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12 students honored with 2016 University Awards

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas has honored 12 students with University Awards for 2016. These awards recognize each student for their accomplishments in academics, leadership and community engagement while attending KU.

The Class of 1913 Awards

Jennifer Stern is a senior from Lawrence majoring in ecology & evolutionary biology. She was awarded an Astronaut Scholarship Foundation Award and Udall Scholarship, and she was a Truman Scholarship Finalist in 2015. Stern worked with Climate Change Outreach at the Lawrence Public Library and is currently the executive director of outreach for KZOO, a campus organization dedicated to serving, advocating and teaching about animals. After graduation, Stern plans to attend graduate school at the University of Washington to study the foraging ecology of polar bears in hopes of becoming a polar ecologist who focuses on the effects of climate change on marine mammals.

“Upon hearing my name as the recipient, I felt so honored and grateful to be recognized by this award,” Stern said. “I have had many influential mentors during my time at KU who have been instrumental to my success. I would not be where I am today without the support of my research mentors and professors.”

Bryce Tappan is a senior from Brookings, South Dakota, majoring in chemistry with an environmental emphasis and minoring in mathematics. He was awarded the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Clark E. Bricker Scholarship in 2015 and given the 2015 ACS Undergraduate Award in inorganic chemistry. Tappan currently works as a University Honors Program student ambassador and is a mentor in the Music Mentors Program for the Center for Community Outreach while being an active member of the KU Chemistry Club, KU Running Club and KU Polyglot Club. After graduation, Tappan will pursue a doctorate in chemistry at the University of Southern California to research materials that may have applications in new types of photovoltaic devices.

“I will be forever grateful for the opportunities Dr. Misha Barybin has given me in welcoming me to his research group,” Tappan said. “I joined the group as a sophomore, and since then Dr. Barybin and the other members of our group have guided me in all things chemistry, as well as academics and life decisions. As a member of the Barybin group, I have been able to develop sound research skills, present at professional conferences, and most importantly, I have made lifelong friendships with Dr. Barybin and the graduate students of the group.”

This annual award goes to a graduating man and woman who show evidence of intelligence, devotion to studies, personal character and promise of usefulness to society.

The Donald K. Alderson Memorial Award

Cornelius Baker is a senior from Wichita studying psychology. He is a Ronald E. McNair Scholar and was awarded an Undergraduate Research Award for spring 2016. Baker is a member of Student Senate, serving on the Subcommittee on the Status of Minorities, is the vice president of the Counseling and Psychological Services Advisory Board and a peer educator in the Office of Multicultural Affairs. He plans to attend a clinical psychology doctoral program with the hopes of becoming a multicultural counselor while conducting research that opens access of mental health services to marginalized populations.

“This was such a surprise for me because of the type of award I received,” Baker said. “The Donald K. Alderson Award has a lot to do with loyalty to the university. The way I have viewed my involvement on campus and in Lawrence was a way to improve the condition of the institution in some way by adding something that could help KU be better not only for current students but for future students as well.”

The Donald K. Alderson Memorial Award goes to a graduating senior who has demonstrated loyalty to and interest in the university and who has been active in events and services that benefit other students. This award was established in memory of Alderson, former dean of men and dean of student services.

The Alexis F. Dillard Student Involvement Award

Kierstin McMichael is a senior from Wichita majoring in English with a minor in sociology. She is a social justice peer educator in the Office of Multicultural Affairs, a peer adviser in the Undergraduate Advising Center and a collections specialist for the Project on the History of Black Writing in the English department. McMichael has been a member of the McNair and Multicultural Scholars Programs and received five scholarships this academic year, including the Elizabeth Miller Watkins Memorial Scholarship.

“When I found out that I would be receiving the Alexis F. Dillard Student Involvement Award, it reinforced to me that all the hard work I’ve put in over the past four years was worth it,” McMichael said. “I have been so dedicated to my involvement on campus and helping other students find success in college — it just feels good to know that I’m being recognized for what I’ve done here at KU.”

Tina Woods is a senior from Galena majoring in social welfare. She has volunteered with AmeriCorps and has served as an intern for the Child Abuse Prevention Association, as a student research assistant of the School of Social Welfare and as the director of community relations for The Big Event at KU. Woods studied abroad in both India and Costa Rica, and she has won numerous scholarships and awards on campus, including the 2014 Marlesa and Hannalesa Roney Student Mentor Success Award. Woods will pursue a master’s degree in social welfare in the Advanced Standing Program at the University of Michigan.

“I have had some wonderful mentors and advisers during my time at KU,” Woods said. “These strong, powerful women have pushed me to be a better leader, mentor and person as I’ve developed both in and out of the classroom.”

This award goes to a graduating student who has unselfishly contributed to the university though campus involvement. It was established in 1993 by Dillard’s family and friends to remember and honor him.

The Rusty Leffel Concerned Student Awards

Ashlie Koehn is a senior from Burns majoring in both economics and global and international studies. She has experience on campus as a study abroad peer adviser, a student senator on the Multicultural Affairs Committee and an Undergraduate Research Fellow for the Institute for Policy & Social Research. Koehn won five awards and recognitions in 2015, including being named a Truman Scholar and a Udall Scholar. After graduating, Koehn will work for the U.S. Trade Representative’s office in Washington, D.C., while attending the Truman Summer Institute. Her goal is to work or research the intersection between international trade and climate change.

“As a student veteran and first-generation college student, I was fortunate to find a good support group at KU,” Koehn said. “One of the most gratifying experiences I had while at KU was the opportunity to study abroad, which I was able to do three times. My experiences reminded me that, while places and cultures can differ tremendously, we're still all connected and have more in common than differences.”

