LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas is recognizing 12 students with awards that honor community engagement, leadership and academics.
Eleven of the winners were notified they received 2019 University Awards when Office of Student Affairs leaders made the announcements in front of the students’ professors and peers in surprise visits to their classes. The 2019 Alderson Award winner, Harneet Sanghera, was told by Chancellor Douglas A. Girod and Tammara Durham, vice provost for student affairs, at an event in Washington, D.C., where Sanghera was working as an intern for U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids.
The University Awards, among the most prestigious awards presented at KU, were established to recognize students who embody service excellence, dedication or whose academic achievements are stellar. The winners will be honored at an awards reception May 18.
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.
Emily Boyd is a senior from Moran majoring in chemistry. Since January 2017, Boyd has been an undergraduate research assistant for James Blakemore, assistant professor of chemistry, and has synthesized, characterized and evaluated the reactivity of several analogues to a known inorganic catalyst for hydrogen evolution. As an undergraduate, she has garnered several scholarly publications and presentations, in addition to numerous scholarships and awards.
“I am very fortunate to have ended up in a research group that promotes undergrad independence with unique personal research projects,” Boyd said. “I've learned so much from the incredible grad students, professor, postdocs and other undergrads in the lab, as well as from the chemistry department as a whole, and it has been so rewarding to become a contributing member in that environment.”
Jonathan Bush is a KU senior from Leawood majoring in math, physics and astronomy. Bush’s experience at KU has been shaped by his leadership and involvement in KU Hillel and Delta Upsilon fraternity, by service as a teaching assistant in the Department of Math and by research experience with Professor Bozenna Pasik-Duncan in the mathematics subfield of stochastic control. This fall, Bush will begin working toward a doctorate in physics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to study extrasolar planets.
“KU has provided me a platform to explore the fundamental nature of our universe and has prepared me to take the next step toward becoming the scientist and teacher I dream of becoming,” Bush said. “Most importantly, I have garnered the tools to pass on a love for learning and the importance of the pursuit of knowledge to future generations. I am honored and humbled to represent my family, friends, teachers and advisers in accepting the Class of 1913 University Award."
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.
Harneet Sanghera is a senior from Olathe majoring in marketing and political science. She is part of the University Honors Program and the Business Honors Program, and she is a University Scholar. She has been president of Student Union Activities and of the Kansas Memorial Union Corporation Board, founded KU Community Conversations and worked as an intern for U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids through the KU D.C. Internship Program. Through her work for Kansas’ 3rd District lawmaker, Sanghera was able to work on the Antiquities Act and other bills that would protect animals and the environment.
“Working in the nation's capital during a time of such partisanship was an experience like no other,” Sanghera said. “Getting to witness the government during a shutdown and the implications it had on Americans was humbling and eye-opening to see how it affected so many people. I also had the chance to set up a freshman office and learned all the support and hands a congressional office needs to get up and running. My internship with the congresswoman was one of the most enriching experiences I had while I was at KU.”
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.
Connor Dougan is a senior from Topeka majoring in global & international studies and in women, gender & sexuality studies and minoring in history. Dougan's deep involvement at the university includes serving as executive director for KU volunteer program the Big Event, as a member of the Memorial Union Corporation Board, in leadership roles for Student Union Activities, as marketing director for the Board of Class Officers, and membership in Phi Alpha Theta and Iota Iota Iota honor societies. Dougan will be inducted into the Kansas Alpha chapter of Phi Beta Kappa honor society at commencement.
"Serving the KU community has been my greatest honor as a student, peer, mentor and friend," Dougan said. "Without the KU Memorial Unions and those who paved the way before me, I am hard pressed to say I would be able to stand in a room today with enough confidence and perseverance to lead the next generation. Service, humility and willingness to learn, from failure and success, are the core pillars of my identity that I hope I have been able to teach others in the KU and Lawrence communities. I am prideful for the work I have done, and I am prideful to represent my student body and university as an openly gay individual. I will never be able to give enough thanks to those who have accepted, invested and believed in me.”
