Best of the Best: UNK Applauding Excellence recognizes students, groups for contributions

KEARNEY – The University of Nebraska at Kearney recognized students, advisers and organizations for their contributions to the campus and community during Thursday’s Applauding Excellence event.
Sponsored by the Office of Student Life and Division of Student Affairs, Applauding Excellence was established in 2012 to highlight the exceptional work of student organizations and leaders. Honorees are nominated for the awards by students, staff or faculty members.
Recipients in each category, with comments from their nomination and award presentation, are listed below:

Nester Collegiate Student Leadership Award
Nester Collegiate Student Leadership Award

Nester Student Leadership Awards

This award recognizes outstanding seniors who have excelled academically and demonstrated service, character and leadership during their careers at UNK.

Drew Thompson of Aurora – biology major in the pre-medicine program
He is a member of the UNK Student Senate, Honors Program, Kearney Health Opportunities Program, Sigma Phi Epsilon, Undergraduate Research Fellows and Mortar Board. He is also co-coordinator of Chancellor’s Ambassadors and recently presented his research at the National Conference of Undergraduate Research. Thompson will attend the University of Nebraska Medical Center in the fall to study medicine.

Aaron Woolley of Kearney – music performance comprehensive major
Woolley has been an active member of the music department during his time at UNK. He has been section leader of the Wind Ensemble and Symphonic Band, principal horn of the Kearney Symphony Orchestra and held numerous positions in Tau Beta Sigma, including president. He received the Outstanding Senior Award from the College of Fine Arts and Humanities, Department of Music, Theatre and Dance. Woolley will attend DePaul University in Chicago, where he has the opportunity to study horn with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Lyric Opera of Chicaco while pursuing a Master of Music in horn performance.

Ivy Prater of Elgin – organizational and relational communication major
Prater was president of Alpha Phi, student body vice president in 2017-18, vice president of Lambda Phi Eta Honor Society and a Student Diplomat. She was named the 2018 Outstanding Communication Senior and selected to be a Fraternal Government Relations Coalition 2018 congressional visit student lobbyist. She plans to move to Washington, D.C., to work for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

Cole Chancellor of Elm Creek – K-12 music education and oboe performance major
Chancellor was section leader for the Wind Ensemble and Symphonic Band and president of the National Association for Music Education. He has also been a music tutor. Chancellor, who received the UNK College of Education Outstanding Senior award, is currently sharing his work with publishing companies and plans to teach.

Austin Partridge of Grand Island – business administration major with finance emphasis
Partridge was active in UNK Student Government for three years and served as the 2017-18 student body president. He has also been active in Sigma Phi Epsilon, including serving as vice president of finance, and Enactus. He was a Chancellor’s Ambassador. Partridge will work for First National Bank in Omaha as a management trainee with a goal of learning more about wealth management and obtaining his chartered financial analyst certification.

Michaela Barry of Battle Creek – elementary and special education major
Barry was captain of the UNK women’s basketball team and earned honors such as MIAA Academic Honor Roll, MIAA Scholar Athlete, MIAA Player of the Week, MIAA First Team and Conference Commissioner’s Association All-Central Region Second Team. She was named the UNK Women’s Student-Athlete of the Year. Barry plans to be an elementary or special education teacher and coach.

Clark Pohlmeier of Grand Island – business administration major
Pohlmeier has served as president and vice president for the Honors Student Advisory Board, vice president of scholarship for Sigma Phi Epsilon and president and executive vice president for Interfraternity Council. He also studied abroad, was active as a member of Mortar Board, Order of Omega and Greeks Advocating for the Mature Management of Alcohol and served as a Chancellor’s Ambassador. Pohlmeier plans to work in health care in areas such as cost-saving, process improvement and analysis.

Leadership Legacy Award - McKenzie Cuba
Leadership Legacy Award – McKenzie Cuba

Leadership Legacy Award

McKenzie Cuba of Silver Creek
“Although there are many things that I can speak to regarding Kenzie’s leadership, the greatest thing I can think of is that everything she did was grounded in kindness. She wanted to make sure all students felt welcome and that every member was heard. That kind and caring attitude was perfect in this position because current and first-year students were drawn to her, and remembered her. She created relationships with every student who walked through our door. Through her commitment and dedication as the Blue Gold Welcome coordinator to the many emceeing gigs with which she graced every LPAC event, Kenzie left an impression to current and future students that with hard work and a positive attitude, you can accomplish anything. It is difficult to tie Kenzie to one organization on behalf of this honor, but it is imperative to notice her impact and list the organizations she has been a part of, which include First-Year Program Blue Gold Welcome Week coordinator, Loper Programming and Activities Council, FIRST Leaders, Student Government, Student Diplomat, New Student Enrollment leaders, Beta Gamma Sigma, Mortar Board, Phi Eta Sigma, Honors Student Advisory Board, Enactus, Friends Program, Campus Kitchen and the Catholic Newman Center.”

