Office of Student Life

Applauding Excellence

Celebrating student leaders and organizations

Applauding ExcellenceApplauding Excellence is a signature program, facilitated by the Office of Student Life and the Division of Student Affairs, which recognizes the exemplary work of successful student organizations, student leaders, programs, and advisors. The event also honors student employees who have been strong contributors to the University of Nebraska – Kearney.

Each spring, the Applauding Excellence Selection Committee receives and reviews nominations for the ten different awards presented at the Applauding Excellence ceremony. Nomination forms and descriptions for the 14 award categories can be viewed and submitted via OrgSync.

Established in 2012 by Dr. Joseph Oravecz, Dean, Division Student Affairs, the Applauding Excellence ceremony continues to recognize the meritorious efforts of the University’s talented student leaders and student organizations. Last year, there were over 70 nominations for the 14 different categories. Award recipients received a trophy and plaque. Click the tabs below to view this year’s winning recipients!

Members of the 2014 Applauding Excellence selection committee are

  • Dr. Doug Biggs, Associate Dean, College of Natural & Social Sciences and Professor, Department of History
  • Chelsea Swarm, Payroll Manager, Department of Human Resources
  • Alisha Hanshaw, Associate Director, Office of Residence Life
  • Brad Green, Assistant Director, Office of Undergraduate Recruitment & Admissions
  • Becca Dobry, Assistant Director, Office of Financial Aid

Kenya Taylor presenting at Applauding Excellence awards

Dr. Kenya Taylor, Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic & Student Affairs and Dean for the College of Graduate Studies & Research, addresses the audience at the Applauding Excellence ceremony.

Outstanding Collaborative Program

Mortar Board - Outstanding Collaborative Program Award

Members of Mortar Board Senior Honor Society with Dr. Joseph Oravecz, Dean, Division of Student Affairs.

The Outstanding Collaborative Program Award recognizes a campus program, project, or event organized and completed through the collaborative efforts of two or more student groups or campus organizations. This award is based on the concept of encouraging student groups to seek out other organizations to achieve a common goal.

The recipient of the Outstanding Collaborative Program Award has undertaken significant strides to foster and develop partnerships with other departments and groups on campus, in an effort to instill and inspire more “Loper Pride” within students, faculty, staff, and members of the Kearney community. Cultivating collaborative efforts with the Antelope Bookstore, Student Government, and the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics, this organization developed the “True Blue Game Day” campaign. The aforesaid enterprise took place on home, weekday basketball games throughout the spring 2014 semester and encouraged more support for UNK athletic teams.

Congratulations to ladies and gentlemen of Mortar Board Senior Honor Society, recipient of the 2014 Outstanding Collaborative Program Award, for their True Blue Game Day campaign!

Outstanding Community Service Program

Sigma Phi Epsilon - Outstanding Community Service Project

Lanny Fuller, President, Sigma Phi Epsilon with Dr. Joseph Oravecz, Dean, Division of Student Affairs.

The Community Service Program of the Year Award recognizes an activity that is sponsored by a student organization at the University of Nebraska – Kearney that contributed to the broader mission of the University and encourages students to engage in service beyond a singular experience.

The recipient of the Community Service Program of the Year Award goes to an organization that sponsors a community service project on an annual basis, but has seen tremendous growth in recent years. The philanthropic event creates awareness for the Muscular Dystrophy Association and is completely free to those participating. Participants ranged from UNK undergraduates, high school students, members of the Kearney community, and supporters from Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska. Moreover, the organization collaborated with the Kearney High School chapter of DECA and WinWholesale, a private company based in Texas, to sponsor the event. With that added partnership and support, the event raised over $15,000 for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

Congratulations to the men of Sigma Phi Epsilon, recipients of the 2014 Community Service Program of the Year Award for its event, the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) Muscle Walk!

Outstanding Diversity Program

Social Justice League - Outstanding Diversity Program

A representative for the Social Justice League with Dr. Joseph Oravecz, Dean, Division of Student Affairs.

