Class of 2011 Honors Two Valedictorians, Three Salutatorians


Five students will be recognized with valedictorian and salutatorian honors at Sunday’s Commencement. Alexandra Heywood of Potomac, Md., and Nicole Yunger Halpern of Tampa, Fla., each earned a 4.0 grade point average, granting them the co-valedictorian distinction.

Alexandra Heywood

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After graduation, Heywood, a Russian language and literature major, will work with Ukrainian orphans as an Olga Gruss Lewin Post-Graduate Fellow through Dartmouth’s Tucker Foundation. She will serve in Komarivka and Kyiv, Ukraine, with the Children’s Hope All-Ukraine Charity Fund. There, Heywood will address issues of human trafficking and help senior orphans to transition to employment or higher education and positive family relationships.

After completing her post-graduate project, Heywood intends to go to graduate school in social work or Eastern European studies, and to subsequently seek employment with a non-governmental organization (NGO) that works with orphans and against human trafficking in Eastern Europe.

“During my freshman year, the Dartmouth Navigators went on a spring break mission trip to Ukraine, where we spent ten days working with the children of the Komarivka orphanage,” Heywood said. “Later, during my junior year, I was awarded a Tucker Fellowship which enabled me to return and to realize that I could make a positive difference in their lives. Throughout my four years here, I was given strong support and valuable advice from the Russian Department in pursuing this dream.”

While at Dartmouth, Heywood received two citations in Russian and Engineering, was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa during the fall of her senior year, and is a member of the Golden Key International Honour Society, the Russian Club, and the Handel Society. She has also been a Rufus Choate Scholar (an honor for students in the top 5 percent of their class) all four years at the College. Heywood was the Campus Ministry Coordinator at the Edgerton Episcopal House, a member of Christian Impact, and a contributor to The Dartmouth Apologia, a journal that articulates Christian perspectives in the academic community.

“My experience at Dartmouth has allowed me to both develop independence and to be a part of a supportive community. I have been able to try so many new things here—fencing, Dartmouth Outing Club camping trips, the jewelry studio. It’s opened my eyes to new ways of thinking. Being able to know students from so many different backgrounds and across academic disciplines has enhanced my understanding of the world and has taught me that there is always more to learn.”

Nicole Yunger Halpern

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Yunger Halpern is graduating from Dartmouth as a modified physics major. While at the College she was a co-founder of the Dartmouth Physics Society and served as its co-president during winter and spring terms of 2011. She was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa in the fall of 2010 and has been a Rufus Choate Scholar all four years at the College.

During the spring 2009, Yunger Halpern was an intern at the Smithsonian Institution Libraries in Washington, D.C., at the Dibner Library, which contains rare books and special collections pertaining to the history of science and technology. She created a bibliography, assisted with outreach, learned about the structure and formation of books, examined documents by well-known scientists, and digitized a manuscript collection.

In 2009 and 2010, Yunger Halpern was a James O. Freedman Presidential Scholar, working with physics professor Marcelo Gleiser, the Appleton Professor of Natural Philosophy and Professor of Physics and Astronomy, to edit two of his books on physics. She has received two German Consulate Book Awards and has received nine citations for her academic excellence. In 2010, Yunger Halpern gave a presentation on the similarities between “word people” and “number people” at TEDxDartmouth 2010. She has been a leader within Rocky VoxMasters, Dartmouth’s public speaking group, since her freshman year.

“At Rocky VoxMaster, I help students overcome their public-speaking fears and improve their communication skills,” she said. “VoxMasters provides a safe environment in which students can practice speaking, make mistakes, improve, and feel comfortable. I feel privileged to work with students bent on self-improvement.”

Yunger Halpern has been awarded a Dartmouth General Fellowship to write about science and mathematics after graduation.

“Physicists study particles entangled with their environments—particles that we can describe completely only in terms of their surroundings,” she said. “My interests, relationships, language, and mindset—not to mention my view of particles—have become entangled with Dartmouth.”

College Names Three Salutatorians

There was a three-way tie for salutatorian; the honorees are: Franziska Hertel, a government major, from Zurndorf, Austria; Robert Thomas Parisot, an economics major from Watertown, Conn. and Nancy Zheng, a computer science major, from Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

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Franziska Hertel is an early Phi Beta Kappa inductee and was selected as a Rufus Choate Scholar all four years of her time at the College. She completed a project on politics and gender when she was a Presidential Scholar. Hertel was an executive board member of the International Students Association. She received the Fred C. Scribner Jr. 1930 and James H. Hamlen Law Scholarship to study at Columbia Law School.

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Robert Thomas Parisot is an early Phi Beta Kappa inductee, and a Rufus Choate Scholar for three years. He is the winner of the Andrew Warden Edson Memorial Prize in Government and received nine citations for academic excellence. During the winter term of his junior year Parisot interned for Senator Joseph Lieberman. He plans to attend Harvard Law School after graduation.

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Nancy Zheng is an early Phi Beta Kappa inductee. She has received two citations for academic excellence and received the Francis L. Town Scientific Prize. Her senior thesis, titled “Constant-RMR Abortable Reader-Priority Reader-Writer,” was published as a Dartmouth Computer Science Technical Report. She is a member of the Women in Science Project (WISP) and  the founder of Inspiret, a web design business.

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Latarsha Gatlin