The American School in SwitzerlandThe American School in Switzerland
TASIS Announces the Class of 2018 Graduation Awards

The following Graduation Awards were presented to outstanding members of The American School in Switzerland’s Class of 2018 at the School’s 62nd Commencement Ceremony on the morning of Saturday, May 26. Each listing is accompanied by 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 art at TASIS has been the means by which countless students have been able to give expression to this idea.

I have taught this year's recipient for three years and had the privilege of watching her grow and thrive. In the art studio she has been a consistently gentle and graceful presence, displaying an extraordinary capacity for patience unequalled by her peers. As an accomplished young artist her artwork is quite simply exceptional and it therefore comes as no surprise to learn that she has obtained a place to study Illustration in Edinburgh next September.

Please join with me as we congratulate Yu Ying Chan on being the recipient of this year’s graduation award for Excellence in Art.

The Bertha Seifert Award for Excellence in Music 

Presented by Fine Arts Department Chair Martyn Dukes

This year’s recipient of the Bertha Seifert Award for Excellence in Music is a student with exemplary musical skills, commitment, and drive.

This student arrived at the School three years ago with a considerable background as an instrumental specialist and performer, but unfortunately had been put off her studies for a number of years.

Upon arriving at TASIS, she was introduced to our piano teacher, Ms. Gloria de Piante Vicin, through whom she was inspired to recommence her studies in February 2016, since which time she has gone from strength to strength, resulting in consistently outstanding performances dating from her first Spring Arts Festival appearance in May 2016.

In addition, she has also been a consistent and devoted member of the High School Instrumental Ensemble class, serving as both accompanist and team player.

She is a compassionate, generous, and joyful student who contributes tirelessly to all school community events and is a true inspiration to others.

For her outstanding talent, dedication, and passion for music, it is our pleasure to give the 2018 Bertha Seifert Award for Excellence in Music to Jiwon Byeon.

The Horst Dürrschmidt Award for Excellence in Photography

Presented by Fine Arts Department Chair Martyn Dukes

The TASIS Art Department Excellence in Photography Award honors former photography instructor and Art Department Chairman Horst Dürrschmidt , whose vision, leadership, and creative energy helped to shape so much of what the arts mean at TASIS.

Occasionally in the course of teaching art to young students, it is a pleasant surprise and a pleasure for teachers to watch a student become so confident in his or her own technical abilities that he or she truly begins to use a particular medium to express himself or herself creatively. The recipient of this year’s award has made that transition in a photographic journey over the last two years. Beginning with strikingly personal and particular studies of architecture, line, and texture that employed bold framing and vision to assured and controlled studio work, this student has rapidly assimilated the technical photographic skills that allow for the exploration of artistic ideas. To be able to previsualize and then make photographs that move the viewer is a difficult task, but one that this student has been able to accomplish.

We are pleased confer the Horst Durrschmidt award for Photography to acknowledge the exceptional work of Luiz Melo de Castro.

The Kay Hamblin Award for Excellence in Theater

Presented by Fine Arts Department Chair Martyn Dukes

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 that respect, collaboration, diligence, and delight in the art and craft of theater are the cornerstones of successful productions.

Always responsible, always eager to work, this thespian’s growing capacity to take on the physical, emotional, and linguistic challenges that excellent theater demands and to plunge vigorously into each new play, genre, and character made him a joy to work with. His respect for his cast- and crewmates was important to company atmosphere, and it was gratifying to witness his worldview shift from simply enjoying acting in plays to recognizing the powerful way theater can communally explore the human condition, encouraging audiences to feel, think, and hope.

He has acted in 8 of the 9 mainstage productions since 8th grade—including starring roles in the fall & spring of his senior year in the IB program—he earned a 2017 Spring Musical Award, and participated everything from IB Theatre monologues at EXPO to last year’s Harry Potter and the Cursed Child reading.

