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Reves Center Announces 2024 International Student Achievement Awards

International Student Achievement Award Winners at the Evening of Excellence. L-R: Nick Zhou, Dorothy Gao, Miguel Montalvo, Eva Wong (Director of ISSP), Si Chen, Richard Homenya and Amit Seal Ami. (Courtesy photo)

The Reves Center for International Studies has announced the 2024 International Student Achievement Award recipients.

Eva Wong, Director of International Students, Scholars and Programs (ISSP) at the Reves Center, presented the awards at the Evening of Excellence: William & Mary Celebrates Student Achievement event on Thursday, April 18.

“Every year, we receive nominations from faculty and staff across the campus and I’m always amazed by the accomplishments of our international students,” said Wong. “It’s wonderful to see the students demonstrating William & Mary’s core values of excellence, flourishing, and service both in and outside the classroom.”

International Student Achievement Awards of $700 each are given each spring to W&M and VIMS international students who have been nominated by faculty or staff as having distinguished themselves as exemplary in their academics, leadership and service to the community. All faculty and staff are eligible to nominate a student.

 This year's awardees are listed here, along with excerpts from the nominators' applications. (The excerpts have been edited slightly for length and clarity.)

list of student awardees
2024 International Student Achievement Awardees
Amit Seal Ami (Courtesy photo)Amit Seal Ami, Graduate Student (Bangladesh)
Field of study: Computer Science

Amit has impressed me with his technical skills at software engineering, deep interest and motivation in learning about security, and maturity that would put him on a par with more senior graduate students.

Amit's research improves the security of software used by billions around the globe. His work has led to the discovery of over 20 critical flaws in highly popular security tools used by thousands of developers in the industry and has had an impact on the security of most consumer software we use, be it mobile apps on our phones, or cloud services that enable them.

Amit has actively mentored junior graduate students and undergraduate students. He was instrumental in developing an outreach program for connecting W&M CSCI faculty with students at his alma mater, the Institute of Information Technology, University of Dhaka (IIT-D), in Bangladesh. The program has enabled IIT-D students to perform their capstone project with W&M faculty as research advisors. This program continues to benefit both students at IIT-D as well as our graduate outreach efforts at W&M CS.

Amit has mentored more than 20 undergraduate students in semester projects for software engineering classes. Additionally, he was invited as one of the Graduate Panelists at the W&M CS Symposium for two years in a row and was the web chair for W&M CS Symposium 2022.

Amit has volunteered as a sub-reviewer in top-tier conference and has contributed to open-source software by reporting and fixing open-source security analysis software flaws. Amit was awarded the Commonwealth of Virginia Engineering & Science (COVES) Fellowship in 2022. As the COVES fellow, he worked closely with the Joint Commission on Technology and Science (JCOTS) to improve existing security policies for information technology in the state.

Amit's record of service and leadership is unparalleled among graduate students. He is on track to graduate in spring 2025, and based on his research, teaching, and service record, is well positioned to join as a faculty at any of the top CS departments in the U.S.

—Adwait Nadkarni, Class of 1953 Associate Professor of Computer Science

Si Chen (Courtesy photo)
Si Chen, Graduate Student (China)
Field of Study: Educational Policy, Planning, & Leadership with a concentration in Curriculum & Learning Design

Si is a conscientious, diligent contributor, who also exhibits peer leadership. He willingly supports his classmates by offering support through peer-review of their writing, and he is an excellent presenter in class, having served on occasion as a co-teacher and as a guest lecturer.

Si has published two peer-reviewed journal articles as a co-author, with another three first-author papers under review, and two papers in progress. He has presented at five refereed academic conferences as a solo or first presenter and presented two research studies at the American Educational Research Association (AERA) Annual Conference. This is an exceptional level of scholarly productivity for a doctoral student. Si served as the managing editor for the William & Mary Educational Review in the 2022-2023 academic year, and he also served as a peer-reviewer for the AERA Annual Conference.

Recognizing that attending academic conferences is essential but costly Si proposed and then organized the CLD & K-12 Post-AERA 2023 Panel in which professors and doctoral students who attended the AERA conference in 2023 shared experiences with students who did not attend. This was an extraordinary learning opportunity for the panel presenters and participants alike, and it was one more step in our efforts to build a community of scholars among our doctoral students across areas of concentration.

As a voluntary graduate intern at the W&M Studio for Teaching & Learning Innovation (STLI), Si has contributed to campus-wide teaching and learning at W&M through multiple projects, such as being the single author of “A Policy Brief of Regular and Substantive Interaction,” which relates to federal regulations for online teaching; leading a program evaluation of the summer session courses offered at William & Mary’s Washington DC Center from 2018 to 2023; and engaging graduate students with STLI events and offerings.  He also recently led a STLI workshop titled “Getting Started with Performance-Based Assessment” for W&M faculty members.

