Vanderbilt University honors Class of 2024 Founder’s Medalists

Founder's Medalists 2024

In a time-honored tradition, Vanderbilt celebrated its Founder’s Medalists for the Class of 2024 at the Graduates Day event on May 9.

Since 1877, the university has awarded a gold medal to the student graduating with top honors from each of the university’s 10 schools and colleges. The award is named after the university’s founder, Cornelius Vanderbilt, who endowed the award in its first year.

2024 Founder’s Medalists (L-R) Teresa J. Cagle, Alasdair Leslie Norman Payten, Morgan Anne Heath-Powers, Sachin Kumar Aggarwal, Madison Marie Albert, Lucy Magill Alsip Vollbrecht, Charles Dylan Hanson, Robert Christian Dunn, Sarah Moore, Branson Thomas Horn (Harrison McClary/Vanderbilt)
Charles Dylan Hanson, 2024 Founder’s Medalist for the College of Arts and Science (Submitted)

Charles Dylan Hanson
College of Arts and Science

Charles Dylan Hanson, from Boston, Massachusetts, is this year’s Founder’s Medalist for the College of Arts and Science. He is graduating with a bachelor of arts with two majors, history and computer science.

A highlight of his academic experience was conducting research in the Media and Inequality Lab, where he used big data technology to investigate social inequality through the lens of political science and media studies. One of his projects began with the question, “How did COVID affect people’s opinions of Chinese food?” He analyzed millions of Yelp reviews to find the answer.

On campus, he was president of Students Consulting for Nonprofit Organizations, a club that provides strategy consulting services to nonprofits and social impact organizations in the Southeast. He created Vandy.Link, a community management platform for student clubs. He was also director of technology in Vanderbilt Student Government, for which he was awarded the Nora C. Chaffin Scholarship for service to the university.

He expressed gratitude to his mother, who raised him as a single parent after his father died when Dylan was 14. Dylan completed his degree in December 2023 and has joined Bloomberg Financial Services as a software engineer. In the future, he plans to earn a J.D./MBA and launch a technology incubator for social good.

Alasdair Leslie Norman Payten, 2024 Founder’s Medalist for Blair School of Music (Submitted)

Alasdair Leslie Norman Payten
Blair School of Music

Alasdair Leslie Norman Payten, from San Francisco, California, is this year’s Founder’s Medalist for Blair School of Music. He is graduating with a bachelor of musical arts and double-majored in voice performance and economics. Payten is a Cornelius Vanderbilt Scholar, under the Sartain Lanier Leadership Program, and a member of the Eta Iota chapter of national music honor society Pi Kappa Lambda.

He has made many contributions to the university’s performing arts as a member of Vanderbilt Opera Theatre, Vanderbilt Chorale and The Original Cast. A longtime advocate of music education, Payten has been a music theory tutor for Blair’s undergraduate and pre-college students, as well as a teaching assistant for the Vanderbilt Youth Choirs.

This past summer, he traveled to the United Kingdom as a Vanderbilt Choral Scholar to explore musical repertoire from the Renaissance period and to learn from England’s rich tradition of sacred choral music. He also participated in the InterHarmony International Music Festival, where he studied piano in the hills of Italy’s Piedmont region.

After graduation, Payten plans to work toward expanding access to classical music and music education, a cause that has guided him in his time at Vanderbilt.

Madison Marie Albert, 2024 Founder’s Medalist for the School of Engineering (Submitted)

Madison Marie Albert
School of Engineering

Madison Marie Albert, from North Yarmouth, Maine, is this year’s Founder’s Medalist for the School of Engineering. She is graduating with a bachelor of engineering. Albert, who double-majored in biomedical engineering and mathematics, began looking for research opportunities as a first-year student. She was selected for the highly competitive Research Experiences for Undergraduates program, created by the National Science Foundation. Her REU project in applied mathematics modeled bone cells.

During her sophomore year, her academic adviser, William Grissom, associate professor of biomedical engineering, reached out with an opportunity to join his MRI lab. Albert found that MRI research provided the perfect combination of clinical relevance and computational work for her. She has learned more about MRI, and the potential to never stop learning drives her desire to pursue research as a career.

Her honors include the Case School of Engineering Swanger Graduate Fellowship and a Goldwater Scholarship.

Albert’s most meaningful service experience during college was being the rector for the University Catholic Awakening Retreat in 2023, with about 150 college students from across Davidson County attending. She says her faith has grown significantly through involvement with University Catholic.

After graduation, she will pursue a doctorate in biomedical engineering at Case Western Reserve University. And she will continue her research with Professor Grissom to develop pulse optimization tools for MRI.