For his love of the stage, his commitment to the theater and its community, and his self-motivated growth as an actor, this year's Theater Award goes to Ivan Semashev.

Excellence in Architecture and Design

Presented by Fine Arts Department Chair Martyn Dukes

This year’s recipient of the TASIS Architecture Prize is a highly skilled artist, as well as a technical problem solver. No task was left undone in her quest for excellence in the IB Visual Arts / Architecture course at Higher Level. Her ingenious designs for space frames to cover large areas are as beautiful as they are intuitive. Her acceptance at London’s prestigious Architectural Association School is fitting evidence of her dedication and commitment. It is also a testament to the completeness of her preparation.

Congratulations to Diana Dulina.

Excellence in English as an Additional Language

Presented by EAL Department Chair Carolyn Heard

The English as an Additional Language Award is given this year in recognition of an IB English B student who has shown an unwavering determination not only to succeed, but to excel throughout the two-year course. The maturity of her approach to her studies, combined with her keen intellect, has contributed to her many accomplishments with regard to both class participation and written work.

For her outstanding qualities as a scholar, her eagerness to cultivate a solid command of the English language, and for her self-discipline, diligence, and dedication to excellence, we are pleased to present the Graduation Award in English as an Additional Language to Lisa Tregubova.

Excellence in Modern Languages

Presented by Modern Languages Department Chair Nilda Lucchini

The award for Excellence in Modern Languages recognizes the achievements of a student who has undertaken studies in at least two of the five languages offered at TASIS. This year the Modern Languages Department honors a student who has been part of the Italian and Spanish language programs.

This student first enrolled at TASIS in Elementary school. When she joined the High School and could learn additional languages, she immediately took advantage of the opportunity by taking Italian and Spanish.

Her teachers describe her as a dedicated student, interested in learning not only the languages but also their cultures. As a matter of fact, she contributed to class discussions, in Italian and in Spanish, with very interesting insights.

But why this student, many of us could ask. Well, her teachers’ comments are as follows: “She is one of the few students who could capture and interpret the IB questions.” And, “In this girl, you can see the civility that we would like to see in all of our TASIS students.”

In 1960, Mrs. Fleming wrote: “Together...with mutual understanding gained through language and personal meetings...a new generation can help to keep our unified culture in peace. We may say that this student has made Mrs. Fleming’s dream come true.”

The 2018 Modern Language Award goes to Camilla Redmond Costa.

The Cynthia Whisenant Award for Excellence in English Literature

Presented by English Department Chair Dr. Christopher Love

Curiosity comes in all shapes and forms. The wick in the candle of learning, the cat-killer, the lust of the mind, the lying in wait for every secret, and, as Samuel Johnson once said about great and generous minds, the first passion and the last. The winner of this year’s Award for Excellence in Literature embodies this passion for knowledge. I met this year’s award recipient four years ago in the De Nobili Dining Room. She was not my student then. I was therefore ill-prepared for the gale force hurricane of questions and ideas that struck De Nobili that evening. I would, as it turned out, teach this young woman for the next three years. Vital and passionate, she engages literature and ideas with keen interest, enriching and energizing not only our understanding of the books we read, but, more importantly, the humanity these books inspire and describe. Her questions come in two, three, or four parts, all of which challenge hackneyed assumptions and provoke new convictions and interpretations.

Please join me in congratulating Tanya Paul, this year’s recipient of the graduation award for Excellence in Literature.

Excellence in History

Presented by History Department Chair Dr. Thomas Mauro

This year’s Excellence in History Award recognizes a student who, from the very first day she set foot on campus as a 10th-grader, exhibited an exceptionally mature and thoughtful approach to the study of history. In her courses in Modern History and IB History as well as on her Extended Essay, she consistently exhibited rigorous thinking and meticulous attention to detail. A quiet leader in class, her seriousness and depth of scholarship were evident to all, as was her genuine curiosity and passion for the subject.

