Applauding Excellence awards presented to outstanding students, campus 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 are:

Leadership Legacy Award
DJ Hardwick

Hardwick has left a lasting mark at UNK. As first-year experience coordinator for the Office of Student and Family Transitions, he helped coordinate 25-plus campus events during Blue Gold Welcome Week. As a resident assistant, he manages a residence hall floor where 48 undergraduate students live. Hardwick also served as a New Student Enrollment leader and was selected for the NASPA Undergraduate Fellows Program, which is designed to increase the number of higher education student affairs professionals from historically underrepresented backgrounds.

Emerging Leader Award
Daylee Dey

Dey is an executive member of the Gamma Phi Beta sorority, holding the position of education vice president. She’s also a member of the Kearney Health Opportunities Program.

Student Organization of the Year
Delta Tau Delta

The UNK fraternity continually meets or exceeds its goals, including improving the chapter’s overall GPA to 3.55 and raising more than $8,000 for juvenile diabetes research. More than 90% of the chapter’s members are involved in at least two other campus organizations and 50% hold leadership positions.

Student Employee of the Year
Lauren Benck

A resident assistant for the past two years, Benck was recognized for her work ethic, professionalism and creativity. She volunteers to assist with candidate interviews, helps provide information about living on campus and handles emergency and crisis response situations. Benck also chaired the “Dorm Duels” event.

Community Service Program of the Year
MLK Day of Service
Black Student Association, Office of Student Diversity and Inclusion and Fraternity and Sorority Life

This event honored Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy of service by creating more than 600 personal hygiene care packages for those in need. The keynote speaker was former state Sen. Ernie Chambers, who shared his passion for public service, social justice and equality.

New Student Organization of the Year

This organization supports entrepreneurs and small businesses while giving students real-world experience and networking opportunities. Members partner with local businesses to help them solve problems they’re facing.

Philanthropy of the Year
Gamma Phi Beta

The UNK sorority raised nearly $11,000 for its philanthropic partners – Girls on the Run and the Kearney S.A.F.E. Center.

Diversity Program of the Year
Cultural Fashion Show
Global Student Association

Students representing 14 countries modeled traditional clothing as part of UNK’s International Education Week celebration.

Unsung Hero Award
Adamari Ramos-Loeza

As president of the Multicultural Greek Council, Ramos-Loeza goes above and beyond to promote partnerships between MGC and the Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic Council.

Collaborative Program of the Year
“Rape Culture: A Survivor’s Perspective”
Fraternity and Sorority Life and UNK Athletics

Nearly 1,000 students attended the Nov. 30 event featuring sexual assault survivor and violence prevention educator Brittany Piper, who uses her story of adversity, resilience and triumph to empower audiences and inspire them to take action in their lives and communities. Her presentation shines a spotlight on rape culture and helps individuals understand the role they play in either perpetuating or ending this cycle.

Emerging Young Professional Award
Jordan Schnell

A high achiever in academics and extracurricular activities, Schnell works in the UNK Center for Entrepreneurship and Rural Development, where she designs promotional materials and manages social media accounts. She is a past winner of the Big Idea Kearney competition, and she serves as vice president of the Cultivate student organization.

Student Organization Leader Award
Joseph Hiatt

As president of Phi Beta Lambda, also known as Professional Business Leaders, Hiatt has worked diligently to invest in the organization and restore its rich history. During the pandemic, he recruited new members and developed leadership programs.

Student Organization Adviser Award
Greg Benson

Benson gives students in the supply chain management program an opportunity to network with industry professionals, collaborate with businesses and complete internships prior to graduation.

Be the Difference Award Winners
Laura Ibarra Arreguin, Estrella Soto, Betsaida Dominguez and Samantha Martinez

The Division of Student Affairs implemented the Be the Difference curriculum more than a year ago as a comprehensive road map guiding students to experiential learning opportunities. Students are able to earn points for attending certain events, and these four earned at least 300 points over the past year.