Two College of Humanities seniors have swept the university's 2020 Centennial Achievement Undergraduate Awards.
Derek Foehrkolb, graduating in December with degrees in Russian and Slavic Studies and public management and policy, and Armando Gavin Ramírez, majoring in Spanish linguistics and Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences, have been selected by the Dean of Students Office. In December 1984, the University of Arizona Division of Student Affairs created the Centennial Achievement Award to be presented annually. This award is given to two seniors graduating during the current academic year.
Foehrkolb will graduate with meritorious distinction this winter, receiving a Bachelor of Arts in Russian and Slavic Studies and a Bachelor of Science in public management and policy.
Foehrkolb, born in a single-parent military household, attended high school in Seoul, South Korea. After returning to the United States, he housed transitioning and struggling veterans but eventually lost his own home. He transferred to the University of Arizona in 2018, and despite arriving in Arizona financially destitute, Foehrkolb distinguished himself as an innovative thinker, thoughtful leader and inspiring volunteer.
Originally choosing to study biochemistry and medicine, Foehrkolb became passionate about humanitarianism and civic equality. However, after countless hours with clinicians and patients, the hungry and poor, he realized that he could better serve his community as a negotiator and communicator. He hopes to address the systemic issues that lead to these disparities around the world.
While at the University of Arizona, Foehrkolb has served as director of internal affairs for the Arizona Global Health Project, operating health clinics in Puerto Peñasco, Mexico. Additionally, he served as deputy elections commissioner within student government, revising statues to provide a more fair and free election system. He takes pride in his work for the U.S. Army National Guard, the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, the Ben's Bells project, the Ronald McDonald House, and Banner University Medical Center, where he was a patient assistant.
Foehrkolb's scholastic record includes research in multiple disciplines, from proteomics and biodiesels to Eurasian economic and ideological infrastructure. He wrote a policy procedure related to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic for the Pima County Health Department in February 2020. Currently, he is researching Sino-Russian geopolitical and economic relations while also participating in a cybersecurity summit hosted by the U.S Russia Foundation.
Foehrkolb will receive the College of Humanities Outstanding Senior Award and become a University Endorsed Leader. After graduation, he will begin a dual J.D./master's program, focusing on global policy studies.
Ramírez, a first-generation Chicano, was born and raised in Tucson, and experienced living in three areas of town: southside, downtown and eastside. Each area offered a different experience, but he never lived north of 22nd Street – the north-south longitudinal divider that serves as a reminder of his low-income, minority status. As a Chicano border kid, Ramírez grew up with very little but is so grateful for his single, Mexican, immigrant mother, who sacrificed everything to provide him with an education. He would not be here without her.
Ramírez will receive a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish and Portuguese and a Bachelor of Science in Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences, both crucial to his development as a pop culture analyst and speech researcher. He currently works as a Mexican American college mentor in the Tucson Unified School District, a lab assistant in the Bilingual Phonology Lab at the University of Arizona, and as assistant editor of the Studies in Latin American Popular Culture journal, all of which help to support his family.
In addition to being a Hispanic National Scholar, Ramírez received support from the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship program and the Foreign Language and Area Studies program, using that support to focus on language services in Brazil. He is known for his work with the University's Hispanic-Serving Institution initiatives office and has been interviewed by the Arizona Daily Star, "PBS NewsHour" and Telemundo Arizona regarding the education and resources available for Latinx students. Ramírez proudly serves as president of the Speech-Language and Hearing Cats of Color club president with the goal of creating an inclusive community that advocates for and supports underrepresented and marginalized students.
After graduation, Ramírez plans to enroll in a select bilingual speech-language pathology master's program that will allow him to further his research interests in multilingual populations and the improvement of services available to low-income communities. His goal is to eventually receive a Fulbright award to pursue research in Brazil and to complete a doctorate.