Applauding Excellence awards recognize outstanding UNK students, organizations

KEARNEY – The University of Nebraska at Kearney announced Wednesday the winners of this year’s Applauding Excellence awards.

Established in 2012 by the Division of Student Affairs, these awards celebrate the exceptional work of student leaders, organizations and advisers on campus. Applauding Excellence awards are presented to honorees nominated by UNK students, staff or faculty.

This year’s recipients, with comments from nominators, are:

Leadership Legacy

Katie Schultis of Diller – Christian Student Fellowship

Katie Schultis

Katie has been an active member of Christian Student Fellowship since she first came to UNK, and she has been involved on the leadership team since the second semester of her freshman year. At that time, the average attendance at a weekly meeting of CSF was about 20 individuals. Now, that number is over 120. This is due in large part to the leadership of Katie and many others at CSF. Katie is always the first to notice someone new at CSF, and she is the first to greet them and welcome them to our organization. She spends time getting to know new members.

As a sophomore, Katie was a co-founder and co-leader of Freshmen Group, which is a community group designed specifically for freshman students as they make the transition to college. She has also served CSF as a member and leader of the worship team and international outreach team, and as a participant of spring break mission trips for the last three years. She has even worked for CSF the past three summers as a member of CSF Camp Teams, a group that travels to camps around the Great Plains talking to high school and junior high students about the transition to college and the importance of getting involved, all while promoting CSF and UNK.

Katie has also been active in several other groups on campus and maintained a perfect 4.0 GPA, modeling for younger students the importance of academics. Katie has certainly left a positive mark on CSF. Her presence will be missed when she graduates in May, but I know she has helped train others to take her place, and the future of CSF is bright.

Emerging Leader

Daniel Ocampo of Omaha – Define American

Daniel Ocampo

As a freshman, Daniel was elected president of Define American and has redirected the focus of the organization to educate through engaging activities. Daniel is a constant and positive presence in the Office of Student Diversity and Inclusion. He is usually the first person to arrive and the last person to leave. Daniel is a role model for his peers and members of his organization.

Unsung Hero

Amber Haight of Minden – Residence Life

Amber is a vital part of the many things that happen behind the scenes in Residence Life. Among her many duties, she keeps the social media accounts dynamic by scheduling all posts for the office; maintains hours as a desk assistant in various residence halls; supports the residential curriculum; helps organize training and track budget items; serves on the recognition committee; and works with the Residence Hall Association and their fundraising efforts by sending care package letters to students’ families. Amber has proven to be reliable and hardworking over the past several years. She always shows up on time and is in good spirits. Without her, we wouldn’t be as successful in our various initiatives to educate our residents.

UNK and Nebraska Student Employee of the Year

Noah Journey of Kearney – Department of History

Noah Journey

Noah has worked in UNK’s Department of History since fall 2018. He’s the go-to person when department members have questions about technology and he updates the department’s social media accounts, along with several other duties. Recently, Noah was asked for his opinion on how to engage middle school and high school students when they come to campus for National History Day and motivate them to consider UNK for college. He came up with several ideas and, with permission from the chair, turned some of his ideas into a reality.

Over the last few years, Noah has become an important member of our department. We are already worried about what we are going to do when he heads off to student teach and graduate. He will be sorely missed. Noah has built so many positive relationships with our faculty, staff and students. He is truly one of a kind as a team player.

Outstanding Student Organization

Peer Health

Peer Health

Peer Health hosted OkSOBERfest on Halloween, an event that provided more than 200 students with an alternative to high-risk behaviors such as drinking. The organization also hosts movie and trivia nights, and engages in education and outreach across campus, including working with Residence Life to coordinate Alcohol Awareness Week. Peer Health educators delivered alcohol education presentations to UNK and high school students and gave presentations on healthy relationships to various groups on campus. They are also certified in mental health first aid, and the organization maintains a blog providing wellness resources for students.

New Student Organization of the Year 

Delta Tau Delta

Delta Tau Delta

The Delta Tau Delta fraternity rejoined UNK in September 2017 as a colony and reached official status in January 2020. While focusing on recruitment goals and growth, they still made time for philanthropy, raising more than $3,000 through their “Date a Delt” event and completing 870 community service hours. Additionally, their academic achievements are notable, with members posting an average GPA of 3.33 last semester.

