Building Robust & Inclusive Democracy

19 Students Honored with Tufts 2022 Presidential Awards for Civic Life

The Presidential Award for Civic Life is the highest recognition for service, leadership, and civic engagement conferred by Tufts University. Each year, Tisch College, in collaboration with partners from across the University, is proud to help select and celebrate outstanding individuals who combined academic achievement with a profound impact on communities near and far, helping to address some of the biggest challenges in our society.

We celebrated this year's recipients at an in-person ceremony at Breed Memorial Hall on our Medford campus on Friday, April 22. Check back for a video of the event.

Learn more about this year's amazing award winners and some of their incredible work here.

Undergraduate Award Winners

Amber Asumda

Amber Asumda, International Relations, A22

Amber embodies the values of Tufts University: excellence in the areas of leadership, public service, and academics. Her ability to utilize the missions of the numerous communities and organizations she engages with to amplify the work of each as an individual speaks to her desire to foster relationships and her passion for bettering the world around her. Currently, Amber is a Tisch Scholar, a Student Fellow for Building Resilience in Immigrant Communities (BRIC), Chair of Black Women’s Empowerment Conference, and a student intern for the Black Women’s Collective. Through these experiences, she was able to take a critical look at her work within the Tufts University Social Collective (TUSC), to enhance the work of TUSC programs and better support and validate the experiences of students from underrepresented backgrounds. Using that same knowledge, Amber proposed and executes a variety of TUSC programs that highlight artists of color, created space for POC to express themselves, and educated non-POC folks on the issues facing marginalized communities both at Tufts and globally all while promoting the importance of civic engagement as an everyday occurrence. Most recently, she chaired the TUSC DEI Working Group, which pursues opportunities to support and uplift students while recommending action steps for the organization. Amber also served as a Social Impact Intern for Rippleworks Foundation and a Student Administrative Assistant for the Institute for Democracy and Higher Education (IDHE) at Tisch College.

Claudia Guetta

Claudia Guetta, Community Health and Sociology, A22

Claudia has devoted her time at Tufts to the pursuit of equity, restorative justice, and abolitionist education. She is not only an exemplary scholar, demonstrated by her early admission to Tufts School of Medicine, she also evinces a deep commitment to civic engagement and social justice. She has been described as the heart and backbone of many programs she is involved in. Claudia was an EMT for six years while at Tufts as well as being a Patient Care Assistant. Beyond the Tufts community, Claudia’s impact has grown widely and earned her the deep admiration of those directly impacted by incarceration. Her participation in Tufts University Prison Initiative of Tisch College (TUPIT) as a Program Coordinator and teaching assistant has, in many ways, ensured TUPIT’s sustainability and growth as a program that fosters the courage to share, to listen, to grieve, and to love. She has illustrated a sophisticated understanding of social determinants of health inequities as a research assistant at Psychosocial Determinants of Health Lab at the Tufts Community Health Department. This semester, Claudia taught a course called Abolitionist Organizing with the Tufts ExCollege.

Emma Downs

Emma Downs, Political Science and Theater & Performance Studies, A22

Food insecurity has always been an issue Emma is deeply passionate about. After discovering that Massachusetts had the biggest increase in food insecurity in the country due to the Covid-19 pandemic, she knew something had to be done. Emma created JumboSwipes, a group on campus that helps mitigate this issue in the greater Boston area by repurposing students’ extra meal swipes. Over the course of 4 days, her group collected over 527 meal swipes worth of donations which included over 250 fresh meals. Emma now leads a team of 5-10 students to promote JumboSwipes, collect donations, and collaborate with local organizations. Beyond founding this impressive initiative, Emma is deeply involved with other Tufts organizations including a number of leading musical theater roles with Torn Ticket II and TDPS, peer teaching with the ExCollege, an e-board member with the Leonard Carmichael Society, writer and podcast host with The Observer, and a data analysis intern with Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tisch College. Beyond campus, Emma has interned for Comcast, as well as for Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz, where she created a directory of free legal services in her quest to make legal resources more accessible. In the Spring of 2020, she was selected for the Asian American Women’s Political Initiative (AAWPI) State House Fellowship.

