Meet the Class of 2021 Valedictorians and Salutatorians

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Amanda Chen will give the valedictory address at commencement.

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Class of 2021 Valedictorians and Salutatorians
6/11/2021
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Nineteen members of the Class of 2021 have earned top academic honors over the course of their Dartmouth careers.

The six valedictorians—who each earned a cumulative 4.0 grade point average over four years—are Will Baxley, Kate Budney, Amanda Chen, Utsav Jalan, Emily Stehr, and Sanjena Venkatesh. A selection committee representing the dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and the dean of the College selected Chen to deliver the valedictory address to the Class of 2021.

“These outstanding students reflect the breadth and depth of Dartmouth’s liberal arts experience,” says Elizabeth Smith, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. “In classrooms and labs, in their extracurricular pursuits, over Zoom and in person, they have risen to every challenge and excelled. Congratulations to them all on this remarkable achievement.”

Salutatorians Sarah Alpert, Nicholas Bartlett, Zea Eanet, Amy Hu, Rachel Kent, Paul Jeon, Nicole Werner, Max Mickenberg, Devon Mifflin, Michael Nachman, John Connor Quigley, Michael St. George, and Michael Zhou each earned at least a 3.99 grade point average.

Valedictorians

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Will Baxley

Will Baxley

Arlington, Va.

Neuroscience and computer science double major

“I have a passion for work that lies at the intersection of traditional fields,” Baxley says. “What can neuroscience tell us about how to write beautiful music? How can quantitative analyses help us design better public policies? I believe that the greatest opportunities come from reframing the ways we view existing problems.”

A Goldwater Scholar, Baxley worked in the Contextual Dynamics Lab directed by Assistant Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences Jeremy Manning and the another neuroscience lab run by Associate Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences Matthijs van Der Meer. A member of Zeta Psi fraternity, he played violin with the Dartmouth Chamber Orchestra, captained the Dartmouth Running Team, and served as a computer science peer tutor for the Tutor Clearinghouse.

“For me, teaching is one of the most rewarding experiences out there,” he says.

Coming up, Baxley has a job as a software development engineer with Applied Predictive Technologies, a Washington, D.C.-based startup owned by Mastercard, and is considering pursuing graduate studies in artificial intelligence or a related field.

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Kate Budney

Kate Budney

Hanover, N.H.

Theater major

“I came into Dartmouth theater as a performer: an actor, singer, and dancer,” Budney says. “I came out as a performer—but also as a scholar, a props master, a stage manager, a sound board operator, a projection designer, a choreographer, and a deviser.”

Her Dartmouth theater career culminated in an honors thesis, a collaborative devised theater project called “Asynchronous Mission #6,” live-streamed over Twitch.

Budney joined the Dartmouth Dance Ensemble at the beginning of the pandemic. “I am so glad I did,” she said. “Our zoom rehearsals were a bright spot in my week that I could look forward to, and I was so grateful for the sense of community during such an isolated time. Finally getting to dance together in person this spring was a magical experience. I can’t imagine this year without DDE as a creative and emotional outlet.”

An animal lover and an avid baker, during the COVID-19 pandemic Budney started Kate Bakes 4 Justice, which she describes as “a mini-bakery for social justice where I bake tasty stuff for people, and in return they donate to a cause they care about.”

This summer, Budney will intern with the Department of Theater, after which she hopes to move to Brooklyn and continue pursuing theater.

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Amanda Chen

Amanda Chen

San Jose, Calif.

Psychology major; biology minor; premedical track

“I am passionate about medicine, particularly pain management, which combines aspects of mental health and physical health,” says Chen.

As a first-year student, Chen founded the Dartmouth Mental Health Student Union (MHU)—an experience that “fundamentally changed who I am both as a person and as a leader,” she says. As a sophomore, she founded MHU’s peer-support program and developed its curriculum with the Office of Student Affairs; as a junior, she created the Mental Health Ambassador program to help “integrate mental health resources in all corners of campus.” During the pandemic, she founded the MHU blog “Mind the Gap,” and—concerned about loneliness among older adults—launched Pine Pals, which matches Upper Valley senior citizens with Dartmouth student pen pals.

“Navigating all of these initiatives and their obstacles has taught me how to make institutional change,” Chen says. “Most of all, these experiences are meaningful because I have been able to find new friends and mentors who inspire me every day.”

