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Student Government President Karina Toy (left) presents the Outstanding New Organization Award to UR-STEM founders Paola Meza, Yuliana Lopez, and Jessica Gutierrez at the May 3 student leadership awards ceremony.

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College Honors Students, Organizations for Leadership

May 16, 2017

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – Twenty-four Middlebury College undergraduates and the members of four student organizations received awards at the 2017 Student Leadership Awards Ceremony held on May 3 in Atwater Dining Hall.

President Laurie L. Patton greeted the gathering of Middlebury students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members, and said the undergraduates nominated for awards this year embody the values that Middlebury strives to imbue in its students. “You are the manifestation of our mission to be an institution where students not only receive a thoughtful education, but where they can and should become world citizens,” she added.

Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of the College Katy Smith Abbott served as master of ceremonies, and pointed out that the public service recognition program at Middlebury is now in its 24th year – “a legacy that speaks to both Middlebury’s belief that learning is not confined to the classroom alone, and that a commitment to the greater good is one worth striving for all the time.”

The evening’s awards were presented in three categories: Dean of the College Awards, Joint Dean of the College and Student Government Association Awards, and Student Government Association Awards.

Dean of the College Awards

The Angels Award for a sophomore woman of color who demonstrates leadership, scholarship, and activism was presented to Nia Robinson ’19 by Jennifer Ortega ’18, last year’s recipient of the award, and by Jennifer Herrera, the associate director of the Anderson Freeman Resource Center. Robinson, who shows “tenacious dedication to justice” at every turn, is active in the Black Student Union, Community Judicial Board, Anderson Freeman Resource Center, Chellis House, Verbal Onslaught, and the Oratory Society. The award is given in memory of four women of color from the Class of 2003: Anisa Gamble, Tiffany Holmes, Maika Prewitt, and Iniko Johnson.

The Barbara J. Buchanan ’62 Memorial Prize for a senior woman who represents Buchanan’s academic excellence and her ideal of service was presented to Jessica Gutierrez ’17 and Jiya Pandya ’17 by Dean of the College Smith Abbott. Gutierrez is a leading force behind Juntos, the student group that works in solidarity beside migrant farm workers, and was a founding member of UR-STEM. Pandya is a MiddSafe advocate, a member of JusTalks, and a leader in the Advisory Group on Disability, Access, and Inclusion.

The Carri A. Smith ’98 Award for Outstanding Intercommons Council Member, which goes to a student who exemplifies the ideals of the commons system, a passion for the College, and a commitment to student life, was presented by Ross Commons Dean Emily Van Mistri and by Professor Roman Graf, the Brainerd Commons faculty head. The recipients were Maddy Dickinson ’18 and Jeremy Stratton-Smith ’17. Dickinson, of Brainerd Commons, hosts Commons House gatherings, manages Friday coffeehouse hours, and serves on the Intercommons Council. Stratton-Smith, a Ross Commons first-year counselor, was saluted for going “outside his comfort zone to reach out to students who felt excluded and were struggling by applying his gentle humor, collaborative skills, and astute perceptions.”

The Interfaith Cooperation Award of the Charles P. Scott Center for Spiritual and Religious Life was presented by Associate Chaplains Naila Baloch, Ira Schiffer, and Beau Scurich to the members of Hillel and the Muslim Student Association. Representing the organizations were Mehek Naqvi ’19, Gardha Ramadhito ’19, Sarah Dohan ’17, and Josh Goldenberg ’18. The award recognizes students who actively promote and facilitate interfaith understanding, communication, or programming. In 2016-17 the members of Hillel and the MSA attended each other’s religious observances and stood together in opposition of the proposed Muslim ban.

The Religious Life Innovation Award of the Charles P. Scott Center for Spiritual and Religious Life was presented by Dean of Spiritual and Religious Life Mark Orten to Matthew Blake ’17 for his “quiet, strategic contributions” to the religious and spiritual life of the campus. Blake edited a collection of Christian poetry for a periodical called The Vine, and produced a series of audio interviews with students across a wide range of religious backgrounds.  

