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KU recognizes 12 students with prestigious 2018 University Awards

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas is recognizing 12 students with awards that honor community engagement, leadership and academics.

Students were notified they received 2018 University Awards when the “prize patrol” showed up in their classes after spring break. Office of Student Affairs leaders made the announcements in front of the winners’ professors and peers. 

The University Awards are among the most prestigious awards presented at KU. These awards were established to recognize students who embody service excellence, dedication or whose academic achievements are stellar.

The students also will be recognized at an awards reception May 12.

Class of 1913 Awards

These annual awards go to two graduating students who show evidence of intelligence, devotion to studies, personal character and promise of usefulness to society.

Kaitlyn Johnson is a senior from Lawrence majoring in four disciplines: Russian, East European & Eurasian studies; global & international studies; political science; and Slavic languages & literatures.

In 2016, she went to St. Petersburg to study Russian history, Russian society and intensive Russian language. 

Johnson’s involvement at KU encompasses Omega Phi Alpha Service Sorority, the KU Undergraduate Research Journal for the Humanities, KU Marching Jayhawks and Jayhawks Without Borders. She has more than 20 publications to her name, including those that used Russian- and Ukrainian-language sources.

Taylor Zabel is a senior in biochemistry from Smith Center. He is a 2017 Harry S. Truman Scholar and as a sophomore was named a Kansas Idea Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (K-INBRE) scholar. At KU, Zabel spent two years as a research assistant in the KU Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering Research Laboratory, and in summer 2016 he was a research assistant at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. 

Zabel has served the university on committees and task forces tackling topics like tuition, student fees, and diversity, equity and inclusion. After earning a medical degree, Zabel plans to serve his hometown community and continue advocating for rural health and sustainability.

Zabel said that his work on the Counseling and Psychological Services Student Advisory Board was one of the most fulfilling committees he served on during his collegiate career.

“Counseling and psychological services are a desperately needed option for college students as they transition into adulthood, and many are left with few — if any — options outside of campus,” he said. “Although there will always be a push for expansion of services as awareness and demand for CAPS increases, I was pleased to be a member of a group that advocated for and received a nearly $500,000 revenue increase to hire additional mental health professionals. 

“We also finalized an agreement with Bert Nash, the mental health facility serving Lawrence and the surrounding communities, which allows KU students to pay a reduced rate for services in an effort to provide options and accessibility to mental health services off campus. Dr. Michael Maestas, the director of CAPS, has been an exceptional adviser for me, and his dedication to the KU community has shown me the true value of public service.”

The Donald K. Alderson Memorial Award

The award goes to a graduating senior who has demonstrated loyalty to and interest in the university and who has been active in events and services that benefit other students. This award was established in memory of Alderson, former dean of men and dean of student services.

Garrett Farlow is a senior from Tecumseh majoring in journalism, political science and Slavic languages & literatures. He is a member of the U.S. Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps to be commissioned in May as an active duty second lieutenant, U.S. Army Aviation. 

Farlow has spent each summer learning Russian, traveling to three former Soviet Republics. At KU, Farlow involved himself in university governance and multiple boards representing the university, from Recreation Services to the Student Safety Advisory Board. 

“Being involved in various roles in student governance at KU and serving my peers is something that has shaped me as a person,” Farlow said. “I’ve been blessed to have worked with administrators and fellow students to help contribute solutions for sexual assault and suicide, as well as infrastructure projects to make KU a safer community to learn and thrive. As a first-generation student, I worked to empower other first-generation students to pursue their passions."

The Alexis F. Dillard Student Involvement Award

This award goes to two graduating students who have unselfishly contributed to the university through campus involvement. It was established in 1993 by Dillard’s family and friends to remember and honor him.

Tyler Allen is a senior from Denver majoring in African-American studies. She is a Ronald E. McNair Scholar who has also served in leadership roles on the KU National Pan-Hellenic Council, Black Student Union’s Freshman Action Team and the Omega Theta chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc. 

