Senior Alumni Awards

This award recognizes two deserving seniors, who based on their undergraduate career, show promise of making significant contributions to and leadership in their careers, their community and/or Ursinus College.

2022 Recipients

Join us in congratulating Abigail Coachi ’22 and Simbarashe Kanjanda ’22 for receiving the 2022 Senior Alumni Award!

Abigail Coachi '22It’s hard for a student, however gifted they are, to truly leave a legacy on a college campus after just four years, but since Abigail “Abby” Coachi transferred to Ursinus as a first-year, she has made an impression on the UC community that will live on well after she graduates.

In 2020, during the early stages of the pandemic, Abby founded V.IRTU.E, the first completely virtual, student-run community service program at Ursinus College. V.IRTU.E’s mission was, and is, to make service opportunities more accessible to students from all majors and interests around campus. The program has benefitted several community organizations in a time of great need. For example, they’ve hosted virtual camps through Kids Need More to help young people coping with life threatening illness. They’ve also written letters of gratitude to frontline healthcare workers and sent birthday cards to veterans at the VA hospital.

In addition to starting V.IRTU.E, Abby has been an advocate for, and creator of, improved representation and inclusion for students of color on campus. With an Inclusive Community Grant, Abigail co-founded Art for Visibility, a campus art initiative that displays artwork from students of color in the lobbies and hallways of first-year dorms. A skilled photographer herself, Abby’s art was part of the Art for Visibility display and was also featured by the Valley Forge Tourism and Convention Board in a display at the King of Prussia Mall honoring Black History Month.

As a pre-med biology major, Abby has excelled academically. She has frequented the Dean’s List, is a member of the Neuroscience Honors Society, and was elected president of the Neuroscience Club. She also served as president of the Minority Association for Pre-medical Students. She’s been a mentor and leader in the classroom and is beloved by classmates as well as professors, who have described her as “insanely intelligent and hard working.” When asked what she was most looking forward to after graduation, Abby said, “I cannot wait to see my peers achieve greatness.”

Abby currently works as an Ophthalmic Technician for Ophthalmology Physicians & Surgeons, PC in Collegeville. After UC, she plans to take a gap year to study for the MCATs and prepare medical school applications as she continues the pursuit of her goal of becoming a surgeon. While preparing for the MCAT, Abigail is considering being a teacher( science or math) at Title 1 school in Philadelphia.


Simba Kanjanda '22

Simbarashe “Simba” Kanjanda started attending Ursinus College in 2018. Ever since then, the Zimbabwe native has been a high achieving, prolifically active member the UC community. In academics, in student life organizations, and in athletics, Simba combines a sense of kindness and empathy with a joyful drive to succeed that elevates everyone around him.

As a pre-med biology major, Simba has accrued a number of honors and recognitions. He’s a perennial member of the Dean’s List and an International Tennis Association Scholar Athlete. He was awarded the Zechman Scholarship and the Stanley L. and Lee H. McCausland Scholarship. He’s in the Beta Beta Beta Biological Honor Society, the Cub and Key Society, is a Melrose Fellow, a member of the Brownback-Anders Pre-Health Society, and the Minority Association of Pre-Medical Students. Simba was a finalist for the prestigious Watson Fellowship.

Simba is engaged in multiple service groups and organizations on and off campus. As a volunteer, he’s taught GED classes to inmates at the Montgomery County Correctional Facility, and he’s tutored a group of sixth graders in Philadelphia. He served as a student leader of the Athena Institute Pre-Med Hospice volunteer program in 2020, where he coordinated with other student volunteers to learn and address topics regarding the sick and elderly at Seasons Hospice. He’s also played an active role in UC’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, volunteering as a contact tracer and as a member of the Ursinus Health Corps.

Having moved to the U.S. from Zimbabwe as a teenager, Simba knows how essential it is to make meaningful connections to feel part of a community. Since 2018, he has helped provide emotional support to classmates as a resident advisor and a chapel leader. As a member of the International Exchange Committee, Simba has worked side-by-side with faculty and staff to identify ways to attract and implement diversity on campus. He sings in the Voices of Ursinus choir, he’s played on the UC Men’s soccer team for four years, and he is captain of the tennis team.

In the near future, Simba plans to attend medical school in the U.S. and later work in the healthcare setting as a surgeon. Eventually, he wishes to return to his home country of Zimbabwe and give back to the community by establishing a medical practice and creating professional networks between Zimbabwe and abroad. Following Summer Fellows and the completion of an independent Honors Research Biology Project in Dr. Round’s lab, Simba wants to expand and utilize some of the skills which he has developed in research during his gap year before attending medical school. As a member of Students Today Alumni Tomorrow, Simba looks forward to staying connected to his Ursinus roots after he has graduated.

Q&A with Senior Alumni Award Winners

Why was getting involved important to you as an Ursinus student?

Coachi: [As a transfer student], going to a new school was not an easy start, I did not have the best start at Ursinus College.. Due to my experience, I wanted to provide other current students or prospective students with opportunities and connections I was not easily given. It is for this reason I created V.IRT.U.E. Not only did I create a thriving organization, but I am also a mentor to many underclassmen at Ursinus. I enjoy being a light to students; I appreciate that I have the gift of showing students the greatness Ursinus can provide.

Kanjanda: A great part of my personal growth has stemmed from interacting and connecting with other people - particularly through conversation and shared activities. The best was I could put myself in a position to attain or fulfill this growth was by getting involved with various people in varying settings.

 

What is your proudest UC moment?