Jay-Miguel Fonticella

Jay-Miguel Fonticella, Biology, A22

During their time at Tufts, Jay-Miguel has demonstrated their commitment to community leadership through their public health and academic mentorship endeavors. Initially introduced through the Tufts Timmy Global Health chapter, Jay-Miguel serves as the Assistant Medical Program Coordinator and Chapter President for La Clínica 32 Volcánes in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. As a Guatemalan American of K’iche’ descent themself, they hope to utilize this platform at Tufts to empower Indigenous communities through nutritional consults in both K’iche’ and Spanish with the long-term hope of addressing chronic childhood malnutrition, a detrimental condition in Guatemala. Jay-Miguel was also a 2020 intern with the Tisch Summer Fellows Program at the Cambridge Health Alliance. With the Department of Community Health Improvement, they engaged with Black, Latinx, and undocumented community members to identify health priorities among racial/ethnic communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 which allowed for the immediate allocation of MassDPH funding to mental health support programs. Through these community health efforts, Jay-Miguel demonstrated their commitment to social justice by actively improving access to nutritional and healthcare resources for their historically-marginalized BIPOC and immigrant communities.

Leanne Loo

Leanne Loo, Anthropology, A22

In the Tisch Scholar classroom space and community, Leanne is esteemed by her peers for her patience, kind and humble demeanor, and overall disposition to provide support to those around her. Her work alongside the Boston and greater global community to dismantle racism and racial capitalism has been a driving force during her time at Tufts. As a freshman, Leanne volunteered at the AIDS Action Committee in Jamaica Plain to support harm reduction programs for people whose use of drugs and researched factors that impact the sexual and reproductive health of queer and racialized patients. She continued her commitment towards health equity by transitioning from a Women’s Economic Empowerment Team intern at Oxfam America to the EqualHealth Campaign Against Racism as a Tisch Scholar. As an undergraduate, she has co-published a peer-reviewed paper on declarations of racism as a public health crisis with the past president of the American Public Health Association and spoken on panels about colonialism and health at several institutions, such as Mass General Hospital. Outside of Tufts, Leanne is a member of the Asian American Resource Workshop’s Southeast Asian Anti-Deportation Working Group and engages with the Chinatown Community Land Trust Immigrant History Trail and the Chinese New England Historical Society’s exhibition Endurance Streets.

Maycon Santos

Maycon Santos, Engineering Psychology, E22

Maycon exemplifies the potential of a college education to create civic leaders who can make transformative change in the world through their vision, compassion, and leadership. As a Tisch Scholar, Maycon has been an equity learning assistant in EM 52: Technical and Managerial Communication and facilitated English and science classes for Spanish and Portuguese speaking immigrants in Somerville and Cambridge. Amid the pandemic, he utilized the Tufts Student COVID Response Summer Program to work with the Minas Up Institute to design accessible and scalable ventilators to help alleviate the impacts of COVID-19 on the only hospital in his hometown of Janaúba, Brazil. Maycon won the 2020 Women Deliver Global Scholarship Contest for voices in gender equality for his project in Brazil focused on educating small companies about the importance of hiring trans talent- resulting in over 200 people who identify as trans finding jobs. Additionally, he developed a mobile app that makes food donations easier by connecting high schools in Brazil in need of food supplies with local farmers which won him the 2019 Bayer Youth Ag Summit as well as recognized as one of the 18 young people changing the global food systems in 2020 by Food Tank, a prestigious magazine that highlights powerful voices in agriculture. Maycon has consistently demonstrated an unwavering commitment to improving the campus and classroom climate for current and future students so that they become global citizens who use their education for social justice.

Graduate Award Winners

Ricardo Moreno

Ricardo Moreno, Food and Nutrition Policies and Programs, N22 - Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy

As a former teacher in the Boston Public School system, Ricardo saw enormous potential in his students. He also recognized the structural issues that would keep these bright, creative students from attending the world-class institutions that were just a few miles from their homes and communities. In response to this inequity, Ricardo created the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy (FSNSP) Nutrition Equity Scholars program. The program provides local high school students with opportunities to meet faculty at FSNSP, gain practical understanding of nutrition, and receive support with preparing for college. With funding from the Mozaffarian Family Award for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and partnerships with four schools in the Boston Public School system, the program launched publicly in January of 2022 and currently has 36 mentors composed of Tufts undergraduates,  FSNSP graduate students, alumni, and staff. In addition to leading this cross-university effort, Ricardo works as a Research Assistant on the Catalyzing Communities Initiative at ChildObesity180 with FSNSP and the Friedman School’s Student Alliance for Social Justice and Racial Equity where he held a leadership role. He also volunteers at Level Ground Mixed Martial Arts to host youth healthy cooking classes, going so far as to create his own kitchen spaces to ensure he could hold classes. Through all of Ricardo’s projects, he embodies his “stepping up and stepping back approach:” working to create safe and inclusive spaces to honor and elevate all voices and the need to look beyond demographics when trying to understand community context, to perceptions and perspectives of individuals.

