College Announces 2024 Valedictorian and Salutatorian

Monday, May 13, 2024
Graduates in blue caps and gowns listen to a speech at Class Day.

Eileen Barroso

Kathy Fang CC’24, a double major in comparative literature and society and drama and theatre arts, has been named valedictorian; Mrinalini Sisodia Wadhwa CC’24, a double major in history and mathematics, has been named salutatorian. Fang and Sisodia Wadhwa were selected by the Committee on Honors, Awards and Prizes based on the strength, breadth, depth and rigor of their academic achievements, as well as on evidence of their intellectual promise, character and achievement outside the classroom.

Kathy Fang

“I first met Kathy Fang in the Fall 2020 semester in a course on the history and theory of theatre and drama, a lecture course that I was teaching online from my kitchen during the pandemic,” says W.B. Worthen, Barnard’s Department of Theatre chair and the Alice Brady Pels Professor in the Arts. “It was a challenging semester for everyone, and the power as a thinker and writer that she showed then has only continued to grow over the past four years.”

Worthen adds, “Kathy is, in my experience, really one of a kind, someone who entered undergraduate study with a clear sense of purpose, and has pursued it with astonishing success ever since.”

After graduation, Fang will pursue a Ph.D. in theater and performance studies at Stanford. In recent months, her experience studying at Columbia has been profoundly shaped by the University’s response to peaceful student protest. As much academic work as Fang has done in the fields of theater, performance and language studies, the events of the past month have come to define her time at Columbia, and give her scholarship on the cultural and political efficacy of performance a sharper focus. With a background in student journalism as well as artistic praxis-as-research, Fang applauds her classmates in their efforts to challenge, document and remake history.

Mrinalini Sisodia Wadhwa

“I have never been more certain that I am watching one of the field’s top historians in formation,” says Susan Pedersen, the Gouverneur Morris Professor of History, of Sisodia Wadhwa. Her history thesis, which received departmental honors as well as the Albert Marion Elsberg Prize, examines the relationship between spirituality and Enlightenment political culture through the writings of Jesuit missionaries in Pondichéry, a French colony in southeast India. Her mathematics thesis, which also received departmental honors, examines the generation of the mapping class group and the broader relationship between visualization and abstraction in 20th-century mathematical practice.

Pedersen continues, “Mrinalini is a truly brilliant student […]. [Her thesis] really isn’t an undergraduate thesis at all, but rather is a piece of mature scholarship about the hybrid origins of Jesuit knowledge of India in the late 18th century.”

This fall, Sisodia Wadhwa will begin an M.Phil. in intellectual history at the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. She hopes to pursue a doctorate in history and career as a historian, investigating the intellectual and cultural history of empire and global dimensions of Enlightenment thought.

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