The American School in SwitzerlandThe American School in Switzerland
TASIS Announces 2021 Graduation Awards
Graduation Awards 2021

The following Graduation Awards were presented to standout members of TASIS The American School in Switzerland’s Class of 2021 at the School’s 65th Commencement Ceremony on the morning of May 29. Each award listing includes the citation that was read as the award was presented.

Excellence in Art

Presented by Fine Arts Department Chair Martyn Dukes

Art is a language through which every artist hopes to find a voice, and for over 60 years the visual arts at TASIS have been the means by which countless students have been able to give expression to this idea. 

I may have taught this year's recipient for only two years, but in this short time I have had the privilege of watching her grow as an artist. Always sincere, her work quietly resists the character stereotype of the art student—the artist who is impetuous, or even purposefully provocative. What you find instead is an accomplished young artist prepared to learn the craft of painting, whose work is distinguished by a curiosity for the natural world around her. She engages with it honestly and ideas are developed with unwavering perseverance. These are the hallmarks of the better artist and traits that will undoubtedly mark her out and bring her success at university and beyond. I am pleased to present this year’s award for Excellence in Art to Gabriela Sortino Herrero.

The Horst Dürrschmidt Excellence in Photography Award

Presented by Visual Arts Department Chair Martyn Dukes

The TASIS Art Department award in Photography honors long time Photography Instructor and Department Chairman Horst Dürrschmidt, whose vision, leadership and creative energy helped to shape what the arts mean at TASIS.

This year we honor one of the very few students who has completed all the Photography courses offered by the Visual Arts Department. She has explored, in the last two years of the IB Visual Arts course, a wide range of alternate process printing and the serendipitous results of instant film. These tools allow her to express her interest in color and light in unique and challenging ways. No matter what direction her future studies take her, it is clear she will continue to use photography to help to express herself.

The 2021 Horst Dürrschmidt Photography Award goes to Kelly Zhao.

Excellence in Architecture and Design

Presented by Visual Arts Department Chair Martyn Dukes

This student pushed himself as hard as he could to achieve the very best results. A focused, but unassuming presence in the architecture studio, he constantly sought the right technique to make drawings appropriate and to create fitting models to realize his ideas. His pen-and-ink sketches are truly outstanding and were a feature of this year’s Spring Arts Festival exhibition. Next fall he will continue to pursue his commitment to architecture at a school in San Francisco where we wish him the very best. 

This year’s award for Excellence in Architecture and Design goes to Berk Kip.

The Bertha Seifert Award for Excellence in Music

Presented by Performing Arts Department Chair Samantha Forrest 

This year’s recipients of the Bertha Seifert Award for Excellence in Music are two students who have demonstrated exemplary musical skills, dedication, commitment, and drive.

These students arrived at the school in the 9th and 10th grades with considerable yet very different backgrounds as instrumentalists, both sharing a love of performing and sharing their talent with their peers.

They have been studying with members of our specialist music team, resulting in consistently excellent performances—both as soloists and collaborative ensemble members—since 2017.

These students have been respectively devoted members of the various High School ensembles—Instrumental Ensemble class, Band, and Choir—and also took on additional collaborative challenges, stretching themselves both onstage and as accompanists for several High School Musical Theater and Dramatic productions.

Over this past year, both of these students have persisted with their musical studies and delivery of exemplary performances online, which has been enormously challenging, and yet they did not waver from their commitment to complete their studies, stayed connected to their teachers thousands of miles away, and continued their development as very fine young artists.

DFor their outstanding talent, dedication, and passion for music, it is our pleasureD to award the 2021 Bertha Seifert Award for Excellence in Music to Xintong (Kelly) Zhao and Miguel Calonge Mattos.

The Kay Hamblin Award for Excellence in Theater

Presented by Performing Arts Department Chair Samantha Forrest

The Kay Hamblin Excellence in Theater Award is presented annually to a student who consistently demonstrates a love for, and dedication to, the art of theater.

This student knows that individual success is possible only through teamwork and dedicated study, and that collaboration, respect, diligence, and joy in the art and craft of theater are the cornerstones of successful productions. This student has successfully contributed to and developed as a young artist through both musical theater and dramatic production opportunities during her entire school career, from Elementary, Middle, and High School, often striving to take on leading roles in two major productions per year. This student has also contributed to the broader musical life of the school as a choral member, vocal soloist, and most recently also as a dancer for many of our annual performances and concerts.