The Spiritual Life Leadership Award of the Charles P. Scott Center for Spiritual and Religious Life was presented to Jeremy Stratton-Smith ’17. The annual award, which was presented by Chaplain Laurel Macaulay Jordan’79, is granted to a student who advances the spiritual lives of others on campus and supports the spiritual journey of peers. The recipient was the student coordinator of the Religious Life Cluster Board.

The First-Year Achievement Prize for academic excellence and the ability to relate well to others was presented to Mikayla Hyman ’20 by Dean Smith Abbott in recognition of Hyman’s organizing of MiddROC, the Middlebury Refugees Outreach Club. 

The Peter Kohn Service Award goes to a student-athlete who “best exemplifies the spirit of community and service” as demonstrated by the late Peter Kohn, who served as a manager for Middlebury athletics for over 20 years. Presented by Director of Athletics Erin Quinn, the recipient of the award was Matt St. Amour ’17 for his work with youth basketball, the Student Athletic Advisory Committee, Relay for Life, and the Green Dot program.

Public Service Leadership Awards (PSLA) were presented by Tiffany Nourse Sargent ’79, director of community engagement, and Patrick Durkin ’79, the alumnus who started the PSLA program at Middlebury in 1994 and has provided financial support to sustain it ever since. Thanks to the Durkin Fund, each recipient of a PSLA receives $300 to use as a donation to the nonprofit organization of his or her choosing.

Alumnus Durkin could not attend the ceremony, but he sent a message to the award recipients that was read to the audience. He said, in part: “Through your collective work in promoting public service, you have lifted the purpose and impact of Middlebury…There is no greater good that we can do while at Middlebury and throughout our lives than to help strengthen our communities and others.”

The John M. McCardell Jr. Public Service Award goes to a student whose efforts bring the College and the Town of Middlebury closer together. For 2017, the award was presented to Kyler Kuruc Blodgett ’17 for his volunteerism with Brother to Brother, Community Friends, United Way of Addison County, and Language in Motion.

The Bonnie McCardell Public Service Award is presented to a student for excellence in outreach in literacy, youth and family services, or the special needs of at-risk youngsters. The award was presented to Chelsea Lynn Colby ’17.5 for her service as president of Nutritional Outreach and Mentoring, a student organization that partnered with local elementary schools, a Middlebury children’s center, a countywide agency on hunger, and the Vermont Department of Health.

The Dana Morosini Reeve ’84 Memorial Public Service Award is bestowed to a student who demonstrates spirit and determination from the heart that has far-reaching and effective public service. The 2017 recipient was Jessica Gutierrez ’17 for her leadership in connecting with migrant workers in the Middlebury area and for her migrant justice efforts in the region. Will Reeve ’14, the son of the late Dana Morosini Reeve and Christopher Reeve, could not attend the ceremony, but sent the following message: “It is fulfilling to know that the work each of you does has a night to be celebrated, and that my mother’s legacy endures. Her spirit of compassion, commitment, and care for others lives on in each of you.” The presenter, Tiffany Sargent, acknowledged Anne Rowell Noble ’78 for funding the award.

For exemplary service to the community, six additional Public Service Leadership Awards were extended to students. The recipients were: the Middlebury Men’s Rugby Club for its members’ service to the Charter House Coalition; Ariana Christina Mills ’17 for her volunteerism with the surgical services department at Porter Medical Center; and Elizabeth Siyuan Lee ’17 for her “dedication, activism, and leadership around the political engagement of her peers” on the Middlebury campus.

Also receiving Public Service Leadership Awards were: Matt St. Amour ’17 for his commitment to the Green Dot program, the Student Athlete Advisory Committee, youth basketball, and Relay for Life; Nathalia Gonzalez ’17 for her leadership on the alternative spring break trip to Guatemala and her work with MiddSafe, the Parent/Child Center, and Community Friends; and Roger Winters ’17 for his service to the Charter House Coalition and for being the first Middlebury student elected to the shelter’s board of directors.

