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Ben Rabinowitz Award

Given in honor of former Whitman College President Tom Cronin, the Ben Rabinowitz Award assists students with demonstrated leadership skills who wish to implement new projects or learning opportunities that promote compassion in medicine or politics and enrich the campus community. The award is $3,000, and this year, we plan to give more than one award. 

The recipient(s) of this award are required to present the outcome of their project to the Whitman community within one year of receiving the award. 

Questions about the award can be directed to Noah Leavitt, Co-Director of the Career and Community Engagement Center, at leavitns@whitman.edu.  

The 2023-2024 Ben Rabinowitz Award application cycle is now open.

Ben Rabinowitz Project Application

Fill out the application and submit to Noah Leavitt at leavitns@whitman.edu.


Image of Amy Elizabeth Heitstuman

Project description:

Bridging the Gap

My projects main focus is to bring together students in a Tri-College event to promote conversation across different backgrounds, experiences, and beliefs. The event (scheduled for Spring of 2024) will begin with a speech from Erin Jones, Former Candidate for State Superintendent, where she will speak about diversity, inclusion and the need to build bridges between people of different backgrounds to heal and bring about change in our world. After the speech there will be round tables set up with different social and political topics to focus conversations. Our political and social views often determine the composition of our social networks. This projects goal is to open the pathways between different groups to broaden their networks and perspectives on the world around them, bringing more empathy and compassion with more focus to our own community.

Image of Kainat

Project description:

Project YANA

Research on mental health suggests that socially marginalized communities tend to have higher rates of mental health issues than the general population. And it is much harder to navigate them living in white dominating societies. This mental health crisis can also be seen on a larger scale on Whitman Campus. Realizing that Whitman campus is in need of a safe space where we can come together to share our struggles, the project 'YANA' (you are not alone) intends to provide a safe space and resources for BIPOC community of Whitman College by conducting talk shows and launching a website to provide mental health resources and individual stories of healing.  This project is not about providing treatment or services for people or addressing the gap in mental health but it is an initiative to add to those mental health services and it desires to promote unity and empowerment among BIPOC at Whitman. The whole purpose of this project is to strive for the best for yourself and for other people.

Image of Annie

Project description:

The Big Red Ban 

Last summer, the Walla Walla Valley experienced a simultaneous drop in blood donations and a surge in the need for blood.  Yet, with such sparse resources, the largest blood donation collection industry, The Red Cross, is still turning down potential donors.  The Red Cross implements outdated and sexually prejudiced practices that exclude homosexual males from donating blood at the same frequency as their straight counterparts.  Rooted in stigma from the 1980s AIDS epidemic, gay and bisexual men can be, and frequently are, prohibited from donating blood unless they remain sexually inactive for months at a time. With the invention of better HIV screening processes and life-saving drugs like PREP, no blood recipient is at risk to receive contaminated blood.  Yet, despite these facts, The Red Cross continues to discriminate against gay males and their sexual partners.  This video project,  The Big Red Ban , seeks to investigate and expose this homophobia within The Red Cross organization.  Working through the lens of the Whitman and Walla Walla community, this documentary short brings together key players from the medical field and Walla Walla's queer community to unravel these long-held biases about blood donation.

Collage of 2 student portraits

Project description:

Whitman So White! Podcast

Whitman So White! is a podcast and community inspired by a Whitman sponsored trip to the Pacific Northwest Students of Color Conference at Willamette University in the fall of 2019. The platform is dedicated to amplifying BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) voices on Whitman’s campus. We invite BIPOC students to share their thoughts, experiences, and passions on air. Some of us have felt like mere bodies of color on campus, as many BIPOC feel in predominantly white spaces and under the veil of systemic racism. Our podcast seeks to humanize and create a compassionate space for an important and vital part of Whitman’s community, by covering political topics such as race, gender, intersectional identities, sexuality,  activism, immigration, cross-cultural experiences, and more. We discuss how our politicalized experiences influence our physical, mental, and emotional well being. We dive deep into how these parts of our lives shape our beliefs, behaviors, emotions, passions, and character all while challenging the stigma that BIPOC individuals are monolithic. In furthering our project, we will be partnering with the alumni office, and creating a more targeted outreach to alumni of color in order for mentorship and networking to be increasingly available for current BIPOC Whitties. Current BIPOC students will have the opportunity to build personal and professional relationships with former BIPOC graduates in their fields, creating a generational thread of career development.

