Left to right: Joy Nampaso, creator of Whitman Our Home; Elea Besse and Jasmine Razeghi, creators of Whitman So White! podcast; Annika Mayo, creator of the Physical Activity Reaches Everyone (PARE) Program

Now in its 10th year, Whitman College’s Ben Rabinowitz Award is given in support of student-proposed projects or learning opportunities that promote compassion in medicine or politics and enrich the campus community. So, after a year that included a global pandemic and a virulent election cycle, both of which exposed and highlighted deep personal and communal pain, it’s little surprise that the 2021 award received the most project submissions in its history.

“The pool of applicants for the Rabinowitz Award was particularly large and exceptionally strong this year,” says Whitman Provost, Alzada Tipton. “It seems that many students have been motivated by the challenge posed by injustice and by the pandemic that many communities are facing.”

Reflecting the record number of submissions, the 2021 award was presented to a record three projects, each will receive $3,000 and will have up to a year to complete their project and present a final impact report.

“We were pleased to be able to offer more than one award so that we could recognize projects focused on the Whitman community and on the greater Walla Walla community, as well as adhering to the award’s emphasis on projects involving medicine and politics.”

Here are the recipients of this year’s Ben Rabinowitz Award:

Whitman Our Home

Created by Joy Nampaso, sophomore

Going away to college is a major life change for all students, but moving to a new country undoubtedly presents international students with unique challenges that may directly or indirectly affect one’s mental health, says sophomore Joy Nampaso, who is from Kenya. As a Rabinowitz Award recipient, Nampaso will create “Whitman Our Home,” an online tool that will dissect some of the issues international students face and provide information on how to access mental health resources. She also plans to include personal anecdotes from current students and alumni on how to take care of one's mental health. “It creates a sense of familiarity and belonging reading stories from other international students who you can relate to,” says Nampaso.

The biochemistry, biophysics and molecular biology (BBMB) major says she was inspired to do the project because she went through clinical depression at some point in her life.

“My goal for the project is to make mental health resources more visible to international students. I also want to destigmatize the topic because a lot of students—including myself—come from countries where mental health is not talked about.”

Whitman So White!

Created by Elea Besse, sophomore, and Jasmine Razeghi, junior

Launched in July 2020, Whitman So White! is a podcast dedicated to amplifying BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) voices on Whitman’s campus. On the show’s bi-weekly episodes, hosts Elea Besse, a sophomore, and junior Jasmine Razeghi address a range of topics, including race, gender, intersectional identities, sexuality, activism, immigration and cross-cultural experiences, and—together with their special guests—talk about the impact they have on their physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.

Past shows have tackled the model minority myth, fetishization in dating and anti-Blackness in Latinx culture. One of the hosts’ favorite shows celebrated the 50th anniversary of Whitman’s Black Students Union with the organization’s founder, Phil Boss ’71.

Looking ahead, Razeghi, who is majoring in Chinese and politics, hopes to have more alums appear on the show. “As current students, we see Whitman in a very particular way, and talking to alumni lets us reflect on how much has changed, what has stayed the same, and what more work there is to do in order to make Whitman a place where BIPOC individuals can thrive and succeed,” she says.

Besse’s dream guest? “I would love to feature the President of the college’s perspective on the racial dynamics here and their plans to make them better,” says the rhetoric, writing and public discourse major. “But since we only amplify BIPOC voices, it doesn’t look like we will be able to include such a perspective on our show—at least not in the rest of my time at Whitman.”

Physical Activity Reaches Everyone (PARE) Program

Created by Annika Mayo, sophomore

Chemistry major Annika Mayo’s experience with Unified Sports—programming that joins people with and without disabilities on the same team—inspired her award-winning project, which will offer local children with disabilities opportunities to take part in physical activities.

“Unfortunately, people with disabilities have a lot less access to physical activities, and they’re also less likely to have a positive experience with it,” says the sophomore, who hopes to work in occupational therapy one day.

Her PARE Program will address those issues by partnering children with disabilities in the Walla Walla community with Whitman College students to enable them to experience a variety of meaningful physical activities in some of the unique facilities Whitman has to offer.

Mayo’s ideas for activities include swim sessions in the pool, games of tag with scooter boards, and using the climbing wall with accessible harnesses, but she says specific activities won’t be decided until after she knows what children will be participating so that no one is left out. “I want to plan based on the kids’ needs because it’s not just inclusion that matters, it’s meaningful inclusion that allows people to participate in a way that they find enriching.”