History Celebrates 2023 Award Winners

Submitted by Nick Grall on

The Department of History is thrilled to provide $213,000 in scholarships and prizes this year in recognition of the academic and service excellence of our students. In total, 61 undergraduate prizes were awarded to 33 students and 5 prizes were given to 4 graduate students. In addition, the department presented awards to a faculty member and an outstanding Washington high school history teacher. These awards would not be possible were it not for the generosity of our alumni and friends, and we are deeply grateful for their continued support.


Pressly Prize for Excellence in Secondary Education

Named after University of Washington emeritus professor of history Thomas Pressly and his wife, Cameron, this prize recognizes outstanding teaching of history and social studies at the high school level in the state of Washington. Nominations are made each year from undergraduate and graduate students who submit short essays describing the talents of their favorite high school history teacher.

Branda Anderson, Kamiak High School
Ms. Anderson taught a variety of courses during her 19 years at Kamiak High School in the Mukilteo school district. This last autumn, however, she began a new chapter in her career by becoming a teaching and learning specialist at the Holocaust Center for Humanity in Seattle. In her nomination for this prize, history student Sophia Martin wrote “Ms. Anderson is a fantastic role model for her students and colleagues.” She added, “Ms. Anderson has attended numerous universities and has shown how important it is for teachers to continue their education to continue their own personal growth.” And indeed Branda has an impressive education record, graduating with a BA from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and later becoming a UW alumni after finishing her MA in teaching. She also holds an MA in holocaust studies and is currently a Ph.D. student in the same field.

At Kamiak, her former colleague and now principal, Mr. Stephen Shurtleff, described her as visionary, passionate, and creative with a strong sense of justice. She taught World History, Law, as well as Contemporary World Issues. She also designed what became a heavily enrolled course titled Holocaust and Genocide and worked with Everett Community College to get it approved as a dual college credit class.
Now, as an education specialist at the Holocaust Center, Anderson is in charge of developing lessons, generating and organizing resources, and undertaking professional development for teachers in Washington state. Courses in professional development are not limited to Holocaust content but include others of general relevance such as Navigating Critical Conversations and Tough Topics and Tool, Tips and Resources to Teach Hard Histories in Elementary School. She is also in charge of the Law Enforcement and Society: Lessons of the Holocaust program. Mr. Paul Regelbrugge, Anderson’s current supervisor and creator of the program describes it as one that uses Holocaust history to talk to enforcement officers about the structural matters that can easily sway upright, moral individuals to commit atrocities. Regelbrugge confessed “that he trusted no one but Anderson with the program,” one he carefully built for many years. There is no doubt that Ms. Anderson is an outstanding educator, in and beyond the classroom.

Rorabaugh Departmental Service Award

This award is named for former history faculty member, William J. Rorabaugh, and it honors Bill’s incredible legacy and loyalty to the department. It is given to a student and a staff or faculty member each year.

Jess Cavalari
Jess is a PhD candidate in history and an extraordinary community builder. From the start of his time on campus (virtually) as part of the first class of the COVID era, he has been instrumental in bringing together graduate students and fostering camaraderie among people who had never met in person. Upon the return to in-person/on-campus activities, he has continued to bring students, staff, and faculty together. His contributions range from making coffee in the Freedman Remak History Community Room to serving on the Graduate Liaison Committee, serving on faculty search committees, serving in the Graduate and Professional Student Senate, and leading the effort to create a graduate student lounge. He has balanced all these activities while also being a very valuable member of the Center for the Study of the Pacific Northwest/Pacific Northwest Quarterly team. He quickly and cheerfully volunteers to help others in the department, truly exemplifying Bill’s spirit.

Purnima Dhavan
Purnima is an invaluable faculty member of our department. Examples of her contributions to the department, college, and university are too numerous to list. She has served on many search committees, including as chair, both in history and in other departments. She has taken lead roles in implementing diversity initiatives across the university. She regularly engages in departmental activities, attending the colloquium and job talks, helping students prepare for their own talks, and serving where needed (including as the former Director of Graduate Studies). She is an extraordinary mentor, scholar, and teacher to undergraduate and graduate students, both inside and outside the department. She is very approachable, and always happy to lend her experience and expertise, or just be a sounding board. Several nominations pointed out her ability to listen, work through problems, and provide insightful advice. We are incredibly fortunate to have Purnima in our department.


