Celebrating the Class of 2022
On Friday, April 28, for the first time in two years, the Swearer Center was excited to host our End-of-Year Celebration in person! Students, staff, community partners, faculty, and family gathered on Pembroke Field to celebrate a year of accomplishments, mingle, and enjoy local catering. To honor our graduating students in the Class of 2022, the celebration included an awards ceremony presented by Swearer staff.
Mary Jo Callan, Executive Director of the Swearer Center and Associate Dean of the College for Engaged Scholarship, recognized the extraordinary contributions of Swearer Center graduates in a warm welcoming address.
“Our work at the Swearer Center relies on collaborative, reflective leadership and a commitment to constant learning. During your time here as leaders at Brown and in your work with us, you have modeled ambition, dedication, love and compassion in service to justice and community. It has been an immense joy to witness your accomplishments this year and we are excited to see how you build future communities.”
Her reflections were echoed later by Swearer staff members Asia Stevens and Samani Kim. In their joint remarks, Stevens reflected on the centrality of community to the Swearer Center and the challenges COVID-19 presented.
“It’s special to us to be able to gather as a community. Being part of a community means we see one another; we seek to acknowledge each other’s humanity, expertise, and strengths. We break bread together and share meals, and we learn, create and celebrate together.” Gesturing enthusiastically to the crowd, she concluded, “All of us at the Swearer Center are grateful for you–our community.”
Thank you, Swearer Community!
Thank you to all who came together to make this event possible: Swearer Center staff and student staff members; Will Battersby from Event Support; Scott Lapham, our photographer; Nicki and Tiago from NESP, who provided the photo booth and tech support; and Devin with LPI. A special thank you for the fantastic food provided by these local businesses: Granny Squibb's Organic Iced Tea, Del’s Lemonade, Amos House Catering, Gold Coast Catering, and Sarcastic Sweets.
We also express our gratitude for Swearer’s community-based partners and stakeholders, whose work toward access, equity, and justice makes our work possible. The Swearer Center’s Community Advisory Board is excited to recognize three community organizations with $2500 awards for organizations that have shown innovation and profound work in one of the following areas: 1) Community Joy & Resilience, 2) Diversity, Equity & Inclusion and Anti-Racist Practice, 3) Work that aims to address the needs of the most vulnerable Rhode Islanders. Click here to nominate an agency that has impacted you, and keep an eye out when we announce the winners in June!
Swearer Center Student Awards
Eight Swearer Center students, from the Class of 2022, have been honored for their exceptional contributions to the Center’s mission to build on community strengths and address community challenges through collective action:
Abelardo Hernández Community Engagement Award: Breanna Cadena '22 and Gabriel Mernoff '22
Engaged Scholarship Undergraduate Award: Alexa Ara '22 and Tiffany Thomas '22
Engaged Scholarship Graduate Award: Margaret Unverzagt Goddard
Student Leadership Award: Ishani Mehta '22, Kimberly Collins '22, and Madison Mandell '22
The Abelardo Hernández Community Engagement Award
Breanna Cadena '22
Since her first year at Brown, Breanna has been a member of Brown Elementary Afterschool Mentoring (BEAM), where she quickly became a site leader and supported others in community engagement at William D’Abate Elementary School. Breanna, who remained a leader throughout her time at Brown, was an essential member of the BEAM leadership team during the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent switch to remote learning. Breanna’s nominators wrote:
“Breanna has then taken charge of various responsibilities that go above and beyond a site leader's role; she dedicates so much time and energy to the program. She organizes team meetings to discuss next steps for BEAM and keeps the program running. She is amazing!”
“She is always doing what she can to ensure we have enough BEAM volunteers; whether this be posting announcements in Today @ Brown or helping interview potential volunteers, Breanna is always hopeful of expanding the program. She is very communicative and reaches out to various faculty members to ensure that the program occurs. Even with her various commitments, Breanna makes sure to give her all into the BEAM program.”
Gabriel Mernoff '22
Gabe has been involved with Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere (HOPE) since 2018, serving meals to the city's most vulnerable populations, working as an Outreach Worker and case manager, and heading the organization's City Policy Unit. In this capacity, he frequently testified on housing legislation at the State House and worked with the Mayor’s Office to improve housing policies during the pandemic. Gabe’s nominators wrote:
“I have observed for many years how generations of Brown students have sustained HOPE as an impactful service and policy organization, and I know that Gabe has been instrumental in sustaining this momentum for his cohort of Brown students. I also know from the Mayor's office how deeply they appreciated Gabe's work as a coordinator of the City's African American Ambassadors program. The city has awarded him its community service award three times.”
“Gabe is a Providence native who, from the moment he arrived at Brown, has worked ceaselessly to bridge the town/gown divide. He is too self-effacing for his own good. But it is probably precisely the straightforward humbleness with which he takes up his political and community work that makes him so deeply respected across the many organizations and communities he has engaged with.”
The Engaged Scholarship Undergraduate Award
Alexa Ara '22
Throughout her time at Brown, Alexa has been actively involved with the Swearer Center as a student in the Engaged Scholars Program, a Community-Based Learning and Research Fellow, and recently as an Engaged Scholarship Peer Advisor. Her work includes, but is not limited to, working in collaboration with Professor Yoko Yamamoto and Achievement First, as well as with Professor Patricia Sobral and City Year Providence. Alexa’s nominators wrote:
“Alexa stood out right away as a very attentive and involved student. Her fluency in community engagement was apparent, and her knowledge base about engaged scholarship only grew throughout the course of the semester. She consistently showed up in multiple ways (online discussion forums, synchronous class discussions, guest speaker forums, giving active peer feedback on assignments). She is an affable student with a deep commitment to social justice, improving the lives of all around her.”