Emerging Leader Award - Jasmine Beringer
Emerging Leader Award – Jasmine Beringer

Emerging Leader Award

Jasmine Beringer of David City – UNK Psychology Club and Honors Program
“Jazzy has been an amazing leader during her tenure as Psychology Club president this year. She has committed significant time and energy to the club’s mission, and also led two service learning projects, contributing over 200 nonperishable food items to local food banks and UNK’s Big Blue Cupboard. She also organized and led the Psychology Club’s participation in an Alzheimer’s walk and an event to increase mental health awareness in the community. Within the Honors Program, Jazzy took it upon herself to steer the Honors Program newsletter and social media outlets in order to retain communication between current and former UNK honors students. True initiative within both organizations and her dedication to growing her leadership experiences significantly contribute to this amazing student receiving this award.”

Unsung Hero Award - Hannah King
Unsung Hero Award – Hannah King

Unsung Hero

Hannah King of Central City – Thompson Scholars
“Hannah King was the chairperson for the UNK Thompson Scholars Learning Community 10th Year Celebration Committee, which resulted in a successful program this fall that celebrated the foundational years as a community at UNK. Hannah recruited and maintained three separate committees for the event and took the initiative to consistently follow up with them and uphold deadlines. The celebration resulted in approximately 160 individuals celebrating the history of the learning community together on UNK Homecoming Day at the Nebraskan Student Union. Students and alumni were in attendance from each of the 10 UNK Thompson Scholars cohorts and were able to enjoy time for networking and sharing memories through TSLC memorabilia, photographs, videos and oral commemorations – all thanks to Hannah’s preparation and commitment.”

Outstanding Student Organization - Locke and Key Society
Outstanding Student Organization – Locke and Key Society

Outstanding Student Organization

Locke and Key Society
“At the beginning of this academic year, Locke and Key was a student organization in name only. The organization had no officers, no official members, no planned events, no internet or social media presence, no budget and a constitution in grave need of revision. Thanks to some good luck and a lot of promotional work on the part of the faculty in UNK’s Political Science Department, a handful of students actually attended our first organizational meeting of the year. These students turned out to be the secret sauce needed to transform Locke and Key from a defunct organization in name only to an integral part of civic and intellectual life at UNK. The organization added new members, elected officers, revised the constitution, requested and received an official budget from the political science department, designed a logo, built a Facebook page and had T-shirts printed to help develop the organization’s identity and brand. The culmination of all this hard work was series of successful and well-attended “Key Talks,” student-led discussions of hot-button political issues that Locke and Key members organize and moderate. Since the fall, Locke and Key has continued to grow and thrive, turning its energies toward more community service-oriented activities, including voter registration events and fundraising for the Nebraska AIDS Project.”

New Student Organization of the Year - Black Student Association
New Student Organization of the Year – Black Student Association

New Student Organization of the Year

Black Student Association
“This organization was created in the fall of 2017, after a long hiatus from campus. Students have worked to build the organization from the ground up and create a future for years to come. A number of faculty and staff members have assisted in the process, but the students are the ones who have made this organization thrive. The Black Student Association has positively contributed to UNK and provided a safe space for black students on campus to gain support from their peers. BSA has also successfully pulled in allies and advocates of the black community to lend their support and work toward networking and collaboration in their future endeavors. The Black Student Association has proven that students of color are not alone and, more importantly, they are welcome.”

Outstanding Student Organization Leader

Jillian Rocheford of Howells – St. Jude Up ‘til Dawn
“Jillian Rocheford’s commitment to the UNK St. Jude Up ‘til Dawn organization is unmatched. She has been involved with the organization her entire time at UNK and this year was the executive director. Jill has a high caliber of character and positive attitude and takes initiative to do what needs to be done. The Up ‘til Dawn event this year fell on the evening of a blizzard that significantly impacted attendance. Jill did not skip a beat on event night. She was committed to giving the students in attendance a great experience and was not frazzled by the lower-than-expected attendance. She quickly and quietly made edits and arrangements to alter the event to suit the students in attendance. Jill handled the event the way she handled everything related to St. Jude Up ‘til Dawn – with poise, determination and positivity.”

Outstanding Student Organization Advisor - Ashley Bruha
Outstanding Student Organization Adviser – Ashley Bruha

Outstanding Student Organization Adviser

Ashley Bruha of Ord – Queer Straight Alliance and Hispanic Student Association
“There is no student organization adviser who has done more this past school year for the students and community than Ashley Bruha. Ashley constantly works and advocates on behalf of the students involved in QSA and HSA, as well as other multicultural groups at UNK. Ashley is well-known throughout the campus and community as a top graduate student assistant, an unpaid residence hall director, an active contributor and organizer of OMA events, and, most importantly, a close and trusted friend and mentor to dozens of students and a constant source of positivity and enthusiasm on campus. Faculty and staff see her as a peer and an incredible talent at UNK, with a motivation and dedication that would be rare even at much-larger universities. Ashley also helped secure funding for planning events such as the fall drag show, queer prom, multiple trainings and student travel to a regional LGBTQ conference.”

