Congratulations to the class of 2021! Despite changes to our routines due to University measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, we are proud to present members from the graduating class with Residential College Senior Awards. Faculty submit nominations for students who have demonstrated outstanding achievement during their time at U-M. Congratulations to these awardees and all the RC seniors for your hard work and contributions over the past many years. Under usual circumstances, these honors would have been conferred at the annual RC Senior Dinner. This year, we celebrate the winners with spotlights via RC social media.
Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Creative Arts – The “Robbies”
Established in 2000, to honor the founding Director of the RC, James H. Robertson, the “Robbies” are given to students who have shown a high level of achievement in one of creative arts in the RC. Typically seven to ten graduating seniors who have excelled in Creative Writing, Drama, Music or the Studio Arts over their RC careers receive recognition and a modest stipend. Faculty in the various creative arts programs discuss student names among themselves and put forward nominations.
Sydney Bentley is a graduating fifth-year senior who came to the University of Michigan to pursue Creative Writing & Literature. In a not-so-shocking twist, Film, Television, & Media and French also ended up on Sydney’s list of majors, which only catapulted their interest in different methods of communication through storytelling. In Sydney’s time at the University, they’ve worked to improve their own storytelling capabilities through co-producing short films, crafting a novella-length comic, writing a few dozen short stories, creating a character-driven animation, and, in their final year, returning to their love of long-form fiction with their Honors novel, which they hope to get published. Currently, they are also co-writing a radio drama reinterpretation of Frankenstein and Dracula, which is incredibly wacky and a ton of fun. As for the future, wherever they end up, Sydney just wants to create stories that people will love.
This is Sydney's portfolio, where you can find some of their art projects, animation, and editing work.
Maria LoCicero is a second-generation RC student graduating with a double-major in History and Arts & Ideas in the Humanities. Over the course of her career at Michigan she has acted in numerous plays for the RC Players and Shakespeare in the Arb, TA’d for an RC course “Death in the Western Imagination,” and taken 15 RC Courses. Maria has also been a mentor in the RC Mentorship Among Peers Program, an RC Ambassador, and she currently serves on the RC Recruiting, Admissions, and Retention (RAR) task force. Maria is currently working to finish her Senior Honors Thesis in History. In this project she is examining the complexities of race, legitimacy, and family in Britain and Jamaica in the mid-18th to early-19th centuries. In addition to completing historiographical research, part of the project will feature a play she’s writing based on letters in the archive. Maria is grateful to her advisors and professors for giving her the tools and opportunities to combine her passions for history and theater into one project. After graduation, Maria plans to work with City Year in Chicago. She is truly honored to receive this as well as the Charlie award (below).
Bridgette Pollaski is graduating with a major in Program in the Environment and a minor in Urban Studies. Bridgette is a first-generation college student, and during her time at U-M, there were a lot of “firsts” for her. She was initially intimidated by the arts and held the belief that the process of making and sharing “good” art was reserved for the privileged. Bridgette then took the RC introductory film photography class and was given the space to build confidence as an artist. She used her newfound interest to work through her feelings of isolation and anguish as a non-traditional U-M student. She continued this interest in starting a small photography page and in working more with film photography. Her final project in the advanced film course combined her interests in art and waste by combining physical trash with her photos into a multi-media sculpture. COVID-19 and an endless to-do list disrupted her time with the arts, but she is now enjoying sculpting morel mushrooms in her RC sculpture class as part of her final semester. Bridgette’s next steps are uncertain, but she hopes to enjoy an assignment-free lifestyle and to have more time dedicated to exploring different angles of her artistic self.
Brenna is a writer, sewer, cat enjoyer, and dedicated Dungeon Master who followed in her mother's footsteps and joined the RC. When it comes to creative writing, she ultimately found her stride exploring the dark, the frightening, and the fantastical-- common themes in her work include grief, ghosts (literal or figurative), corruption, and vampires. To cap off a long but rewarding four years of workshopping, she is writing an honor's thesis novella which could best be described as a dark, speculative fairytale. "Confusing" also suffices. Following graduation, Brenna intends to lay low, explore her options for grad school, and play plenty of D&D.