David Ménager is a graduate student from Topeka working toward a doctorate in computer science. He was the president of the KU Chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers and a member of Theta Tau fraternity. Ménager was both a GEM Fellow and SELF Fellow during his undergraduate years. After graduation, Ménager looks to continue research in artificial intelligence and launch a startup company in order to achieve his research goals.

“There is a great need to plug the holes of an extremely leaky pipeline of black engineers,” Ménager said. “With my leadership and member involvement, KU NSBE was able to make a noticeable difference in this pipeline and as a result was recognized as the Best Small Chapter of the Year on both regional and national levels. We were able to see a need and use our resources to meet that need. I think this is very much acting in the spirit of the Rusty Leffel Concerned Student Award.”

Omar Rana is a senior from Tulsa, Oklahoma, majoring in history and minoring in public policy and business. He is a member of several organizations, including as an executive staff member of Student Senate and president of Delta Lambda Phi fraternity. Rana worked with the School of Education to apply for a federal grant to start a program at KU for students with intellectual disabilities. After graduation, Rana plans to attend law school to work in minority-based fields, such as indigenous work, immigration, international law or human rights.

“If I were to give anyone advice, it is to always be a star,” Rana said. “I love the concept of and I intend to be a star someday. And I encourage everyone to find what they love and find what makes them a star and run with it.”

This award annually goes to students who demonstrate a concern for furthering the ideals of the university and higher education. The award was established by a group of seniors in 1973 to honor their fellow student, Leffel.

The Caryl K. Smith Student Leader Award

Hannah Reinhart is a senior from Parkville, Missouri, majoring in journalism and political science. She has worked as an intern for the U.S. Senate, Yoder for Congress and Gaches, Braden & Associates, was president of the Panhellenic Association in 2014 and a member of Student Senate. Reinhart, a member of Delta Gamma sorority, served on the search committee for the director of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Education Center and has won numerous honors at KU, including being an Ex.C.E.L. Award recipient.

“One of the biggest goals I set for myself freshman year was to contribute positively to both the panhellenic and KU community overall,” Reinhart said. “I passionately pursued that goal because of my belief in the organization and the power of the KU community. To receive this award is a confirmation that I have achieved my goal to some degree. But working with my peers on many worthwhile initiatives to make the KU experience as positive as possible, for as many as possible, has been the greatest reward.”

This award goes to a graduating fraternity or sorority member who has demonstrated commitment to the local chapter, the KU greek community, the university and the Lawrence community. It was established in 1993 to honor Smith, a former dean of student life.

The Agnes Wright Strickland Awards

Lauren Arney is a senior from Stilwell majoring in biology and minoring in public policy. She serves as a member of Student Senate, an undergraduate teaching assistant for microbiology and a research assistant in the Department of Molecular Biosciences. Arney, a member of Chi Omega sorority, has won numerous accolades at KU, including the Undergraduate Research Award and the Del and Carol Shankel Biomedical Scholarship. After graduation, Arney will attend KU Medical Center to pursue a master’s degree in public health and a medical degree in hopes of becoming a practicing physician.

“I was so shocked when Dr. Tammara Durham walked into my class to present the award,” Arney said. “I knew that the application pool was very competitive and there were so many deserving students. I am so honored to have been selected as a recipient of the Agnes Wright Strickland Award. The opportunities that KU provided over the past four years are tremendous, and I could not be more excited to receive this honor.”

Alvaro Papa Silva is a senior from Overland Park majoring in mechanical engineering and minoring in business. He is a member of the Self Engineering Leadership Fellows and Engineering Student Council as well as a Hawk Link Tutor for the Office of Multicultural Affairs. Silva has been honored as an Ex.C.E.L. Award Finalist and a National Hispanic Scholar Scholarship Recipient. After graduation, Silva plans to work for Burns & McDonnell in Kansas City in the Development Department of the Energy Global Practice.

“After receiving the award, I realized how grateful I was for all of the influences that allowed to make the best out of my time at KU, Silva said. "My accomplishments would not be possible without the great peer mentorship I’ve received, the support of the SELF and Engineering Student Success staff, the critical thinking introduced by the Office of Multicultural Affairs staff, and of course, the unwavering support of my parents, my brother and the rest of my family.”

These awards were established in 1953 in memory of Strickland, a member of the Class of 1887. They go annually to graduating seniors in recognition of their academic records, demonstrated leadership in matters of university concern, respect among fellow students and indications of future dedication to service in the university.

The Kathryn Nemeth Tuttle Student Scholar Award

Lindsay Frank is a senior from Ottawa majoring in elementary education and minoring in psychology. She has pre-service and student teaching experience in Lawrence, Topeka and Eudora and worked as the Music Mentors program coordinator for the Center for Community Outreach. Frank is a resident of the Dennis E. Rieger Scholarship Hall and served as its community service chair and vice president of internal affairs. After graduation, Frank plans to teach at an elementary school in Lawrence or the Kansas City area.

“Living at Rieger Scholarship Hall has had an enormous influence on my time at KU,” Frank said. “I’ve lived at Rieger for the past four years, and it has been a wonderful experience. I’ve gotten to know so many wonderful people and made so many memories. It will be so sad for me to leave when I graduate.”

This award is presented to a graduating senior scholarship hall man or woman currently residing in a scholarship hall. Recipients shall have demonstrated academic focus, leadership in his/her scholarship hall and also commitment to the KU and Lawrence communities.

The University Awards are among the most prestigious awards presented at KU. These awards were established to recognize students who embody service excellence, dedication or whose academic achievements remain stellar.


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