Pitzer Student Eric Benjamins ’16 Wins Social Justice Award

Eric Benjamins '16
Eric Benjamins ’16

Claremont, Calif. (February 23, 2016)—Pitzer College student Eric Benjamins ’16 won the 2016 Napier Award for Creative Leadership on Saturday. Allison Donine ’16 was named an alternate for the award. Part of the Napier Initiative of Pilgrim Place and The Claremont Colleges, the Napier Award includes a $12,000 stipend to support innovative projects focused on social justice.

Benjamins will build on the work he has done at both Pitzer and in Botswana through the College’s Vaccine Development Institute (VDI). He will collaborate with researchers at the University of Botswana in Gaborone, Botswana, to develop several preliminary candidates for an effective, low-cost rabies vaccine by genetically modifying the tobacco mosaic virus to make it mimic the rabies virus to mammalian immune systems. Benjamins says his research is focused on rabies because it kills more than 55,000 people—many who are children—each year in developing countries, and the high cost of current rabies vaccines is one of the major barriers in combating the disease. Benjamins also plans to join community outreach programs that address barriers to immunization and help educate the public about vaccines.

A biology major, Benjamins has conducted research with Vaccine Development Institute director Larry Grill at both the Ferré/Marquet Vaccine Research Center on campus and the University of Botswana. He is a fellow at Pitzer’s Writing Center and the president of the Claremont Colleges Pre-Veterinary and Animal Science Club.

Allison Donine received a stipend to assist with her proposed project, which addresses issues of safe, sanitary and private spaces for girls in two underserved schools in Nepal’s Kathmandu Valley. An environmental analysis major, Donine was awarded a Udall Scholarship for her dedication to environmental justice in 2015 and a Gilman International Scholarship to study abroad in 2014.

The Napier Initiative is a partnership between The Claremont Colleges and Pilgrim Place, a senior community for those who have served in religious or charitable organizations. Each of the five undergraduate Claremont Colleges may nominate three seniors who demonstrate outstanding leadership ability and commitment to social justice to be Napier Initiative Fellows. Benjamins, Donine and Morissa Zuckerman ’16 were three of 12 students from The Claremont Colleges who were selected as 2016 Napier Fellows.

The Napier Award for Creative Leadership is named after Davie and Joy Napier, longtime residents of Pilgrim Place, who were advocates for a just, peaceful and sustainable world. Previous Napier awardees from Pitzer include Marcela Jones ’14, Rachel Conrad ’13 and Caitlin Watkins ’13.

About Pitzer College

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