Si has enthusiastically and expertly served as a volunteer fitness instructor at the W&M Student Recreation Center since fall 2022 and has been recognized as the Fitness Instructor of the Year in 2023. As a first-generation university student himself, Si has been a mentor for First Generation Limited Income (FGLI) Students at W&M since October 2023.

Si is one of the strongest international students with whom I have worked in my 20+ years at W&M, and he is among the top doctoral students, domestic or international, with whom I have worked. In sum, he is intelligent, diligent, committed, open to feedback, self-directed, genuinely kind, honest, humble yet strong, principled yet forgiving. I am not alone in my regard for Si. I have direct knowledge that Si’s program faculty unanimously agree that Si is among the best of our current and past students.  Si’s future in academia, research, and teaching is very bright.

—Christopher R. Gareis, Professor, School of Education

Dorothy Gao (Courtesy photo)
Dorothy Gao ‘24 (China)
Field of Study: Economics & Environmental Policy

As Dorothy’s professor and supervisor of her independent study on “Macroeconomic Implications of Climate Change for Developing Countries: Case of Indonesia,” I had the privilege of working closely with her during the fall semester (2023) and witnessed her exceptional intellectual capabilities, unwavering curiosity, and profound passion for environmental studies and climate economics. Dorothy is talented, determined, and highly motivated. 

In her study, Dorothy investigated the relationship between the use of fossil fuels, focusing on crude oil and natural gas, and greenhouse emissions and the energy transition required for achieving Net-zero emissions by 2050. What truly impressed me was her ability to synthesize and incorporate a vast array of scholarly papers into her research paper, showcasing her dedication to thoroughly understand the subject matter. The depth, clarity, and meticulousness of her writing surpassed that of her peers, reflecting her exceptional commitment and effort. Academically, Dorothy has consistently stood out among her peers due to her remarkable capability and dedication, and her strong research and analytical skills. 

Beyond her academic achievements, Dorothy has demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to the area of environmental sustainability. During our time working together, I witnessed her unwavering enthusiasm for global environmental policies and her active engagement in various sustainability initiatives. Dorothy's passion for sustainability extends beyond the classroom, as she has actively participated in numerous events, seminars, and workshops related to sustainability, environmental studies, and economics. Of particular note, Dorothy had the honor of representing the youth as a delegate at the 27th Conference of the Parties (COP 27) in Egypt. Her ability to bridge theory and practice, and her unwavering dedication to making a tangible difference in the world, is truly inspiring.

It is important to emphasize that Dorothy's exceptional qualities and achievements are even more remarkable considering that she is an international student. Despite the challenges of studying in a foreign country, Dorothy has consistently excelled academically, displaying a deep understanding of complex economic theories and their practical applications. Her ability to navigate cultural and linguistic barriers is a testament to her adaptability as well as relentless pursuit of excellence. Moreover, I should also add that Dorothy's international perspective brought a unique and valuable dimension to our discussions.

In conclusion, I wholeheartedly endorse Dorothy for the International Student Award. Her intellectual prowess, dedication to research, and active involvement in sustainability initiatives make her an exceptional candidate. Dorothy's passion, drive, and commitment to creating a sustainable future are commendable, and I have no doubt that she will continue to make significant contributions to the field of economics and environmental studies, positively impacting the global community.

—Shahrokh Fardoust, Ph.D., Research Professor, Global Research Institute, and Visiting Scholar in Economics, Non-resident Scholar at the Middle East Institute

Richard Homenya (Courtesy photo)
Richard Homenya, Graduate Student (Ghana)
Field of study: Experimental Psychology

Richard studied psychology as an undergraduate at the University of Accra in Ghana and had been working for the government of Ghana to produce research studies intended to inform policy decisions. Richard shared his concerns with research done in his group, noting that there was often a mismatch between the research questions the agency was tasked with addressing and the methodology used in the research. In his view, the methods used (such as self-report surveys developed for use in North America) were not suited to Ghanaian contexts. Richard was eager to learn about cross-cultural research methods with the goal of developing research methods that would be relevant within a Ghanaian context.
Richard has excelled in his graduate study at William & Mary. He has learned about many areas of research that examine the mutual construction of culture and psychology from various perspectives. Many of these areas of study involve East-West comparison, but do not incorporate perspectives from sub-Saharan Africa. He was eager to start on a research project to replicate some key findings from cross-cultural East-West work and extend them to West Africa and has made amazing progress in the past year and a half. Last summer, Richard traveled to Ghana for two months to collect data for a series of cross-cultural projects.
He has also shown himself to be an excellent mentor and leader. At William & Mary, he manages the participant recruitment system for our entire department, while also managing undergraduate research assistants in my research lab. After a successful round of applications to PhD programs, he has also been highly involved in mentoring students in the department who will be applying to PhD programs next year. Outside of our department, Richard has also served as an International Student Peer leader for the Reves Center. In this role, he provided pre-arrival support and mentoring to incoming international students and worked with students after their arrival to assist with their integration into campus.
 Richard is a rock star, and I have no doubt that he will be immensely successful in the future. His time at William & Mary has served to boost him into the international research arena, and I am looking forward to following his accomplishments.