President Patton stepped forward to present the Newman Civic Fellows Award, given in memory of the founder of Campus Compact, Frank J. Newman. The award exemplifies Dr. Newman’s passionate advocacy for civic engagement in higher education, and the 2017 honor was extended to Sergio Núñez-Xoconoxtle ’18 for being an active member of Juntos and for co-creating the Juntos-Community Friends partnership. “Sergio inspires members of our community,” the president said. “He merits recognition for driving social change forward in a way that brings marginalized people into the conversation and process as valuable and valued partners.”

The Alexander Twilight 1823 Diversity and Community Leadership Award was presented to Jeremy Stratton-Smith ’17 for his full range of public service activities with the organizations JusTalks, Q&A, and Gather, and for his “tireless” work on the Advisory Group on Disability, Access, and Inclusion. Roberto Lint Sagareña, associate professor and director of the Center for the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity and the Anderson Freeman Resource Center, presented the award.

The Franklin G. Williams 1913 and Sarah H. Williams 1912 Memorial Award was presented to Zorica Radanovic ’19 by Dean Smith Abbott. It is awarded to a sophomore on the basis of natural kindness, perceptivity to the needs of others, and an abiding sense of personal responsibility. “Thoughtful, compassionate, and sincere,” Radanovic was a MAlt trip leader, Commons Council tri-chair, and member of the Ross Commons Residential Life Team.

Joint Dean of the College and Student Government Association (SGA) Awards

The Outstanding Campus Leader Award recognizes a junior or senior for innovation, motivation, initiative, and perseverance. The 2017 recipient was Akhila Khanna ’17 as the founder and co-leader of Midd Mastri, the South Asian dance company. Dean Smith Abbott presented the award and said, “Akhila has a gift for making dance accessible to anyone and for recognizing talent and leadership ability in others. She took the time to train first-year students so they can build on the foundation of Midd Maastri after she graduates.”

The Extraordinary Emerging Leader Award is presented annually to a first-year or a sophomore for organizing events and activities, and for improving the Middlebury community. Presented by Karina Toy, the president of SGA, the recipient was Ricardo Rosales-Mesta ’19 for his critical role in coordinating Juntos’ efforts to provide warm winter clothing to migrant farmworkers in Addison County.

Student Government Association (SGA) Awards

The Baumgarten ’98 and Udzenija ’99 SGA Memorial Award honors a sophomore who personifies academic achievement, the passion for learning, compassion for others, and involvement in student activities. The recipient was Adam Fisher ’19 for his work as a Ross Commons resident advisor, as a Brother-to-Brother board member, as a performer at 51 Main, and for his service to the Honor Code Review Committee. The SGA president, Karina Toy, presented this and the four other SGA-specific awards that followed.

The Extraordinary Initiative Award recognizes an exceptional program, cultural event, guest speaker, or production that is conceived and carried out by a student or students. The 2017 honoree was the 2/2 Rally of Solidarity that provided students and community members with an event to show their solidarity in opposition to the discriminatory and controversial executive order establishing a travel ban.

The Outstanding Leader of a Student Organization Award is presented each year to a student who has brought honor to a student organization through his or her leadership and selflessness. This year’s recipient was Rachael Morris ’17 for her efforts to make The Mill as inclusive a social space as possible. One of her nominators praised Rachael’s “creativity, ability to listen and enhance the ideas of others, and willingness to go the extra mile” for her social house.

The Outstanding New Organization Award goes to a newly formed, SGA-recognized campus group that addresses a need or community issue that had not previously been supported. The 2017 recipient was UR-STEM, an organization committed to ensuring that people of color and marginalized groups have equal access to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

The Outstanding Overall Achievement Award recognizes one organization for sustained contributions to the campus and student life. This year’s recipient was the Middlebury College Access Mentors, or MiddCAM, for its work with Middlebury Union High School students engaged in the college selection and application process.

In closing Dean Smith Abbott thanked the faculty, staff, and community partners who work tirelessly to support Middlebury students in their leadership development, and to the award recipients she said: “We are so proud to know you and so grateful for all that you do.”

Reporting by Robert Keren, Photos by Trent Campbell

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