Ravage Prize

The Ravage Prize is awarded for an outstanding paper or project written on the history of African Americans, with a preference for African Americans in the American West. This award is made possible by Jack and Linda Ravage.

Braden Robinson
“The Fight to End Redlining in 1970s Seattle”

This carefully researched piece pushes the reader to reevaluate what we know about the fight against the redlining practices that prevented racialized people, particularly Black individuals, from obtaining loans for home buying purposes. While it is true that federal policies of the1960s and 70s were not successful in eliminating redlining practices, more local mobilization in cities such as Seattle were in fact fruitful. Using newspapers, published reports, and materials in our municipal archives, Braden follows the coalitional and expansive work of the Central Seattle Community Council Federation. Founded in 1967, this organization collected data and made visible the persistent violations of key banks in the city. The organization’s coalitional effort around housing inequality brought together different racialized communities as well as other vulnerable peoples such as renters and the elderly. They became relentless watch dogs, exerting continuous pressure on elected officials, seeking reinvestment funds for affected communities, and sponsoring innumerable community education events. Change may be slow indeed, but not impossible.

Honorable Mention

Rafael Gonzalez-Posada
“‘Church for People Who Have Fallen From Grace:’ Black Queer Nightlife as an Evolution of Theologically-Based Black Liberation.”

In this exceptionally creative piece, Rafael seeks to illustrate that the long-standing, affective communities congregating in Black churches and the Black queer folks gathering at more contemporary nightclubs should be seen in a continuum of Black liberation movements in the United States. Black queer folks’ transformation of the nightclub as sites of otherworldly experiences, embodied catharsis, solidarity, and creativity in the face of everyday oppression can be read as an adaptation of the church experience from which many of them have been systematically excluded because of their challenges to gender and sexual normativity. 

Thomas M. Power Undergraduate Paper Prize

Established and named in memory of a former history major at the University of Washington, this prize is given to undergraduates who have produced truly outstanding research papers in a University of Washington History course.   

Nicole Grabiel
“Crushing the Serpent: Phoolan Devi, Gender, and the Legend of India’s ‘Bandit Queen’”

This very smart paper follows the struggles of Phoolan Devi, a low caste, impoverished rural woman in Northern India as she fought tooth and nail against repeated abuse and exploitation. Here we witness Devi as she grew from a vulnerable child bride into a feared, revengeful bandit leader, and later became an elected official of Parliament only to be murdered in 2001, at the age of 37. Nicole provides a sensible reading of an exceptional case to untangle the manifold gendered violences at work that made possible a story like that of Devi in India, but which unfortunately is also probable in many places of our contemporary world.

Honorable Mention

Lilya Garzon-Boyd
“Acknowledging Emotional Gaps in the Archive: The Use of Novels to Contemplate Black Masculinity After Emancipation (1870s to 1950s)”

This paper is a clever interrogation of the archive as a conventional repository of historical knowledge. She argues that literature is one critical historical source historians should tap as these can get us closer to the interiority of historical actors, particularly of those racially marginalized who are most often ignored and systematically erased from historical accounts. For this purpose, Lilya offers a nuanced reading of works by noted African American authors such as Toni Morrison, Ralph Ellison, and August Wilson to approximate the complex emotional world of impoverished Black men in the first half of the twentieth century, one gravely shaped by centuries of pain and exploitation.

Thomas M. Power Prize for Outstanding Graduating Senior

This award is named in memory of former history major, Thomas M. Power, and recognizes the outstanding work of undergraduates who are completing their history major and graduating this year.

