Student leaders were honored Wednesday, April 20 at the University of New Orleans during the 31st annual Leadership Recognition Ceremony, hosted by the Office of Student Involvement and Leadership and sponsored by the Student Government Association. More than 90 student leaders from various organizations and departments were recognized for their contributions to the improvement of campus life.
Leadership Cabinet member Keydra Jones served as master of ceremonies for the event. Student Government President Joy Ballard welcomed attendees and President John Nicklow delivered opening remarks prior to a video presentation highlighting campus activities over the school year. The video was created by Leadership Cabinet member Ashraya Upadhyaya.
Some of the ceremony’s most coveted accolades included the awards for Student Leader for Community Service, Outstanding Event of the Year, Organization President of the Year, Advisor of the Year and Organization of the Year. Other distinguished conferrals were scholarships from the UNO Ambassadors and the Edgar E. Burks Memorial Award, which is the most prestigious student leadership award on the campus.
Edgar E. Burks Memorial Award
The Edgar E. Burks Memorial Award is the leadership award presented by the Office of Student Affairs. Students are nominated for this top honor by faculty and administrators. A selection committee reviews all nominations and selects a winner based on leadership ability, contributions to campus and community, letters of recommendations and grade point average. According to Dean of Student Affairs Brett Kemker, selection was very competitive among this year’s nominees. After much deliberation, Bridgette Blunt emerged as the winner.
“This award recipient has been on multiple sides of the involvement spectrum on campus. She was an emerging leader from January 2013 to May 2013. In spring 2013, she was accepted as a member to Leadership Cabinet and later served as its co-president. For the last two years, she has also served as president of the UNO Ambassadors. She has displayed outstanding leadership to the UNO community,” Kemker said as he presented the award to Blunt.
“Tonight we thank you for leadership and outstanding presence here at UNO. Your dedication has truly left an impact on the University,” he added as she accepted the honor.
This year’s nominees included Michelle Butcher, August Darbonne, Derreck Deason, Christina Early, Vantonio Hall and Lorvelis Amelia Madueno.
Student Leader for Community Service Award
The Dr. Polly Guthrie Community Service Award is sponsored by the League of Women Voters of New Orleans and recognizes outstanding volunteerism in the community with a $1,000 scholarship. The winner, Derreck Blake Deason, demonstrated a commitment to community service through nearly 1,400 hours of volunteer work for community organizations such as the Port of New Orleans, Habitat for Humanity and WhoData. Other nominees for this award included Jeanne Bankston, Michelle Butcher, Courtney Davies, Devin Gaeta, Kelsey Gooch, Amanda McGilvray, Timothy Piglia and Shawn Waltz.
Outstanding Event of the Year Award
The Outstanding Event of the Year Award was established to recognize the most defining event of the year and to highlight organizations which have helped to create a higher standard for student life at the University. As he presented the award to the winning organization, Kemker noted that the winning event required six months of preparation and extensive external fundraising.
“The UNO Genshiken Anime Club’s Test of Courage event turned the wooded area next to the Fine Arts building into a local haunted adventure and breathed life into a previously unused area of campus,” Kemker said.
Other events nominated for this award and their sponsoring organizations were New Initiate Presentation by Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.; Take Flight with International Night by the International Student Organization; Rumba Party by the Latin American Student Association; the Annual Fall Fashion Show by the Progressive Black Student Union; MLK Day of Service by the UNO Service Coalition; Einstein Week 2016 by the Society of Physics Students; SUCbAUF by the Student Activities Council; Powderpuff Football by Theta Xi Fraternity; Rent-A-Puppy by the Transfer Student Organization; Swampball by the UNO Ambassadors and Clean the Campus by the UNO Honors Student Council.
Organization President of the Year Award
The Organization President of the Year Award was created at the request of student leaders with the intent to recognize an organization president's outstanding service. According to Kemker, winner Arlette Murillo of the Latin American Student Association was chosen because she was able to galvanize an important cultural organization on campus and inspire new pride in its members.
Other nominees and their organizations included: Bridgette Blunt, UNO Ambassadors; Michelle Butcher, UNO Honors Student Council; Allyson Daily, Unity; Hue Danh, Alpha Lambda Delta First Year Honor Society; August Darbonne, National Pan-Hellenic Council; Kayla Demma, American Hotel and Lodging Association UNO Chapter; Cameron Dupuy, Lambda Chi Alpha; Chris Lauer, Chi Sigma Iota; Tyler LeBlanc, Theta Xi Fraternity; Raphael Mariano, UNO Genshiken Anime Club; Brook McNeely, Omicron Delta Kappa National Leadership Honor Society; Meara McNitt, Alpha Xi Delta Sorority; John Metzler, Beta Alpha Psi; Reem Rimawi, Students for Justice in Palestine at the University of New Orleans; Justin Smith, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.; Andrew Stark, UNO Robotics Club; Ladajah Steele, Student Activities Council; Vilma Annette Perez Villatoro, Service Coalition and Nigel Washington, Driftwood Student Newspaper.
Adviser of the Year Award
Advisers play an essential role in the success of student organizations. They serve as mentors, team builders, conflict mediators, reflective agents, motivators and educators. The 2016 Adviser of the Year award went to Barbara Herlihy of Chi Sigma Iota. Herlihy is a professor in UNO’s College of Education and Human Development.
“The award recipient has the unique ability to cultivate leadership,” Kemker said as he introduced Herlihy.
“No matter what arena, she always takes the opportunity to reach back and pull one of her colleagues, students or mentees along for the ride. She amazes others with her style of leadership and how she cultivates it in others,” he added.
The other nominees for this award were Sarah Berry, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.; Mohammad Kabir Hassan, Bangladesh Student Association; Joyce Lambert, National Association of Black Accountants; Christine Ikeda, Society of Women Engineers; Marla Nelson, Crescent City Shapers; Alice Popescu, International Student Organization; Kristen Punch, Alpha Xi Delta and LeeAnne Sipe, Student Activities Council.
Organization of the Year Award
UNO students have ample opportunities to explore their interests with more than 125 student organizations on campus. These organizations range from professional, social, diversity-oriented, political, honorary, service, activist and special interests. Each one helps to enhance the spirit and community students experience during their time here. As Kemker presented the award to the Latin American Student Association, he noted one of the organization’s distinguishing characteristics.
“They have given all in the UNO community the opportunity to see and experience their culture from a different, more humanistic point of view,” Kemker said.
Other nominees for Organization of the Year were Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.; Alpha Xi Delta Sorority; Association of Computing Machinery – Women’s Chapter; Beta Alpha Psi – Gamma Sigma Chapter; Chakra Indian Student Association; Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship; Crescent City Shapers; Delta Zeta Sorority; Latin American Student Association; National Pan-Hellenic Council; National Society of Black Engineers; Nepalese Student Association of New Orleans; Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc.; Student Activities Council; Students For Justice in Palestine at the University of New Orleans; Unity; UNO Ambassadors and the UNO Pre-Dental Society.