Monica Martinez is a senior from Tecumseh majoring in American studies. Martinez set a goal her freshman year to get involved with something new each semester, leading to experiences as a student worker, volunteer and scholar. She became involved with the Multicultural Scholars Program and worked in the Office of the Provost. Her interest in college access, retention and success led her to become a Hawk Link guide for the Office of Multicultural Affairs, allowing her to share experiences with students who were potentially facing obstacles similar to those she encountered during her first year of college. That role led Martinez to a research project through the McNair Scholars Program that focused on the college experiences of Latinx student workers.
"KU gave me the opportunity to really explore my passions and engage with wonderful mentors that inspired me to accomplish and set big goals for myself," Martinez said. "Being involved helped make my college journey meaningful, and I know when I look back at my time at KU, I’ll know that it was time well-spent because I dedicated a lot of my energy engaging in activities that helped me grow and find a greater sense of purpose. Being an involved leader on this campus is my legacy, and I hope that my leadership has carved a path for other students to follow and find that same fulfillment through leadership and involvement that I had found 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.
Kathryn Ammon is a senior from Fort Worth, Texas, majoring in political science, history, and women, gender & sexuality studies. She is a 2019-2020 George J. Mitchell Scholar, headed to University College Dublin in Ireland for a master's degree in equality studies. At KU, she has been involved in Students United for Reproductive and Gender Equity, Colors of KU as a facilitator, KU Alternative Breaks, KU Student Senate, University Senate and the University Honors Program, as well as participating heavily in undergraduate research.
"As an academic and activist, I firmly believe my time at KU participating in research, internships and student organizations has helped me become the best organizer I can and give me skills I can take into future education and work positions," Ammon said. "But more importantly, my degree at KU has given me the skills to teach others on how protest and social agitation fits into American society and work toward a better future for us all.”
Rachel Atakpa is a senior from Derby majoring in English and minoring in Spanish. Atakpa is a McNair Scholar, editor-in-chief of the university's Undergraduate Research Journal for the Humanities, and she has many writing awards and publications to her name. Atakpa has been involved in working for the Academic Achievement & Access Center in the KU Writing Center and as a seminar assistant for the University Honors Program. Atakpa said that as a teacher, her pedagogy continues to be motived by a desire to open up space for people to learn and be themselves to their fullest capacity, to empower others to their talents as mapmakers whether they are artists, scholars, activists or caretakers.
"I believe that teaching — connecting people — is a way of making home no matter where you are, and I am appreciative to KU for illuminating the myriad ways that home can come into being," Atakpa said. “Neoliberal systems and institutions exploit and undervalue the labor and lived realities of marginalized people and, therein, enact a perpetual violence upon our bodies. During my time at KU I went into every space and opportunity with the intention of alleviating the burden of this violence, with the intention to make a way for people to stand in who they are without fear. I would not have been able endure and grow without the support from my community of poets, activists and scholars — my family. My life and labor extend from a love for them, for the people and for the Earth.”
Noah Ries is a senior from Leawood majoring in economics and minoring in business. This past year, he served as a member of the board of directors for the Kansas Memorial Union Corporation and the Kansas Athletics Board of Directors. His sophomore and junior years he held an executive role in Beta Theta Pi fraternity. As a member of Student Senate, he served as both director of internal affairs and director of policy and development. With an election with the highest voter turnout in KU history, Ries became student body president for the 2018-2019 academic year. Ries worked to develop centralized online reporting software for KU, implement anonymous group therapy software for survivors of interpersonal violence, increase funding for mental health, establish an on-campus food pantry, expand textbook affordability, bring students a free New York Times subscription and abolish parking tickets in student lots during finals weeks. In Topeka and Washington, D.C., Ries' team also advocated for prioritization of government funding for higher education.
"I'm so blessed to have been given the opportunity to learn and grow, both in and out of the classroom, at such a wonderful institution," Ries said. "The administrators, faculty, staff and fellow students I worked with in my time here have taught me so much, and I will take many of these lessons and values with me as I go on in my life. Even when I'm away from campus, though, I'll always remember that I'm a Jayhawk."