—Joanna Schug, Associate Professor and Undergraduate Studies Director, Psychological Sciences

miguel-montalvo-camacho-content.jpgMiguel Montalvo, Graduate Student (Colombia)
Field of Study: Marine Science

Even with a non-traditional background for a VIMS student (an undergraduate degree in Marketing!), Miguel has excelled in his program. He is a pleasure to have in the classroom, is engaged, and always willing to discuss a topic and brings to it his perspective and experience. It is truly a learning experience for both him and the instructor!

Miguel’s dissertation research is a broad-based examination of the phenomenon of elongation of the rostrum across teleostean fishes -- basically what makes a billfish a billfish, and how many ways can you make a billfish. What I really enjoy about how he developed this project is that he first takes a 50,000-foot view of the problem, approaches it in a systematic and comprehensive manner, and then drills down to pick apart different aspects of the morphology and evolution of billfishes, drawing upon different disciplines, including systematics, taxonomy, ontogeny, microscopy, histology, and paleontology. His dissertation will be a holistic treatment of billfish evolution and will contribute to the better understanding of these remarkable fishes. He has the drive, curiosity, and skills that will ensure his career in marine science blossoms.

Miguel came to VIMS from an internship at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History (NMNH), working as a data analyst for the museum’s outreach and marketing teams, in which he (among other activities) examined and curated audience interaction data to better inform strategic decision making for outreach programs.

Miguel is a gifted communicator of science. He has a natural demeanor that is welcoming, and his enthusiasm is contagious. I have seen him in the field, in the classroom, at Marine Science Day, and in front of an audience, and no matter the context the group he is with invariably comes away better informed and energized about marine science. Further, out of his own desire, Miguel began mentoring students in his first year at VIMS. He is a member of the VIMS Diversity and Inclusion committee (a dean-appointed position) and has become very active in this work. He brings his particular experiences and perspectives to this and all his work with characteristic empathy, humor, and care.

—Eric Hilton, Professor; Chair, Natural Resources, Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Nick Zhou (Courtesy photo)
Nick Zhou, ’24 (China)
Field of Study: Psychological Sciences

Nick has a clear record of academic achievement. He has been on the Dean's List each semester. In addition to excelling at his coursework, Nick has been a research assistant in two research labs. In my lab, Nick has contributed to multiple projects, and has taken the time to go beyond standard research assistant duties. For example, Nick programmed a series of tasks used in an ongoing study examining self-control and regulatory abilities. He scoured the literature to find the best way to design the tasks and created them in a program that he learned on the fly. Nick is also completing an honors thesis, for which he received an honors fellowship. He is presenting his project at the annual conference of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America this spring. He also received a F.U.S.E. scholarship for a competitive internship placement at Pace University's Counseling Center.

Nick stands out as someone who seeks out opportunities, rather than simply excelling at the opportunities presented to him. Many of his service and leadership activities show that he is passionate about helping others and improving mental health. Nick has served as a Wellness Ambassador at the Wellness Center, where he advocates for various wellness initiatives on campus. He is the Treasurer of the Psi Chi Honor Society and was a Panelist for an International Student Wellness Workshop. Nick has volunteered as a Crisis Counselor at Crisis Text Line, helping countless individuals in times of need. He has also worked as a Childcare Assistant at Williamsburg Campus Childcare, working with young toddlers. In line with Nick's minor in Computer Science, he was also the Lead Organizer of Cypher VII: William & Mary’s Seventh Hackathon.

— Meghan Quinn, Assistant Professor, Psychological Sciences

The Office of International Students, Scholars & Programs (ISSP) supports W&M's growing international community through: Immigration Services; Programming, Education and Advocacy; and Scholarships. More than 800 international students, scholars and their families from more than 60 places of origin call W&M home.

The Reves Center for International Studies is the home of the Global Education Office, and the Office of International Students, Scholars, and Programs and the Global Engagement Team at William & Mary. Global education, support for international students and scholars and the promotion of global perspectives throughout the university are at the heart of the Reves Center's work.