Browder, who graduated with a Master's degree in physical sciences under advisor Dr. Jesse McNinch, received the Sullivan medallion in recognition of her service to others and the community.
One nominator wrote of Browder, "She has been such a contributor to our community that it is difficult to imagine it without her. The positive mark she has left is indelible."
The Sullivan Awards are given annually to individuals at colleges and universities in the southeastern United States in memory of Algernon Sydney Sullivan, a late nineteenth century New York lawyer who was a founding partner of Sullivan Cromwell, one of the nation's preeminent law firms. Sullivan was a compelling orator, a courageous citizen during perilous times, a noted philanthropist, and a devoted family man.
The Sullivan Foundation has awarded the medals and scholarships since 1934 in an effort to inspire young people to lead lives of integrity, characterized by service above self and service to the community.
In nominating her, one of her peers explained, "Grace is always the first to volunteer to help with fieldwork that is not her own and then is instrumental in its success." Browder is often described with phrases such as "conscientious and kind," "so willing to help," "self-sacrificing," and "brings happiness to others."
Another nominator wrote that "Grace is quick to bring joy and laughter to any situation, and to help shed light and find the good side of any challenge. Her enthusiasm and kind spirit make any interaction with her a valuable one. I cannot think of any single person who exudes heart and compassion the way she does."
The theme of community service is evident in Browder's research as well. Her Master's thesis helps explain the processes that govern erosion on Outer Banks beaches, a phenomenon that costs society millions of dollars annually.
Browder's research, in collaboration with McNinch and fellow graduate student Jennifer Miselis, indicates that Outer Banks beaches owe their shape and behavior to now-buried river channels that formed during the last Ice Age. The research extends an earlier VIMS study in which McNinch discovered a transient phenomenon in which short stretches of sandy beach suffer severe erosion during storms, then quickly refill with sand. These "erosional hotspots" are of great interest to the Army Corps of Engineers and other shoreline management agencies, as they can damage seawalls, hinder beach replenishment efforts, and disrupt military maneuvers.