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Early Career Professional Achievement Award Winners

2021 - Noah Schwartz, BS’09

Noah Schwartz, BS'09Noah Schwartz is the recipient of the young alumni professional achievement award. He is a national security professional with experience working at the highest levels of the U.S. government. After Vanderbilt, he earned a master’s degree from the London School of Economics and began working for the foreign policy adviser in the office of former President Bill Clinton. He then held successive appointments in the Obama administration with the National Economic Council and the National Security Council and then as a presidential appointee at the Pentagon. Following his government service, he earned a law degree at Columbia, where he volunteered with a nonprofit organization that represents victims of terrorism in litigation. Schwartz is currently working as a judicial law clerk for Judge Timothy Reif on the U.S. Court of International Trade.


2020 - Blake Hall, BS’04

Blake HallThe Young Alumni Professional Achievement Award will be presented to Blake Hall, BS’04. Hall received the Bronze Star twice during his four years of service with the U.S. Army and then became co-founder and chief executive officer of He holds two patents related to online credential authentication and has been recognized in several publications for his success as an entrepreneur.



2019 - Justin Miller, BS'09

justin miller

Justin Miller’s Vanderbilt experience was marked by a transformative trip to Kenya where he witnessed firsthand the grim reality for AIDS patients and their families. Determined to impact meaningful change, he established CARE for AIDS, a non-profit organization that partners with evangelical Christian churches in Kenya to offer physical, emotional and spiritual help to patients with HIV/AIDS.

He became the full-time executive director and CEO after his graduation in 2009. The organization now has 54 centers in East Africa, 150 employees, and has helped more than 20,000 families living with HIV/AIDS in Kenya and Tanzania. The organization’s story is shared in the book, Beyond Blood: Hope & Humanity in the Forgotten Fight Against AIDS, written by CARE for AIDS cofounders Miller, Cornel Onyango and Duncan Kimani.

Miller was named to the Atlanta Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 list and, in 2013, was named a Praxis fellow, a mentorship-driven accelerator program that helps social entrepreneurs create higher impact organizations. He is an Oak Leaf Society member and was a 2014 Reunion volunteer.

2018 - Samar Ali, BS'03, JD'06

samar ali

Samar Ali’s career has spanned tenures at the White House, the South African Supreme Court, the State Government of Tennessee, and today as an entrepreneur and lawyer who works locally, regionally, nationally and globally. She has received many honors, including the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leader and the 2018 White House Fellows IMPACT Award and she is also a member of the Truman National Security Project.

Ali is also very involved with Vanderbilt, serving on the Chancellor’s ’Dores of Distinction committee, the Law School’s Board of Advisors, and she is a former Alumni Association Board member, Giving Day Ambassador, and Reunion volunteer for her undergraduate and Law School classes.


2017 - Zakiya Smith Ellis, BS'06

zakiya smith ellis

Zakiya Smith Ellis, BS ’06, is the recipient of the 2017 Vanderbilt Alumni Association Young Professional Achievement Award.

Smith is a former senior White House adviser for education, where she assisted in developing President Obama’s higher education policy. She currently serves as strategy director for the Lumina Foundation where she develops new models for student financial support in higher education.

She was named to Forbes’ “30 under 30” in 2012 and 2013 and is on the Board of Directors of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, holds memberships with the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Alumni, National Urban League, and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. She currently serves on the Chancellor’s Dores of Distinction university committee.

 2016 - Miles Clark Barr, BE'06

miles barrMiles Clark Barr, BE’06, is the 2016 recipient of the Vanderbilt Alumni Association Board of Directors new Young Alumni Professional Achievement Award. 

Miles Barr is an inventor, entrepreneur and founder of Ubiquitous Energy Inc., an award-winning technology start-up developing a portfolio of emerging solar technologies. As a graduate student at MIT, Barr was a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow and received the prestigious Lemelson-MIT Prize for innovations in solar energy and thin-film electronics. He was recognized by MIT Technology Review as an Innovator Under 35 and by Forbes 30 Under 30 in Energy. He supports Vanderbilt as an Oak Leaf Society member.  


2015 - David Price, BA'09

david price

David Price, '09, is the recipient of the 2015 Vanderbilt Alumni Association Board of Directors Young Alumni Professional Achievement Award.

After a collegiate career with numerous accolades, including recognition as the nation’s top college baseball player with the Dick Howser, Golden Spikes, and Brooks Wallace awards, Price was the first player selected in the 2007 Major League Baseball draft.

He emerged as a professional during the 2008 MLB playoffs, saving game seven of the American League Championship series to send the Tampa Bay Rays to the World Series. He is a four-time All-Star and led the American League in both wins and earned run average in 2012. He received the American League Cy Young award as the league’s best pitcher that same year. View Price’s award presentation from the 2015 Alumni Association Awards Ceremony. 

2014 - Evan Mack, B.Mus.'03

evan mackEvan Mack, B.Mus. '03, is the recipient of the 2014 Vanderbilt Alumni Association Board of Directors new Young Alumni Professional Achievement Award.

Mack, an assistant professor of piano at Skidmore College, is a distinguished composer and concert pianist. His first opera, Angel of the Amazon, won the Boston Metro Opera MainStage Award. He has produced five full musicals and, as a highly accomplished concert pianist, has toured all over the United States and in Barcelona and South Africa as a champion of American piano music. His most recent project is a two-year development deal to turn Pulitzer Prize-winning author William Kennedy's best-selling novel Roscoe into a new American opera (with libretto by Blair Senior Lecturer Joshua McGuire).



To learn more, and to nominate a deserving alumnus/na, visit our Awards Page