Nester Leadership Award presented to six UNK seniors

KEARNEY – The University of Nebraska at Kearney is recognizing six students with the Mary Jane and William R. Nester Student Leadership Award.

Established by former UNK Chancellor William R. Nester and his wife Mary Jane, the award honors outstanding seniors who have excelled academically and demonstrated exemplary service, character and leadership during their UNK undergraduate careers.

This year’s honorees are:

Melisa Becerra-Gonzalez of Bucaramanga, Colombia, graduates this summer with a bachelor’s degree in political science and minors in global peace and security and women’s and gender studies. She plans to pursue a doctorate in political science.

Becerra-Gonzalez served as president of Women Are Problematic, a student organization that focuses on women’s rights and female empowerment. She’s also a captain on the UNK women’s tennis team.

Becerra-Gonzalez earned numerous athletic and academic honors from the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association and Intercollegiate Tennis Association and was recently named UNK Female Student-Athlete of the Year.

Ethan Ciancio of Fullerton was part of the pre-radiologic technology program at UNK. He’ll attend the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Kearney to earn a degree in radiologic technology.

Ciancio was involved in the UNK Honors Program, Chancellor’s Ambassadors, Residence Hall Association and Loper Programming and Activities Council. He also served as a New Student Enrollment leader and student body vice president.

The 2023 homecoming king, Ciancio worked for UNK Campus Recreation. He received the Kristen Nelson Outstanding Service in LPAC Award and Dean’s Academic Excellence Award.

Emily Hall of Columbus graduates this week with a bachelor’s degree in business administration with an accounting emphasis and a marketing and management minor. She’ll work as an audit associate at Eide Bailly in Omaha while studying for the CPA exam.

Hall was involved in the UNK Honors Program, Student Government, Chancellor’s Ambassadors, Loper Programming and Activities Council, Circle K, Gamma Phi Beta sorority and Order of Omega honor society. She also served on the Panhellenic Council.

A dean’s list honoree, Hall received the Nebraska Society of Certified Public Accountants Scholarship, College of Business and Technology Alumni Scholarship for Outstanding Upperclassmen and Kempf Family G-Phi Scholarship. She was named a Fraternity and Sorority Outstanding Member and College of Business and Technology Outstanding Graduate.

Jacob Howe of York is studying elementary and special education. He’ll graduate in spring 2025 with plans to teach in Nebraska.

Howe has been involved in the UNK Honors Program, Student Government, Elementary Educators Club, Special Olympics, American Democracy Project, Community Council and Teacher Scholars Academy. He also serves as a student representative on the General Studies Council and Faculty Senate Student Affairs Committee.

A dean’s list honoree, he received the Neva Nielsen Elementary Education Scholarship, Jean and Richard Rawson Honors Scholarship and Alumni Association Scholarship.

Kenny Mitchell of Norfolk graduates this week with a bachelor’s degree in 7-12 language arts education and a minor in creative writing. He’ll attend Indiana University to pursue a master’s degree in creative writing.

Mitchell was involved in the UNK Honors Program, Teacher Scholars Academy, undergraduate research, Sigma Tau Delta honor society, Secondary Educators Club and American Democracy Project. He also served as a resident assistant, writing tutor and Writing Center student coordinator in the UNK Learning Commons, editor of The Carillon literary magazine and student representative for the College of Education.

Mitchell received the Rawson Honors Scholarship, Lavern Clark Memorial Scholarship, Joseph Bowes Scholarship, Fritton Family Scholarship, Humbert G. and Cora Austin Stout Scholarship, Paul and Clarice Reynolds Scholarship, Calvin T. Ryan Memorial Scholarship, Nancy Jack Memorial Scholarship, Don Duryea Memorial Scholarship and Dr. Kenneth W. Nikels Scholarship. He won the Wagner Family Writing Award, UNK Language Arts Research Award and UNK Student Language and Literature Conference awards for experimental fiction, fiction writing and best undergraduate research paper.

Megan Wallman of Syracuse graduates this week with bachelor’s degrees in health sciences and business administration. She will be enrolled at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and University of Nebraska at Omaha this fall in a dual master’s program, pursuing a master’s in public health and master’s in business administration.

Wallman was involved in the UNK Honors Program, Chancellor’s Ambassadors, Future Business Leaders of America Collegiate, Alpha Phi sorority and Mortar Board, Order of Omega and Phi Eta Sigma honor societies. She served as a New Student Enrollment leader and was a Public Health Early Admissions Student Track Scholar and Ron and Carol Cope Leadership Program Scholar.

A dean’s list honoree, Wallman participated in the National Student Exchange with Bridgewater State University, completed an internship with the Nebraska Future Business Leaders of America and worked at Schrock Medical Clinic in Kearney and Linden View Assisted Living in Syracuse. She received the UNK Alumni Association Outstanding Senior Award.