West View. She has completed internships with the Governor’s Office, NBC Universal, UServeUtah and served as lead coordinator on the Bennion Scholars Leadership Team.
“Megan is someone to watch in the coming years,” writes Associate Professor Kim Mangun.
“I predict that one day, we will honor her as a distinguished alumna of the College
of Humanities.” Graduating Suma Cum Laude with a major in strategic communication
and Bennion Scholar designation, Megan has excelled in both academics and civic engagement.
Her plans after graduation include both. Megan intends to pursue professional employment
in the immediate future while preparing her application for law school to study public-interest
law. "My love for stories has not diminished,” she writes. “I believe that throughout
my career as a lawyer, I will have the opportunity to amplify other people’s voices
and fight for their stories, just in a different way than I intended.”
December 2020 Convocations
College and department convocations will take place in-person December 2020, providing students the opportunity to receive the individual recognition they deserve