Project description:

Whitman Our Home

For many international students, Whitman becomes our home away from home. Moving to a new country undoubtedly presents international students with unique challenges that may directly or indirectly affect one's mental health. Whitman Our Home is an online course that aims to dissect some of the issues that international students face whilst also providing information on how to access mental health resources. The project also includes personal anecdotes from current students as well as alumni on how to take care of one's mental health as an international student. A lot of students come from countries where mental health is stigmatized. This project aims to address this stigma and encourage all international students to be a part of this all so important conversation. 


Project description:

The Physical Activity Reaches Everyone (PARE) Program

Children with disabilities are less likely to be able to access positive physical activity, and I wanted to try to help that! The program I proposed is called Physical Activity Reaches Everyone (The PARE Program). This program would partner kids in the Walla Walla community with Whitman College students and enable them to experience a variety of meaningful physical activities in some of the unique facilities Whitman has to offer. By making physical activity accessible to everyone, we achieve a more inclusive, respectful, and healthy community. 


Photo of award winner

Project description:

oWWn your story Walla Walla

oWWn your story is an Instagram page that provides a platform for victims of sexual assault to anonymously share their story in a community that supports and validates them.  The online community will include stories in both English and in Spanish in order to include as many people in the community as possible.  On the page there is the option to send a direct message to share your story along with a link to truly anonymously submit your story.  In May 2020 there will be an online workshop where a survivor of sexual assault will share her experience and how she reached the empowering point of being able to tell her story.  


Collage photo of two female students

Project description:

My Life: My Story

Stories are innately powerful and can be the foundational building blocks of culture. Narrative medicine is a model for empathy, reflection, and trust that hopes to use stories of illness to empower others and to promote healing; it is focused on telling the patients’ stories and acknowledging the uniqueness of each patient and validating their stories through genuine interest and concern. Thus, we aim to ask marginalized communities in Walla Walla County about their lives and to tell their stories through a narrative medicine storytelling project. The end product would be a bilingual book that hopefully brings powerful narrative and creativity together to empower those whose voices need to be heard.


Jessica Boyers '20Personal statement:

My project includes creating a course at Whitman that is open to both Walla Walla community members with developmental or intellectual disabilities and enrolled Whitman students. This class will be a 1-credit special topics sociology course taught by Michelle Janning, and the course will focus on what makes a community and what it means to be a part of one. Community members and Whitman students will have the opportunity to discuss topics such as inclusion and reciprocity in class along with participating in several field trips pertaining to the class discussions. Along with Professor Janning, the Executive Director of the Walla Walla Valley Disability Network, Cyndy Knight, will also be co-facilitating the course. Through this class, I hope to learn and expand my perceptions of society. My main goal of this project is to encourage people to consider one's ability rather than disability.

Personal statement: 

A bright yellow listening booth has been in tour around Walla Walla. Inside the booth, a phone tree was created Maddy, Erina, and Donovan pose in front of the "Hear Here" telephone booth. to house and share the stories of ten members of Walla Walla's immigrant community. These recordings, excerpted from one-on-one interviews between Whitman students and members of the Walla Walla community, fall under nine primary categories: belonging, exclusion, courage, invisibility, change, tradition, legacy, and the sunrise. The phone tree can be accessed anytime by dialing the phone number (509-213-1223) or on the website. The booth and the sharing of our project has been from Washington State University in Pullman, Seder Immigration Dinner in Reid Campus Center, Walla Walla Public Library, First Congregational Church, Stand Against Racism hosted by the YWCA at Pioneer Methodist Church, and is currently at Walla Walla Community College.

Ludmila wrote, produced, and with a large group of actors, musicians and dancers, performed an original theater piece called Echo lud brito headshot Chamber which she hopes helps participants "to acknowledge our biases, through music, dance, and dialogue in order to address the dangers of polarization, intolerance, and the lack of communication that furthers the cultural divide."

The SOS Clinic has been a non-profit clinic in Walla Walla since 2000 and was founded to help support the uninsured and underinsured patients of the Walla Walla community. We would like to create a bilingual cookbook that contains healthy and culturally conscious recipes, and that would be distributed for free at the SOS Clinic. The cookbook would offer a tangible tool for patients to take home as a reference for a variety of healthy meal options. Offering a bilingual book with recipes in both Spanish and English will help this be a more accessible resource for the clinic's Spanish-speaking patient population. Since diet preferences are largely grounded in culture, this project will bring together Whitman students and Walla Walla community members in order to ensure that patients have a voice in the construction process of each recipe.