Morgan Anne Heath-Powers, 2024 Founder’s Medalist for Peabody College of Education and Human Development (Submitted)

Morgan Anne Heath-Powers
Peabody College of Education and Human Development

Morgan Anne Heath-Powers, from Reno, Nevada, is this year’s Founder’s Medalist for Peabody College of Education and Human Development. She is graduating with a bachelor of science and majored in human and organizational development, with an emphasis in health and human services and a minor in Spanish for the professions. She was a Cornelius Vanderbilt Scholar, a Peabody Honors Scholar, and a Pugh-Hernández Scholar, receiving support for a Maymester trip across Spain through the Department of Spanish and Portuguese.

While she initially intended to pursue a career in business, her heart was captured by courses in neuroscience, medical anthropology and health care service delivery to diverse populations. Through a course at Vanderbilt, she trained as a Spanish medical interpreter, and dedicated much of her time to volunteering and refining her skills with organizations such as Siloam Health, a Nashville nonprofit bringing comprehensive, whole-person health care to the uninsured and culturally marginalized.

She was co-president of the Vanderbilt Pre-Nursing Society, empowering fellow students along the same path. She thanks the deans of Undergraduate Student Affairs, Vanderbilt’s multiple student care organizations, the Title IX Office and her incredible professors for their instrumental support, care and belief in her the past four years. She is also grateful for family and friends who surround her with love, encouragement and hope.

After graduation, Heath-Powers looks forward to continuing her education to become a clinician who serves individuals and communities through primary care focused on prevention and whole-person wellness.

Sarah Moore, 2024 Founder’s Medalist for the Divinity School (Submitted)

Sarah Moore
Divinity School

Sarah Moore, from Gaithersburg, Maryland, is this year’s Founder’s Medalist for the Divinity School. She is graduating with a master of divinity with a concentration in chaplaincy. Moore earned a bachelor of science in biology and global health at Georgetown University.

Through her field education placement at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, she developed a deep love for pediatric chaplaincy, supporting children and their families with the unique emotional and spiritual needs that arise in the hospital. She was recognized by the pediatric medicine nursing staff for her dedication to quality care for patients and families.

Courses in bioethics and in death and dying influenced how she approaches her work in the hospital and in caring for families. She received honors for her degree project, “This Woman’s Work: Accounts of Bearing Witness, Spiritual Care and Special Space on the NICU.” Moore is grateful to the spiritual care team at Children’s Hospital, who mentored her for the past two years while she served as a student chaplain.

After graduation, she will move to the Pacific Northwest to practice her vocation in pediatric chaplaincy.

Lucy Magill Alsip Vollbrecht, 2024 Founder’s Medalist for the Graduate School (Submitted)

Lucy Magill Alsip Vollbrecht
Graduate School

Lucy Magill Alsip Vollbrecht, from Flagstaff, Arizona, is this year’s Founder’s Medalist for the Graduate School. She is graduating with a doctor of philosophy in philosophy. Vollbrecht is a specialist in social epistemology, which is the study of how knowledge is produced and transmitted in group and social contexts. She earned a bachelor of arts in philosophy at Whitman College. Her interests include ancient philosophy, argumentation theory and feminist theories of knowledge.

Vollbrecht has a forthcoming article, “Can Feminists be Skeptics?” being published by Southwest Philosophy Review. Associate Professor of Philosophy Scott Aikin, Vollbrecht’s adviser, says that “her research, beyond the dissertation, has carried her to the question of the relevance of the ancients to contemporary philosophical and social questions.”

Her honors include the Dean’s Fellowship Award, the Publication Excellence Prize and the Ethics Dissertation Prospectus Prize. She also received high marks for her teaching. Vollbrecht was a member of the Philosophy Graduate Student Association Teaching Committee and helped organize the Philosophy Graduate Student Colloquium. She also was co-chair of Vanderbilt Minorities and Philosophy.

After graduation, she begins a postdoctoral fellowship at Washington University in St. Louis, where she will focus on political argument, policy and civility.

Robert Christian Dunn, Founder’s Medalist for the Law School (Submitted)

Robert Christian Dunn
Law School

Robert Christian Dunn, of Columbus, Ohio, is this year’s Founder’s Medalist for the Law School. He is graduating with a doctor of jurisprudence. Dunn is a Double ’Dore, having earned his undergraduate degree from Vanderbilt in 2018.

He has fond memories of two undergraduate classes on author James Joyce taught by English Professor Roy Gottfried. Dunn credits those courses with how he reads and analyzes texts.

During law school, Dunn was executive editor of the Vanderbilt Law Review. He was honored with many Scholastic Excellence awards: Constitutional Law I and II, Civil Procedure, Corporations and Business Entities, Securities Regulation, and Mergers and Acquisitions.

