Erin Christensen
assistant director of Greek Affairs, 308.865.8057 or

The first “Applauding Excellence: Recognizing Student Leaders” event on the University of Nebraska at Kearney campus recently recognized students, faculty members and student organizations who have been strong contributors to the campus.

“Applauding Excellence is a program that recognizes the work of student organizations and student leaders,” said Erin Christensen, assistant director of UNK Greek Affairs. The event was sponsored by the UNK Division of Student Affairs.

“The Division of Student Affairs saw the need to have organizations and student leaders be recognized for their contributions to the UNK community,” Christensen said.

“UNK has had a long history of successful student leaders and student organizations,” said Jordan Gonzales of Morrill, immediate past president of the UNK student body. “With a large thank-you to the UNK Division of Student Affairs, this year, we are able to recognize the students who help run this university as efficiently as possible, as well as the student leaders and student organizations who go above and beyond to make UNK an outstanding institution.”

Students were nominated for the awards by students, faculty or staff members. Award recipients received a plaque.

“The Student Employee Recognition Committee had the honor of being able to recognize four of our outstanding student employees,” said Rebecca Dobry, UNK Financial Aid office associate. “Each award was based upon the student’s reliability, quality of work, initiative, professionalism and unique contributions to the office or department for which the student works.

“With more than 35 nominees for the first time these awards are being given, I would say we truly do have some outstanding student employees,” Dobry said.

Recipients in each of the award categories are listed below:

Alma – Hilke Brandon – Leadership Legacy Award 

This award is given to a student leader for their long-term dedication and commitment to student organizations.

Brandon is a member of the UNK Honors Program, Phi Eta Sigma honor society, Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE), Sports Administration Majors Club, Order of Omega honor society, and the UNK Track and Cross Country teams, and was the president of Alpha Phi sorority. During her term, the chapter membership GPA requirement increased by .25, which led the chapter to achieving the highest overall GPA among Greek organizations. She has been the recipient of the Regents Scholarship and Honors Program Cook Scholarship.

Aurora – Kiley Dibbern – Emerging Leader Award 

Dibbern is a member of the Alpha Phi sorority and Student Government, and serves on executive boards positions in both.

The Emerging Leader Award recognizes a freshmen or sophomore who has excelled in their organization and has demonstrated true leadership qualities. The selection of the award is based on his/her involvement within their organization, leadership initiatives and overall contribution to the UNK community.

Filley – McKenzie Weise – Outstanding Student Organization Leader Award

The award is given to an individual who has demonstrated outstanding leadership within their organization. The criteria for selection includes quality of leadership, mutual respect among peers and administrators, dedication to the improvement of campus life, and the ability to promote leadership development at UNK.

Weise served as the selection chair for Mortar Board and oversaw the recruitment and selection of new members. She is also the president of the Loper Programming Activities Council.

Grand Island – Samantha Mitchell – Unsung Hero Award

This award recognizes an individual who has taken the initiative and/or has gone the extra mile to contribute to the success of UNK through his or her outstanding contributions within an organization. The winner of the award does not necessarily hold a leadership position within the organization but is an overall hard worker who is dedicated to the success of their group.

“Samantha was described by her nominator as having an ‘I won’t stop until the job is done and done right’ approach to her work,” Davis said. “She isn’t the type of student who flaunts her abilities and achievements for all to know. She is a loyal, hardworking individual. Her sorority involvement opened the door for Peer Health to reach out to the Greek community much more effectively than in previous years.

“Additionally, she has been a tremendous resource in providing technical assistance and student insight in the multiple grant projects and proposals over the last 12 months,” Davis said.

The Community Service Program of the Year award recognizes a program that is sponsored by a student organization at UNK that contributed to the broader mission of UNK and encouraged students to engage in service beyond this one experience.

Kearney – Alpha Phi – Outstanding Student Organization Award

This award recognizes a student organization that demonstrated consistent flexibility, initiative, creativity and perseverance, and made a meaningful contribution to the students, the university, and/or the surrounding community. The organization organized activities, events and programs that have had a significant impact on the quality of campus life at UNK.

Alpha Phi has more than 90 members, has a combined GPA of 3.4, has donated $10,000 to their national foundation, and members volunteer approximately 2,000 community service hours every academic year.

Kearney – Christina Rice – Outstanding Community Service 

Rice, a psychology major with a minor in criminal justice, works as an administrative assistant for the Substance Abuse Prevention Program of Community Partners. She handles responsibilities including writing grants, organizing community presentations and designing a youth empowerment program.

“To quote her nomination, Christina is ‘truly a dynamic leader and is filled with potential to create great things for the Kearney Community,’” said Lenore Yeager of UNK Academic and Career Services. “In addition to her position at Community Partners, Christina volunteers her time as a Student Senator at UNK, a member of the Nebraska Coalition for Juvenile Justice and a member of the Nebraska Partners in Prevention.”