For her love of the stage and her commitment to the theater and its community—in conjunction with her commitment to pursuing her life-long dream to pursue a career in the performing arts—this year's Theater Award goes to Ella Grace Abisi.

Excellence in English as an Additional Language

Presented by EAL Department Chair Carolyn Heard

This year’s recipient of the Excellence in English as an Additional Language award has distinguished himself for his enthusiasm, diligence, and commitment to learning. Always perfectly prepared for class and eager to derive the maximum benefit from instruction, he impressed his teacher over the two-year course of IB English B with extraordinarily well-written essays as well as insightful contributions to class discussions. Setting high goals for himself, his natural intellectual curiosity was always in evidence along with a sincere desire to make his learning meaningful on a personal as well as a scholarly level. This desire and determination to engage himself fully in the learning process not only enhanced his own progress but also the learning of those around him. It is for these reasons that the EAL Department bestows its award for Excellence in English as an Additional Language to Leonid Serbinov.

Excellence in Modern Languages

Presented by Modern Languages Department Chair Ania Barciak

The Modern Languages Department takes great pleasure in recognizing exceptional achievements in the acquisition of modern languages. This year’s recipient has not only excelled in two modern languages that TASIS offers, German and Italian, but is also a very gifted English and Russian speaker. She demonstrated in all of these courses a curious mind and a distinctive talent for speaking a newly acquired language with minimal to no accent, which is a unique trait. I have no doubt that this polyglot will find the thirst for learning more languages as she embarks onto her professional journey in the real world. The Department of Modern Languages is immensely pleased to announce the winner of this year’s Modern Languages Award: Nadezhda Fartushnyak.

The Cynthia Whisenant Award for Excellence in English Literature

Presented by English Department Chair Dr. Christopher Love

A connoisseur of words and passionate advocate for ideas that matter, this year’s winner of the Cynthia Whisenant award for English Literature tackled rich and complex works in her four years studying literature at TASIS, including Dante’s Inferno, Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, and Shakespeare’s Hamlet. In Honors World Literature and IB Higher Level Literature, this student combined a humane and biding interest in language with a meticulous devotion to improving her prose. The craft matters deeply to this student because she quite simply cares about the beauty and precision with which writers shape ideas. This student’s enthusiasm for words, for vibrant forms of expression, and for insightful analysis inspired her fellow students to refine their own writing and interpretation. The range and depth of her work startled and ensorcelled: in her Extended Essay, she examined the ways that T.S. Eliot’s punctuation communicated the poet’s spiritual peregrinations. For her Higher Level IB essay, she detailed H.G. Wells’ exploitation of the uncanny in his Island of Dr. Moreau

No matter what essay or project this student takes on, she devotes her full attention and soul to the effort. In Honors World Literature, this student actually lost hair from the stress she suffered in preparing for a presentation on poetry and translation. We are pleased this did not become a trend. Most importantly, this student kept her eyes fixed on the beauty, truth, and goodness toward which great literature and great writing aspire. 

The TASIS English Department is proud to honor Autumn Bachofen with the 2021 Cynthia Whisenant Award for Excellence in English.

Excellence in History 

Presented by History Department Chair Daniel Kirsch

This year’s recipient of the Excellence in History Award is a true student of the subject. She is genuinely interested in the subject and willing to work hard to not just learn facts but to also learn the motivations behind the actions of historical figures and how these, when taken together, continue to shape the modern world. 

This young lady did not shy away from challenges throughout her course of study in history at TASIS. In Grade 10 in Modern History, she decided to research the history of the development of Einstein’s e=mc2 from theory to weaponization, highlighting a love of both physics and history. 

This dual passion continued into the IB Diploma Program, where she wrote her Extended Essay on the development from the 1950s to the 1970s of space law…from the Soviet point of view. While it was a challenge, particularly to find sources in English, she persevered and ended up writing a very strong paper that pointed out the sizable and positive contributions that the Soviet Union made to the then-growing field of space law. 

Now, for her Internal Assessment, she took a different tack, researching a fascinating but little-known figure in the British Royal Family, Princess Alice of Battenburg, and how she challenged traditional expectations of Royal women. For those who are not up on Royal trivia, Princess Alice of Battenburg was the mother of Prince Philip, and a senior member of the Greek Royal Family who was quite an independent lady. If you want to know more about Princess Alice, just ask our award recipient. She knows all the good gossip, and a lot of interesting facts, about Her Highness. This IA was also a strong paper that addressed the realities and restrictions of the life of women of high social rank in the early and middle 20th centuries, and how one woman made her mark in her way and was still accepted. 