Tiffany Thomas '22
Tiffany has been deeply involved within the Providence and Brown University community through her engaged scholarship work. She has developed relationships with Hasbro Children’s Hospital, worked with RIPTA to launch a touch-free fare card during the pandemic, and piloted an “Introduction to Public Health” curriculum for high school students in collaboration with The Met High School in Providence. Tiffany’s nominators wrote:
“Tiffany’s project, with its emphasis on the earlier exposure to public health, seeks to not only inspire more students to pursue meaningful careers in public health but also equip students with the interdisciplinary toolkit to understand and address the world’s most pressing challenges. The Met High School administrators are currently in discussion with Tiffany to formally embed this Introduction to Public Health curriculum within their exciting learning system. Tiffany hopes that this pilot program will serve as a stepping stone for more high schools to adopt this curriculum. She is currently collaborating with the Rhode Island Public Health Association and the American Public Health Association to further the reach and impact of Public Health education in high schools.”
The Engaged Scholarship Graduate Award
Margaret Unverzagt Goddard
Maggie has served as a graduate assistant for the Royce Fellowship for the past two years, advised students in the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship, and worked as a writing fellow, supporting students throughout their writing process and acting as a mentor to young scholars. Maggie’s nominators wrote:
“Since 2016, Maggie has worked as a writing fellow at Brown’s writing center and has supported Royce fellows, and I have personally sent dozens of students to seek Maggie’s assistance outside of the classroom. Maggie’s transformative writing guidance stems from her natural approach to teaching. She meets students at the exact moments in which they are processing--either brainstorming, developing ideas on paper, connecting ideas to bigger projects, or in final stage line editing. Her ability to empathetically understand where her students need guidance has been vital for Ethnic Studies concentrators and Mellon Mays fellowship awardees, many who are first generation college students, immigrant, and students of color.”
The Student Leadership Award
Kimberly Collins '22
As a co-founder of Brown Votes, Kimberly has helped mobilize both the Swearer Center and students to take action during the 2020 election. Her contributions to Brown Votes have helped foster collaborations between departments, community organizations, and students. Kimberly’s nominators wrote:
“I went to the first online Brown Votes informational meeting, and it was clear from the start that Kim was a leader who sought to empower others. I was impressed by how many opportunities Kim and her co-founder, Madison, were providing for people to get involved in whatever ways made most sense for them. The meeting focused on all of the different committees, the issue of accessibility for people reckoning with the worst of the pandemic, and more. She had a long-view of the project that was clear, and it was clear that she and Madison had thought out the process for achieving that goal.
Madison Mandell '22
Madison, as one of the two co-founders of Brown Votes, has worked to streamline and strengthen voting initiatives on Brown’s campus. Working with the SNF Agora Institute at Johns Hopkins, she helped create a comprehensive report detailing the democratic engagement efforts of universities throughout the country through in-depth interviews and research. Madison’s nominators wrote:
“Madison Mandell and Kimberly Collins were instrumental in creating the Brown Votes voting initiative and working to raise the profile of Civic Engagement and voting at Brown. The whole Brown Votes concept began after attending a conference at Harvard for the Ivy Votes Challenge, and Madison and Kim came back and said, “We need Brown Votes.” That's where it began in March of 2020. By November, Madison was working with national organizations to research and promote the building of democratic campuses. Kim was speaking during a webinar with President Paxson about the importance of the elections. They became campus and national leaders in the field.”
Ishani Mehta '22
Ishani has held many leadership positions through the Swearer Center during her time at Brown, as a peer advisor for the Engaged Scholars Program (ESP), as a Bonner Fellow at the Providence Student Union, among other roles with HOPE, Brown Votes, and the Guiliano Fellowship. Ishani’s enthusiasm and grounded mentorship have contributed to developing students’ advocacy and leadership skills, empowering other student leaders to continue the work even after she graduates. Ishani’s nominators wrote:
“As a Bonner Fellow, she has pushed for greater investment in facilities, technology, and safety policies in Providence Public Schools. As a Peer Advisor, Ishani has guided students through the resources and opportunities available to them through Swearer. As a member of PAL and the HOPE executive boards, she has made Brown’s wealth of resources more accessible to the people who need it most in Providence. As an Engaged Scholar and Guiliano Fellow, Ishani has been writing a Religious Studies thesis centered around women’s issues in Southeast Asia and will be traveling to Thailand this summer to continue her research. She has worked as a student staffer in the Swearer Center, served on the Student Advisory Committee and the director search committee, and assisted with Swearer’s recently-launched Brown Votes initiative. Ishani’s involvement with Swearer is incredibly extensive because she is so dedicated to its mission and community.”
Note: quotes from nominators have been combined and condensed for space and readability. Thank you to the community members who nominated students – it was a pleasure to read all of the heartfelt commendations for our many deserving student leaders!
To see more of the Commencement events and celebrations on social media, follow the hashtags #Brown2022, #BrownU, and #SwearerCommunity. Visit the Swearer Center’s Instagram page to read more about our award winners. Congratulations graduates!