Delia Burns

Delia Burns, Human Security, Development Economics, F22 - The Fletcher School

Delia’s professional, academic, and personal life has always centered on activism. When war broke out in Ethiopia’s Tigray region in November 2020, she, as a Research Assistant for the World Peace Foundation co-authored the pivotal memo, Starving Tigray. This memo was part of the reason the UN moved to declaring famine risk in the region. Through her research, Delia found that SGBV committed against women and girls in Tigray was significantly underreported in the media, leading to a follow up memo on this issue that served as a catalyst for further activism. Because of this early advocacy, Delia was approached by Queens Enterprise, a Tigrayan NGO to support women with livelihood projects. Together they developed an SGBV awareness campaign which included a social media campaign, conference, and call-to-action letter. During the conference, Delia hosted and moderated a panel on sexual violence as a weapon of war as well as playing an integral role in drafting the call-to-action letter, along with former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, and coordinating active support and signatures with 40+ Tigrayan organizations. More recently, Delia spoke on a panel at an event hosted by Tufts Hillel Center called, “Responding to Mass Atrocity: A Conversation on the Tigray Region in Ethiopia.” On top of her contributions to this international conversation, Delia has been Editor-In-Chief of the Fletcher Forum of World Affairs since June 2021, where she curated a strategy to elevate lesser heard voices.

Lark Escobar

Lark Escobar, Human Security, F22 - The Fletcher School

Lark’s life-long commitment to education is not just seen in her long list of academic achievements but also in her work  as an educator and advocate for continued learning in refugee communities abroad. In the summer of 2021, Lark volunteered in Amman, Jordan to assist Syrian refugees to access higher education or continue degree studies interrupted by displacement. She has tutored graduate students in academic research and writing for Fletcher. Prior to coming to Tufts, Lark worked as a teacher trainer and ESL university instructor in the U.A.E, taught hundreds of International Military Students as the ESL Department Head at NATO headquarters in Belgium, and was a high school English and Social Studies teacher in Texas. In addition to her commitment to education, Lark has shown a commitment to public service by spending four years as an English Instructor at the Defense Language Institute English Language Center at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. During this time, she also spent a year deployed to Afghanistan as the English, Cultural and Gender Advisor for US, coalition and Afghan National forces. While pursuing her MALD at Fletcher, she has also been volunteering full-time as an Afghan Evacuation Coordinator. Lark works around the clock to free colleagues and employees, raise funding, coordinate with military officers and maneuver bureaucracy to legally get people to safety. Since she began working on evacuations in mid-August, the number of Afghans on her roster has increased tenfold and now includes nearly 800 people. It is said that Lark has truly inspired many in the Fletcher community and beyond to become more involved in the community and share their talents in order to make positive change in the world.

Avis Carrero

Avis Carrero, Civil and Environmental Engineering, EG25 - School of Engineering Graduate Programs

Avis’ drive to promote and support communities underrepresented in STEM has not only fueled his own education and research direction, but also serves as a testament that civic engagement can and should permeate all facets of the Tufts community.  He not only conducts research in the meaning and process involved in equitable education but does so with significant passion brought on by his own personal experience as a person of color pursuing STEM education. In addition to his dedication to research, Avis also believes in practicing the skills and tools he sees as necessary to become an equitable STEM educator and mentor. He has presented numerous guest presentations at Tufts, mostly to engineering students, that probe the questions of inclusive teaching, identity, intersectionality, and defining a broader view of resilience and community in engineering thought processes and projects. Avis also serves as a graduate academic mentor for the StAAR Center at Tufts, counseling students on what it means to be successful in STEM fields. Presently, he serves on a committee at the University of Connecticut, his undergraduate alma mater, entitled Anti-Racism and Equity Action team.

Logan Schwartz

Logan Schwartz, Genetics, GBS23 - Graduate School of Biomedical Science

Logan has been called an exemplary leader who is deeply committed to improving the student and local community at the Tufts’ Jackson Laboratory (JAX) in Bar Harbor, Maine. Logan consistently advocates for the graduate student community through the Tufts-JAX Graduate Student Association, where she represents the Tufts Genetics students. In that role, she has supported students through the challenges of the pandemic, including organizing online activities to welcome new students, outdoor events to safely spend time learning together, and fostering an overall sense of community in a time of immense isolation. Logan has also made it her mission to normalize seeking mental health care through the pandemic and communicates with administration staff to ensure that mental health resources and student support are available during the pandemic and beyond. She is an integral part of the Mount Desert Island community and helps feed families facing food insecurities through her volunteer work with Open Table MDI, The Common Good Soup Kitchen and volunteering at the community farmers market. As her research focuses on aging, her civic engagement efforts align with her overall passion for supporting both physical and mental health and wellness for aging individuals including volunteering at the Hebrew Senior Life Center of Brookline, the Episcopal Senior Life Communities and the Full Circle Home. Over the holidays, she coordinated with veterans care homes across Maine and rallied the graduate students to make and send holiday cards to aging and disabled veterans. Logan recognized the imperative to protect older and immunocompromised community members during the height of COVID-19, leading her to organize an opportunity for graduate students to pack and distribute boxes of healthy food to Mount Desert Island and the surrounding rural islands.