During her junior-year off-term, she worked on a Stanford Medical School project “evaluating a critical consciousness and social justice curriculum for medical students,” she says. She plans to continue that work next year as she applies to medical schools. She hopes to earn an MD/MBA and specialize in pain management.

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Utsav Jalan

Utsav Jalan

New Delhi, India

Economics major; computer science minor

“I like to understand how the world works while equipping myself with the tools to implement change,” says Jalan, whose interests are at the intersection of philosophy, politics, and economics. “Courses in financial, international, and monetary economics taught by pioneers in the field have provided me with frameworks to analyze major contemporary issues. At the same time, courses in computer science ranging from databases to machine learning have equipped me with the skill sets to develop solutions.”

Last year, Jalan was a member of the Dartmouth team that won the 2020 national College Fed Challenge, arguing monetary policy before a panel of judges from the Federal Reserve. He has also been part of the Dartmouth Investment and Philanthropy Program, an experience he calls “transformational.”

“It helped me connect with like-minded students, develop mentorship networks, form friendships, further my interest in finance through experiential learning, and have an impact on nonprofits in the Upper Valley,” he says.

Post-graduation, Jalan will be joining the Strategic Advisory Group at PJT Partners as an investment banking analyst, a role that he hope will allow him to “ explore the domain of finance and its convergence with technology.”

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Emily Stehr

Emily Stehr

Oakland, Calif.

Sociology major modified with education; Native American studies minor

As an aspiring teacher who plans to travel in Ecuador after graduation, Stehr says her time at Dartmouth has taught her “to interrogate the ways in which dynamics of power, privilege, and oppression shape individual lived experiences, from childhood onward, with a particular focus on the role of education in perpetuating and/or disrupting these enduring cycles.”

She has been deeply involved with the Dartmouth Outing Club as a member of Cabin and Trail and Women in the Wilderness. “Both groups have nurtured my goofiness, my vulnerability, and my sense of adventure in equal measure,” she says. “I have had many opportunities to develop my abilities as social-justice educator within this community.”

She also participated in the Center for Social Impact’s Outdoor Leadership Experience program. “That was an invaluable way to connect with our surrounding community while exploring the power of the outdoors to catalyze play, connection, growth and vulnerability for emerging teens—and their college-age mentors,” Stehr says.

A language study abroad program took her to Buenos Aires, Argentina, and she spent a term as a teaching fellow for Breakthrough Collaborative.

Of her Dartmouth experience, she says, “I wish there was a way to honor the immense challenges that I and other folks at this school encounter and the resilience they exercise in living through them. Those are the achievements that matter most.”

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Sanjena Venkatesh

Sanjena Venkatesh

Houston, Texas

Economics and qualitative social science double major; premedical track

“Coming to Dartmouth, one of my most important goals involved exploration,” Venkatesh says—a goal that has led her to try a new activity every term.

“I’ve skied, snowboarded, ice skated, taken jewelry, ceramics, and woodshop classes, and joined a summer dance troupe—all for the first time,” she says. “Along the way, I developed a spirit for adventure—one which I hope will serve me through life.

That adventurous spirit led her to expand her academic interests, pursuing an interest in social sciences even alongside her lifelong dream of becoming a doctor.

”Within the field of medicine, this background offers me a unique perspective,“ she says. ”The practice of medicine, after all, does not exist in a vacuum, but rather is shaped by political, economic, and social forces.“

At Dartmouth, Venkatesh has been a coordinator and counselor for Camp Kesem, a community that supports the children of cancer patients; a trip leader for Dartmouth Outing Club first-year trips; and a member of the Dartmouth Wind Ensemble. She also served on the Student and Presidential Committee on Sexual Assault, creating and editing a handbook for survivors and helping to organize roundtables for students to engage on this issue.

This fall, she plans to begin her medical education at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine.

Salutatorians

Sarah Alpert

Newton, Mass.

English major; art history minor

”Stories have an incredible capacity to connect people, to expand our awareness of others’ experiences and increase empathy,“ says Alpert on her decision to major in English. ”I find joy in unpacking the mechanics of language and visual media, and I believe that understanding how we tell stories is key to communicating ethically and building trust between individuals. Thinking critically about texts in multiple media has made me a more thoughtful and insightful scholar, giving me the skills to tackle issues that matter throughout my career.“

As an English major, she traveled to Dublin with the department’s foreign study program, worked with Professor of English Thomas Luxon on the digital John Milton Reading Room, and wrote an honors thesis on Victorian literature and photography with Senior Lecturer Christie Harner.