Based on her outstanding achievements in all department courses throughout her TASIS career, it is with great enthusiasm that the History Department presents the Excellence in History Award for 2018 to Shu Ye.

Ambassador’s Cup for Excellence in US History

Presented by History Department Chair Dr. Thomas Mauro

This year's Ambassador's Cup for Excellence in American History goes to a student who truly stood out in his Advanced Placement US History course. Although initially insecure about his ability to do well in the class, this student distinguished himself with a razor-sharp memory, a unique sense of humor, and the ability to draw wonderful connections and comparisons across different eras of United States history. Throughout the year, this student grew tremendously as a writer, increasingly marshaling his arguments in a clear, organized fashion, and bringing in a great amount of relevant factual detail to help bolster his interpretations, making him a true historian.

For his outstanding effort as a scholar of United States history, this year's award goes to Noah Plues.

The Shah Akbar Khan Award for Excellence in Mathematics

Presented by Math Department Chair James Shields

Every year the Department of Mathematics has the task of choosing its top student from among a very talented group of seniors. It goes without saying that we value accuracy and a penetrating intellect along with broad mathematical experience. This year’s candidate demonstrated excellence in all areas including an interesting research project on several important properties of the mathematical object known formally as a Riemann surface of genus one and informally known as a doughnut.

The Department of Mathematics is pleased to give this year’s Shah Akbar Khan Award for Excellence in Mathematics to Shu Ye.

Excellence in Science

Presented by Science Department Chair Alec Ogilvie

This year’s recipient has science as part of her DNA, and she has leapt at every opportunity to learn and understand more. Indeed, she has taken two IB sciences at Higher Level, Biology and Chemistry, and she took IB Physics last year. Her class participation and enthusiasm have been incredible. She has taken part in two major science competitions: one for the Swiss Young Scientists, where she analyzed the forces between wet glass plates and came in third place overall; and another, the Barcelona International Youth Challenge, where she was part of a group investigating the neurodegenerative disease using drosophila as a model to study the human disease.

Her inquisitive mind was also very evident in her internal investigations and Extended Essay for the IB. She investigated bath salts, neonicotinoid receptors, and how the length of xylem vessels affects water filtration, which was based on some current research at MIT. She has also helped with preparing labs, was always around the science labs and prep rooms, and loved to talk about science.

It is with great pleasure that I present this year’s Excellence in Science Award to Anastasia Kolesnikova.

The Salutatorian Scholarship Award

Presented by Academic Dean Dr. Mark Abisi

It goes without saying that this year's Salutatorian is a powerhouse in the classroom. Her science teachers noted just how ambitious she was in taking three IB science classes during her junior year while also earning multiple international awards for her science prowess. Yet acknowledging her talents in science would be overlooking her other talents and contributions to the TASIS campus. An incredible writer, this young woman earned the praise of her English teacher, regularly contributed to the TASIS Blog, and maintains an online presence as a writer of fiction. As the captain of the swim team, she diligently led by example through commitment and perseverance. Also having a love of singing and musical theater, she dazzled audiences during the School’s 60th anniversary production of "MCF: What a Life" in the summer of 2016.

It's impossible therefore to define her as simply a scholar; with her strong sense of humor and an outlook on life that shows such wisdom and maturity, it is a great honor to present this year's Salutatorian award to Anastasia Kolesnikova.

The Valedictorian Scholarship Award

Presented by Academic Dean Dr. Mark Abisi

When this year’s valedictorian arrived at TASIS in 2015, she was determined to excel creatively, academically, and artistically, and she has done exactly that. She set her academic goals and accomplished them, simultaneously growing as a musician—playing piano at numerous concerts throughout her three years here, once with an orchestra right here in this room. Also displayed in this room were some of her architecture designs, which she said was her favorite class this year.