During their time in undergrad, Miriam Saperstein took many amazing creative writing classes in the RC where they received incredible support from faculty and peers (as well as phenomenal guidance through RC advising). Through their RC poetry classes, they were able to transform what they learned facilitating ritual space on campus with material from their major in Judaic Studies into dense, prayer-like poems and accompanying glossaries. Miriam's poetry has been recognized with multiple Hopwood Awards and their visual art, zines, poetry and nonfiction have been featured in Jewish Currents, New Voices Magazine, PROTOCOLS, ctrl + v, as well as the RC Review. They start graduate school in the fall to become an archivist or librarian. Miriam hopes to continue to make relevant cultural and historical resources accessible to the public through their artistic and archival. An example of Miriam's published work is their Fall 2020 dispatch for Jewish Currents magazine about the graduate union strike at UofM. Previously, they co-authored a zine featured in Jewish Currents about diasporic Jewish ritual.
Emily Simroth is graduating with a double major in Creative Writing & Literature and Program in the Environment and a minor in Water & the Environment. For her creative writing major, she mainly studied short fiction, but also took courses on radio drama and digital storytelling. She loved the individualized instruction of the RC creative writing tutorials and hopes to publish some of the short stories she wrote during her time in the RC! Outside of class, Emily has been involved with the musical theatre group Not Even Really Drama Students (NERDS) since her freshman year. She performed in five NERDS productions and served as NERDS treasurer for three semesters. Her senior year, she co-wrote and co-directed two audio dramas for the group. She loves both prose and audio storytelling and dreams of one day publishing novels and writing audio drama podcasts.
Hayley Yu is majoring in Creative Writing and Literature in the RC and Psychology in LSA. She was nominated for both the 2020 and 2021 Café Shapiro Anthology. For her 2020 submission to the Café Shapiro Anthology, she submitted My Hope for You, which tells the story of an anonymous narrator attempting to comfort their friend in their time of need. Hayley is currently working on a novel, the beginning of which is featured in the 2021 Café Shapiro Anthology and is the focus of her creative writing honors thesis, that details the story of an Asian-American woman as she grows in the wake of her father’s funeral. In her writings, Hayley combines the information she’s gathered from both her Creative Writing and Psychology majors to delve into the nature of love and relationships. Hayley plans to stay at the University of Michigan as part of the Accelerated Master’s Degree Program in psychology while continuing to develop her novel. Hayley would like to thank Laura Thomas for her guidance and kindness over the past four years. This is the link to the 2020 Cafe Shapiro Anthology, where one of Hayley's stories is featured.
Award for Outstanding Service in Community Engagement – The “Tommies”
The Residential College established these awards in 2006 to honor former RC Director, Thomas Weisskopf. The “Tommies” are given annually to students who have made substantial contributions to the communities around them – whether to East Quad, to the University campus, or to communities in the region or beyond – during their undergraduate careers.
Danielle has spent her four years in the RC and the greater U of M community exploring opportunities through the Campus Farm, WCBN, interning with One Pause Poetry, and working with the Blesh Agroecology Lab. She is focusing on Poetry in Creative Writing and on the intersections between health and the environment along with sustainable agriculture. She strives to bring positivity, energy, and authenticity to whatever she is doing. Moving forward, she plans on continuing to farm, write, and connect with and learn from other people.
Centraya Forbes is a graduating Senior, majoring in Psychology with minors in Community Action & Social Change and Crime & Justice. Within the Residential College, Centraya has been involved with Telling-It and the Prison Creative Arts Project (PCAP). With her experience with Telling-It, Centraya supported the healing and learning needs of school-age youth and teens at Parkridge Community Center in Ypsilanti, MI using practices from social work and education through the expressive arts, so they can lead safe, healthy and fulfilling lives. With her involvement in PCAP, Centraya assisted in facilitation of theatre workshops at Macomb Correctional Facility to bring individuals impacted by the criminal justice system and the University of Michigan community into artistic collaboration for mutual learning and growth. Outside of the RC, Centraya has interned with Washtenaw County Jail where she provided information on community resources to the individuals housed there and increased her awareness of current issues facing juveniles and adults who are involved in the criminal justice system. With all the skills and experiences that Centraya has developed over the years, she plans to go to graduate school to pursue a Masters in Social Work in order to make a career out of her interests in criminal and juvenile justice, child and family welfare, and community development.
