Dwight Hall Students Win Graduation Awards and Continue Service

On May 18, 2020, Yale President Peter Salovey ’86 PhD virtually conferred degrees on nearly 1,400 members of the Class of 2020. Describing the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on Yale students and people around the globe, his remarks called out the interdependence of our human communities. President Salovey encouraged graduates to address “the vast gulf between the most fortunate and the most vulnerable.”

Before and during this global health crisis, Dwight Hall students have addressed inequities and acted with care and compassion for neighbors in New Haven and around the world. Through student-led member groups, the Student Executive Committee, Dwight Hall programs, fellowships, and internships, members of the Class of 2020 have provided sustained service for the greater good.

Conferral of Degrees

Many graduation award recipients have served with Dwight Hall, including the following:

Keera Annamaneni ’20 (David Everett Chantler Award; Philo Sherman Bennett Prize)

Rachel Chew ’20 (Adrian Van Sinderen Book Collecting Prize)

David Hurtado ’20 (Adrian Van Sinderen Book Collecting Prize; Elmore A. Willets Prize)

Marwan Safar Jalani ’20 (Charles Washburn Clark Prize)

Kelly Li ’20 (Department of Biomedical Engineering Prize)

Gabriel Malek ’20 (Edward Sapir Prize)

Eliza McNay ’20 (Emily L. Saslow Prize)

Veena Muraleetharan ’20 (David Everett Chantler Award)

Chaltu Musse ’20 (James Gordon Bennett Prize)

Dustin Nguyen ’20 (William H. McKim Prize)

Christina Pao ’20 (Adrian Van Sinderen Book Collecting Prize; Frank M. Patterson Prize)

Aidan Pillard ’20 (Roosevelt L. Thompson Prize)

Jessica Trinh ’20 (Roosevelt L. Thompson Prize)

Minh Vu ’20 (John Hubbard Curtis Prize; Sholom Herson & Marcia Herson Scholarship)

Liana Wang ’20 (David Everett Chantler Award)

Maurice Ware ’20 (Roosevelt L. Thompson Prize)

Jackson Willis ’20 (David Everett Chantler Award)

Valerie Yang ’20 (Canadian History Prize; Montaigne Prize)

Each of these students gained social change leadership experiences at Dwight Hall, and you might enjoy learning about some of these scholars’ achievements. 

Keerthana Annamaneni ’20 was one of four Dwight Hall recipients of the David Everett Chantler (B.A. 1910) Award, presented to those exemplifying qualities of courage, strength of character, and high moral purpose. Keera has given back in extraordinary ways and reflects upon her experience as a Dwight Hall Urban Fellow and a Summer Fellow as essential to her formation as a leader. Interested in direct service work, she utilized storytelling skills to spotlight larger systemic problems, both as a journalist and as a Dwight Hall Summer Fellow with the Bronx Defenders. Keera has also served the New Haven federal defenders and the Connecticut Innocence Project, as well as the Yale student publication, The Politic (editor). 

Dustin Nguyen ’20 received the William H. McKim Prize, recognizing his tremendous academic progress in his upper-class years and his significant contributions to activities outside of the classroom. He majored in Economics and during his junior year spent a semester in Singapore as part of the Yale-NUS student exchange program. As a Summer 2019 Fellow with the Yale Prison Education Initiative at Dwight Hall, Dustin worked on a range of YPEI programming: course facilitation, research, grant-writing, and general day-to-day support. He is originally from San Diego, California, where as a justice-involved youth, he came to realize the importance of fair access to education and the liberal arts, which drew him to the missions of YPEI and Dwight Hall.

Christina Pao ’20 won the Adrian Van Sinderen Book Collecting Prize and the Frank M. Patterson Prize and is completing a double major in political science and classics, as well as an M.A. in political science. Christina has worked at the intersection of research and social policy and is excited to continue her studies on gender and displacement at the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. Later, she plans to pursue a PhD in Demography with funding from the Truman Scholarship. Pao has worked with the International Rescue Committee alongside refugees in Washington State as a Dwight Hall Summer Fellow and cites her participation through Dwight Hall as an Urban Fellow with Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services (IRIS) as essential for forming the basis of her world view.

Jackson Willis ’20 was honored with the David Everett Chantler Award. His service focused primarily on The Yale Hunger and Homelessness Action Project, for which he was executive director and chair of the board. YHHAP is one of Dwight Hall at Yale’s largest community outreach programs, and it thrived under Jackson’s leadership. He served as a student member of the Dwight Hall Board of Directors and also experienced a one-year term as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Guinea, West Africa. Jackson reflects on his volunteer service, “I am inspired by my peers who enliven Dwight Hall with their diverse perspectives and dedication. Now is the time to recommit ourselves to Dwight Hall’s goals of social change, social justice, and service.”

Serena Ly '20, '21 MPHOutgoing Dwight Hall Student Executive Committee Co-Coordinator Serena Ly ’20 ’21 MPH demonstrates the resolve of this class. Through FOCUS on New Haven, First-Years in Service, fellowships, and committee leadership, she formed strong relationships with community members and participated in alliances among health providers, social workers, and health policy advocates. Serena recently completed her undergraduate studies while working at the Yale School of Public Health, where her mentors processed patient samples to help Yale New Haven Hospital and other medical facilities validate coronavirus tests.  

Dwight Hall values each of the hundreds of members of the Class of 2020 who advanced service and justice. Collectively, these students are addressing inequities, developing leadership skills, and creating lasting social change. Congratulations to one and all!

About the Author

Lydia Burleson

Lydia Burleson served as the Communications and Alumni Engagement Associate for Dwight Hall at Yale, Center for Public Service and Social Justice from June 2021-June 2022. A first-generation low-income student from rural Texas, Lydia graduated from Yale cum laude in 2021 with a degree in English and a nonfiction creative writing concentration. During her college years, Lydia increased awareness of marginalized voices with the public writing she did for The Yale Daily News and the Yale Admissions office. Her Dwight Hall experiences included free college advising with student-led member groups REACH and Matriculate. Dwight Hall empowered Lydia to uplift other disadvantaged students and to increase access to education for people who might not have otherwise received these resources. She is currently completing an English PhD at Stanford University with a Knight-Hennessy Fellowship.