Claire Jacobs 
Claire is an exceptional student. This is her second year at the UW, transferring in 2021 from Shoreline Community College and now graduating with a 4.0 GPA. As history professor Stephanie Smallwood noted,”Claire is definitely a leader, becoming quickly well known in the department for her involvement in our campus chapter of Phi Alpha Theta, the History honors society, and for her editing work with the undergraduate research journal History Review.” Intellectually, Claire is without bounds. She wrote an honors research paper titled “Queer Possibilities within Irish Nationalism: The Same-Sex Partnered Women of the Irish Revolutionary Period,” which history professor Margaret O’Mara, one of her mentors, described as one “crafted with empathy and nuance, keenly attentive to the source materials, sophisticated in its analytic frame, and beautifully written.” Claire is a promising young scholar but, most importantly, a highly principled one. Professor Nicolaas Barr in the Department of Comparative History of Ideas stated “her [Claire’s] sense of ethical and political commitment and passion for social justice embody the kind of engaged global citizenship which we aspire to at [the] UW.”

Melinda Whalen
Melinda Whalen has been a standout in the Department of History since her first quarter at the university when, as a graphic design major, she happened upon a Cold War history class and quickly made the switch to studying history. Melinda is now finishing her majors in the History of War and Society and Russian Language, Literature and Culture. Although she has clearly excelled in her studies with a 3.97 UW GPA and 3.95 history GPA, one of the things that makes Melinda stand out is her incredible enthusiasm for the study of history and even more so the study of Soviet history. She is truly filled with enthusiasm as she talks about her research on diaries written by adolescents during the siege of Leningrad, and post-World War II Soviet novels. Professor Joel Walker noted that she was a leader in his small seminar as she provided “studious and incisive feedback on other students’ essays.”  As her research mentor, Professor Glennys Young mentioned Melinda’s skills and determination, “Not only is she undaunted by constructive feedback, she craves it, quite possibly more than any undergraduate I have ever worked with and in league with the very best graduate students I have had. She knows what to do with such feedback.”

Thomas M. Power Prize for Outstanding Student Leader

Given to a graduating history major or a history graduate student, this award recognizes the outstanding work to integrate the study of history with community and public engagement. As such, it builds on the department's sense that many of our students are drawing on their studies to do important work beyond the classroom.       

Lilya Garzon-Boyd
In addition to her award-winning honors work in history, Lilya has brought her enthusiasm and scholarly dedication to a research project on the history and legacies of redlining in Seattle. Working alongside local community organizations like the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience, Ms. Garzon-Boyd is currently working on collecting oral histories for the museum and for the Redlining Heritage Trail project, a walking tour of the city that highlights how structural inequalities have shaped the contemporary layout of the city. Through her work on this project, she has taken the initiative to address the historical inequities that she writes about in her thesis by working with some of Seattle’s most underserved communities to ensure their stories are chronicled, archived, and made accessible.  

Department of History Dean’s Medalist Nominee

Each year, the College of Arts & Sciences chooses Dean’s Medalists to represent the College. These students are the top graduating seniors in each division and are nominated for this honor by their departments.

Wendi Zhou
Wendi began her time at the UW as a first-year student with incredible leadership and a goal of starting a history organization. This goal came to fruition in the form of The Historical Review, a journal of student historical writing available in both digital and print formats. She is graduating with a 3.99 UW GPA and 4.0 history GPA with majors in History and Philosophy. Through her own teaching of Wendi, Professor Ileana Rodriguez-Silva quickly noticed her tremendous ambition and incomparable drive as well as her being an original thinker who is always interested in the material, not just the grade. Professor Stephanie Smallwood discussed Wendi’s research, “All of us who read (Wendi’s honors in history) thesis were blown away by its originality and depth--very much on the level of graduate student work.” Wendi’s thesis adviser, Professor Laurie Marhoefer, further stated, “themes of reconciliation and justice run through almost all of Wendi’s projects. She believes deeply that historical and philosophical scholarship can make the world a better place for marginalized people…what seems most likely a life-long mission to make a small difference towards a more equitable and peaceful world.” Wendi will continue her studies in Philosophy as a graduate student at Oxford.

Bicknell Fund for Academic Travel

Established by Professor Emeritus Daniel C. Waugh, this fund provides travel aid for students who intend to study the languages and cultures of Russia, Eastern Europe, Central Asia, the Near and Middle East, and North Africa.

