Chancellor's Award for Students

2018 Recipients

Alanna Bram

Alanna Bram, a junior from Rochester, Minn., is double majoring in biology and Spanish with a minor in chemistry. She will graduate in May 2019.

Nominator Kathleen Hunzer knows Alanna well, as Alanna is both a Chancellor’s Scholar and a member of the Honors Program. Yet there is far more to Alanna than those titles and distinctions.

Alanna can truly be said to be living out our mission. She has enriched herself by studying internationally in Seville, Spain, and has served her peers through her work with the UWRF Chemistry Department as a peer-led team learning leader; as a teacher’s assistant in the Biology Department; and as an orientation and transition leader with the New Student and Family Programs Office. She has also represented the university externally, improving relationships on and off campus as a member of the Chancellor’s Student Ambassadors.

Alanna has shown an impressive commitment to being engaged and involved on campus.  She is a member of Phi Kappa Phi and the Pre-Health Society, as well as Campus Intervarsity, where she leads a weekly Bible study. She also supports and mentors international students at the All Nations House.

In many activities that she has been involved with, Alanna is a recognized leader whether as flute section leader for the UWRF Symphony Band or earning honorable mention at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Sea Phages Symposium where she presented her undergraduate research findings in 2016.

But even that isn’t enough to describe Alanna’s commitment to service and leadership. In 2017, Alanna initiated UWRF’s Shoe Away Hunger Drive, its purpose to collect shoes in any condition which are then sold to raise money to buy food for needy families in the Twin Cities. In its first year, the shoe drive collected nearly 900 pairs, with Alanna singlehandedly advertising for, and then transporting, donated shoes from sites around campus. Her goal this year was to collect 1,000 pairs of shoes.

An excellent description of her philosophy toward her UWRF experience can be found in Alanna’s own words, as expressed by a fellow Chancellor’s Student Ambassador in a support letter: “you have to bleed red and white.”

"From academic excellence to campus involvement to URSCA to global experiences to community engagement to continually acting with integrity to including all students (in) her positive attitude, Alanna is the epitome of this award and will always represent UWRF with grace and dignity,” Hunzer wrote in her nomination.

Zain Kaiser

Zain Kaiser from Lakeville, Minn. is a double major in computer science and geography/GIS, with quite a remarkable story. Born to Pakistani parents, Zain lived in Singapore for the first ten years of his life before moving to the Twin Cities area. He speaks four languages: English, Hindi, Urdu and Mandarin Chinese. And when you add in all the computer languages he knows, the list becomes even longer!  Zain’s true talent though seems to be his gift for making others feel appreciated.

He enjoys greeting international students in their own native language when he can. Classmate Brooke Webster, who nominated Zain, says he is often able to surprise Chinese international students with the quality of his Mandarin, but, more importantly, “Zain has continually gone out of his way to make sure all of the students that he meets feel welcomed and included here at River Falls. He offers them something that may be difficult to come by in a foreign atmosphere, a sense of home.”

Zain has had to overcome some personal challenges to get where he is, but those who know him, know that he is capable of pushing through all obstacles with inspiring positivity.

Zain is a member of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society and received the Computer Science and Information Systems Aladtec and department scholarships in 2016 and 2017, respectively. In the words of Assistant Professor Jacob Hendricks, Zain “cares deeply about the university and contributes greatly to the academic environment” through undergraduate research as well, working on a cluster computing project that directly impacts the “quality and availability of educational opportunities for his fellow students.”

Zain gives freely of his time. He is a member of the UWRF “Love Your Melon” crew, a non-profit dedicated to supporting pediatric cancer patients; he is active with the UWRF Student United Way; and he is involved in the Association of Computing Machinery. He  also finds the time to volunteer at “Be the Match” bone marrow registry swab drives, Feed My Starving Children, the Grow to Share community garden, and Habitat for Humanity.

