Announcing our 2023 Alumni Award Winners
Living out the promise of a liberal arts education and transforming their communities for the better, we couldn't be more proud of these twelve outstanding alumni! Join us in celebrating our Alumni of Notable Achievement and Emerging Alumni Award recipients and be on the lookout for their inspiring stories throughout the year.
Alumni of Notable Achievement
- Daniel Bergin (BA '90, interdepartmental), a "guiding light in creating inclusive content," is an accomplished executive producer and managing director at Twin Cities Public Television, known for his impactful documentary storytelling that deepens engagement and explores diversity, history, and community to tell a more expansive story of who we are as Minnesotans.
- Larry Golden (BA '69, PhD '74; political science), the "ultimate community organizer," is a dedicated civil rights activist, educator, and founder of the Illinois Innocence Project, tirelessly working to free innocent individuals from Illinois prisons, educate the public about wrongful convictions, and enact legislation to protect innocent people while promoting real-world problem-solving opportunities for students.
- Vina Goghari (MA ‘06, PhD ‘09, psychology), an "internationally respected educator in psychological science," is a formidable academic leader and researcher, recognized for her rapid career ascent, relentless pursuit of research excellence in clinical psychological science and schizophrenia, and commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion within her professional communities.
- Patricia Marroquin Norby (PhD ‘13, American studies), a "renowned scholar of Native American art history and visual culture," is the trailblazing full-time curator of Native American art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, where she plays a pivotal role in collection development, exhibition programming, and fostering partnerships with Indigenous communities, scholars, and artists.
- Jörg Pierach (BA ‘02, journalism), a "creative entrepreneur and advocate for the University and its students," is a successful entrepreneur and leader in the Twin Cities advertising and public relations agency market, known for founding Fast Horse and co-founding Tilia Restaurant, as well as his dedication to mentoring students and providing meaningful professional development opportunities.
- Elissa Raffa (MFA ‘97, creative writing), an "online learning pioneer and creator of opportunities for youth," is an innovative educator and leader who co-founded and currently serves as the Executive Director of Minnesota Online High School, an asynchronous online charter high school, while championing relationship-based online learning, equity-focused policies, and inclusive practices.
- John Wright (MA ‘71, English; PhD ‘77, American studies), a "pioneering scholar, teacher, and activist," is an impassioned scholar and activist who played a pivotal role in establishing the Department of African American & African Studies at the University of Minnesota, demonstrating a lifelong commitment to research excellence, community engagement, and promoting equity and diversity in academia.
Emerging Alumni Award
- Vanessa Goodthunder (BA ‘16, American Indian studies, history), a "dedicated to revitalizing the Dakota language," is a community-minded leader and educator from the Lower Sioux Indian Community, known for her work in revitalizing the Dakota language and culture through her role as director of Cạ ƞṡayapi Waḳaƞyeża Owayawa Oṭi, and her commitment to advancing Native youth voices and preserving cultural identity.
- Naomi Ko (BA ‘11, art history and English), "dedicated to her craft and to lifting up the community around her," is a multi-talented artist and advocate who leverages her skills as a filmmaker, writer, actor, and comedian to challenge stereotypes, promote underrepresented voices in the entertainment industry, and empower young people of color through her initiatives like the Asian Pacific Islander American MN Film Collective and Funny Asian Women Kollective.
- Arij Mikati (BA ‘10, political science and theatre arts & dance), a "devoted anti-racism educator," is a passionate advocate, educator, and creative leader committed to challenging damaging narratives about Muslims in the US, amplifying underrepresented voices in artistic spaces, and fostering inclusive and just communities through her work with the Pillars Fund and the Chicago Regional Organizers for Anti-Racism.
- Tenzin Namdul (BA ‘11, anthropology), an "internationally respected researcher, clinician, and teacher of traditional Tibetan medicine," is an exceptional practitioner at the University of Minnesota's Bakken Center, working to improve lives through intercollegiate research and the establishment of the first Tibetan healing-focused program in Western academia.
Brittany L. Wright (BA ‘14, sociology of law, criminology & deviance), a "fierce advocate for equity and Black liberation," is an unwavering digital storyteller, advocate for equity and Black liberation, and maternal health champion who uses her multimedia expertise and creative talents to address critical issues affecting marginalized communities and advance social impact, particularly in the realms of maternal health and conscious parenting.
About the Alumni Awards
Emerging Alumni Award
The Emerging Alumni Award is one of CLA’s Outstanding Alumni Awards that highlights recent graduates who have been remarkable leaders, creators, and community service-oriented individuals.
Nominees of this award are chosen each year by members of the CLA Student Board and past honorees of this award. All nominees are new alumni who have graduated from the College of Liberal Arts generally within the past 10 years. These individuals are chosen for their outstanding contributions to their fields and communities while still emerging in their professional careers.
Alumni of Notable Achievement Award
The College of Liberal Arts Alumni of Notable Achievement award is one of two Outstanding Alumni Awards that highlight former students who have stood out as great leaders, professionals, and community service-oriented individuals. This award is one of the ways that CLA comes together to celebrate alumni for their achievements in all areas of society—career paths, interests, community involvement, talents, achievements, and more.
All nominees for this award are selected by fellow CLA faculty, alum, staff, and friends, and the winners are selected by a committee of past honorees. This award was started in 1994 and has since been given each year (with the exception of 2019-20). These handpicked individuals are celebrated and honored for their impact on the world around them.