The Diversity Program of the Year Award recognizes a diversity program sponsored by a student organization at the University of Nebraska – Kearney which has empowered a broad range of participants to experience and learn about diversity. The program will have a vital focus on developing understanding, tolerance, and acceptance.

The organization receiving the Diversity Program of the Year Award was new to UNK’s campus during the 2013 academic year. Additionally, the group collaborated with various offices and other organizations in order to make their series of programs a resounding success. Working with the Office of Financial Aid and the Office of Undergraduate Recruitment & Admissions, this group fostered a productive discourse on University-level immigration issues and, on a separate occasion, hosted a forum with an author and doctor who are experts in the area of Autism. Finally, this organization has allowed undergraduates and other stakeholders to discuss topics which may have previously been uncomfortable, thus celebrating campus and student diversity at UNK.

Congratulations to the Social Justice League, recipient of the 2014 Diversity Program of the Year Award!

Outstanding Emerging Leader

Nick White - Outstanding Emerging Leader Award

Nick White with Dr. Joseph Oravecz, Dean, Division of Student Affairs.

The Emerging Leader Award recognizes a freshman or sophomore who has excelled in their organization and has demonstrated true leadership qualities. The selection of the award will be based on his/her overall involvement within their organization, leadership initiatives, and overall contribution to the University of Nebraska – Kearney community.

The individual selected for the Emerging Leader Award was described as having a passion for his fraternity and has proven his worth and performance in everything he does. Recently, the recipient received an invitation to the RUCK Leadership Institute - an intense five-day event for SigEp’s top campus leaders focused on personal leadership skills and the "Balanced Man Ideal." Additionally, this individual has been able to take long-standing community service projects and re-organize them in an effort to move the organization forward, without losing tradition.

Congratulations to Nick White with Sigma Phi Epsilon, recipient of the 2014 Emerging Leader Award!

Outstanding Leadership Legacy

Brooke Poppe - Legacy Leadership Award

Brooke Poppe with Dr. Joseph Oravecz, Dean, Division of Student Affairs.

The Leadership Legacy Award recognizes a student leader whose long-term dedication and commitment have made a positive impact on sustaining the visibility of a student organization. This award is presented to a long-standing member of the organization that has left a positive mark on the group and at the University of Nebraska – Kearney.

The winner of the Leadership Legacy Award goes to an individual who has taken full advantage of her time at the University. She has embraced opportunities to have a well-rounded experience through her leadership capabilities and aims to give back to the campus which has given her so much. She embodies "Loper Pride" and influences others to be better students and leaders. Lastly, her positive energy and contagious smile inspires others to exceed expectations.

Congratulations to Brooke Poppe with UNK's Spirit Squad, recipient of the 2014 Leadership Legacy Award!

Outstanding New Student Organization

Alpha Xi Delta - Outstanding New Student Organization

Members of Alpha Xi Delta with Dr. Joseph Oravecz, Dean, Division of Student Affairs.

The New Student Organization of the Year Award is given to an organization new to the University of Nebraska – Kearney campus in the current academic year. The organization should demonstrate a progression of growth throughout the year as indicated by their programming and membership. Along with fostering personal and professional excellence in its members, the organization will have had a positive impact on the UNK Community.

Since its re-founding in September 2013, this sorority has made a significant impact on the UNK campus and Kearney community. Winning the University's coveted homecoming competition just weeks after its re-organization, this group also received a $500 grant to support their philanthropic efforts, while working with the Carol Cope Foundation to establish a scholarship fund for its members. The aforementioned accomplishments, and many more, have exceeded expectations over the past academic year. Furthermore, this organization has taken women, who were already well-rounded students and active on campus, and elevated their experience at UNK by giving them the opportunity to be re-founding members of the sorority.

Congratulations to the ladies of Alpha Xi Delta, recipient of the 2014 New Student Organization of the Year Award!

