College names four valedictorians, eight salutatorians

by Jessica Avitabile | 6/13/15 5:30am

Graduating the College with perfect transcripts, four students — Catherine Baker ’15, David Bessel ’15, Abhishek Parajuli ’15 and Talia Shoshany ’15 — have been named valedictorians. Each has maintained a 4.0 grade point average through their time at Dartmouth.

Eight students have been recognized as salutatorians — William Athol, Hayley Bacon, Meili Eubank, Sarah Hammer, Julia Salinaro, Marina Shkuratov, Danielle Smith and Frank Zhang — all of whom are members of the Class of 2015.

Nearly all students expressed surprise at being recognized as a valedictorian or salutatorian, and while they all said they were grateful and honored, they emphasized that receiving the title was not what has driven them these past four years.

Baker, a neuroscience major who will be attending the Geisel School of Medicine in the fall, said that one of her most rewarding, rigorous and challenging academic experiences was spending a term in Greece for the classics foreign study program.

“It made me grow as a person, not just in terms of my classical studies background, but it made me learn a lot about myself,” she said.

On campus, Baker was a co-captain of the women’s club hockey team, performed neuroscience research and volunteered at a PathWays, an organization in the Upper Valley that helps people with developmental disabilities.

She encourages other students to remember to laugh, not take themselves too seriously, but to still work hard.

Nearly all of them talked about the importance of academic exploration and challenging themselves in different areas.

Shoshany, a biology major, said that balance was important to her, because while academics came first, there were many other important parts of her Dartmouth experience.

She said that she has been very involved in Jewish life on campus, serving as president of Chabad at Dartmouth for a year and teaching Hebrew at the Upper Valley Jewish Community at the Roth Center. She was also the social chair for Alpha Xi Delta sorority and volunteered at the Montshire Museum in Norwich.

Shoshany will spend the next year applying to medical schools and working at Boston Children’s Hospital doing clinical research.

Bessel said that while he is humbled and honored to be recognized as one of this year’s valedictorians, he is most happy for his parents, who immigrated to the United States from the former Soviet Union.

An economics major and mathematics minor, he said that through his time at the College he has learned how to solve problems, using an algorithmic and regimented style of problems solving in his math classes while needing to solve problems with a human component that had no absolute answer in his economics classes.

On campus he was a co-president of the Dartmouth investment and philanthropy program, worked as a teaching assistant in the mathematics department, as a Great Issues Scholar and was involved with the Rockefeller Center for Public Policy through the first-year fellows program.

This summer he will move to San Francisco to work as an analyst at TPG Capital, a private equity fund.

Parajuli, a government major, said that his Dartmouth experience has been shaped by the research and work he has been able to do with his professors.

“What I’ll miss most as an undergrad is the freedom for academic risk,” he said. “As a grad student, I’d never walk up to a prof and say ‘let’s take some saliva samples,’ because at that point you have a professional reputation. At Dartmouth, you can take those risks.”

After graduation, he will attend graduate school at Oxford University, though he is unsure if he will take a gap year. A native of Nepal, he may travel back for a year, though is also considering working for a year in the United States.

Shkuratov said that while she feels honored and lucky to be a salutatorian, the recognition is not the biggest takeaway from her time at the College. She added that for her, it was more exciting to be able to tell her parents of the honor.

A government and psychology double major, she plans on attending Harvard Law School in the fall, saying that after considering a variety of career paths in high school, law emerged as something where she could make a positive impact while put her skills to the best use.

She said the most memorable parts of her College experience have been unexpected moments with friends, saying that she is going to miss the small things the most.

Athol, a physics major and economics minor, said that he is surprised and honored to be recognized as a salutatorian, because while he has always worked hard in his classes, he was driven by a desire to make the most of his time at the College.

He said that his most meaningful academic experience was writing his senior thesis in physics, and he was also the treasurer and vice president of the physics society and a brother at Zeta Psi fraternity.

For students with more time left at the College, he recommends that they take advantage of all opportunities to try new things, adding that there were some opportunities of which he wishes he had taken advantage.

“Whether you think you have time for something or don’t think you have time, you’re right either way,” he said. “If you think you can make the time for something, you will, and if you don’t think you can you won’t.”

Bacon, an economics major, will work in management consulting at Altman Vilandrie in Boston after receiving a return offer after an internship last summer. She said that she was both excited and proud to learn that she was being recognized as a salutatorian.

She said that she will miss the people at Dartmouth the most, saying that she has been impressed by how her peers are passionate and talented while being humble and down to earth.

Parajuli, a government major, said that his Dartmouth experience has been shaped by the research and work he has been able to do with his professors.

“What I'll miss most as an undergrad is the freedom for academic risk,” he said. “As a grad student, I'd never walk up to a prof and say ‘let's take some saliva samples,’ because at that point you have a professional reputation. At Dartmouth, you can take those risks.”

After graduation, he will attend graduate school at Oxford University, though he is unsure if he will take a gap year. A native of Nepal, he may travel back for a year, though is also considering working for a year in the United States.

Shukuratov is a former member of The Dartmouth senior staff.

Parajuli is a member of The Dartmouth opinion staff.

Annie Ma contributed reporting.