LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas has awarded 13 students with honors that recognize community engagement, leadership and academics.
The winners of the Campanile Award and 12 University Awards are usually lauded at a celebration the weekend of Commencement. Because the 2020 in-person event is postponed, the winners will be recognized in person at a later date.
Issued by the Board of Class Officers, the Campanile Award is given to a single graduating senior who has displayed remarkable leadership, character and respect for KU.
This year’s Campanile Award went to Kara Fort, a senior from Leavenworth majoring in communication studies and political science.
Fort said that when she came to KU, she could not imagine the opportunities she would encounter, whether internships, research, leadership positions or volunteer service.
“My successes would not have been possible without an incredible and unmatched network of professors, mentors and advisers who cared not only about me as a scholar but as a person,” Fort said. “It is heartbreaking to leave a campus that feels like home, from Allen Fieldhouse to the subbasement of Bailey Hall, but I know that wherever I may end up in life, I will always be able to count on calling out ‘Rock Chalk’ and hearing ‘Jayhawk’ in response."
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.
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.
Haley Cooper is a senior from Wichita majoring in psychology. She said she reflects on her undergraduate experience with a sense of pride and feelings of gratitude.
“My family, friends and mentors have gone above and beyond to support me, advocate for me and encourage me along my professional and personal journey,” Cooper said. “I am dedicated to pouring back into the communities that have so kindly and generously poured into me. I hope that this dedication has shined through my work at KU and will continue to shine through my future pursuits as a community health psychologist.”
Sam Steuart is a senior from Topeka majoring in American studies and biochemistry.
He said he is honored to be acknowledged as a scholar by KU but also recognizes his education as a privilege.
"I’ve always believed that a person’s intelligence is only as valuable as their dedication to translating it into something beneficial for their community,” Steuart said.
“To be educated is to be responsible for the dissemination of what you’ve learned; therefore, I am so grateful to have received such an incredible education because I feel equipped to transform my community throughout my career, and I could never thank my educators enough for that.”
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.
Raul Saenz is a senior from Kansas City, Kansas, majoring in ecology, evolution & organismal biology. Saenz said that being involved in events and services to benefit students revealed several facets of his years at KU.
“When you want to benefit students of underrepresented backgrounds, sometimes you have to be the person to bring the conversation to the university,” he said. “When you feel that there is no space for others, you might have to be the first to address it. You cannot stop at just the initial point — you have to be headstrong and keep your foundation because at times you are starting from scratch for a project.
“You cannot benefit everyone, but if you lay down your legacy and establish the path for others to takes, others will follow to do the same for generations to come."
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.
Jasmine Moore is a senior from Olathe majoring in information systems.
She said the opportunity to serve and lead at KU was the main contributor to what she considers the best four years of her life thus far.
“With each organization and role came a new community of people that really made KU feel special and inspired my passion for wanting to continue to improve the experience of others going forward into my professional career,” Moore said.
“I am very grateful to each of my mentors who encouraged me as an individual and challenged me out of my comfort zone, into the confident leader I have become.
"Mostly importantly, I give all honor to God for directing my steps in all that I have been able to do, because without him none of this would have been possible for me. "
Emilia Paz Ojeda is a senior from Arequipa, Peru, majoring in computer science.
Regarding her field, she said technology has to be aimed toward improving health, communications and social development in a way that closes the economic and social gap between countries.
Paz Ojeda also said that in her time at KU, the university provided her with more than technical knowledge and skills.
“It gave me an amazing environment where I met wonderful mentors and lifelong friends who helped me to discover my passions and showed me to work hard for my dreams,” she said.
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.
Courtland Triplett is a senior from Olathe majoring in political science.
He said he is passionate about making a positive impact on people's lives.
"I hope to one day be in a position where I can support others through advocacy and policy," Triplett said. "Love is at the core of this passion, and it is what drives me to do the work that I've done. To love is to embroider kindness and compassion into the tapestry of humanity.
“I believe if we align our goals with it, we can define what it means to be united and ultimately change the world.”
Alix Fisk-Guerrero is a senior from Topeka majoring in applied behavioral science and public administration.
She said she appreciates how KU equipped her to be a better servant and advocate and for dedicated mentors and challenging classes that gave her the time and tools to pursue a vision of an equal opportunity of health for all.
“Through the Center for Community Outreach, I was able to build into a longstanding facet of service for students and empower them to respectfully and collaboratively engage our local community,” Fisk-Guerrero said. “I am forever grateful for the growth, perspectives and experiences I have come to know through research, service and organizations at KU.
“It is an honor to share my story as well as develop new opportunities for Jayhawks, in hopes that they can have experiences as transformative as my own.”
Zyrie Berry-Hendricks is a senior from Topeka majoring in social welfare.
He said that his work on campus and in the community has been possible only with the help of incredible people.
“Throughout my time at the university, I've grown to understand the value of community, hard work and acceptance,” Berry-Hendricks said. “These lessons led me to my passion for social policy research.
“With this wisdom I have learned, my education and the motivation to act, I will continue to challenge the status quo until something beyond activism – liberation – becomes possible.”
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.
Brooke Lapke is a senior from La Motte, Iowa, majoring in microbiology.
She said she feels fortunate that KU provided opportunities to explore and shape passions and interests beyond the classroom. These experiences solidified her goals of a career in medicine and expanded them into something more meaningful, she said, and a desire to participate in the larger, global community.
“Engaging time and energy in activities, organizations and research helped me grow and find a greater sense of purpose,” Lapke said. “I recognize these opportunities would not have been possible without the influential mentors in my life, my family and my friends.
“I will be forever grateful for my time at KU, and I look forward to remaining connected to the Jayhawk community as an alumna.”
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.
Mika Schrader is a senior from Lawrence majoring in history and religious studies.
She said the scholarship halls played an important part of her KU education, having called them home and being where she made countless new friends and found an amazing support system.
“The scholarship halls are an excellent place for leadership opportunities within your hall on the executive board, and throughout the community as part of All Scholarship Hall Council,” Schrader said. “I am continuously grateful for the time I have spent here, and I am so excited to stay in touch with my friends that I have made along the way.
“This past year as the food board manager of Miller has shown me new ways that I can be part of the scholarship hall community.
"I have learned so much while also being able to support my residents and show all that KU has to offer to the new students living in my hall.”
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.
Jirick Hunter is a senior from New Orleans majoring in sport management.
He said that a person who promotes positive and progressive change is the epitome of a Jayhawk, and college is a place where students discover who they are and what they truly stand for in life.
“KU has allowed me to meet so many great people who inspired change in me and the community,” he said. “I found that helping others around me be able to find their voice and use it to promote change and growth in their environment was my passion. Being able to do so, especially within KU’s black community was definitely the highlight of my years.”
Leonor Ramos-Salamanca is a senior from Johnson majoring in psychology.
She said that while at KU, she met individuals who motivated and inspired her to set goals that go beyond her own expectations.
“From the first day I set foot on KU’s beautiful campus I knew I wanted to make my time there meaningful,” Ramos-Salamanca said. “Thanks to programs like TRIO SES, the McNair’s Scholars Program and the Office of Multicultural Affairs who served as my support systems, I was able to succeed academically and gave me the confidence to be involved on campus.”
Through personal experience and involvement on campus, she said she found a passion to create safe spaces for individuals of marginalized communities.
“My leadership journey at the University of Kansas is my legacy,” she said. “I hope it has paved a way for other students to follow, as being involved on campus has filled me with many things I will always be grateful for.”