Outstanding Student Organization

Sigma Phi Epsilon - Outstanding Student Organization Award

Members of Sigma Phi Epsilon with Jordan Gonzales, Chapter Advisor; Alexander Straatmann, Chapter Counselor; and Dr. Joseph Oravecz, Dean, Division of Student Affairs

The Outstanding Student Organization Award is given to a student group which demonstrates consistent flexibility, initiative, creativity, and perseverance. Additionally, the organization must foster meaningful contributions to UNK students, the University, and the surrounding community. The winning organization must engage with the University community by organizing activities, events, and programs that have a significant impact on the quality of campus life at the University of Nebraska – Kearney.

The recipient of the Outstanding Student Organization Award is a group that has shown exceptional flexibility and resilience over the past academic year, while consistently building upon its success and exploring innovative ways to improve themselves as an organization. Over the past year, this fraternity raised over $17,000 and has given over 800 hours of community service to local organizations. Additionally, this group has high expectations academically for its members and holds them accountable for their actions in a way that is unfounded amongst most organizations. They also have a Faculty Fellow - a UNK faculty member who guides members in multiple areas including: registering for classes, creating/updating resumes, career preparation seminars, and hosting classes to adequately prepare for tests and exams.

Congratulations to the gentlemen Sigma Phi Epsilon, recipient of the 2014 Outstanding Student Organization Award!

Outstanding Student Organization Advisor

Amber Messersmith - Outstanding Student Organization Advisor Award

Dr. Amber Messersmith with Dr. Joseph Oravecz, Dean, Division of Student Affairs.

The Outstanding Student Organization Advisor Award is awarded to an individual who voluntarily serves as an advisor to a student organization, while exemplifying UNK's vision of leadership, service, and excellence.

The recipient of the Outstanding Student Organization Advisor Award was described by their nominator as “supportive and the driving force behind the chapter.” She has surpassed her required duties and takes the time to get to know each individual member of the organization. Her office is always open and even hosts meetings at her home.

Congratulations to Dr. Amber Messersmith with Mortar Board Senior Honor Society, recipient of the 2014 Outstanding Student Organization Advisor of the Year!

Outstanding Student Organization Leader

Michael Christensen - Outstanding Student Organization Leader Award

Michael Christen with Dr. Joseph Oravecz, Dean, Division of Student Affairs.

The Outstanding Student Organization Leader Award is given to an individual who has demonstrated outstanding leadership within their organization. The criteria for selection includes quality of leadership, mutual respect among peers and administrators, dedication to the improvement of campus life, and the ability to promote leadership development at the University of Nebraska – Kearney.

The recipient of the Outstanding Student Organization Leader Award is an undergraduate who demonstrates leadership in all organizations he is involved with. As a leader, he has reinvented an organization from the ground up and fostered new events and enterprises. The recipient was described by their nominator as a student who has brought excellence to their organization, possessing passionate determination, an exemplary work-ethic, and internally motivated. Furthermore, his maturity and level of professionalism is not seen in many students his age; he does not demand compliance or respect, but he naturally earns it.

Congratulations to Michael Christen with Mortar Board Senior Honor Society, recipient of the 2014 Outstanding Student Organization Leader Award!

Outstanding Unsung Hero

Blake Brouillette - Unsung Hero Award

Blake Brouillette with Dr. Joseph Oravecz, Dean, Division of Student Affairs.

The Unsung Hero Award recognizes an individual who has taken the initiative and/or has gone the extra mile to contribute to the success of UNK through his or her outstanding contributions within their organization. Going the extra mile is evident in their follow-through and willingness to help others. The winner of the award does not necessarily hold a leadership position within their organization, but is an overall hard worker and is dedicated to the success of their group.