Community Service Program of the Year - Gamma Phi Beta
Community Service Program of the Year – Gamma Phi Beta

Community Service Program of the Year

Gamma Phi Beta’s partnership with Girls on the Run
“This organization’s mission is to inspire girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum that creatively integrates running and training for a 5K over a 10-week program. It is apparent that while these young girls have certainly been learning immense lessons from Girls on the Run and working with the women of Gamma Phi Beta, it’s even more meaningful to know that our Gamma Phi Beta women have been able to take part in teaching adolescents such essential lessons in confidence. Quotes from area fourth-graders credit the Girls on the Run program with teaching them ‘how to always be positive’ and ‘to run as hard as I can and never give up.’”

Diversity Program of the Year - Piece by Piece
Diversity Program of the Year – Piece by Piece

Diversity Program of the Year

Piece by Piece
 “This program was designed to allow traditional students to have an opportunity to talk with students who have differing viewpoints about life at UNK. It was spearheaded by the Office of Residence Life with assistance and partnerships from the Office of Multicultural Affairs, International Education, Department of Disability Services, Department of Counseling and School of Psychology. The program discussed stereotypes we may have for differing racial and ethnic students, raised awareness of differences at UNK versus other parts of the world and how adjusting to UNK could be challenging for some international students, spoke about hidden disabilities and stigmas attached to mental illness and conversed the difficulties of coming out that some LGBTQI students may have when discussing their identity with friends, family and other important people in their life. This event was truly unique as each section of diversity and inclusion was addressed in a different setting that included skits, hands-on activities and meaningful discussion.”

Outstanding Collaborative Program - Office of Multicultural Affairs
Outstanding Collaborative Program – Office of Multicultural Affairs

Outstanding Collaborative Program

Office of Multicultural Affairs, Queer Straight Alliance and Social Justice League
“These organizations joined forces to shed light on an important issue by organizing a screening of the award-winning documentary ‘Forbidden: Undocumented and Queer in Rural America’ about undocumented immigrants and challenges facing LGBTQ people. The organizations were also able to schedule the main subject of the documentary to come to campus to speak and field questions after the screening, which was attended by more than 150 students and staff members. This program truly was a collaboration and intersectional event, which was able to display the issues of ethnicity, immigration status, DACA and sexual orientation, and the difficulties and dynamics experienced within individuals from those identities.”

Student Employee of the Year - McKenzie Cuba
Student Employee of the Year – McKenzie Cuba

Student Employee of the Year

McKenzie Cuba of Silver Creek – First Year Program
“This student is never satisfied with how it’s always been done, she takes every opportunity to review, assess and make suggestions on how to better the programs and events her department hosts. Her impact on not just her department, but the campus, has been extraordinary. It is because of this student that a new program was created to welcome incoming students and welcome back returning students during the month of January with Destination Uptown.”
Cuba was also named the Nebraska Student Employee of the Year.

Student Employee Rookie of the Year - Sarah Petersen
Student Employee Rookie of the Year – Sarah Petersen

Student Employee Rookie of the Year

Sarah Petersen of Omaha – Nebraskan Student Union and Student Engagement
“She goes above and beyond in many ways. This student is a leader through her words, dress, actions and how she carries herself. When the unexpected happens, she is ready with a response of ‘How can I help?’”

Outstanding Student Employee for Community Service - Neli Morales
Outstanding Student Employee for Community Service – Neli Morales

Outstanding Student Employee for Community Service

Neli Morales-Garcia of Hastings – Kearney Area Community Foundation
“This student is extremely invested in the work that is being done within the organization and it shows in the execution of duties. This student works tirelessly and always puts in 110 percent. She eagerly immerses herself into projects. She carries herself as a young professional with all parties she works with.”

Outstanding Student Employee for UNK Service - Yusuke Nogi
Outstanding Student Employee for UNK Service – Yusuke Nogi

Outstanding Student Employee for UNK Service

Yusuke Nogi of Kyoto, Japan – Center for Entrepreneurship and Rural Development
“This year’s recipient has played a vital role in furthering the area he works for. He continually goes above and beyond in his duties, oftentimes completing or researching tasks before his supervisors can ask him to. His supervisors had this to say, ‘We consider ourselves fortunate to have been given the chance to work with such a skilled and kind student at UNK. We know he will continue to accomplish great things in his lifetime.’”

Student Employee Supervisor of the Year - Tiffany Shultz
Student Employee Supervisor of the Year – Tiffany Shultz

Student Employee Supervisor of the Year

Tiffany Shultz – UNK Dining Services
“Over the last several years this supervisor has employed, mentored, encouraged, invested and believed in hundreds of student workers. She not only teaches students the correct way to perform tasks, but empowers them to take ownership and pride in the task. Her commitment to diversity and inclusion is evident in how she works with all of her students, making sure that each person feels valued and special. She is mindful of cultural backgrounds and knowledgeable about her students’ cultures.”

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