LAWRENCE — With surprise visits from the “prize patrol,” the University of Kansas presented 12 students with awards that honor community engagement, leadership and academics.
Students were notified they received 2017 University Awards when Office of Student Affairs leaders showed up in their classes to make the announcements in front of professors and peers. 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 are stellar.
Class of 1913 Awards
These annual awards go to a graduating man and woman who show evidence of intelligence, devotion to studies, personal character and promise of usefulness to society.
BreShawna Briggs is a senior from Wamego majoring in management and leadership. As an undergraduate, she has conducted research on the “imposter phenomenon” among high achievers. Briggs studied abroad as a part of the Global Women’s Leadership in India program, and she was instrumental in starting a women’s leadership conference.
“The Kansas Women's Leadership Institute stands out as one of my most memorable and empowering experiences,” Briggs said. “It was an incredible opportunity to spend six weeks living with 24 women from Morocco, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Mongolia and Zambia as we developed our leadership capacity and worked on a project to improve our local communities. The other women in the program became sisters to me, and we continue to support one another from our respective countries.”
Matthew Ong is a senior from Malaysia majoring in finance and accounting. His passion for service learning led to deep involvement in Alternative Breaks. As the program’s research coordinator, Ong analyzed statistical data, tracked evaluations to improve future volunteer experiences and assisted in the coordination of service learning trips and weekly classes for student volunteers.
He has been an ambassador for the School of Business and the KU Honors Program, yet Ong’s experience as a teaching assistant shaped his undergraduate career.
“In addition to providing fellow students with guidance to emulate the success I had in those courses, these positions enable me to be a teacher and a leader among my peers,” he said. “I also had the opportunity to work closely and receive valuable advice from distinguished educators and professionals, such as Dr. Kala Stroup and Dr. Mark Haug whom I am humbled to know as my advisers for life. With utmost dedication, they have invested in my journey at KU and beyond. For that, I will be eternally grateful. ”
The Donald K. Alderson Memorial Award
The 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.
Liz Gray is a senior from Prairie Village majoring in business management and leadership and applied behavioral science. Within the School of Business, Gray has worked for Business Career Services, instructing a career course for sophomores and advising students, and she was president for the Society of Human Resource Management.
Gray describes joining Kappa Alpha Theta sorority as a springboard for her personal development and involvement at KU. She took up with the Student Involvement and Leadership Center, Fraternity and Sorority Life and the KU Panhellenic Association.
“Addressing critical topics such as sexual assault and social justice education were platforms that I, alongside other passionate and respectable students and staff, made community priorities,” she said. “Through diligent and intentional effort we can continue to produce forward-thinking, thoughtful and strong members within our own community and the KU community.”
The Alexis F. Dillard Student Involvement Award
This award goes to a graduating student who has unselfishly contributed to the university through campus involvement. It was established in 1993 by Dillard’s family and friends to remember and honor him.
Puteri Ayu Kirana Ahmad Jayaputera is senior from Malaysia majoring in psychology and applied behavioral science. As an undergraduate, Ahmad Jayaputera pursued research by assisting graduate students with a study on conceptualizing “outness” on sexual orientation.
She also became deeply involved in KU’s international student community, working as a language and cultural liaison for the Applied English Center, president of the KU International Women Association and an international student ambassador. She said that experience was the most rewarding during her time at KU because it allowed her to give back and reach out to the international student community that today she calls her family.
“Assisting the International Programs in a six-month video-making project to showcase wonderful international students and their experiences here as a Jayhawk will always be one of my fond memories,” Ahmad Jayaputera said. “Hopefully, this effort — along with the other initiatives that the ambassadors collectively took part of with other faculty and staff in the International Programs — will last for an eternity and that our family of international Jayhawks grows bigger.”
Murphy Maiden is a senior from Overland Park majoring in sociology and American studies. Maiden has been instrumental in LGBTQIA+ and social justice issues on campus. Off campus, Maiden helped orchestrate Center(ed) Stage, an event aimed to curate space for artistic expression of marginalized voices, to uplift one another and to build connections across Lawrence.
Maiden said involvement and employment at the Office of Multicultural Affairs — specifically, attendance at and later facilitation of the Colors of KU Retreat — were highlights at KU. Maiden helped develop an activity that guided Colors of KU 2017 participants through global and daily challenges that trans and gender nonconforming people face.
“The Office of Multicultural Affairs' welcoming of me, the Colors of KU retreats and the collaborative efforts to better support gender nonconforming students show the graceful approach to coalition work that I strive to include in my collaborations through my future professional and personal realms,” Maiden said.
The Rusty Leffel Concerned Student Awards
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.
Harrison Baker is a senior from Topeka majoring in psychology and human sexuality. He changed the Student Senate Rules and Regulations to be more gender inclusive while creating binding language that requires it to stay that way. With the support of the KU Policy Office, Baker worked to remove gendered pronouns from more than 100 policies and replace them with nouns while keeping them legally binding.
Baker considers his greatest accomplishment bringing Student Safe Zone Training to Stirling, Scotland, and training the university’s student government leaders during a fall 2016 study abroad trip.