Luc Le Pottier
Luc is a super-senior graduating (at last) with a degree in physics. While he completed the RC intensive french program his sophomore year, he continued taking RC classes until graduation due to the instructors, topics, and discussions they often contained. He especially enjoyed participating in the Freedom House program with Prof. Butler-Borruat, serving as co-president of the Comite Francophone for 2 years, and facilitating Eco forum. Outside of the RC, Luc is active in local organizing efforts with the houseless community in Washtenaw county, particle physics research, and data analysis targeting demographic-based disparities in course performance at Michigan. After graduation, he plans to move to Berkeley to begin graduate school in Physics.
Maddie is graduating with degrees in International Studies: Political Economy & Development, and Environmental Studies through PitE with a Music minor. She started in the Residential College as a freshman in the intensive Spanish program, then, throughout her time at Michigan, Maddie participated in student organizations including OptiMize, Citizen’s Climate Lobby, and most actively in the Women's Glee Club. She began singing with the group freshman year, and now she holds the position of Vice President and manages alumni relations. Maddie also engaged with the larger Ann Arbor community through canvassing and fundraising with the non-profit advocacy organization Environment Michigan. In this role she talked to households around the state and even waved down students on campus (you may have seen her by the West Hall arch or on South U) to gain support for environmental legislation. After becomming the Campaign Director for the Ann Arbor office, she pursued more community outreach through Farmer’s Market tabling, photo-petitioning on the diag, and coordinating a press conference with the Michigan Daily. Now, Maddie works with new business owners to launch their start-ups through a legal service called Direct Incorporation. She plans to attend law school in the fall to pursue a career in environmental law with a focus in environmental justice.
Olivia will be graduating with degrees in Biopsychology, Cognition, & Neuroscience and Women's & Gender Studies. As an RC student, Olivia participated in the Intensive German Program and traveled to Berlin with the Deutsches Theater group. Olivia always loved the RC community and was able to help share her experience by being an RC Map Mentor, RC Ambassador, and a summer peer advisor for incoming first-years her sophomore and senior year. Outside of the Residential College, she served as the Service Chair and Vice President of Phi Sigma Pi National Honor Fraternity, volunteered with Planned Parenthood, and worked as a research assistant with the Michigan Cognitive Aging Project. Olivia will be continuing her journey at Michigan with the MEDPREP Post-Baccalaureate program, where she will be preparing for medical school and continuing her practice as a doula.
Julia Silverman attended Michigan because of the RC, where she studied Spanish, took printmaking, forums, and was both a mentee and mentor in the MAP program. Outside of the RC, Julia was interested in the subject of gender and health in her history major and more. Beyond her work as a CNA, Julia collaborated with various students on an initiative to bring free menstrual products to campus in an equitable and sustainable way. She also served as an editor in chief for the campus’ satire newspaper The Every Three Weekly, and worked at the Lawyer’s Club Dining Hall, Taubman Library, Hillel, and Cardamom Restaurant. She has been working as a technical writer focused on data privacy and cybersecurity education and hopes to continue to explore all of her interests and practice creativity in the future. Julia is grateful for the communities she found on campus, and she’d like to thank her friends, family, and educators for their support through college, and the Residential College for this honor.