Nathan O’hara (Eastern Europe), Katarina Vena (Japan), Alix Wagner (Czechia), and Melinda Whalen (Latvia)

Otis Pease Award

This award was established in memory of professor and former chair Otis Pease to support students pursuing an undergraduate degree in history.

Sophie Belz

Denison-Kernaghan Endowed Scholarship

This award celebrates a friendship of more than 20 years between Mark Kernaghan and Virginia Brandeberry Denison. It is the donor's hope that this endowment fund will be an enduring legacy to help students gain rich experiences through their education.

Alec Benson

Meder-Montgomery Family Endowed Student Support Fund in History

This award was established by UW Department of History alumnus Marilyn Montgomery to support undergraduate history majors and their studies.

Amber Pilgreen

Burke-Erickson Fund

This award was established to support students in the study of foreign languages and cultures of the Middle Eastern region.

George Zhang

Faye Wilson Award

This scholarship is made possible through the generosity of Faye Wilson, who directed that a portion of her estate be used by the University of Washington Department of History to assist outstanding undergraduates with tuition costs. It is awarded on the basis of academic excellence, among other criteria.

Alec Benson, Lorenzo Higuera, Sophie Martin, Kristyn Miller, Natalia Salais, Harjot Singh, Maia Sullivan, Katarina Vena, and Alexis Young

Schwartz Award

The Schwartz Award is made possible through the generosity of Maurice and Lois Schwartz, who endowed a scholarship fund in 1977 to support the study of non-western history at the University of Washington. It is awarded on the basis of academic excellence and commitment to the study of non-western history.

Sophie Belz, Nolan DeGarlais, Kuangting Hu, Claire Longcore, and Maria Mandt

Corkery Scholarship

The Corkery Scholarship is made possible through the generosity of donors who wished to support undergraduate history majors with an interest in ancient history.

Alec Benson, Nicole Grabiel, Harjot Singh, and Selma Sukkary

Sleizer Award

The Sleizer Award was made possible by the generosity of Herman and Rose Sleizer, who endowed a fund in 1989 in honor of their late son, Larry Lee Sleizer. It is awarded on the basis of academic excellence and commitment to the study of history.

Nolan DeGarlais, Emily Edgett, Matthew Grimme, Lorenzo Higuera, Kuangting Hu, Claire Longcore, Maria Mandt, Sophie Martin, Natalie McLaughlin, Elliot Miller, Krystin Miller, Amber Pilgreen, Braden Robinson, Natalia Salais, Harjot Singh, John Stephenson, Selma Sukkary, Maia Sullivan, Marian Tully, Katarina Vena, Alix Wagner, Alexis Young, and George Zhang

Freedman Remak Award

This scholarship, named for Nancy Freedman and Ben Remak, was created to support history majors who face the high costs of non-resident tuition. Nancy Freedman herself had been an out-of-state student at the University and knows first-hand the financial burden such students face. The scholarship is awarded on the basis of non‐resident status and academic excellence.

Colin Furlong

History Scholarship Fund Award

These funds are made possible through generous gifts from our alumni and friends and are used to support undergraduate and graduate studies within our programs.

Sophie Belz and Colin Furlong


Thomas M. Power Prizes

Established and named in memory of a former history major at the University of Washington.

Outstanding Student Leader

This award recognizes a student’s outstanding work to integrate the study of history with community and public engagement. As such, it builds on the department's sense that many of our students are drawing on their studies to do important work beyond the classroom.  

Jess Cavalari
Jess is a third year history graduate student. He has been an excellent steward of our Graduate Liaison Committee and has worked to help other students feel seen, heard, and represented. He is also an excellent popularizer for many history initiatives, encouraging other students to explore fields and topics beyond those they might be familiar with. An active presence in our History Colloquium, he is often present at history community events and does his reading/homework to make meaningful suggestions to participants. He agreed to serve as the graduate student representative on a faculty search during a very busy time in the year, which also demonstrates his civic-minded approach to our department's needs. Most recently, he has joined forces with History Advisory Board member Susan Peskura in her efforts to identify mislabeled photographic portraits in the UW Special Collections; he shares these images in Facebook groups, where locals and history buffs try to identify the people featured. Among an excellent cohort of graduate students, Jess stands out for his contributions to the department. As Professor Purnima Dhavan states, “He is a treasure and has done a lot to make our community a more inclusive, kinder, and inviting space.”