“My goal in life is to make people more aware of LGBTQIA+ identities and how they are seen in the world,” Baker said. “I can do that through these Safe Zone Trainings. I think it is hard to say that one training will transform a campus by itself. It takes a conscious effort to make substantive changes on any campus, and I think that Safe Zone Training is simply one piece of that process.”
Shegufta Huma is a senior from Bel Aire majoring in political science. She was named a Rhodes Scholar in 2016.
Huma has advocated for marginalized communities at KU. She co-founded Student Senate’s Imagine coalition and has been a College of Liberal Arts & Sciences senator, Senate Executive Committee vice chair and University Senate vice president. Huma thinks her involvement with governance has had the greatest effect at KU.
“It afforded me a public platform to identify ways the institution was failing marginalized students and to advocate for necessary changes across institutional spaces,” she said. “This role empowered me to build coalition with a plethora of KU community stakeholders and motivate fellow students to boldly fight for social justice and reclaim our spot in the Jayhawk narrative when we're otherwise erased.”
Diana Restrepo-Osorio is a graduate student from Overland Park working toward a doctorate in geography. She co-founded KU’s Latin American Graduate Organization and pursues ways to encourage and mentor other women in STEM fields, including five years as an instructor and counselor with the KU Summer Science Residential Academy and the KCK Saturday STEM Academy.
As instructor and counselor, Restrepo-Osorio has strived to include ethnic culture within the STEM program and serve as an example of success in education while displaying the pride she holds for her Colombian cultural traditions.
“My proudest moments have definitely been to see my minority students make it into prestigious universities,” she said. “Some of them have received full rides, and I feel so proud of them, because I understand how challenging it is to make it into higher education. I make sure to always emphasize how important it is to fight for our dreams but to never forget our cultural traditions and where we come from, because this is what has built the character that we have today.”
The Caryl K. Smith Student Leader Award
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.
Travis Kessinger is a senior from Topeka majoring in elementary education. As a member of Alpha Tau Omega, Kessinger was introduced to other leadership opportunities like the Student Involvement & Leadership Center and the KU Dance Marathon philanthropic event. Kessinger said the chapter also has given him academic support and relationships with a wide array of people.
After graduation, Kessinger will be a leadership consultant for Alpha Tau Omega National Fraternity. With the numerous opportunities for growth and development he was presented through his fraternity, Kessinger said it became even more important to reciprocate.
“The opportunity to travel the nation, learn more about higher education and the fraternity/sorority community and to network with young professionals — all while giving back to and improving an organization that has become a centrifugal force in my life — seemed like a no-brainer,” he said. “There is still so much work to be done within the fraternity community, and to be given the opportunity to spend a portion of my life devoted to bettering this experience and increasing accessibility to these beneficial organizations to all people is humbling and motivating.”
The Kathryn Nemeth Tuttle Student Scholar Award
This award is presented to a graduating senior scholarship hall man or woman currently residing in a scholarship hall. Recipients have demonstrated academic focus, leadership in the scholarship hall and also commitment to the KU and Lawrence communities.
Kelsey Consolver is a senior from Lawrence majoring in secondary education. A Sellards Hall resident, she twice served as president and has been a member of the All Scholarship Hall Council. Her contributions include spearheading scholarship hall traditions like the Scholarship Hall Olympics and promoting the scholarship halls to prospective students.
“I have loved living in Sellards Scholarship Hall and will always look back fondly on my experiences,” she said. “Overall, I have grown as a leader and a friend as a result of my time in the schol halls. As a teacher, my planning, cooperation and leadership skills will all serve me well, and I have the scholarship halls to thank for that.”
The Agnes Wright Strickland Awards
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.
Stephonn Alcorn is a senior from Gardner majoring in finance. He was the student body president for the 2016-2017 academic year. As Student Senate government relations director, Alcorn worked with the Lawrence city manager to create the City Liaison Internship Program, connecting KU and Haskell Indian Nations University students to the city. Acorn also led Greek Sexual Assault Task Force, which crafted a KU-specific Interfraternity Council peer-to-peer sexual violence prevention program.
This summer, Alcorn will be involved with the Summer Venture in Business Program. Stemming in part from his own experiences, the program will bring underrepresented ethnic minority high school students to the KU to learn about business and business careers and prepare for admission to the university.
“As an alumnus I see myself serving KU by being a mentor to other first-generation students, students of color and students interested in pursuing a career in business,” he said. “I also hope to serve by being an ambassador for the university in all aspects of my life and giving back through service and by creating opportunities for other Jayhawks.”
Katie Gerard is a senior from Hanover majoring in supply chain management and information systems. Gerard dove into leadership as president of her freshman residence hall, Ellsworth. That opened the door to become further involved in residence life organizations. She also has served the College of Business as an ambassador, teaching assistant and Supply Chain Club president.
Gerard was the 2016 Young Woman Scholar for the Achieving Women’s Excellence in Supply Chain Operations, Management, and Education (AWESOME) foundation.
“When beginning to think about my role as alumna at KU, I hope to keep serving the university and continually giving back to a place that has given so much to me,” she said. “I hope to continually be involved with the Business School and specifically my major programs by helping students still in the program and mentor them as I start my career. I also hope to stay actively involved with the KU Alumni Association, especially with homecoming, an event that had such a big impact during my collegiate years.”