Elana Weberman is a Social Theory and Practice major concentrating in Food Sustainability, graduating with honors and membership in Phi Beta Kappa National Honor Society. During her time at Michigan, she contributed to initiatives focused on food sustainability, mental health, and Judaism. She advanced food sustainability research with her senior thesis on Sustainable Food Pedagogy partnering with MDining, the Residential College, Program in the Environment, and School of Public Health. Elana is also a Graham Sustainability Scholar, President of Hillel’s Sustainability Committee, and the Event Manager for the University of Michigan Sustainable Food Program (UMSFP). Promoting a campus culture of well-being, Elana is a group leader for Wolverine Support Network and a Peer Counselor for U-M Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), supporting students with empathy through all they are experiencing. After studying abroad in Jerusalem, Israel on the Nachshon Project Fellowship Elana was inspired to return. Following graduation, she will lead an Israel-based gap year program called KIVUNIM focused on building world consciousness.
Isabel Beatriz Zúñiga Matos
Isabel Zúñiga is a senior studying History and Political Science with a minor in Latin American and Caribbean Studies. Since her freshman year, Isabel has been an active member of PALMA. Isabel, who is from Puerto Rico, has valued the experience of working with the students she tutored, and connecting with the local Latinx community of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti. From this relationship, Isabel utilized her majors and minor to learn more about the Latinx experience domestically and internationally. Her senior year she took the U-M Immigrant Justice Lab, where she researched and wrote four asylum petitions for unaccompanied immigrant children alongside Michigan Law students and faculty. Also, Isabel's history honors thesis focuses on 26 interviews conducted over the summer with Cubans and Puerto Ricans in Puerto Rico on the Cuban migration to Puerto Rico following the 1959 Cuban Revolution. She was particularly interested in the individual and collective Cuban identity narrative. Upon graduating, Isabel will be attending law school in the fall in the hopes of one day becoming an immigration attorney to help reform the system and experience of her community.
Award for Exceptional Achievement in a Foreign Language - The “Janets”
This award, inaugurated in 2010 and renamed in 2015 to celebrate Janet Hegman Shier, former head of the RC German Program and Director and Faculty Administrator of RC Deutsches Theater, is given to graduating seniors who have shown outstanding accomplishments in the mastery of foreign languages, including a deep engagement with a language and its culture beyond proficiency, the active use of a second language in the RC or surrounding communities through community engagement programs and/or the arts, and/or a serious engagement with more than one foreign language. Language faculty often consult with each other about nominees and students may be nominated for more than one language.
Davis is a Comparative Literature and an Environment double major. He began his college career in the basement of East Quad struggling to count to fifty in Spanish. Now—after a few years, several fantastic professors, and countless verb conjugations—he is making plans to move to Spain with a couple of fellow RC students who struggled alongside him in that basement. In years past, you may have found him translating Mario Bennedetti in Hatcher’s reference room or looking over Environmental statutes in Dana Commons, but recently he has been taking class from the front porch and riding his bike around town.
Julia is a quadruple major in LSA, studying Political Science, International Studies, Spanish (RLL), and German. During her time at UM, when not logging countless hours in Hatcher studying, she played Club Rugby, attended many lively lunches at the RC German Mittagstisch, served on multiple advisory boards, did summer study in Germany, and spent a semester in Madrid. With regard to her beloved Residential College, she is incredibly grateful for both its language focus and the opportunity it provided to meet the people who became her closest friends in undergrad. So many happy hours were spent in JavaBlu, the dining hall, and dorm rooms of East Quad. As this undergrad chapter comes to a close (wild!), Julia is thinking about making a transatlantic move in the fall. Currently, she is considering being an English teaching assistant or pursuing a grad degree in either Germany or Austria. Until then, she’ll be using these last few months in Ann Arbor to spend copious amounts of time on the porch with her housemates (shout out Bumpy), relish the beautiful spring weather, and walk the city’s quaint streets, perhaps picking up a little treat from Jefferson Market, RoosRoast, or Blank Slate along the way.
