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2010 A&S Dean's Medalists Do Double Duty

Story by
Nancy Joseph
2010 Arts & Sciences Dean's Medalists (from left) Nate Bottman, Susie Lu, Cory Potts, and Aditya Ganapathiraju.

2010 Arts & Sciences Dean's Medalists (from left) Nate Bottman, Susie Lu, Cory Potts, and Aditya Ganapathiraju.

How much can an A&S undergraduate accomplish at the University? If the College’s 2010 Dean’s Medalists are any indication, the possibilities are nearly limitless. 

All of this year’s medalists—one from each of the College’s four divisions—have completed two degrees. Most have participated in faculty research. Several have studied abroad. Between them, they also have worked on homelessness issues, aced an international mathematics competition, taken more than a dozen graduate-level courses, served on the Student Senate, penned a column for the UW student newspaper, been featured in a juried art exhibit, and served on the Student Disability Commission. 

Whew! Time for a nap.

Here’s more about the four medalists, with insights from faculty who nominated them for the honor:

Nate Bottman

Nate Bottman, Dean’s Medalist in the Natural Sciences

Nate Bottman, a double major in mathematics and Slavic languages and literatures, arrived at the UW at age 14 through the Early Entrance Program. The Dean’s Medal is just the latest in a long list of awards and honors—more than a dozen—that he has received since his arrival. Among the most notable was being named Outstanding Winner in the Mathematical Contest in Modeling, a notoriously demanding international mathematics contest. 

Bottman has been passionate about mathematics for years. He has participated in the Department of Mathematics’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates program and has pursued research projects with faculty in the Departments of Mathematics and Applied Mathematics. His interest in Slavic languages and literature is more recent, sparked after studying Russian in preparation for a Math in Moscow Program in 2007. 

“He has been at the top of nearly every class he has taken and this includes thirteen graduate classes in Math, Applied Math, Philosophy, and Russian,” writes Mathematics Professor James Morrow in his nomination letter for Bottman. “I have rarely had the experience of being led by a student, …but he is teaching me more than I am teaching him.”

Galya Diment, professor and chair of the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, adds that Bottman also excels at challenging his classmates “in a demanding but never arrogant way.” She says, “With Nate it is never a competition, but always a genuine quest for deeper intellectual understanding of all things of interest to him (and they are many). …He really has it all: academic brilliance, profound and individual intellectualism, originality, and a mind so well rounded that, as [Vladimir] Nabokov would put it, he can see art in science and precision in poetry.”

Susie Lu

Shan (Susie) Lu, Dean’s Medalist in the Arts

Susie Lu has divided her time at the UW between two colleges. She arrived at the University knowing she would major in industrial engineering (College of Engineering), but her passion for drawing and painting led her to complete a second degree in art, in the College of Arts and Sciences. She capped off her college experience by receiving two Dean’s Medals—one from each college.

Lu considers the Honors Program in Rome, surrounded by great art, as a highlight of her UW experience. She plans to work in industrial engineering and pursue art—particularly drawing and painting—for the sheer joy of it. 

“I have no sense of time when I’m really into a painting,” says Lu, whose work was selected for a competitive juried exhibition in the School of Art. “When you really get into it, you can get completely lost in the whole experience.” 

In his nomination letter for Lu, Art Professor Philip Govedare describes her as “an exceptional talent, passionate in her desire to know more, and tireless in her work habits.” He adds, “She has an intuitive understanding of the fundamental issues and possibilities of visual expression, something that for many other students is so elusive and hard to come by. …Her future holds great promise.”

Cory Potts

William (Cory) Potts, Dean’s Medalist in the Humanities

With majors in English and French, one might expect Cory Potts to be an intellectual most comfortable with his head buried in a book. Nothing could be farther from the truth. 

In addition to his academic work, Potts has spent the past two years working at the Defender Association in Seattle, focusing on the rights of the homeless who have been charged with trespass exclusions or civil infractions. He also volunteers as a mock trial coach for high school students, having valued his own mock trial experience in high school. 

In nomination letters, faculty laud Potts’s ability to make connections between his academic work and his social advocacy. “He is someone who sees academic pursuits as intricately linked to, not detached from, the world at large, and brings his learning into everything he does,” says French Professor Louisa Mackenzie. 

Whether Potts will pursue a law career is unclear. This fall he heads to Paris to teach in a school serving the less affluent suburbs of Paris, made up largely of immigrant populations.

“If he were so inclined, Cory could go on to graduate study in literature, and would certainly excel there,” writes Herbert Blau, Lockwood Professor of the Humanities. “…But if he does go into the law and become a public defender, he will bring to the court of justice not only an allegiance to the dispossessed and homeless, or issues of racial disparity, but a poetic sensitivity of his own, a mediating temperament, and a capacity to make the finest distinctions.”

Aditya Ganapathiraju

Aditya Ganapathiraju, Dean’s Medalist in the Social Sciences

Aditya Ganapathiraju arrived at the UW in 2005 as a transfer student, several years after sustaining a traumatic spinal cord injury from a motorcycle accident. He took just one class his first quarter, as he navigated the challenges of securing disability accommodations. But he has since taken the University by storm, completing undergraduate degrees in psychology and philosophy, with minors in Human Rights and in Values in Society. 

Along the way, Ganapathiraju has served on the ASUW Student Disability Commission, represented the Commission as a senator in the Student Senate, written a regular column for the UW Daily, co-founded the UW’s Campus Antiwar Network, served as an officer for other political and social action student organizations, volunteered at Children’s Hospital, and assisted Psychology Professor David Barash on a book project. 

“Aditya’s interests include the interface between psychology and philosophy, along with a deep, abiding, and wholly scholarly commitment to issues of peace and social justice,” writes Barash in his nomination letter for Ganapathiraju. 

As for Ganapathiraju’s academic excellence, Barash raves, “I have been teaching at the UW since 1973 and can say unequivocally that Aditya is the most remarkable, accomplished, and promising undergraduate student I have encountered during the ensuing 37 years. I realize this is a strong statement, but I mean it; nor am I inclined to write gushing letters of recommendation as a matter of course.”