Among her Dartmouth activities, she edited The Mirror section of The Dartmouth newspaper and participated in the Sexual Assault Peer Alliance and the Movement Against Violence.

Last winter, she interned at Melville House Publishing and the Carol Mann Agency, ”experiencing two sides of the book industry,“ she says. She has also interned with the global nonprofit The Borgen Project.

Post-graduation, Alpert plans to work as a product manager for the software startup Column, for which she has worked since last summer developing public interest information systems, before potentially applying to law school.

Nicholas Bartlett

Janesville, Wis.

Government and Asian societies, cultures, and languages double major; Spanish minor

Bartlett describes himself as ”the inquisitive sort“ for whom the questions of why and how ”are a necessary affix to any conversation. So perhaps that’s why Dartmouth fit me like a glove.“

He credits Dartmouth faculty in his majors and minor with helping to nurture his curiosity.

”Rather than demand homogeneity, they cut me loose to explore and experiment,“ he says. ”They trusted me to be the best version of myself. And it is to that trust which I owe my present success. Their zealous encouragement and support infused me with the strength to press onward and tackle new, daunting challenges.“

Bartlett served as an editor of the Dartmouth Law Journal and as a James O. Freeman Presidential Scholar. He worked for Dartmouth Dining Services, and spent a term interning for the U.S. House of Representatives Budget Committee. He has also served as an assistant coach for the Milton High School junior varsity boys soccer team.

Next year, he plans to attend Vanderbilt Law School, and to pursue a career in corporate or constitutional law.

”Dartmouth helped me to render tenable the untenable, to transcend what I thought to be my limits,“ he says. ”For that, I am ineffably and eternally grateful. The only downside of a Dartmouth education is that it ends.“

Zea Eanet

Norwich, Vt.

Comparative literature major; English minor

”I am a lover of language, and have always been interested in how the ways we speak, think, and write affect our understanding of the world,“ says Eanet, who discovered a love for historical language and translation at Dartmouth.

”My understanding of literary and historical texts has been enriched by reading them in their original language and by hearing from classmates with different language competencies than mine,“ she says. On off-campus programs in Paris and Dublin, she studied French, Modern Irish, and Old English.

At Dartmouth, she served as a James O. Freedman Presidential Scholar for Associate Professor of English Monika Otter, working on English verse translations of two Middle High German epic poems.

She served as director of the Dartmouth Film Society, which she calls ”one of the most rewarding aspects of my time here,“ and was a member of the Rude Mechanicals theater group. ”I’ve met so many incredible people through both organizations, and through extracurricular arts on campus more generally,“ she says. She has also been a film fellow at the Hopkins Center for the Arts, a French drill instructor, a member of the Stonefence editorial board, and sustainability chair for her Greek organization.

In the coming year, she plans to work at the Telluride Film Festival for the summer, then work in education while preparing to apply for MFA programs in fiction.

Amy Hu

Atlanta, Ga.

Economics and quantitative social science double major; public policy minor

The study of economics and quantitative social science ”gave me the theoretical framework to disaggregate complex real-world problems and formulate solutions,“ says Hu, a Stamps Scholar who credits experiential courses like ”Macroeconomic Policy in Latin America“—which included an opportunity to conduct field research in Chile and Argentina—with teaching her ”the value of collaborative primary research and experiential learning.“

That course in particular ”allowed me to continue the broader exploration of the complexities in the implementation of public policy that cannot be captured by secondary academic research,“ she says.

Her economics thesis allowed her ”to explore how new financial technologies can increase the resilience of working individuals to small, unplanned shocks,“ she says. ”I am thankful for Dartmouth’s commitment to the teacher-scholar model and the mentorship and thoughtful guidance of my professors throughout my four years, especially Professor Marjorie Rose and Professor Douglas Staiger.“

Among her Dartmouth activities, she did graphic design for HackDartmouth, a computer science competition. She was a first-year fellow with the Rockefeller Center for Public Policy, and was a Dartmouth Economics Research Scholar.

Hu plans to move to New York to join McKinsey and Company as a business analyst.

Rachel Kent

Indianapolis, Ind.

Geography major

”My academic interests are grounded in the imperative to nourish ourselves in a way that nourishes rather than destroys our communities and environment,“ says Kent, who has accepted a Fulbright scholarship to Italy, where she will complete a master’s of gastronomy at the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo next year.