One of the brightest spots in Ellie's college experience has been working through the RC's Spanish program, starting from "baby" Spanish 154 with Wendy. After completing proficiency and readings courses, she continued with her passion for foreign language and culture by pursuing degrees in Comparative Literature and Organizational Studies, with a focus on cross-cultural communication in the workplace. She is passionate about translation of all kinds and has completed literary and commercial translations for coursework and for university offices. After her semester abroad in Buenos Aires was cut short by the pandemic, Ellie completed coursework streamed in from Argentina. In addition to foreign language, she fosters love for the art of the essay, learning how to cook, reading, spending time with family and friends, listening to podcasts, and trying to grow plants on her windowsill. Next year, she plans to move to Spain to teach English and hopes to finally grow from proficiency on the path towards fluency. She has her sights set on learning German next. She wants to thank (with ALL her heart) the Spanish faculty in the RC, particularly Wendy Gutierrez-Tashian and Olga López-Cotín for encouraging and guiding her throughout her academic career. Without them, she knows her academic (and life) path would've been different.
Martina Villalobos is a double major in German with Honors and French with a minor in History. She was born in Chile and her connections to Spanish affirmed her commitment to languages. She began her RC career as a part of the French Language Program and began learning German during her Sophomore year. Her connection with Chile led her to study political developments in general, focusing strongly on threats to democracy. This interest was bolstered after a year abroad in Munich, the German city where the Nazi party was first established. It was in Germany that she was awarded the JYM Goethe Prize Honorable Mention for her essay on Modern Democratic States. At the University of Michigan, Martina has been an active columnist writing for Statement Magazine (TMD), Latinidad, and The Michigan Journal of International Affairs. She is currently leading the effort to establish an undergraduate journal for students interested in German Studies; as well as completing a thesis examining the relationship between avant-garde aesthetics and fascist politics. After graduation, Martina plans to continue her education and pursue a Ph.D. in German Studies.
Evie is a political science and international studies double major, with a minor in German. While learning a foreign language was not part of her original plan for college, joining the intensive German program became a defining experience. Through the program, Evie was able to learn from incredible professors, recite poetry in a German play (RIP Blaubart), enjoy the night life in Berlin, and make dumplings with the best intensive cohort she could have asked for. Her love for Umich runs deep, and accordingly, she'll spend the next 3 years here for law school. In the meantime, you can find her enjoying summer in Ann Arbor and the thrill of human touch following that second dose of Pfizer!
The Spirit of the RC Award – The “Charlie”
Established in 2013 to honor former RC Director, the Charlie is awarded to the member of the senior class who best exhibits the animating spirit of the RC as defined by a demonstrated commitment to the RC and its mission in undergraduate education. She or he or they has embraced the values associated with the liberal arts and a well-rounded education; has taken full advantage of all that the RC has to offer and has encouraged others to do the same; has played a significant leadership role as a part of this community; and has excelled academically.
See her bio above in the Robbies!
The Emerging Writers Award
The Emerging Writers Award was established in 2014 to recognize, nurture and encourage creative writers in the Residential College’s creative writing program who demonstrate excellence in creative writing but have not previously received a writing award recognizing their writing achievements.
Kaleb A. Brown is a Creative Writing major minoring in History and Global Media Studies. His heart has been set on pursuing a life of writing and the RC has helped realize this dream, with the creative writing classes he took being essential in his growth as a writer. His works, both poetry and fiction, have been nominated for Cafe Shapiro in 2019 and 2021. His interests in writing and film have paved the way for other opportunities, such as spending Spring 2019 in New England as part of the New England Literature Program, attending the 2019 Pordenone Silent Film Festival in Italy, and a journalism internship with the Detroit Free Press. He is currently working on his honors thesis which he plans on revising and publishing as a novel one day. After graduation, he aims to pursue a career in journalism, while still working on stories, poems, novels, and reviews.
This is his blog, showcasing some of his journalism, reviews, and poetry.
Andrew Warrick has spent his college career writing, writing, and writing some more. He’s currently finishing his Creative Writing honors thesis, a novel entitled Electric Rage. He also works as an Arts Writer for The Michigan Daily. In the fall, he will be attending an MFA Program. This is the link to a selection of his Michigan Daily articles.