The Unsung Hero for 2014 was described by his nominator as someone who does not hesitate to do the “behind the scenes” work which commonly goes unnoticed. He uses, and lives by, the following quote: "Attitude is often times the only thing we have the power to change." The recipient truly does choose to live with a positive attitude on a daily basis and has inspired those around him to choose their attitude as well. Without him, many members of the fraternity may not be as motivated and inventive as they are today. He is also described as not only being his fraternity's “go–to” guy, but UNK’s go-to student when something needs to be accomplished or when good student representation is needed. He is a student who does not brag about accomplishments, even though he has achieved countless accolades. His attitude is the epitome of an Unsung Hero.

Congratulations to Blake Brouillette with Sigma Phi Epsilon, recipient of the 2014 Unsung Hero Award!

Student Employee - Outstanding Community Service

The Outstanding Community Service Award is presented to a work-study student who holds a community service position within the city of Kearney.

According to the recipient's nominator, "he exceeds every expectation in countless tasks, including some that are not so glamorous."For example, he willingly showed-up during a sub-zero temperature day to march in a local veterans parade, not complaining once. In addition, his work style can be summarized as a combination of compassion, capability, enthusiasm, reliability, and fun. Based on his strong work ethic and trustworthiness, the recipient for the 2014 Outstanding Community Service Award is Garrett Vetter!

Student Employee - Outstanding Campus Service

Josh Vannurden - Campus Service Award

Josh Vannurden with Dr. Joseph Oravecz, Dean, Division of Student Affairs.

The Outstanding Campus Service is awarded to an excellent student worker who has held a position on campus for more than one year with the same department.

The student receiving the award for Outstanding Campus Service has undoubtedly earned it, receiving consummate marks during their tenure as a student worker. An employee with the same office for five years, the recipient can easily adapt, transitioning from year to year, as well as from one GA to another. Furthermore, the student has initiative - from spotting risk management issues, to organizing storage areas - he is always looking for ways to be involved and make life easier for the whole department. Congratulations to Josh Vannurden, the 2014 Outstanding Campus Service Award recipient!

Student Employee - Rookie of the Year

Meghan Forsgren - Rookie of the Year Award

Meghan Forsgren with Dr. Joseph Oravecz, Dean, Division of Student Affairs.

Rookie of the Year Award is presented to a student worker who has been exemplary within their department and has been employed for less than one academic year.

The 2014 Rookie of the Year began her employment at the Welcome Desk in October 2013 and has already become an integral part of the department. Her enthusiasm, attention to detail, and dependable work-ethic has improved the quality of service provided to fellow UNK students and University guests. The recipient's nominator described her as a "go-getter and self-starter," taking it upon herself to read over and learn the training manual and the institution's policies and procedures. Due to the aforesaid reasons, and many more, the 2014 Rookie of the Year Award recipient is Meghan Forsgren!

Student Employee - Student Employee of the Year

Erin Nelson - Student Employee of the Year Award

Erin Nelson with Dr. Joseph Oravecz, Dean, Division of Student Affairs.

The Student Employee of the Year is awarded to a student worker or work-study student who has achieved exemplary service for more that two-consecutive years within the same department.

To have certain skills such as hard work, a positive attitude, and a great knowledge base is merely the beginning of what it takes to be nominated for this award. To be selected as the recipient of this honor, requires more. The department that the student works for is one that never stops and, with the never ending activity, it can easily become overwhelming for a student worker. However, this has not been the experience for Erin Nelson. She is able to work with difficult patrons and is great with explaining why certain policies are in place. According to this student’s supervisor, "the time and quality of work that Erin has accomplished places her on the Mount Rushmore of student staff at UNK." Congratulations to Erin Nelson, recipient of the 2014 Student Employee of the Year Award!

Staff & Faculty of the Year Award

During student government elections each spring, UNK students have the ability to nominate a faculty and staff member for the student government's prestigious Faculty and Staff Member of the Year Award. Congratulations to Staff Member of the Year, Jennifer Harvey, Director of the Thompson Scholars Program and Faculty Member of the Year, Dr. Krista Fritson, Professor with the Psychology Department!

Krista Fritson - Faculty Member of the YearJennifer Harvey - Staff Member of the Year