As an undergraduate, Allen has conducted research on the influence that hip-hop culture and music has had on the African-American community. Allen also kick-started a "Divine 9 Plaza" project to give National Pan-Hellenic Council organizations permanent landmarks on campus. With this, she has also created an interdisciplinary master’s program in African-American studies and museum studies to allow her to focus on how diverse art forms can contribute in secondary educational spaces.

Allen hopes she has given students the courage to explore their interests and stand strong in the histories and people they come from. 

"As a first-generation college student of color from a single-parent home, I am really big on defying all odds and fighting any obstacles put against you,” she said. “Hopefully my work encourages other student leaders who will serve the KU community."

Tammy Nguyen is a chemical engineering major from Russell. Nguyen is president of Engineering Student Council and a member of the SELF Engineering Leadership Fellows Program. She recruits prospective students as an engineering ambassador and actively participates in STEM outreach in the Lawrence and Greater Kansas City areas.

“I’ve placed a strong emphasis in the community I’m a part of within the School of Engineering at the University of Kansas,” Nguyen said. “Serving as the president of Engineering Student Council has been an incredible experience to actively support and empower my peers to take active roles within student organizations, represent KU at national competitions and participate in STEM outreach to inspire the next generation of engineers. 

“I wanted to give back to the community of students and mentors that have positively impacted my career and success. I hope to continue to reach out to my fellow engineers and play an active role as an alumna. My heart will forever bleed crimson and blue, and I am so grateful for the experiences I have had during my time at KU.” 

The Rusty Leffel Concerned Student Awards

This award annually goes to students who demonstrate a concern for furthering the ideals of the university and higher education. The award was established by a group of seniors in 1973 to honor their fellow student, Leffel.

Mercedes Bounthapanya is a senior in mathematics from Emporia. Bounthapanya has served her KU peers as a Kansas Algebra Program teaching assistant, as a peer adviser for the Undergraduate Advising Center and as a peer educator for the Office of Multicultural Affairs. 

She spearheaded KU’s charter for the Alpha Mu charter of Sigma Psi Zeta Sorority Inc. and also served as the first-ever treasurer for the newly established Multicultural Student Government.

“In this role, I utilize my platform to further support and advocate for marginalized identities while also inspiring and leading others to fight for liberation,” Bounthapanya said. “I am constantly reminded that as students we play a critical role at this university. We have influence, and we have a platform to voice concerns, and we should be able to demand the most out of our education. It is our job to criticize and scrutinize the institution when we don’t feel safe enough in our learning spaces, especially when we as marginalized folks aren’t adequately equipped with resources to academically succeed.”

Zoya Khan is a junior from Overland Park majoring in political science and in global & international studies. She received a KU Ex.C.E.L. Award in 2017.

Khan’s involvement at KU includes leadership roles with the Muslim Student Association, of which she is president, and university governance, where she is chair of the Student Senate Multicultural Affairs Committee and a student senator on University Senate and Student Executive Committee. She also serves on the Dole Institute of Politics Student Advisory Board and is a community liaison for KU Students for Refugees.

“I truly believe that it is the obligation of every person to advocate for and within their community,” Khan said. “The University of Kansas is my community, and so I take the opinions voiced by students and experiences of fellow students very seriously and as a personal responsibility to address.”

Danielle London is a senior from Leawood majoring in global & international studies and in humanities. Her involvement at KU spans groups like Students United for Reproductive and Gender Equity, Jayhawk Friends Exchange, Model UN, KU Interfaith Alliance and Global Partners. 

London studied in Costa Rica with Grupo de Kansas for six months in 2017, and last fall she edited the Undergraduate Research Journal for the Humanities. Among the ways she has served her peers are as an orientation assistant, Hawk Week leader and peer social justice educator through the Office of Multicultural Affairs.