Finally, our recipient was one of the few people in class who was able to genuinely synthesize what the IB Program is looking for in a History Exam essay, and she was able to produce very high quality work in test situations on a regular basis. 

With all of this in mind, it is with great pride that the History Department awards the Excellence in History Award to Sofia Angelica Rosso

The Shah Akbar Khan Award for Excellence in Mathematics

Presented by Math Department Chair James Shields

The Department of Mathematics takes great pleasure in recognizing work that is characterized by curiosity, industry, and professionalism applied to the study and practice of mathematics. When that work is graced with uncommon cleverness and creativity, the usual reward of excellent grades is insufficient, and recognition such as this is required.

In addition to earning excellent grades over his TASIS career, this year’s award winner is the author of two works of uncommon sophistication. In the first, he derives, and then proves, the closed form for certain sequences of Fibonacci type. In the second, he presents, evaluates, and then contrasts two different proofs of a theorem of Euler that generalizes the theorem of Pythagoras to quadrilaterals.

His teachers can be proud of their association with such a talent. Therefore, the Department of Mathematics is pleased to announce that the winner of the Shah Akbar Khan Award for Excellence in Mathematics is Leonid Serbinov.

Excellence in Science

Presented by Science Department Chair Alec Ogilvie

This year’s winner of the science award was a clear choice, as his enthusiasm and dedication to his science studies have always been apparent. He continually pushed himself, wanted to know more, and would make sure that he would learn from the very few mistakes he made and enhance his understanding even further. 

He studied two Higher Level IB subjects, Chemistry and Physics, and despite the incredible demands that these subjects gave, he never once complained that it was too much, and his work was always of optimum quality. In addition, he always had time to help explain to others, and in the run up to the exams it was great to see him have paper one battles and then help explain concepts to other students. 

His Internal Investigation topics illustrated his desire to apply his understanding to real-world situations. In Chemistry he linked his electrochemical investigation to electrical cars, and in physics he investigated the efficiency of a hydroelectric device depending on the slope. Both topics are very suited to his future studies of electrical engineering at Imperial College.

I am sure he will continue to succeed at the highest level at university, and it is with great pleasure that the Science Department gives this year's Excellence in Science award to Ben Marconi

The Salutatorian Scholarship Award

Presented by Academic Dean Dr. Mark Abisi

This student is a young woman in possession of a rare combination of gifts, the foremost of which is that she cares, and it is her caring nature that drives her to excel academically and in the TASIS community. Throughout her four years in the High School, this student has embodied the values of TASIS with her commitment and engagement in all aspects of life at TASIS, including her academic studies, her participation in the Mongolia and Kenya Global Service Program groups, and her many extracurricular activities. An exceptionally intelligent, kind, and driven young person, this student is humble and faces every challenge with maturity and a “can do” approach that truly inspires those around her. 

This student has flourished in the IB Diploma Program, pushing herself and fully embracing the challenges of the IB Diploma course, often studying beyond the reach of even these demanding courses to satisfy her own determination to properly understand the topics presented to her. She is the first student to ask for clarification when necessary. She has a genuine desire to understand the world around her, and this intellectual curiosity is obvious in all she does. This student has vision and takes the initiative to look beyond her scholastic syllabi, making the connections between challenges that are addressed and considering them from different angles in different subjects. This student cares deeply about giving her best and making a positive contribution in the world, and she is sure to make a positive impact in the future, at university and beyond. Congratulations to this year’s Salutatorian, Paulina Karstens.

The Valedictorian Scholarship Award 

Presented by Academic Dean Dr. Mark Abisi

Demonstrating exceptional academic achievement, this student is humble and modest; she keeps her grades to herself and is highly self-motivated. She has a wide range of academic interests and possesses that genuine intellectual curiosity that ensures she will thrive in a university classroom. Her proactive approach and her eagerness to learn make her a joy to have in any classroom, and this student never hesitates to share her ideas or lend a helping hand to a peer in class. Across her courses, teachers talk about this student’s leadership in the classroom and describe her as motivated, astute, and setting very high goals for herself. She is a model student, and her presence in a classroom pushes learning forward for every student in the class. It is with great pleasure that I present the 2021 Valedictorian Scholarship Award to Autumn Bachofen.

