Wesleyan Announces 2024 Student Prize Winners

Mike MavredakisMay 22, 20247min
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Students contribute to the Wesleyan community in their own unique ways. Some lead through work in student government or engage in local community service; some make break-through films, eye-catching art, or captivating theater productions, and others focus their contributions in the classroom.

Some do all the above.

Whatever they do, each student has some impact on the day-to-day life of Wesleyan. Every year, the University and its more than 40 academic departments recognize students for their in-and out-of-classroom work by awarding student prizes.

The following students are just a select few of the many recognized. Read the complete list of winners here.

Yohely Comprés ’24 was awarded the Vanguard Prize, Senior Legacy Award, and the Levy-Spira Prize. (Photo courtesy of Yohely Comprés)

Yohely Comprés ’24 and Ethan Barrett ’24. were awarded the Vanguard Prize. It was created in tribute to the pioneering Black members of the Class of 1969 and is awarded annually to graduating seniors who have achieved academically and contributed significantly to maintaining Wesleyan’s diversity.

Comprés wrote her thesis about Black life-world-making in the Caribbean, specifically in the Dominican Republic, through creative writing, maritime migration, and music. With a fellow student and professor, she also created the Africana Research Collective which developed into an international research trip in 2022. Comprés and seven other students researched the impact of slavery in the region and how Blackness is perceived by people living in the Dominican Republic.

“I think that Latin America, specifically Central America, is perceived to be mostly indigenous and we don’t really talk about the African diaspora and Black life in these geographies,” Comprés said. After Wesleyan, she will pursue her Ph.D. at Yale University.

Diana Zhumalieva ’24 was awarded the Butterfield Prize, John W. Paton Prize, and the Thorndike Prize. (Photo courtesy of Diana Zhumalieva ’24)

The Butterfield Prize, established by the Class of 1967 and named after Wesleyan’s 11th President Victor Lloyd Butterfield, is awarded to a graduating senior who has shown character, leadership, intellectual commitment, and concern for the campus community.

When Butterfield Prize winner Diana Zhumalieva ’24, anthropology and psychology major, came to Wesleyan from Kyrgyzstan she was the only student from her country. After initially feeling isolated, she said she eventually built friendships within the community of international students. “It was difficult moving to a new country on my own. That’s why I wanted to provide support for other students,” she said.

While at Wesleyan, Zhumalieva has been intrinsically involved in advocacy work for first-generation, low-income international students. She spent three years as an International Student Orientation leader, organized the annual International Talent Showcase, and served as the Director of the FGLI Student Advisory Board. Zhumalieva was also awarded the John W. Paton Prize and Thorndike Prize.

Asija Qyteza ’24, government major, received the Butterfield Prize and the White Fellowship-Government award for her advocacy work at the state level, specifically her contribution to various policies affecting women and girls. She was one of three students awarded University Honors for her thesis, which examined over 5,000 documents recently declassified by the Albanian government from a previous government’s attempts to influence the Albanian-American diaspora.

“I want to continue doing this work, it’s what I’m meant to be doing,” Qyteza said. She plans to attend law school and continue her advocacy work after graduation.

Campus advocate Maryam Badr ’25 received the Peter Morgenstern-Clarren ’03 Student Social Justice Award for her work with the Wesleyan Refugee Project (WRP) and People’s Free Program. A former refugee, Badr leads WRP as co-president. The organization aims to be a legal, educational, and personal support group for recently resettled families in Middletown. The People’s Free Program is a student-run grocery service that helps to meet the needs of housing insecure, low-income, and working-class families in the area.

“At the WRP, we believe that refugees do not need us to give them a voice,” Badr said. “They already have a voice, and we need to uplift and amplify it.”

Sanders Leonard, catering driver at Wesleyan, received a 2024 Peter Morgenstern-Clarren ’03 Employee Recognition Prize. Leonard, 62, has been at the University for 34 years. He said he aims to bring a positive attitude and enjoy his work each day. “I just want to just be a positive role model,” Leonard said.

The cast of “A Senior Thesis Film,” created by Frank Capra Prize awardee Anna Graziano ’24. (Photo by Anna Graziano ’24)

For her senior thesis film, Anna Graziano ’24 made a mockumentary, “A Senior Thesis Film,” about a student who plagiarized his senior thesis film. The film was awarded the Frank Capra Prize, which goes to the best film that exemplifies Capra’s skill in telling a human story that contains both humor and pathos.

Graziano said she was particularly proud of the atmosphere on set and the fact the film was produced by an all, non-male crew. “A lot of the people that worked on set told me it was one of their most positive experiences on set,” Graziano said.