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New Freshman Awards recognize exceptional first-year students

Recipients of 2011 Freshman Awards from left to right:  Paige Finkelstein, Amy “Betsy” Riley, Daniel Mokhtari, Benjamin Bell, Justin Bullock, Sabrina Pasterski and Raul Rios.
Recipients of 2011 Freshman Awards from left to right: Paige Finkelstein, Amy “Betsy” Riley, Daniel Mokhtari, Benjamin Bell, Justin Bullock, Sabrina Pasterski and Raul Rios.

On May 12, seven members of MIT's Class of 2014 were presented with the first-ever Freshman Awards. Created by the Office of Undergraduate Advising and Academic Programming (UAAP), the Freshman Awards recognize the distinguished achievements of freshmen who, immediately upon entry, made a deep and sustained commitment to student life and learning at the Institute.

Each recipient demonstrated a meaningful, positive contribution to MIT in one or more of the following areas: academics and research, athletics, diversity and culture, entrepreneurship, leadership, performing arts/fine arts and service.

In presenting the awards, Julie Norman, senior associate dean and director of UAAP, said: "The entire class is terrific, but these seven individuals have made a significant mark on MIT. … Their performance has been exceptional and they quickly made an impact on our campus."

The 2011 recipients were:

Raul Rios for Distinguished Achievement in Academics and Research
Rios' generosity and willingness to share his time helping peers, breaking down information into understandable bites and offering fluid explanations to support the success of others make him stand out as an exceptional scholar and person.

Justin Bullock for Distinguished Achievement in Athletics
Bullock competed as a member of the men's cross country team and the track and field team. He is known for supporting his peers both on and off the track — in fact, he is considered the team's loudest and most enthusiastic cheerleader.

Benjamin Bell for Distinguished Achievement in Diversity and Culture
Bell was selected to live in La Casa, MIT's Spanish House, by upperclassmen who recognized his sincere interest in the Latino community. He founded a First Life group that meets weekly to discuss the college experience, allowing students to get to know each other on a deeper level and in relation to their religious beliefs.

Sabrina Pasterski for Distinguished Achievement in Entrepreneurship
Pasterski is the only first-year student in the William Barton Rogers Society, a group that provides financial resources in support of academic rigor and discovery of new information. She was also the first freshman ever selected for the NASA Independent Activities Period internship.

Betsy Riley for Distinguished Achievement in Leadership
Riley is an Undergraduate Association senator for East Campus. In this role, she demonstrates excellence in communication, advocacy, inclusion and leadership, and is a consistently reliable and dedicated partner.

Daniel Mokhtari for Distinguished Achievement in the Performing Arts
Mokhtari was one of the student musicians who performed with the MIT Symphony Orchestra as part of the 150th anniversary Next Century Convocation. He is also a member of the MIT Chamber Music Society. He inspires and challenges his peers, bringing out their best performance.

Paige Finkelstein for Distinguished Achievement in Service
Finkelstein is deeply involved in many aspects of MIT life. She works with Professor Robert Langer in chemical engineering, is an active member of her sorority, rows on the crew team, helped plan Tech Fair, assisted with the 2013 Ring Premiere, was a lead judge for the science fair for grades 3-7, organized a student dinner with a chemistry professor and volunteers in public service.

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