Iris Montes

Iris Montes, Cell, Molecular & Developmental Biology, GBS25 - Graduate School of Biomedical Science

Iris believes that inclusivity is critical for modern-day team science and that it is built by cultivating a culture that values all people and perspectives. To that end, she works on promoting equity in the lab and through the organizations by planning team-building activities and events that are meaningful and inclusive to all members of the community. Iris has been very involved in the Graduate School of Biomedical Science Anti-racism Working Group and has stepped up as one of the student leaders, volunteering for two committees, Events and Curriculum. With the Events committee, Iris developed and organized two major events this past year- first, a panel of students and faculty who discussed how they have used tactical maneuvers to navigate from their communities into academia and second, a workshop around issues of discrimination in academia. As a member of the curriculum committee, she worked with a student group that evaluated a few courses through an anti-racism lens and developed a rubric for faculty to use in reviewing their individual courses. Iris is also President of the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science and Scientists Promoting Inclusive Excellence (SACNA/SPINES) at GSBS, where she helps create and organize programs and workshops dedicated to fostering the success of minorities in attaining advanced degrees, careers and positions of leadership in STEM.

Joshua McLinden

Joshua McLinden, Urban & Environmental Policy & Planning, AG22 - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Josh embodies what UEP calls a "practical visionary." His work reflects his dedication to transforming the ideals of social justice into reality in marginalized communities while building community power. As a Tisch Summer Fellow at the Boston Neighborhood Community Land Trust (BNCLT), Josh helped develop a tool to identify and process data about local land and property resources. He also sought out an opportunity with the Local Enterprise Assistance Fund (LEAF) to conduct research on community impact investment funds as alternative, community-controlled vehicles for financing CLTs and other social housing organizations. Josh's thesis, "Building Power: Tenant Organizing, Community Land Trusts, and the Right to the City - An Ethnography of Housing Justice in Boston," draws on these experiences. Additionally, he played a key role in UEP's orientation to engage incoming students in racial justice in the fields of policy and planning, and he is a founder of the UEP student and alumni "Anti-Racist and Collective Liberation Network."

Qimei Liu

Qimei Liu, Diversity and Equity Leadership, AG22 - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

May is an inspired innovator, leader, and project director, and is deeply committed to her work in the Diversity and Equity Leadership program. She actively seeks opportunities to engage, educate, and support others in the classroom, on campus, in her local communities, and beyond. May is the DEI and anti-racist advocate Committee Member on the DEI Leadership Program Student Advisory Group where she advocates for DEI and anti-racism actions and research within the Tufts community. As a Graduate Assistant in the LGBT Center, she is an active collaborator and facilitator building connection and community across Tufts' other DSDI Centers and providing a diversity of relevant and impactful educational, social, individual experiences and resources to our student, faculty, and staff population at large. She has also found time to make a difference in the greater Tufts community as a Founder and Group Leader for the Boston Chinese Lesbian Group for the Chinese Rainbow Network. In this role, she has overseen the organization's growth and has been instrumental in providing trainings, resources, community support, and safe spaces.

Cora Evans

Cora Evans, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, V23 - Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine

Since beginning her studies at Cummings, Cora has taken an active role in supporting fellow students and working towards diversity and equity. A role model in her community, she works with and supervises on-campus secondary school students for veterinary programs and serves on several Diversity and Inclusion committees, both for the Cummings School and the University. She also is a library student employee and based on her 2021 summer work, Cora reviewed the veterinary library's grant application for the Global Tufts Month mini-grant prior to its (successful) submission. She has served as one of two students on the Cummings School's Anti-Racism Task Force (ARTF) since its 2020 formation. She and the other student members facilitate numerous anti-bias training sessions for Cummings students, as well as participate in similar sessions for faculty and staff. She has also served as the Cummings School Student Representative on the Tufts Bias and Education Resource Team for the Health Science schools. Cora volunteers her time reaching out to prospective veterinary students, including suggesting and implementing a new outreach program for the Cummings Admissions Department aimed at HBCU students.