Sammi Clute portrait

This project was designed to connect Whitman students to students in Walla Walla high schools to promote a holistic and healthy approach to sex-ed. It was modeled after a similar program in Denmark, called "sexexpressen" with the goal of promoting open dialogue about reproductive health, healthy relationships, and consent. A group of 10 Whitman students were trained by mental health professionals and a physician in communicating with high school students about these topics, and are now facilitating "peer-taught" sex-ed classes after school for groups of at-risk Walla Walla youth.  

Personal statement:

This project has highlighted for me some of the inconsistencies in education within our public school system. I've seen first hand how adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) can affect almost every aspect of a young adults life, and how difficult they can be to talk about in a typical authoritative education setting. I am looking forward to the expansion of the project next year, and hope to continue supporting the efforts as an alumnus.

Past Winners Smiling

Freedom Songs is a racial justice-themed concert project envisioned by Joel and first organized by him and Jess. The concert event features a selection of songs by popular artists of color that deal with the topics of race, privilege, and different forms of oppression. Freedom Songs is accompanied by the Freedom Zine, which features art and writing by self-identified students of color.

Freedom Songs seeks to engage in the politics of racial and social justice through musical means. In representing difference through music, our goal is to have performers and audience members alike rethink the kind of media they consume and challenge the majority narrative in our popular culture that often solely represents "pop privilege" (i.e. wealth and spending, misogynist messages, and other unabashed expressions or power that further marginalize minority voices). The concert stage and Freedom Zine alike will serve as venues for amplifying minority voices in harnessing the connective power of art and music.

Headshot of Ali Holmes '16 Ali founded stART, a program that brings visual and performance arts to Walla Walla Public Schools. Check out this article for more information on Ali's project.

Personal statement:

I founded stART after an internship with Carnegie Picture Lab, realizing that I could do more at Whitman to increase access to arts education in Walla Walla. As an art major at Whitman I cannot imagine my life with access to art and I wanted to find a partial solution to the lack of funding in public schools for the arts. This club works to bring different kinds of art to the schools, giving Whitman students the opportunity to help lesson plan and implement their own lessons. We currently partner with three different schools and teach 6 lesson plans in each school. Our goal is to eventually expand the program so it reaches all six elementary schools. Through the Rabinowitz Grant, I was able to fund an intern--creating an internship for a student. For me, having an intern run this program rather than myself in my free time has made a huge difference in club making it more organized, consistent, and sustainable. 

Sam_CurtisSamuel founded the Glean Team to raise awareness on issues pertaining to food insecurity and to provide opportunities for Whitman students to harvest and donate fresh produce to Walla Walla food banks. With 220 members, and over 90 gleaning events in the past year, it has quickly become one of the most active groups on campus. In combined efforts with community volunteers, nearly 35,000 pounds of fresh produce have been donated to the Blue Mountain Action Council (BMAC) Food Warehouse and distributed to those in need throughout the county.

Personal statement:

This has been a very meaningful and rewarding way to engage in service that extend past the Whitman community. I am thankful to have met and work with all those involved—Glean Team leaders, Whitman students and staff, BMAC volunteers, local farmers and community members—this project would not be possible without the positive spirit and work ethic that everyone brings to the table.

Keiler BeersKeiler focused on promoting a compassionate approach to immigration issues on campus and in the Walla Walla valley. He organized a panel around the theme of "compassion in immigration reform", bringing speakers from all over the state to speak about the issue. In the spring he funded five Whitman students' spring break to the U.S-Mexico border. The students volunteered with No More Deaths, an organization that seeks to end cruelty and suffering in the desert by putting out food, water and other life-saving supplies for crossing migrants.

Personal statement:

During the course of the project I was reminded of how broadly impactful the issue of immigration is, as it affects lives all the way from Mexico to the Walla Walla valley in profound and undeniable ways. I was also inspired to see the interest and passion that it generated in other Whitties to get involved when they were exposed to an issue of importance.”

Michaela started the Buddy Program when she saw that there was a lack of support for adults with intellectual and/or developmental Michaela Lambert disabilities in the community. The Buddy Program is a student-run program that connects Whitman students with adults in the Walla Walla community with intellectual and developmental disabilities to create friendships that defy the norm.

Personal statement:

The Buddy Program was a dream that I thought would never become a reality due to the costs associated with starting such a program on the Whitman campus.  Without the Ben Rabinowitz Award I would not have been able to start the Buddy Program and put on a wide range of events for the buddies involved.  I am very grateful for Whitman's support and for helping make my dream a reality.”

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