Announcing the Alumni Award Winners

May 11, 2023

The Graduate Center will honor the 2023 and 2020 Alumni Award recipients on May 18.

2023 Alumni Awards winners
Winners of the 2023 Alumni Awards. Clockwise from top left: Puleng J. Segalo, Peter J. Delfyett, Shawna M. Brandle, Sophia Perdikaris, Robert B. Talisse.

The CUNY Graduate Center is pleased to announce the recipients of its 2023 Alumni Awards, who were selected by an alumni committee based on nominations from alumni, faculty, and students. Below are excerpts from the biographies of the winners. The awards will be presented at the 2023 Alumni Awards ceremony on Thursday, May 18, at 6 p.m.

At this year’s ceremony, we will also honor the recipients of the 2020 Alumni Awards, whose ceremony was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They are also introduced below with excerpts from their biographies.

RSVP for the Alumni Awards Ceremony

Alumni Achievement Award
This award recognizes alumni of exceptional distinction who have made exemplary contributions to their field, demonstrating outstanding dedication and achievement.

2023 Winners:

Peter J. Delfyett (Ph.D. ’88 Electrical Engineering)
Distinguished University Professor, Pegasus Professor, and Trustee Chair Professor of Optics, ECE, and Physics at CREOL, The College of Optics and Photonics at the University of Central Florida and Director of the Townes Laser Institute at UCF.

Peter J. Delfyett has contributed to significant advancements in semiconductor diode-based lasers, or laser-pointer technology. His accomplishments include developing the world’s shortest pulses from a laser diode, producing the world’s highest power from a laser diode, generating the most data from a single laser diode, and generating an optical timing signal that is the most accurate ever generated from a laser diode. In 2003, he founded Raydiance, Inc., a spin-off company developing high-power, ultrafast laser systems, based on his research, for applications in medicine, consumer electronics, defense, material processing, biotechnology, automotive, and other key technological markets. A member of the National Academy of Engineering, he holds 45 U.S. patents and counts over 800 publications, conference proceedings, and invited presentations. His many awards include the National Science Foundation Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers Award, the American Physical Society Edward A. Bouchet Award, and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ Photonics Society’s William Streifer Scientific Achievement Award.

Sophia Perdikaris (Ph.D. ’98, Anthropology)
Happold Professor of Anthropology and Director of the School of Global Integrative Studies at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln

Sophia Perdikaris conducts research in environmental archaeology with a focus on animal bones from archaeological sites, or zooarchaeology. She is interested in the interactions between people and the environment through time and the response of both to big climatic events. She has worked in northern Norway and Iceland concentrating on the transition from the Viking Age to medieval times and how the early commercialization of the cod fisheries, circa 1200, affected the people and economy of the area. Since 2005, she has been focusing on the island of Barbuda in the Caribbean where she explores how heritage work can inform sustainability questions for the future.

Robert B. Talisse (Ph.D. ’01, Philosophy)
W. Alton Jones Professor of Philosophy and Professor of Political Science at Vanderbilt University

Robert B. Talisse focuses his scholarship on democratic theory with an emphasis on political disagreement and the moral demands of citizenship. He is the author of over 100 academic articles and 15 books including Overdoing Democracy: Why We Must Put Politics in its Place and Sustaining Democracy: What We Owe to the Other Side. He is currently writing a book about the civic value of solitude, which will be published by Oxford University Press in 2024. He has published essays and articles on democracy and politics in the Chicago Sun Times, The Conversation, the Institute of Arts and Ideas Magazine, and other news outlets.

2020 Winner:

Linda H. Malkas (Ph.D. ’85, Biochemistry)
M.T. and B.A. Ahmadinia Professor in Molecular Oncology; Professor, Molecular Diagnostics and Experimental Therapeutics; and Dean for Translational Science, External Affairs, at City of Hope.

Linda H. Malkas is a renowned expert in the areas of DNA replication and repair as well as cancer cell biomarker and therapeutic target discovery. She has had a stellar scientific career, advancing research in women’s health with a particular focus on breast cancer and children’s cancer neuroblastoma. She is best known for her discovery of a molecule that can inhibit certain activities in cancerous cells. In 2017, she was named to the board of CIRM, California’s revolutionary stem cell research center. She also serves on the external advisory boards of several major National Cancer Institute–designated cancer centers throughout the U.S. In addition, she chairs the Oncology Study Section of the Veterans Administration, serves on the Department of Defense Ovarian Cancer Integration Panel, and has chaired several National Cancer Institute study sections.

Graduate of the Last Decade (GOLD) Award
This award honors alumni who have graduated in the last 10 years and have achieved notable success and distinction in their careers.