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.
Nellie Kassebaum is a senior from Burdick majoring in English. Kassebaum is a founding member and former vice president of the Beta Chi Chapter of Sigma Delta Tau. She also is a member of the University Honors Program and was an Ex.C.E.L. Award finalist. Kassebaum is co-director of Rise KU, a member of the Student Alumni Leadership Board and president of the Board of Class Officers. Her other involvement at the university has included serving as a member of Student Senate, director of KU Homecoming and a research assistant for Jonathan Lamb, associate professor of English.
"I have been lucky to work with individuals who support my goal to better the KU community with special hopes that students from disadvantaged backgrounds may have the opportunity to freely exist and thrive on this campus," Kassebaum said. "A breadth of unique experiences have given me access to the best resources KU has to offer; however, I recognize I would certainly not be here without greatly influential and kind people who I am lucky to call mentors, friends and family. I truly hope KU can grow into a place where all students are heard, not regardless of their background, but because their individuality and worth are seen as crucial to an engaging, honest and evolving community of Jayhawks."
The Kathryn Nemeth Tuttle Student Scholar Award
This award is presented to a graduating senior scholarship hall student. Recipients have demonstrated academic focus, leadership in the scholarship hall and also commitment to the KU and Lawrence communities.
Adam Hupp is a senior from Manhattan majoring in mechanical engineering. Since his freshman year, Hupp has lived in Krehbiel Scholarship Hall, where he is proctor. Previously, he was the hall's president, vice president and social chair. His other university involvement has included leading service projects in Bolivia and Uganda through Engineers Without Borders, serving as a leader for Called to Greatness Campus Ministries and organizing a voter registration campaign through the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics.
"The schol halls have been one of the defining elements of my college experience," Hupp said. "They are an amazing place to make friends, take on leadership roles and be part of something unique to KU. As a proctor at Krehbiel, I have loved helping connect new students to the KU community."
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.
Collin Cox is a senior from Neodesha, Kansas, and Alliance, Nebraska, majoring in public administration and in law & society and minoring in German studies. Cox has served as vice president of the Board of Class Officers and of the Student Alumni Leadership Board, as a leader in Student Union Activities, as an orientation assistant, as an undergraduate representative for the Department of German Studies and as an undergraduate research assistant for Associate Professor Shannon Portillo on the Socio-Legal Justice Project. Cox also worked as a student assistant in the offices of the Chancellor and Provost and in 2017 as a student intern for the city of Lawrence.
“KU is more than the hard work and fun — it is a part of our lives that lives with us forever,” Cox said. “There is nothing more rewarding than standing amongst a crowd of the thousands of fellow Jayhawks and alumni, interlocking arms and swaying to the chorus of our alma mater. It’s true when they say that the experiences we have and share here are endless and that the memories are lifelong. As a fellow Jayhawk, it is our honor to work together in lifting that chorus ever onwards.”
Zoya Khan is a senior from Overland Park majoring in political science and global & international studies and minoring in Middle Eastern studies and African & African American studies.
At KU, Khan found her "home" at the Office of Multicultural Affairs and the Muslim Student Association. She served as the association's president for two years, re-establishing relationships with multicultural organizations across campus, Muslim student groups across the state and university administrators. In 2018, Khan ran for student body president under the coalition Rise KU. When she and her running mate lost the election, Khan helped turn Rise KU into a student advocacy organization that she co-directs. With Rise KU, Khan helped implement the PERIOD Program, which provides free menstrual products in 50 restrooms across the Lawrence campus.
In 2018, Khan received the Rusty Leffel Concerned Student Award.
"My passion for student-led advocacy at the University of Kansas has been made possible through the work of my predecessors, support from my peers and hope for future Jayhawks like my sisters," Khan said. "I will be forever grateful for my time at KU, and I’m looking forward to staying involved as an engaged alumna who is always available to folks who are ready to do the work."