Coachi: A major life lesson my parents instilled in me is that whenever I am faced with a tribulation or problem, to never wallow in self-pity or complain, but to find a solution! This value has helped me overcome a numerous of situations I have experienced. For instance, during the height of Covid-19, I noticed students did not have the opportunity to do community service. Instead of complaining to Ursinus authorities and facilities, I worked with the dean of student affairs to start a virtual community service club. I saw a problem, students cannot gather to give back due to the pandemic, and I created a solution, established a virtual club where members can do service while keeping Covid-19 regulations and guidelines in mind. Therefore, my proudest UC moment is seeing how much the Ursinus community was so willing to participate in V.IRIT.U.E. I felt so blessed to have the opportunity to provide students with the able to spread love during a time many did not feel it.

Kanjanda: I have had a lot of proud moments at UC and it is very difficult to single one out. One of the many that comes to mind is a recent moment that has occurred in my final semester - one of my freshmen residents approached me and was excited to apply for the RA position for next year. He said that I was the reason he was applying and he wished to be just like me. Whilst this news was flattering, I was most proud when he visited me again with the news that he was chosen to be an RA. It gives me great joy and fulfillment to know that I can have such an impact on my residents and the greater UC
community.

 

How is winning a Senior Alumni Award significant in your career trajectory?

Coachi: Winning a Senior Alumni Award allows me to acknowledge my hard paid off. In fact, it allows me to see I truly made an impact on the Ursinus College community.

Kanjanda: I am honored to be the recipient of such a prestigious award. Winning the Senior Alumni Award not only acknowledges my impact on UC, but also serves as an encouragement to fulfill my goals in my life. The recognition of my efforts and achievements that come with this award make me feel more confident to tackle the next stages of my career.

 

What does being a “Bear for Life” mean to you?

Coachi: Being a “Bear for Life” means to always uphold the values or life lessons Ursinus has taught me.

Kanjanda: Being a “Bear for Life” for me means to capture the moments, lessons and people that were part of my UC experience, and to always use them throughout life. I believe that the college experience is a pivotal part of life where one gets the opportunity to create very important networks and connections. Here at Ursinus, I have made lifelong friends, teammates, mentors, brothers and sisters that I can count on when I need them. As an international student, these connections and experiences that I have made at UC stand out even more - the Ursinus community has become my home away from home, making it a part of who I am.

 

How has Ursinus prepared you for future career aspirations?

Coachi: The next step on my journey is completing my gap year. During a gap year a student can do the following: work on areas that an application needs strengthening take time off from a school timeline or study for the Medical College Admission Test. A life lesson that attending this school has taught me is there is a benefit to successfully navigating tough conversations. When one advocates for themselves, it allows others to respect and acknowledge your boundaries. This logic can also be applied to partnerships, a conversation may be uncomfortable, but it will lead to stronger communication and project. This skill I learned from college will be applied to my next milestone of becoming a surgeon; in fact, this is what I can see most clearly on the distant
horizon.

Kanjanda:  Ursinus has not only given me the skills that pertain to my medical career, It has also given a holistic education that is best illustrated by its 4 core questions: “What should matter to me?”, “How should we live together?”, “How can we understand the world?” and “What will I do?”. The implementation of these important questions in my education have made me a more rounded thinker that has a unique approach to learning. This has also been surprisingly helpful in my career path to be a surgeon - I find myself thinking more critically and purposefully about what I want to do and how I am going to do it in the best way possible.

 

How do you see yourself getting involved with Ursinus after graduation?

Coachi: I see myself getting involved with Ursinus after graduation by networking with the alumni association to acquire about volunteer programs and opportunities that I can take part in.

Kanjanda: I would like to stay connected to the Ursinus community. One way I see myself doing this after graduation is by keeping in touch with the student body - friends, mentors, faculty and staff. I would also like to incorporate my progress and career ideas with UC clubs, departments and
organizations where suiting - especially to offer help to people who wish to follow in my footsteps (career-wise) and navigate through college without have enough guidance. Ultimately, I want to give back something concrete to Ursinus that would be intended for international connection and exposure.

 

What are you most looking forward to after graduation?

Coachi: What I am looking forward to after graduation is seeing what life path my fellow bears embark on. Ursinus College has definitely set us up for greatness; therefore, I cannot wait to see my peers achieve greatness.

Kanjanda: I look forward to spend my gap year resting and spending time with family before going to medical school. As a Watson Fellow finalist, I am also looking forward to traveling around the world in the event that I am awarded the fellowship!

 

What advice do you have for fellow UC Bears on how to make their mark on Ursinus’s campus?

Coachi: Advice I have for my fellow or future UC Bears is to take risk, do not let self-doubt stop you!

Kanjanda: Always challenge yourself as there is great reward in experiences that push us out of our comfort zones – growth is a never-ending journey. In the midst of challenging yourself, be open to the challenge and “failure” - always have an optimistic lens to progress and keep persevering
through the downfalls and loopholes. Make the most out of the experience you have at Ursinus and look for ways to make it enjoyable - there are many great opportunities for growth and success, you just have to search for them. Finally, actively form and develop bonds with all members of the community as this will make of a more fulfilling and meaningful experience.

Previous Senior Alumni Award recipients:

2021: Hannah Merges ’21 and Nicole Schmalbach ’21

2020: Erin Saybolt ’20 and Min Son ’20 

2019: Jonathan Myers ’19 and Susana Zelaya Rivera ’19

2018: Allison Cook ’18 and Christopher Tan ’18

2017: Madelyn Franklin ’17 and Brian Thomas ’17

2016: Edward Lee ’16 and Dominique Saturno ’16

2015: Riley K. Acton ’15 and Sanil S. Patel ’15

2014: Zeba Hussaini ’14 and Gerald M. Gares ’14

2013: Madeline K. McEvily ’13 and Corey J. Barkers ’13

Additional award recipients

 

Hannah Merges ’21

Nicole Schmalbach ’21