A Stamps Scholar, she has conducted independent research into the ”geographies of care on small-scale farms,“ she says. ”I was fortunate enough to receive funding to support travel and stays on farms where I worked and did ethnographic research. My field work culminated in a geography senior honors thesis that uses these place-based experiences to explore how we can create relations that nourish human and nonhuman lives through agricultural practices, particularly as a counter to the destructive tendencies of capitalist agriculture.“

The Dartmouth Outing Club, the Office of Sustainability (especially the Dartmouth Organic Farm), and the Dartmouth Student Union are campus communities she credits with helping her development. She also traveled to Spain on a Spanish language study abroad program and participated in the environmental studies foreign study program in South Africa and Namibia.

After her Fulbright, she says, ”The future is wide open! I hope to be working somewhere at the intersection of regenerative, community-centric agriculture and land-based food sovereignty.“

Paul Jeon

Fairfield, Conn.

English and economics double major

”I love thinking about the possibilities inherent in language, and I am drawn to studying literature because it packs profound truths in the accessible vessels of narrative and story,“ says Jeon, who became fascinated by the work of John Milton when he took a course with Professor of English Thomas Luxon as a first-year student. With Luxon as his adviser, he wrote his senior thesis on the last 300 lines of Milton’s Samson Agonistes.

”The opportunity to ruminate on a topic for an entire year, work closely with a highly reputed scholar in the field, and share my work with a wide audience was truly fulfilling,“ he says.

Jeon grew up in a family of educators, and he explored his interest in education policy through his economics coursework and Rockefeller Senior Lecturer and Policy Fellow Charles Wheelan’s course on the subject.

At Dartmouth, Jeon sang with the Christian a cappella group X.ado, belonged to the Christian Union, and regularly attended Hanover’s Christ Redeemer Church. ”The Christian community has been a source of great emotional and spiritual support during the ups and downs of college,“ he says.

Post-graduation, he plans to move to New York to work as an economic consultant for Analysis Group, where he interned last summer. Ultimately, he plans to attend seminary to pursue a career in church ministry.

Max Mickenberg

Cooper City, Fla.

Psychology major; public policy minor

Mickenberg’s academic interests are driven by the desire ”to learn about and understand people and the various inequities and problems they face so that I can best help to rectify them in the future,“ he says. ”My goal is to help others, encourage them, teach them, and make a difference in their lives. My Dartmouth academic journey and interests, inside and outside the classroom, have been driven by just that.“

Among his Dartmouth activities, Mickenberg participated in Mock Trial and received the All-Regional Mock Trial Attorney award. ”The Mock Trial Team has not only been the main catalyst for my desire to become a criminal defense attorney, but also has been a source of some of my greatest friendships at Dartmouth,“ he says.

Mickenberg served on the West House executive board; was president of the club snowboarding team and a snowboard instructor; a snowboard instructor and director for the Snowsports School; a member of the fraternity, Phi Delta Alpha; and participated in the Barcelona Spanish language study abroad program. He was a Rockefeller Center First-Year Fellow in D.C., interned with a law firm in New York and at the Orange County, Calif., public defender’s office, and taught snowboarding in Jackson, WY.

Post-graduation, Mickenberg will join be teaching high school English in San Antonio, Texas, through Teach for America and applying to law school. He plans on a career in politics.

Devon Mifflin

Greenwich, Conn.

Art history major; religion minor

For Mifflin, the study of art history ”provides an amazing vantage point through which to understand the cultural conditions of a society,“ she says. ”As a vehicle for revolution, tradition, social change, or personal expression, art is a tangible means through which to study complex and entangled histories of the past and present.“

For her senior thesis, Mifflin immersed herself in the work of two contemporary artists in an interdisciplinary project that applied spatial theory she first learned about in a geography course as a first-year student. ”As a capstone project, the thesis has enabled me to stretch my research skills and pull from my coursework in different disciplines,“ she says.

Mifflin has been deeply involved with the Hood Museum of Art as an early member of the Museum Club, the Levinson Intern for Campus Engagement, and as the digital engagement project assistant, a role she helped to create. She also curated A Space for Dialogue exhibition called ”VISION 2020: What Do You See?“

She has also been involved with the Center for Social Impact’s SIBS program and served as philanthropy chair of Kappa Kappa Gamma.

She plans on a career in the arts.

Michael Nachman

Port Washington, N.Y.