Graduate Paper Prize

The Thomas M. Power Graduate Paper Prize is given to a graduate student who has produced a truly outstanding research paper in a University of Washington History course.

Chad Westra
“From the Outside In: Wu Xianzi’s Confucian Liberalism and the Chinese Constitutionalist Party”

In this original paper, Chad traces the work of political activist, journalist, and philosopher, Wu Xianzi among Chinese communities in the U.S. during the late 1920s and early 30s. In scrutinizing diaries, newspaper articles, and letters in multiple languages, he unearths Wu’s forging of Confucian Liberalism as a unique political philosophy that blended Western Liberal ideas such as representative government and constitutionality with Confucianism’s values like humanness and propriety. Wu’s travels and activism resulted from a complex set of overlapping factors including the need to galvanize Chinese collective resistance against Japan, internal political shifts in mainland China towards nationalist, one-party form of governance, and the growing influence of the Chinese diaspora which made it necessary to conceive the nation beyond territorial borders. Confucian Liberalism was forged at the intersection of multiple transnational moves.

Honorable Mention

Brian Park “The ‘Dark Hand’ of the Black Market and the Origin of Korean Businesses in Japan, 1945-1950”

In this essay, Brian traces the emergence of a successful Korean entrepreneur class in Japan during the immediate years after WWII via their irruption in the underground market. During this time of scarcity, the population's needs were fulfilled through an expanding, dynamic informal market that brought together government officials, American GIs, gang bosses, international merchants, and Japanese sellers and consumers. Brian examined a wide array of written and visual sources in English and Korean from disparate digitalized collections such as that of the Japan Times newspaper, the U.S. Department of State, the National Diet Library, and the Atomic Heritage Foundation. And we learn that Koreans, many of whom were forced to Japan as laborers and were systematically marginalized from this country’s economy, strategically learned how to navigate state surveillance and found creative ways to become key economic agents.

Outstanding Teaching Assistant

Sue Zhou 
Sue Zhou is a third-year PhD student and is finishing up her second year as a teaching assistant (TA) within the department. Sue’s graduate area of specialization is Asian history, but she has TA’d for undergraduate classes in a variety of fields including U.S., medieval and modern Europe, and comparative colonialisms, while working with a number of different history faculty. Her faculty supervisors praise Sue’s diligence, reliability, good judgment and organizational skills both inside the classroom and out. The faculty value her contributions to discussions with them and other TAs about lesson plans, class assignments, grading issues and various pedagogical approaches to the class materials. Sue works closely with her students and is particularly mindful of the challenges students are still facing in the wake of COVID and the effects of remote learning and technology in the classroom. Sue is invariably rated as an outstanding TA by her faculty supervisors, who look forward to the opportunity to work with her again. After working with Sue and observing her in discussion sections, one faculty supervisor stated, “I witnessed a truly excellent teacher at work.”

Burke Prize  

The Burke Prize is named after former Pacific Northwest historian and University of Washington Department of History faculty member, Robert Burke. It is given to the graduate student deemed to have amassed the most meritorious record during the year they complete the MA in U.S. history.

Ragya Kaul
Ragya completed their MA under the supervision of Moon-Ho Jung and Ileana Rodriguez-Silva, combining their interests in issues of race, gender, labor and colonialism in the U.S. and Latin America and the Caribbean. Ragya’s Masters seminar paper, “Facing the Future: Migrant Labor, Property Law and Class Solidarity in Washington State'' examined Filipino migrant workers’ activism in building relationships with other workers that crossed racial  and other divides to unite them politically against the state’s anti-miscegenation laws and alien land laws, and their exclusion from traditional labor organizations.