One of his favorite spring and summer activities in Nashville has been floating the Harpeth River, and he became involved with the Harpeth Conservancy, doing volunteer pro bono legal work for them. His first foray into environmental law was a deeply meaningful experience. Not only has he been able to work on behalf of some of Nashville’s best natural assets, but he also discovered a real enjoyment for environmental legal work.

After graduation, Dunn will move to New York City to begin practice as an associate at Cravath, Swaine & Moore.

Sachin Kumar Aggarwal, 2024 Founder’s Medalist for the School of Medicine (Vanderbilt)

Sachin Kumar Aggarwal
School of Medicine

Sachin Kumar Aggarwal, from Houston, Texas, is this year’s Founder’s Medalist for the School of Medicine. He is graduating with a doctor of medicine. Aggarwal earned a bachelor of science at Johns Hopkins University, where he studied biomedical engineering.

His path to medicine was shaped by multiple influences, including his mother’s completion of medical school in India and physician friends in Houston who exemplified values of caring, compassion and respect. This combination of influences remains at the core of Aggarwal’s passion for medicine and health care.

At Vanderbilt, Aggarwal held multiple volunteer and leadership positions at the student-run Shade Tree Clinic, which provides free, high-quality care to uninsured and underinsured individuals in the Nashville area. Aggarwal directed the clinic operations to maintain high-quality care while working on projects to expand offerings and enhance the clinic’s sustainability.

He also created health education videos and presentations for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people during the COVID-19 pandemic. This work led him to receive the 2021 Robert F. Miller Award for Community Service and Engagement.

He has matched into residency in internal medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. Aggarwal hopes to continue addressing health equity through direct patient care and innovation at different levels of health care interactions.

Teresa J. Cagle, 2024 Founder’s Medalist for the School of Nursing (Submitted)

Teresa J. Cagle
School of Nursing

Teresa J. Cagle, from Fayetteville, Georgia, is this year’s Founder’s Medalist for the School of Nursing. She is graduating with a doctor of nursing practice. Cagle, a psychiatric–mental health nurse practitioner, earned a master of science and bachelor of science in nursing at Georgia College & State University. She worked as a registered nurse in surgical and emergency department services, the latter during COVID-19.

As a doctoral-prepared nurse practitioner, she is the strong voice for those affected by mental health disorders, which have risen sharply among young people. Her doctoral studies instilled a passionate desire to advocate for mental health curriculum in Georgia school systems.

She is a member of Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing. She completed a quality improvement project that addressed analyzing the effectiveness and utility of a pharmacogenomic-guided approach to personalized medication management for depressive disorders. She has been instrumental in proposing the addition of a specialty pharmacy within her outpatient clinic to better serve her community’s vulnerable population.

Cagle has a focus on nursing education and has incorporated precepting students in the outpatient clinic, understanding that the shortage of mental health professionals is at a critical level. She volunteers in her hometown with the Trilith Foundation, which strives to enrich lives mentally, physically, spiritually and relationally. Her involvement there puts her in a position to influence key stakeholders invested in her community’s mental health.

Cagle believes her academic journey, combined with her calling, has led to greater opportunities for mental health awareness, patient safety, nursing education, medical missions, patient advocacy and innovative change.

Branson Thomas Horn, 2024 Founder’s Medalist for Owen Graduate School of Management (Submitted)

Branson Thomas Horn
Owen Graduate School of Management

Branson Thomas Horn, from Birmingham, Alabama, is this year’s Founder’s Medalist for Owen Graduate School of Management. He is graduating with a master of business administration with concentrations in strategy and health care. Horn earned a bachelor of science at the University of Alabama, where he double-majored in finance and economics, with a minor in social innovation and leadership.

At Vanderbilt, he was honored as a Dean’s Scholar, a Bruce D. Henderson Scholar and an Ingram Scholar.

Two influential courses for Horn were Healthcare Immersion, taught by Professor Emeritus of Economics and Strategy Larry Van Horn, and Launching the Venture, taught by Professor of the Practice of Management Michael Burcham. Healthcare Immersion exposed Horn to many leaders at the cutting edge of their fields in health care business. Launching the Venture solidified his interest in entrepreneurship and working with growth-stage companies.

Horn was president of the Venture and Entrepreneurship Club, where he worked to foster a better understanding of Nashville’s entrepreneurship scene in the Owen community. He also enjoyed being a teaching assistant for an intensive learning module for first-year MBA students. It was especially rewarding to help those with no business background gain confidence in their accounting and finance skill sets and continue their momentum at Owen.

He is grateful for the support of his wife, Kelly Severino Horn, and he follows in the footsteps of her many family members who are Vanderbilt alumni. After graduation, Horn will participate in Nashville’s thriving entrepreneurship community.