Princeton seniors Matthew Oakland and Olivia Ott have been awarded two of the University’s highest awards for graduating students. Oakland, of Elk Grove, California, has been given the Frederick Douglass Service Award. Ott, of Hailey, Idaho, received the Harold Willis Dodds Achievement Prize.
The University will host a virtual Commencement ceremony for the Class of 2020 at 1 p.m. EDT Sunday, May 31. A special in-person ceremony to honor the class is planned for May 2021.
The Douglass Service Award is given to a senior who has exhibited “courage, leadership, intellectual achievement and a willingness to contribute unselfishly toward a deeper understanding of the experiences of racial minorities and who, in so doing, reflects the tradition of service embodied in education at Princeton.” The award was established in 1969 at the recommendation of Carl Fields, who was assistant dean of the college.
Oakland is an African American studies concentrator earning certificates in Spanish language and culture, and Latin American studies. He is a member of Forbes College, and is known among students for his work to create informal spaces of belonging, understanding and support.
Before his first year at Princeton, Oakland spent nine months engaged in service work in Bolivia through the University’s Novogratz Bridge Year Program. On campus, he was a co-founder and contributor to many organizations and programs benefiting black life at the University.
In his first year, he helped create and launch “Woke Wednesdays,” a podcast, and then video series, focused on sparking conversation about issues impacting minority students. As a member of the Black Student-Alumni Coalition, he also played a leading role in launching the now annual “Reaching Across Generations” event, which brought together black alumni and students to hear from prominent graduates and connect over their shared experiences.
Oakland’s work on campus is also marked by his membership and involvement with groups such as the Princeton and Slavery Project, Black Organization for Leadership Development, DiSiac Dance Company, and the LGBTQIA Peer Education Program. He has also served as a dormitory assistant, and as a Frist Campus Center student manager and building supervisor.
Ott is a concentrator in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and is earning a certificate in Spanish language and culture. The Dodds Achievement Prize recognizes the senior who best embodies the qualities of Princeton’s 15th president, Harold Dodds, “particularly in the qualities of clear thinking, moral courage, a patient and judicious regard for the opinions of others, and a thoroughgoing devotion to the welfare of the University and to the life of the mind.”
A member of Mathey College, Ott has a long record of service to Princeton’s academic and campus life. She is known for her leadership, hard work, listening skills and fairness.
Ott has served on many University committees as an undergraduate representative, notably the Committee on Undergraduate Admission and Financial Aid, the Committee on the Course of Study, the Academic Integrity/Honor Code Review Committee, and the Ad-Hoc Committee for Calendar Reform.
Her dedication and the care with which she engaged complicated academic policy issues led to her appointment as the Undergraduate Student Government’s Academics Chair, a position which also included membership on the USG Executive Committee. Her tenure on the Executive Committee included leadership on a range of topics including student protest movements, calendar reform, mental health support and the Honor Code.
Awards for seniors in the Class of 2020 will be announced throughout this week.
[Originally published on May 27, 2020 by the Office of Communications]