Government and economics double major

Nachman’s interest in public policy drove his choice of majors, he says.

He participated in the exchange program with Keble College at the University of Oxford. As a James O. Freeman Presidential Scholar, he served as a research assistant for Associate Professor of Economics Paul Novosad and conducted research with the Dartmouth Political Violence FieldLab.

Among his other Dartmouth activities, he worked as a ski instructor at the Skiway and has been an active member of Hillel. ”The Hillel community helped me find my place at Dartmouth early on, and I’ll remember it as a central part of my experience,“ he says.

He was also a first-year fellow with the Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and interned at the U.S. State Department.

After graduation he plans to move to Boston, where he will work at Cornerstone Research while applying to law school.

Nicole Werner

Weston, Conn.

Neuroscience major; Spanish minor

”My favorite part about Dartmouth has been the people I’ve met over the past four years, whether it’s the professors, mentors, or fellow students and friends,“ says Werner. ”I’ve learned so much from the people that make up this incredible community.“

Werner says she’s grateful for Dartmouth’s D-Plan, which gave her flexibility to pursue interests in biology and neuroscience while providing the opportunity to study abroad in Madrid through the Spanish foreign study program and to work in Professor Brad Duchaine’s Social Perception Lab, studying the neurocognitive mechanisms underlying facial perception. 

”I’ve learned so much from my experiences beyond the classroom that I know I’ll take with me into the future,“ she says.

Next year Werner will be attending the NYU Grossman School of Medicine.

John Connor Quigley

Bellevue, Wash.

Computer science major modified with engineering

In his major of computer science, Quigley’s primary interest is in artificial intelligence and machine learning. ”I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to study both at Dartmouth,“ he says. ”Taking computer sciences courses with Dartmouth professors has enabled me to develop a deeper understanding of the concepts I’m taught and given me the ability to think critically about complex problems.“

But he’s taken full advantage of Dartmouth’s liberal arts model to explore other fields as well.

”What I find most interesting is when I can take a concept I’ve learned in one discipline and use it to solve or critically think through a problem in another,“ he says. ”I have been able to study the ethics of human enhancement, entrepreneurship, jazz language, and food history. This eclectic mix of fields is what I think truly defines my Dartmouth experience.“

Quigley joined the Coast Jazz Orchestra as a first-year student, an experience he calls ”invaluable and transformative for me as a student and musician.“ He also played club lacrosse, and spent a term studying at the Aquincum Institute of Technology in Budapest, Hungary.

Post-graduation, Quigley will join the management consulting firm Oliver Wyman as a consultant in New York City.

Michael St. George

New Canaan, Conn.

Economics major

St. George says he was drawn to the study of economics ”because it affects the daily lives of everyone on the planet. Economic principles are at the foundation of international trade, government spending, investing, borrowing, and employment.“

Participating in the winning 2020 national College Fed Challenge was a highlight of his Dartmouth experience. ”I learned so much,“ he says. ”In preparation for this competition, our 12-person team researched the effects of COVID-19 on the United States economy and formulated policy recommendations to optimize the Federal Reserve’s response to the crisis. My teammates and our faculty advisers, Elisabeth Curtis and Frank Zarnowski“—both senior lecturers in the Department of Economics—”were amazing and created a remarkable academic environment.“

Through the economics department’s exchange program with Keble College at the University of Oxford, St. George spent a term in the U.K. studying politics, philosophy, and economics and playing rugby and soccer. He plans to return to the U.K. to pursue a master’s degree at the University of Warwick.

Michael Zhou

Belmont, Mass.

Mathematics and computer science double major

”I thoroughly enjoy problem-solving, especially the kind that requires logic and numbers,“ a passion that led him to double major in math and computer science and to spend a term studying at the Aquincum Institute of Technology in Budapest, Hungary, says Zhou.

At Dartmouth he played club table tennis—a sport he grew up playing casually with his dad. ”At Dartmouth, for the first time, I was able to easily find others in my age group that shared this interest,“ he says. ”I’ve really enjoyed watching the club grow and my skills progress throughout my four years.

He has had several internship experiences, including a data science internship at Figure8, a quant trading internship at Belvedere Trading, and a software engineer internship at Amazon.

This summer he will join Amazon full time as a software engineer in New York City.

“I hope to gain experience in software development and management over the next several years and eventually start my own company,” he says.

Hannah Silverstein can be reached at hannah.silverstein@dartmouth.edu.

Written by
Hannah Silverstein