The Headmaster’s Awards

Presented by Headmaster Christopher Nikoloff

In her eight years at TASIS, this student has demonstrated exceptional grace, kindness, character, and determination; she exemplifies the traits that we work to nurture and develop in TASIS students, and she achieves it all with humility. Authentic and genuine, her sincerity and character are evident each and every day. She is a role model for younger students and an exceptional member of our community. As one of her teachers says, “It is one thing to see in a fifth grader a legitimate role model for your own daughter. It is another to see this role model, over the course of eight years, embody such consistent and manifest qualities of quiet authority, grace, moral steadfastness, kindness, and thoughtful resilience in the face of challenge.”

In addition to her impeccable character, this student is a highly respected and honored scholar, artist, and friend. She truly loves school and stretching herself academically; she is intrinsically motivated and sets the bar high, and she works whole-heartedly, sincerely, and honestly to reach it. This student’s character, accomplishments, and contributions to the community have been recognized throughout her time at TASIS. She has earned the Torch Award for International Understanding, two Magnificent 7 Awards—one for Respect and another for Vision—an Award for Academic Excellence in Drama, and two Theater Awards. This student has a huge heart and is quick to help others. She has been a dedicated student leader in the TASIS Global Service Program and was selected to serve on the TASIS Service Learning Board. She’s a reader, a poet, a dancer, an actor, a humanitarian, and a student, but most of all, she is a kind human being. This year’s Headmaster’s Award goes to Ella Abisi

* * *

From her first day at TASIS, the maturity and motivation of this student was apparent. Ambitious and highly motivated, she is a welcome addition to any TASIS classroom. In the school community, this student is a leader, and she leads through example, always respectful of everyone. This student demonstrates kindness to others and always has the best interest of the community at heart. A lively, generous, and gracious member of TASIS, she always gives the impression of being an independent, optimistic, and cheerful character. Around the school she has played an active part in the life of the community in her role as Proctor, particularly around the dormitory, and as an ambassador and advocate for Brazilian students in the TASIS community. There is never not a time that she’s not helping out, and as a result she was awarded the “Angel of the Slopes” at the end of Ski Week last year. This student has crossed all kinds of language barriers, she’s a people person, she helps connect people, and she is always optimistic and positive. She is simply a very impressive human being! 

This willingness to help is also seen beyond the school gates: back in Brazil she maintains a relationship with deaf children in a remote Amazon village, notably having taken the time to learn sign language to support families in the education of their children. This student is a solid member of the TASIS community, always willing to lend a hand or help a friend. We are pleased to also give this year’s Headmaster’s Award to Gabriela Sortino Herrero.

The ECIS Award for International Understanding

Presented by Headmaster Christopher Nikoloff

The ECIS Award for International Understanding is awarded to a student who is a good representative of his or her own country, with a positive attitude toward the life and culture of others, is able to converse in at least two languages, and is a contributing force in the life of the school, with the ability to bring differing people together into a sense of community, thus furthering the cause of international understanding.

This year’s award winner does more than just check the boxes needed to be nominated. Occasionally a person of character comes along whose natural qualities of positivity, respect, and understanding are so genuine that it appears effortless to those around them. This year’s winner is such a person. “Friendly with all,” “a bridge maker,” “effervescent,” “the quintessential international student,” “celebrates the success of peers,”and “a natural linguist and communicator” are teacher observations. At the same time this student is one of our top IB scholars, was awarded the Theory of Knowledge Award and a Torch Award winner, and is a Cum Laude Society member. 

Our winner wishes to enter the world of business with a commitment to developing enterprises that bring a healthier lifestyle to people. In her university essay she talks about how her love of languages has helped her communicate with people in their mother tongue. She states, “It has helped me build trusting relationships, a key to success in the world of business.” Surely this is the key to success in any human endeavor. It is with pleasure and pride that we award the ECIS Award for International Understanding to Nadezhda Fartushnyak.

The Jan Opsahl Service Award

Presented by Headmaster Christopher Nikoloff

The Jan Opsahl Service Award recognizes a student for whom the school community comes before self. This award acknowledges students who contributed to the school community and to school life beyond the call of duty. Academic excellence by itself does not qualify a student for this award: the faculty often chooses a candidate who is giving of themselves in quiet ways.