“This is a unique category for the simple fact that the student employee does not work on UNK’s campus,” Yeager said. “UNK is privileged by having several of our outstanding students working outside of campus, within the community, in many service positions.  Though the student does not work on campus they are still considered one of UNK’s Student Employees.”

Kearney – Lisa Klingelhoefer – Student Employee of the Year  

“This is a nationally recognized award program, and UNK is excited to have the opportunity for our student employees to be recognized at this level,” Dobry said. “In order to be eligible for the Student Employee of the Year, the student must be employed for a minimum of six months.”

“Lisa has been part of the school counseling and psychology department since 2009 and in her short time there has become an invaluable student employee,” Dobry said. “Lisa is always the professional as she greets and assists student, and guests who come into the office. She has great customer service beyond her age.

“She has become such a reliable source for the department that after a water pipe burst and destroyed numerous books, she was placed in charge of working with both the faculty and the insurance company to replace these resources,” Dobry said.

“Lisa has been an exemplary employee since the day she began working for me in August of 2009,” said Cel Davis, UNK counseling and school psychology office associate. She has exceeded my expectations of any work study, and I could not be more pleased with her work ethic and willingness to take on new assignments.’”

Klingelhoefer was also selected as the 2012 State of Nebraska Student Employee of the Year. She received $75 and a certificate for this award.

Kearney – The Collegians for Integration and Accessibility – Diversity Program of the Year

The award for Diversity Program of the Year recognizes a diversity program sponsored by a student organization at UNK that allowed a broad range of participants to experience and learn about diversity. The program focuses on developing understanding, tolerance and acceptance.

“This program worked hard to have a positive impact on the UNK community by ‘articulating insights into disability rules and biases,’” said Abbie Davis of Wood River, Chancellors Ambassador. “During this series of events, UNK students have a better understanding of disability as a diversity issue, and the week raised people’s empathy and skills for interaction and increased openness.”

Kearney – Charles McGraw and Alex Straatmann – Outstanding Student Organization Adviser Award 

Outstanding Student Organization Adviser award was given to Charles McGraw and Alex Straatmann, both of Kearney,for their co-advising of Sigma Phi Epsilon.

This award is given to an individual or individuals who voluntarily serve as advisers to a student organization while exemplifying UNK’s vision of leadership, service and excellence.

“Under their advisement, the chapter won the national award given to the top chapters in the nation four consecutive times, raised over $14,000 to benefit philanthropies within the past academic year, and has consistently had over a 3.15 GPA for the past seven semesters,” Davis said.

“Additionally, these two individuals were very instrumental in helping move the chapter on from the death of a member this year,” Davis said. “Not only are these individuals active within the chapter, they are also active within the Kearney community.”

Kearney – The Scott D. Morris International Food and Cultural Festival – Outstanding Collaborative Program

The Outstanding Collaborative Program award recognizes a campus program, project, or event organized and completed through the collaborative effort of two or more student groups or campus organizations. This award is based on the concept of encouraging student groups to seek out other organizations to achieve a common goal.

Lambda Theta Nu for their Lambda Youth Leadership Conference – Community Service Program of the Year 

This was the fifth year of the Lambda Youth Leadership Conference on the UNK campus. The conference introduces middle school girls to higher education, as well as self-esteem issues, healthy relationships and adolescence.

“The conference is beneficial to the young women who participate, and the organization gains benefit and inspiration annually from this event,” said Heath Erwin of Dixon, Chancellors Ambassador.

Omaha – Colten Venteicher – Outstanding Campus Service  

Students considered for this award work on campus, in various offices, to improve the campus life for other students, faculty and staff.

“Colten’s excellence in providing tutoring to the UNK population on behalf of the Learning Commons and Academic Success offices sets a perfect example of a truly outstanding advocate for the UNK campus,” said Chelsea Swarm, UNK Human Resources payroll technician. “Colten began his position as a Writing Center Tutor in January of 2010.  Since that time, Colten has demonstrated leadership, creativity, attention to detail, professionalism, initiative, respect and care for others, and an overall excellent work ethic.  His drive and organizational skills were demonstrated last November at the National Day on Writing, which he coordinated.

“His contributions to the successful event involved everything from applying for funds to rallying help for the sign-in tables and introducing workshops, in addition to the many, many other details required in the event,” Swarm said. “He was so committed to the event that he has even begun preparations for next year’s event. This truly shows dedication to not only his position within the Learning Commons, but also to UNK.”

Rockville – Natalie Hanisch – Student Employee Rookie of the Year

“Natalie has shown a true passion and dedication for her work within the UNK Office of Academic Success,” said Jen Kacere, UNK Residence Hall Complex director. “During her short time with the office she has single handedly created and implemented a new student initiative to help students who are enrolled in certain college algebra sections be more successful. Her supervisor stated that they count on ‘her voice to be honest, grounded and insightful.’  Natalie demonstrated the right qualities for continued innovation and success for the Office of Academic Success and for UNK.”

To be eligible for the Rookie of the Year Award, the student must have been employed as a UNK student employee and have worked less than one full academic year at the time of nomination.