“Working at the Office of Multicultural Affairs has enabled me to give countless presentations on social justice, cultural competency and inclusive language,” London said. “This experience is particularly meaningful because it allowed me to not only address a gap in education students often do not receive in the classroom, but it also allowed me to help fellow Jayhawks access the tools needed to build more equitable spaces across an often exclusive campus.”

The Caryl K. Smith Student Leader Award

This award goes to a graduating fraternity or sorority member who has demonstrated commitment to the local chapter, the KU greek community, the university and the Lawrence community. It was established in 1993 to honor Smith, a former dean of student life.

Maggie Keenan is a senior from Leawood majoring in visual arts, English and history of art. She was president of the Omega chapter of Kappa Kappa Gamma from 2016-2017.

Through that role she took part in Safe Zone training, participated on a diversity and inclusion task force and attended the 2016 International Kappa Convention. She also helped maintain ties between Student Involvement & Leadership officers and board members.

“Being the last person in my family of three generations of KU greek life is what influenced me to join the Panhellenic community as a freshman,” Keenan said. “Since then, I've been introduced to a multitude of opportunities and have loved seeing the organizations' force for good. I especially saw this in participation of the annual Rock Chalk Revue fundraising performance. 

“My involvement within the sorority taught me lessons I couldn't learn anywhere else, and winning Chapter of the Year affirmed all this. I am extremely grateful for this (Smith) award and to my parents for the values they instilled in me.”

The Kathryn Nemeth Tuttle Student Scholar Award 

This award is presented to a graduating senior scholarship hall student currently residing in a scholarship hall. Recipients have demonstrated academic focus, leadership in the scholarship hall and also commitment to the KU and Lawrence communities.

Katherine Bandle is a senior in general studies in liberal arts and sciences from Lawrence. Bandle has been a resident of Rieger Scholarship Hall since her freshman year.

She has served on the judicial board, as secretary and treasurer on the executive board, on the selections committee and as food board manager. Through Rieger, Bandle has volunteered with local resources for people and pets. 

"The scholarship halls have had the single largest impact on my time here at the University of Kansas,” Bandle said. “My four years living in Rieger have helped me grow into a better leader, student and friend.

"I will forever cherish being able to call Rieger my home-away-from-home and firmly believe that living and working in the scholarship halls has prepared me for my next step in life, whatever that may be." 

The Agnes Wright Strickland Awards

These awards were established in 1953 in memory of Strickland, a member of the Class of 1887. They go annually to graduating seniors in recognition of their academic records, demonstrated leadership in matters of university concern, respect among fellow students and indications of future dedication to service in the university.

Sana Cheema is a senior in biology from Hays and a KU Ex.C.E.L. Award winner. Since Cheema was a freshman, she has been part of the Student Alumni Leadership Board, where she’s worked to diversify the membership and increase KU student participation in the Student Alumni Network.

In addition to serving in leadership roles for Mortar Board and the KU Pre-Medical Society, Cheema started a new organization, KU Friends of Pakistan. The group’s mission is to facilitate learning of Pakistani culture, history, heritage and its people.

“KU has done so much for me, and I want to give back to this great university as an alumna,” Cheema said. “I hope to serve KU by being involved in the KU Alumni Association. As part of the Student Alumni Leadership Board, I have seen firsthand what the alumni do for KU and how their involvement can have positive impacts on students. I also hope to serve by being a mentor to students interested in medicine and leadership.”

Justin Kim is a senior in from Derby majoring in anthropology and visual art. He is president of the Student Alumni Leadership Board and has seen the number of activated Student Alumni Network members double.

From 2016-2017 he was vice president of membership for the organization. Kim’s involvement at KU has also included working as an orientation assistant and as the student assistant to the Office of the Chancellor.

He has served as the intern for the Kansas Union Gallery and president of KU Young Democrats.

“As an alumnus I plan to continue to invest in this university as an active member of the alumni community and mentor to fellow Jayhawks interested in bringing about change in their communities,” Kim said.