This student's name perfectly describes the emotion she brings to others. She puts her friends and her community first. This year’s recipient is the type of student who will do whatever is asked of her—always to a high standard and always with a positive attitude. She is dedicated in so many ways and on so many levels to the TASIS community and the service of others: as a two-year proctor in the Middle School dorm, as a co-president of the Student Council, as a member of the TASIS Speaker Series Board, as a member of the student-run Social Justice Club, as a stoic member of the music ensemble, and as a ubiquitous helper when TASIS hosts sporting events on campus. TASIS has been this student's home since she arrived, and she has given back so much to the community that she loves. It is for this reason that the recipient of the Jan Opsahl Service award is Joy Mack.

The Michael Ulku-Steiner Leadership Award

Presented by Headmaster Christopher Nikoloff

Michael Ulku-Steiner served as TASIS’s Headmaster for five years. He currently sits on the TASIS Foundation Board and is Head of School at Durham Academy. This award recognizes the student or students who have shown initiative, creativity, and disinterested involvement in making our school a better place to study and to live in. For example, student council, committee, or student activity work may qualify a student. The award generally has been given to a student recognized as a leader (in the furthering of TASIS goals and ideals) by both the students and the faculty.

This student has been a boarding student at TASIS since grade 8, and he credits TASIS with molding him into the exceptional young person he is today. He is hugely involved in all aspects of the TASIS community, from athletics to service to residential life—he does it all and does it all incredibly well. A varsity athlete, he has been selected captain several times, demonstrating the great respect his peers hold for him, and he has also won the Coach’s Award. He has true sportsmanship, always recognizing the value of the team and demonstrating teamwork and respect for others.

This student is always willing to lend a hand, never complaining but instead looking for ways in which he can better his own community; he looks out for everyone and genuinely wants to make TASIS and the world a better place. He has been an involved and proactive participant in the TASIS Global Service Program and served as a mentor to younger students, encouraging enthusiasm and commitment in all he does. Academically, this student craves knowledge and has a genuine intellectual curiosity that surpasses peer pressure! He is not afraid of hard work, and he challenges himself to explore different subject areas; across his courses, this student is hugely respected. This student’s presence in a classroom truly does make the class a better place. He participates, he helps others, and he adds some much-appreciated comic relief as needed!

At TASIS, this student has already received more awards than we can list, but the one that means the most to him is the “Going Above and Beyond” award he received last year. This student is humble, kind, and truly the epitome of what we hope every TASIS student becomes, and when he graduates, the entire campus will feel his absence. At university, this student is sure to continue building a wonderful sense of community, and wherever he is, he will always look out for others. An outstanding and simply wonderful young person, this year’s Michael Ulku-Steiner Leadership Award goes to Zhantemir Sarsenov.

The H. Miller Crist Award 

Presented by Headmaster Christopher Nikoloff

Miller Crist is the father of TASIS founder Mary Crist Fleming. He established the former Mary Lyon School for girls and Wildliff Junior College. His portrait hangs in the Mary Crist Fleming Library. This award is given to the senior student who, in the opinion of the faculty, best represents the ideals and goals of the school. This is the highest recognition accorded by the TASIS faculty to a senior who, by his or her actions (academic and otherwise), best embodies or pursues the ideals, aspirations, and goals of the School. In some ways, the award combines the stipulations of the Service and Leadership Awards with an expectation of academic excellence. 

This year’s recipient of the H. Miller Crist award is a student who is recognized as a natural leader by peers and faculty alike. Her qualities were apparent immediately when she joined the TASIS community in grade 9, so much so that she was the first student to be selected as a grade 10 proctor. She has been highly dependable in this role, showing maturity along with a marked ability to motivate younger students and help them make good decisions. Ambitious for herself and the wider community, and with a positive attitude, this young lady has shown initiative and dedication in all that she does. Her advisor comments that she sets exceedingly high expectations for herself and dedicates herself wholly to meeting them, and that her example shines as bright on the soccer field and on the track as it does in instrumental ensemble, in the dormitory, and in the classroom. She is an exceptional all-rounder and true asset to the School and the wider community.

While this student clearly demonstrates respect for all members of the community, of equal importance, she also respects herself. She is self-aware. She has boundaries. She makes good, healthy decisions for herself and never loses sight of who she is, what she is capable of, and what she wants to accomplish, which is never at the expense of others.

This student is truly the whole package, and she personifies the values of a TASIS student; she is community-minded, committed to positive change, highly intelligent, and incredibly kind with a true generosity of spirit. She believes actions speak louder than words, and she believes that it is her responsibility to take actions that will make this world a better place. We look forward to seeing this student continue her social justice mission in the future. With her academic strength and community-minded spirit, this year’s recipient of the H. Miller Crist Award is Autumn Bachofen.

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