Applauding Excellence awards presented to 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 Award
Allayna Benson – UNK Health Science Club

Benson joined the Health Science Club in 2018 and became president in 2019. Despite living near St. Paul and commuting to campus during her final year at UNK, she agreed to remain president for 2020-21. Benson is also a member of the Alpha Epsilon Delta health preprofessional honor society and she works as a certified nursing assistant at an assisted living facility. “Her passion to ensure the Health Science Club was a success is obvious and I have been impressed with how mindful she is of the immediate need to elect high-quality, capable officers to fill the cabinet and step into leadership roles.”

Emerging Leader Award
Kali Herbolsheimer

Herbolsheimer is involved in the Alpha Omicron Pi sorority, Loper Programming and Activities Council and Panhellenic Council. She also volunteers with Special Musicians, a nonprofit music program for youths with intellectual disabilities.

Philanthropy Award
Alpha Omicron Pi – Sisters for Soldiers

Alpha Omicron Pi sent holiday care packages to 451 U.S. military members stationed overseas during the annual event. The UNK sorority also donated about $3,000 to the Central Nebraska Veterans’ Home in Kearney.

Student Employee of the Year
Makenzie Petersen – Office of Student and Family Transitions/O.N.E. Loper

“Makenzie made the transition from the First Year Program to the Office of Student and Family Transitions easy with a flare of fun and humor. She took charge of virtual programming and was always an enthusiastic and gracious host during virtual bingo nights. She also played a key part in keeping the Loper 2 Loper Mentoring Program afloat and was always willing to dig into a project.”

As a student mentor for the O.N.E. Loper program, Petersen served as a link between online first-year students and the campus community. Because it was a new program, she had autonomy to run the show. On her own initiative, she developed a survey to ask students how they would like her to communicate with them, giving them options like a dedicated social media account, a weekly newsletter and video updates. “I was impressed by her desire to prioritize students’ needs.”

Petersen also was named Student Employee of the Year by the Midwest Association of Student Employment Administrators, which covers a 14-state region.

Student Employee Rookie of the Year
DJ Hardwick – Office of Student and Family Transitions

Hardwick helped develop the mission and vision for the Office of Student and Family Transitions and participated in the hiring process for the Blue and Gold Welcome Week student coordinator. “His guidance and technology skills have been an asset to SFT, as well as many other university projects. He is kind, open to new ideas and willing to lend a hand with website changes and social media campaigns.”

Student Employee Supervisor of the Year
Kelsey Hassenstab – Fraternity and Sorority Life

“Throughout my time working in the FSL office, Kelsey has become more than just a boss; she has become one of my mentors. Being an alumna of UNK and the FSL community, she cares deeply about the work she does as the FSL assistant director. In the short time she has been the assistant director, she has made a big impact on the FSL community. I credit her for bringing fresh and new ideas to the community while still holding on to old traditions.”

Community Service Program of the Year
Share the Love Food Giveaway

The Share the Love Food Giveaway provided more than 30,000 pounds of food to UNK students and the Loper Pantry on campus. The effort was supported by the Office of Student Diversity and Inclusion, UNK Athletics, 93.1 The River, Community Action Partnership of Mid-Nebraska and Cash-Wa Distributing.

Diversity Program of the Year
UNK Drag Show

Sponsored by the Office of Student Diversity and Inclusion, this annual event allows attendees to learn more about LGBTQIA+ culture while promoting inclusivity. The Drag Show featured 10 performers.

Unsung Hero Award
Pandemic Response Student Workers
Tariro Johnson Chinhamo, Rylee Cross, Rinrada Cream Masatit, Oscar Richter and Lydia Uhing

This group was responsible for following strict safety protocols while supporting fellow students who tested positive for COVID-19. “Throughout the course of the 2020-21 academic year, these students have shown tremendous commitment to keeping the university operating during the pandemic. The level of care and compassion for their fellow students is unmatched and they truly deserve to be recognized for their continuing efforts.”

New Student Organization of the Year
Global Student Association

Outstanding Student Organization Leader
Rina Pokharel – Global Student Association

Pokharel started the Global Student Association in 2021 to give students an opportunity to learn about different cultures from around the world. Each meeting was attended by 25 or more students, and the group created a display in February to show support for the Asian community. “Since taking on this mission, Rina has worked arduously to welcome everyone and be inclusive when educating others about diversity.”

Outstanding Collaborative Program
A Walk in Her Shoes

Sponsored by the Office of Student Diversity and Inclusion, Women’s Sexuality and Resource Center, Fraternity and Sorority Life, Office of Student and Family Transitions and UNK Athletics, this event raised awareness of gender violence and promoted healthy masculinity. Organized as part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the event also raised money for the S.A.F.E. Center.

Outstanding Student Organization
Panhellenic Council

The Panhellenic Council governs, guides and addresses the needs of four sororities on campus. Each fall, a weeklong recruitment process is conducted to add new members. In a normal year, this is not an easy task. It takes months of planning. Last fall, the council pulled off a recruitment week unlike any other. Using a combination of small, in-person gatherings and virtual conversations, this group welcomed 111 new members.

Outstanding Student Organization Adviser
Tim Danube

“Tim is always asking how he can help students and make their journey through college better. He helps develop leaders and individuals who impact their communities on a large scale.”

Alpha Kappa Upsilon Iota

Alpha Kappa Upsilon Iota is a student union honorary celebrating the achievements of those dedicated to the work of both the student union and student engagement office. This year’s award winners are UNK students Daegan Dey, Devin Johansen, Megan Bahns, Bailey Reigle, Britley Schlueter, Trey Janicek and Max Beal and UNK employees Ricky Allum and James Lester.