When asked to describe her with a word or two, her teachers said “capable, earnest, diligent, first-rate, steadfast, outstanding, and inquisitive.” Her physics teacher described her as “conscientious and demanding in her approach to academics,” adding, “She doesn’t sit back and rely on her abilities but works to develop new skills to tackle present and future challenges.” Her advisor said, “The poor girl looks tired.”

There can be no doubt that this student lost a good deal of sleep working as hard as she must have to earn straight A’s in all of her courses all three years, including the past two as a full IB Diploma candidate. For her unmatched work ethic and commitment to excellence in all she does, I am honored to present this year’s Valedictorian Scholarship Award to Shu Ye.

The Headmaster’s Award

Presented by Headmaster Christopher Nikoloff

The recipient of this year’s Headmaster’s Award exemplifies the very best of a TASIS student, making the most of the opportunities offered to her. Always stretching, always growing, she is a remarkable student and a determined athlete. She is dedicated to service, both here at TASIS and abroad. Whether it be in the classroom, in the dormitories, on the court, or in Nepal, she has been an engaged leader who has accomplished so much in her five years at TASIS.

In terms of her academic accomplishments, she has earned High or Highest Honors every year she has been a TASIS student. Moreover, she has always pushed herself to take challenging courses and has earned top grades as a full IB Diploma Program student. As a result of her academic accomplishments and scholarly contributions to the school, she was inducted into the Cum Laude Society as a Junior.

Her determined spirit is seen in her commitment to sports. This student has demonstrated leadership, teamwork, and growth through her participation in cheerleading, swimming, basketball, and volleyball, and to her credit, her coaches have honored her accomplishments and contributions as the Most Improved Player, as the Most Valuable Player, and as a Coach’s Award recipient.

In terms of residential life, she has served this community as a Head Proctor, and in addition to being involved in a local service learning group, this student was also a Global Service Program student leader. One faculty member comments, “Always unprompted, she is always there to help.” Another says, “She is very admirable, and she is never afraid to stand up for what she thinks is right.”

It is a great pleasure to present this year’s Headmaster’s Award to Charlotte Colombo.

The ECIS Award for International Understanding

Presented by Headmaster Christopher Nikoloff

This prestigious annual award is sponsored by the European Council of International Schools (ECIS), which specifies that the recipient must be “a good representative of his or her own country, with a positive attitude towards the life and culture of others, able to converse in at least two languages, 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."

The recipient of the ECIS Award for International Understanding is a native of Turkey who also carries German and Canadian passports. A jovial, well-liked, and easy-going member of TASIS, he is an unmissable presence on campus. He is a proctor, an award-winning athlete, and an active member of the Global Service Program, having traveled to both Zambia and Morocco. On the court or in the classroom, you are likely to have run into this student and to have been warmly greeted with a friendly smile.

This student is, in many ways, what one of his teachers refers to as a “TASIS success story.” His advisor recalls that although his amiable personality was on full display when he started at TASIS in ninth grade, he was “a bit of a troublemaker back then”—and just learning English in EAL 2. He has bloomed in the intervening years and today is a vital young person, with a strong command of English largely because, well, he loves to talk.

This student likes being with and working with those around him. He has a magnetic personality and involves himself easily in varied groups around TASIS. His friends span the campus and the globe, and he aspires to use his talents in the hospitality industry. He will begin his studies in Switzerland this fall and then hopes to spend time studying and working in Mexico and the United States, among other countries.

Clearly he has much to offer beyond our school gates, and his true joy in working with and for others, in making people laugh, and in learning other languages will serve him well. He will, no doubt, continue to touch the lives of many.

It is my honor to present the 2018 ECIS Award for International Understanding to Can Basaran.

The Jan Opsahl Service Award

Presented by Headmaster Christopher Nikoloff

This award recognizes students for whom the school community comes before self. In the past, this award has acknowledged students who contributed to the school community and to school life beyond the call of duty. Faculty members are asked to be especially mindful of students who may be giving of themselves in quiet, unobtrusive ways.