2023 Winner:

Puleng J. Segalo (Ph.D. ’13, Psychology)
Chief Albert Luthuli Research Chair and Professor of Psychology, the College of Human Sciences at the University of South Africa

Puleng J. Segalo’s areas of specialization include community psychology, social psychology, gender, and feminism in psychology, and her research focuses on historical trauma, visual methodologies, and gendered suffering. She draws from visual participatory research methodologies and is passionate about mental health and community well-being. In 2023, she was appointed a research fellow at both the University of Kansas’ African Studies Center and University of Ghana’s Institute for African Studies. She has won several awards for her research, including the University of South Africa’s Chancellor Award for Excellence in Research in 2023; the 2021 World Academy of Sciences Regional Award for Public Understanding and Popularization of Science; and the Women in Science Awards: Distinguished Young Woman in Science in 2014. She gained membership in the South African Young Academy of Science in 2016.

2020 Winners:

Nelson J. Flores (Ph.D. ’12, Urban Education)
Associate Professor of Educational Linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania

Through his research, Nelson J. Flores examines the intersection of language and race and the political economy in shaping U.S. educational policies and practices. He has received many academic fellowships and prizes including a 2017 Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship, the 2019 James Alatis Prize for Research on Language Planning and Policy in Educational Contexts from the International Research Foundation for English Language Education, and the 2022 American Educational Research Association (AERA) Early Career Award.

Patricia A. Stapleton (Ph.D. ’12, Political Science)
Associate Director of Infrastructure, Immigration, and Security Operations Program in the Homeland Security Research Division of the RAND Corporation; Political Scientist at the RAND Corporation

Patricia A. Stapleton’s research interests span science and technology policy; risk perception and regulation of emerging technologies; risk assessment and communication; and the development and evaluation of diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. Her academic work has focused on the adoption and regulation of emerging technologies in food production and assisted reproductive technologies, with recent attention to CRISPR and human germline editing. She also investigates topics in food security, particularly in the context of climate change. Before joining RAND, she was the director of the Society, Technology, and Policy Program and an assistant professor of political science at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

City University of New York (CUNY) Award
This award recognizes alumni who have devoted their professional careers to teaching and working for The City University of New York.

2023 Winner:

Shawna M. Brandle (Ph.D. ’13, Political Science)
Professor of Political Science and Coordinator of Open Education, Kingsborough Community College, CUNY; Faculty Member, M.A. Program in Digital Humanities at the CUNY Graduate Center

Shawna M. Brandle focuses her scholarship on human rights, media coverage of human rights and refugee issues, and open educational practices in higher education. In the fall of 2021, she was a Fulbright Scholar at Doshisha University in Kyoto, Japan. She is the author of Television News and Human Rights in the US & UK: The Violations Will Not Be Televised. In 2022, she was named one of CUNY’s Andrew W. Mellon Transformative Learning in the Humanities Scholars.

2020 Winners:

Dána-Ain Davis (Ph.D. ’01, Anthropology)
Director of the M.A. Program in Women's and Gender Studies and the Women’s Studies Certificate Program; Professor in the Ph.D. programs in Anthropology and Psychology; and Director of the Center for the Study of Women and Society at the CUNY Graduate Center
Professor of Urban Studies at Queens College, CUNY

Dána-Ain Davis’ work covers two broad domains: Black feminist ethnography and the dynamics of race and racism. She is the author or co-editor of five books; her most recent book is the award-winning Reproductive Injustice: Racism, Pregnancy, and Premature Birth. The book examines the ways in which Black women experience racism in medical encounters during preconception, conception, pregnancy, labor, delivery, and post-partum. Relative to her work on reproductive justice, she has served as co-chair of NARAL-NY; was the coordinator of the Reproductive Rights Education Project at Hunter College; has consulted with the National Network of Abortion Funds; and is currently on the boards of the National Institute for Reproductive Health and the Civil Liberties Public Policy at Hampshire College. She is a former past president of the Association of Black Anthropologists and was also co-editor of the association’s journal, Transforming Anthropology. She is the co-editor of Feminist Anthropology, the journal of the Association of Feminist Anthropologists. She is also a doula who supports birthing people and their families/partners; and in 2018, she was appointed to New York Governor Cuomo’s Maternal Mortality Taskforce.

Caroline Chamberlin Hellman (Ph.D. ’07, English)
Interim Special Assistant to the President at the New York City College of Technology (City Tech), CUNY

Caroline Chamberlin Hellman oversees the Office of Communications at City Tech, providing strategic vision and cultivating a sense of belonging and connection for the current and extended college community. She also works on institutional reports for the Office of the President, remaining abreast of initiatives and outcomes within the broader context of the higher education landscape. Previously, she served as a professor in the City Tech English Department from 2007 to 2021, with the exception of her time as a 2011 Fulbright scholar in American literature at the University of Antwerp. She has published extensively on U.S. literature, including her most recent book, Children of the Raven and the Whale: Visions and Revisions in American Literature. She has been a steadfast advocate for developmental education reform and co-founded the CUNY Writing Discipline Council. A 2021–2022 CUNY Leadership Institute Fellow, she has an abiding interest in equity, access, and retention in public higher education.

Published by the Office of Communications and Marketing