Chinweike Okegbe Service Award

On this page: About Dr. Chinweike Okegbe (1989-2016), Past Recipients


2024 recipient:

  • Valeria Spacciante (Classics)


Awarded annually to two senior graduate students and one non-student who have had a lasting impact due to their service to the Department and University while demonstrating academic excellence.

In honor of Chinweike Okegbe, this award is meant to reflect his vision of a student being recognized for leaving the Department and the University, as a whole, more improved than when he/she first entered the program. As the co-founder of the Biological Sciences Career Initiative (BSCI), in addition to his many other contributions, Chinweike Okegbe demonstrated this ideal and this award captures the determined spirit that he had to help others.

The Chinweike Okegbe Service Award is awarded at the final plenary meeting of the year, traditionally in mid-April. The executive board of the Arts and Sciences Council selects the recipients (and are thus ineligible to receive the award during their term). Recipients may only receive the award once.

All current Columbia graduate students are welcome to place nominations by contacting members of the executive board with letters of support. The award includes a certificate of commendation and a token of recognition for their service to the University (see ASGC Constitution, Article X, Section 14-16).

Please consider nominating a member of the Columbia graduate community.

A scholarship fund in the Department of Biological Sciences has been established in Chinweike’s name. Online donations are welcome.  Any checks should be made out to Columbia University, with "Chinweike Okegbe Memorial Fund (23744)" for the memo (please follows these instructions).


About Dr. Chinweike Okegbe (1989-2016)

Chinweike Okegbe

Chinweike was an exceptional graduate student who contributed in an outstanding fashion to his Department, GSAS and the broader Columbia community. In addition to his academic pursuits, Chinweike served as a departmental representative for Biological Sciences, as a member of the Culture Committee and as Finance Chair (2014/2015) on the Arts & Sciences Graduate Council. Along with his involvement with ASGC, he was a student representative to the Graduate Committee of his department and a Graduate Student Mentor for undergraduates in the Graduate School’s Summer Research Program. He worked as a Fellow in the GSAS Office of Communications and accompanied GSAS Dean Carlos Alonso as a featured student who discussed his remarkable research on the growth of bacterial colonies with Columbia alumni.

Chinweike was born in Zimbabwe and spent his childhood in Nigeria. After graduating summa cum laude from Howard University in Washington D.C., he entered the Ph.D. program in Biological Sciences at Columbia University in 2010. Chinweike defended his thesis in April 2016, receiving departmental distinction.

With his every action, Chinweike truly embodied what it means to serve a wider community. He enjoyed devoting his time to others, and was in turn treasured for his good nature and infectious smile.



Past Recipients

  • Xiaoke Yang (EALAC)
  • Brett Lee Stine (Classics)
  • Emma Ianni (Classics)
  • Aubrianna Decker (Biological Sciences)
  • Alison Doyle (Chemistry)
  • Awo Yayra Sumah (MESAAS)
  • Mike Ford (Music)
  • Nicole Meily (Art History & Archaeology)
  • Sharon Kim (Program Manager, European Institute)
  • Elise Myers (PhD Student, Earth & Environmental Sciences)
  • Cat Lambert (PhD Student, Classics)
  • Afiya Wilson (Graduate Student Affairs Officer, Academic Diversity and Inclusion)
  • Barbara Rockenbach (Associate University Librarian for Research and Learning)
  • Andrew Pun (PhD Candidate in Chemistry)
  • Dora Arenas (non-student, Department of Sociology)
  • Jennifer Reynolds-Strange (student, East Asian Languages & Cultures)
  • Viviana Rivera-Burgos (student, Political Science)
  • Joseph Harder (student, Chemistry)
  • Andrew Hsu (student, Chemistry)
  • Andrea Remi Solomon (non-student, GSAS Vice Dean and Dean of Academic Affairs)
  • Andrea Crow (student, English & Comparative Literature)
  • Ann Madigan (non-student, GSAS Director of Admin Operations)
  • David Austell (non-student, Director of ISSO)