From the time this student set foot on the High School campus, she has made a lasting impression with her huge heart, care for others, and sincere desire to make the world a more equitable place. Chances are that when not in class, this young woman was creating and running activities for the Middle School girls to help them feel loved and supported. If she was not doing that, she was probably playing with faculty children because she always seems to put others before herself.

Even after serving in the Casa Elisabetta local service learning group, this young woman volunteered in Ethiopia during her junior year and plans to return after graduation to serve again for one month. As if this were not enough, she also helped create a new partnership between TASIS and OTAF, a home for the severely disabled; this year she helped realize that vision by volunteering twice a month with some our most needy community members.

Her teachers note that she is kind to all of her classmates no matter what their age or ability, and with plans to continue with a career in social work, it is fitting that this year's Jan Opsahl Service Award goes to Asia Roveda.

The Michael Ulku-Steiner Leadership Award

Presented by Headmaster Christopher Nikoloff

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. 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.

The recipient of the Michael Ulku-Steiner Leadership Award has been an invaluable member of the TASIS community the past five years. He has always been conscientious about his responsibilities and very focused on challenging himself to become more involved in all aspects of school life. He is a natural leader—quiet but self-confident—who pushes others to be their best, speaking often about his love for TASIS and encouraging his peers to make the most of their time on campus.

Ever since Middle School, this individual has played sports each fall, winter, and spring and has been a leader both on and off the field for his teams. During his last two years at TASIS, he pushed himself to be an even greater leader in the community by becoming a member of the Student Council and joining the Senior Humanities Program Committee, and this year he chose to go one step further by serving as a Proctor in the Middle School dormitory.

Service both on and off campus is an important part of this young man’s life. He went on the Serving Southern Africa Global Service Program trip as a sophomore, and although he did not have an official leadership role at that time, his actions spoke volumes. He returned to TASIS and presented to the entire Elementary School about the importance of service. This past winter he took on the additional responsibility of volunteering as an assistant coach for the Middle School basketball team. Outside of TASIS, he has been part of Club Alta Quota and traveled to Sicily to work with refugees from Africa and the Middle East.

The Michael Ulku-Steiner Leadership Award is, by definition, given to a student recognized as a leader by both the students and the faculty. For his ability to command the respect of both his teachers and his classmates, it is a privilege to present the 2018 Michael Ulku-Steiner Leadership Award to Nicola Barbieri.

The H. Miller Crist Award

Presented by Headmaster Christopher Nikoloff

The highest recognition accorded by the TASIS Faculty, this award is given to the senior who, by his or her actions (academic and otherwise), best embodies or pursues the ideals, aspirations, and goals of the School. In many ways, the award combines the stipulations of the Service and Leadership Awards with an expectation of academic excellence.

No award recipient today will be as surprised as this one, for while her well-rounded excellence has drawn praise from those who know her best, she has scarcely been recognized on a grander scale. Never one to seek the limelight, she had 42 chances to claim a Magnificent Seven Award over the course of her three years at TASIS—only to be passed over each time. Yes, while she was never identified as the student who best exemplifies any single virtue our community holds so dear—Integrity, Respect, Responsibility, Compassion, Humility, Service, or Vision—she slowly earned the respect of enough people with her quiet determination, broad-minded worldview, and unassuming manner that when it came time for the faculty to decide which senior best embodies the ideals of the School, there she was.

This speaks volumes about our recipient. Her sum is greater than her parts. As her classes got harder, she did better. As her days got busier, she did more.

You might say this student peaked her senior year, a year in which she won an MVP award for her athletic prowess and broke through as a Highest Honors student, but that would not be accurate. She hasn’t peaked yet. She doesn’t know how great she can be.

For her unheralded but unrelenting pursuit of the ideals TASIS hopes all students aspire to—truth, beauty, goodness, international understanding, and humanitarian action—I am honored to announce that the 2018 H. Miller Crist Award recipient is Zoe Ghilardi.

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