Their strong will and optimistic attitudes help promote positive change on our campus. Members demonstrate the utmost respect to each other, and to the UNK community.

Diversity Program of the Year

Nebraska Cultural Unity Conference

Nebraska Cultural Unity Conference

The Nebraska Cultural Unity Conference brings hundreds of students together to celebrate diversity and promote higher education enrollment. This year’s event was the largest ever, with 430 students attending. There was an international component, as speakers from Nayarit, Mexico, were invited to attend, and additional sessions focused on healthy relationships, college application, loving yourself, being proud of your culture and campus involvement. The conference also included a majors fair and campus tours showcasing everything UNK has to offer.

Community Service Program of the Year

Circle K

Circle K focuses on community service, leadership and fellowship. The club was revived this year, boosting its membership from fewer than 20 students to more than 50. Members completed nearly 100 community service hours this semester.

Outstanding Collaborative Program 

Men’s Project/Women’s Center/Kiphany Hof

Men’s Project brings together male leaders from across campus to address misconceptions about masculinity, promote wellness and healthy relationships and discuss ways they can make lasting change. Men’s Project partnered with the Women’s Center to produce a podcast series on these topics.

Kiphany Hof has done an exceptional job facilitating this program and creating a support system for men.

Outstanding Student Organization Philanthropy

Kearney Student Speech Language Hearing Association

Communication board

This organization works to better the lives and advocate for services for adults and children with communication and hearing disorders. Members of KSSLHA raised money to place large communication boards at Harmon and Patriot parks for children with disabilities. This will allow children who have difficulty speaking to communicate with peers and family members while playing at the parks.

Outstanding Student Organization Adviser

Amanda Dabney – Peer Health

Amanda Dabney

Amanda stepped into the role of adviser this year and totally exceeded expectations. Her knowledge, organization and natural skills to guide students to build a better organization shine through every day. She is so supportive of each of us and I always leave our office feeling better about myself because of her. She has such a creative mind that has helped us have many successful events and helped Peer Health grow quite a bit this year. I look forward to working with her in the future because I know she has great plans for this organization and to make the campus a better place in general.

Amanda has proven to be a monumental force here at UNK and Peer Health. She is driven and passionate about health and wellness on campus for students and it shows through her work. This year Amanda has helped program several new events on campus, such as Fear Factor Carnival, Valentine’s Day Open House, Trivia Night, Recreation Pals and Peer Health’s new blog “The Well.” Amanda has also been an amazing educator and moderated multiple sessions to get all Peer Health educators certified in mental health first aid. I am looking forward to the future to see what else Amanda accomplishes and how she plans to better UNK.

Outstanding Organization Leader

Vanessa Taylor of Arapahoe – Residence Hall Association

Vanessa Taylor

Vanessa has been the Residence Hall Association president the past two years, leading two different executive teams and helping organize an effort to increase meeting attendance. She worked to make RHA a stronger organization by increasing visibility of the organization and pushing members to think of ways to ensure they were making the residence halls a more vibrant place to live. As president of RHA, Vanessa has done a great job representing her fellow students who live in the residence halls, giving them a voice on issues. She cares about her fellow residents and is committed to making sure they have a positive experience while living on campus.

Alpha Kappa Upsilon Iota/Nebraskan Student Union Honorary Awards

Each year the Nebraskan Student Union honors students who have dedicated their time and talents to the Office of Student Engagement and student union.
The 2020 honorees are:
Sarah Petersen of Omaha
Paige Kristensen of Minden
Dina Lado Andrea of Lincoln
Andrew Burival of O’Neill
Katie Hastings of Lincoln
Miriam Nieto of Crete
Haley Pierce of West Point
Jamie Drozd of Genoa
Austin Jacobsen of Sidney

UNK Leads

UNK Leads is a self-guided program designed to challenge and support students at a range of leadership experience levels. The program is completed by students as a cohort, and participants have up to four semesters to finish.
Students who completed four semesters of Leads are:
Alex Gewecke of Grand Island
Tanya Wasson of Kearney
Lydia Behnk of Elgin