Charles Christopher Hines III

Charles Christopher Hines III, Dentistry (DMD), D22 - School of Dental Medicine

Chris’s long-term commitment to service is evidenced by the positive impact he has had on his fellow classmates, as well as his community. Elected Class Vice-President by his peers each year, he and the leadership team are instrumental in leading their classmates and helping them adapt to the ever-evolving challenges and changes the university faces, particularly over the past two years. Since his arrival at TUSDM, Chris has served as the student representative who coordinates with the Boston Healthcare for the Homeless (BHCHP) clinic at the St. Francis House to facilitate their dental workshop. He has also continued his #SockHouston initiative by donating hundreds of pairs of socks to Boston's homeless community. Chris has also volunteered at Casa Myrna, Boston's largest residential facility for survivors of domestic abuse. He has been involved in the assessment and dental workshops for the Boston homeless population as well as for the residents at Casa Myrna. Chris is one of the most consistent volunteers who, despite holding many other commitments, always prioritizes service and offers his time to patients generously.

Anshelle Reen Tucker

Anshelle Reen Tucker, Dentistry (DMD), D22 - School of Dental Medicine

Anshelle is dedicated to philanthropy and justice work. She has devoted much of her time and effort to volunteerism and service during dental school, both within and outside of TUSDM. At TUSDM, she volunteers as an admissions ambassador and as an interviewer. She proctors exams and volunteers to tutor first and second year dental students. She has served as teacher's assistant for several courses including serving as social and emotional support for the first-year class, helping students to adjust to TUSDM. As a member of the Student National Dental Association, she assists with the organization's outreach programs and mentoring aspiring dental students. She was elected to the Ethics and Professionalism, and Citizenship (EPC) committee where she serves as a resource to her fellow students as she works to improve and promote ethical standards and professionalism. Outside of TUSDM, she volunteers with many organizations including Life-Long Dreams, teaching dance to special needs youth and young adults. Anshelle launched a natural cosmetic line called Reen Remedy aimed at creating non-toxic lip balms, through which she donates a portion of her proceeds to nonprofit organizations.

Tara Ahmadi

Tara Ahmadi, MD, M22 - School of Medicine

Tara is committed to inclusive primary care and building a career supporting underserved communities. She exemplifies the meanings of a servant leader across medicine, public health, and social justice. As a first and second-year medical student, Tara was the General Clinic Director at the Sharewood Project, Tufts' student-run free clinic for people with limited to no access to health care. In the summer between her first and second year of medical school, Tara was awarded the Harold Williams Research Fellowship. She engaged in two main projects with Namibia's Ministry of Health and Social Services (MoHSS). She also participated in TUSM’s Phoenix Project, leading weekly workshops at South Bay House of Corrections pre-release program as well as co-teaching a human nutrition course as part of the Tufts University Prison Initiative at Tisch College (TUPIT). Additionally, she served as a CSL Peer Leader, advising a cohort of first year students and facilitating small group discussions about community engagement. At the height of the pandemic, Tara was the student coordinator for Boston Hope, the field hospital set up in part to serve and shelter the unhoused population who had tested positive for Covid-19. Her most recent effort is co-founding an LGBTQIA+ Task Force at Lynn Community Health Center. This includes general work to promote an inclusive environment, working to develop an LGBTQIA+ specific clinic, working on educational materials and modules for staff, and more.

Alex Coston

Alex Coston, MD, M22 - School of Medicine

Alex's leadership and commitment to service has resulted in incredible work with homeless populations, diversity work including both LGBTQ+ and anti-racism leadership, opioid crisis work, and advocacy. Alex was selected for a Tisch Summer Fellowship with Boston Healthcare for the Homeless Program (BHCHP). This included direct work in the medical respite program, as well as a research project to develop interventions to decrease hospital readmission rates among this population. Alex continued their work with BHCHP, organizing fundraising and informational events and testifying at a hearing at the State House in support of bills regarding harm reduction and safe consumption spaces. Alex's interest in opioid use disorder led to their leadership in the student-led campaign, "Sack Sackler” that resulted in Tufts being the first institution in the country to sever ties with the Sackler family. They were part of a group of students who created the Tufts Student Advocacy Collective, organizing a Rethinking Advocacy in Medicine Conference. Alex also worked with the Biomedical Queer Alliance to develop a workshop on how to make medicine more inclusive for gender minorities; this workshop is now a required component of the curriculum. Alex has served all four years as the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Representative for the M22 class; in this role they were instrumental in the creation of the Anti-Racism Task Force, which is now a permanent group on the Curriculum Committee, on which Alex has also served.