Zain also served his fellow students for two years as a member of Student Senate. While involved with student government, Zain helped implement the Safe-Ride Home Program to improve student safety and worked to bring the “It’s On Us” campaign to UWRF to help prevent sexual assault. Zain also represented UWRF in Washington, D.C. where he helped lobby on student issues, including campus safety, in January 2017.

Samantha Pedek

Samantha “Sam” Pedek is a senior physics major and a Falcon Scholar from Muscoda. She, like nearly half of UWRF students, is a first-generation college student. In addition to being the first in her family to earn a college degree, Sam will also be the first student from her high school to obtain a degree in a science field when she graduates in May.

Nominated by Physics Department chair James Madsen, Sam has served as an inspiration to her fellow students, and even to some of her professors, in an academic career that has served as a fine example of service mixed with leadership and academic excellence.

Sam has worked as an undergraduate researcher with the IceCube Neutrino Observatory, and has traveled to both the McMurdo Station in Antarctica and the South Pole as part of her work. She has also done undergraduate research through Stockholm University in Sweden and at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

Sam has made five major presentations during her undergraduate career, including two at the Women in Physical Sciences Conference in Lincoln, Neb. It’s an honor to be asked to present once at that conference, but because she was such “an outstanding speaker and her research experience so unique and fascinating,” Sam was given a rare second speaking appearance at the event.

And, there’s more to Sam. She has been a vital part of the UWRF Society of Physics Students Club where she is not only treasurer and vice-president but also serves an Associate Zone Councilor for our region. In short, this means she also represents Wisconsin, Upper Michigan, Northern Illinois and Northern Indiana on the SPS national council. She is helping plan the 2019 PhysCon National Conference and has been invited to serve as co-chair and student representative on the 2021 national planning committee.

She has also worked as a learning assistant in introductory physics courses and has volunteered to assist at evening public viewing sessions at the campus observatory. Sam has worked in both the Registrar’s and CAS Dean’s offices and has represented UWRF at outreach events with the Minnesota Twins, 3M and a number of schools around the region.  She has volunteered at the Girls in STEM events focused on local middle and high school girls as one of her strengths has been conveying her enthusiasm and encouragement to young girls to get them excited about pursuing careers in science.

She has accomplished all this while managing an extended health crisis in her immediate family that pulled her away from school many times.

“Sam is the living embodiment of the terms ‘courage’ and ‘resilience’,” Madsen said.

Other words like, “focus” and “drive”, “poise” and “passion” were used by to describe Sam in the letters supporting her nomination. Those words alone sum up why Sam is clearly a deserving recipient of the Chancellor’s Award.

Kristy Strain

A junior from Rochester, Minn., Kristy will graduate in May 2019 with a double major in accounting and business administration, in the management option.

Nominated by Associate CBE Dean and Professor Dawn Hukai, Kristy’s accomplishments in service begin with her membership in the Honors Program, in Beta Sigma Gamma and in Phi Kappa Phi.

Kristy, who aspires to a career in healthcare administration, has also shown leadership as president of the UWRF Accounting Society, as a Chancellor’s Student Ambassador, on the UWRF First-Year Leadership Development and Service Committee, and is planning to join the UWRF Health and Wellness Board at the invitation of management Professor Claire McCarty. 

Kristy has volunteered at both Allina Health and Hospice and Hudson Hospital and Clinic, and has demonstrated courage and resiliency while working with patients in very challenging states and with extremely serious illnesses. Kristy has built a solid reputation as a cheerful volunteer who is always ready to go the extra mile, characteristics which Hukai sums up as:  "She has taken on difficult challenges in her volunteer work. She always works to leave positions and roles better than when she entered them. She works well with her team and other people while trying to find a better way.”

River Falls Area Hospital president David Miller recently agreed to a half hour meeting with Kristy to discuss a possible internship next year. The meeting lasted two hours, leaving Dr. Miller very impressed with Kristy, and of course, sealing the deal on her internship which will begin next spring.

Going above and beyond as a student employee in the Admissions Office where she has worked as an operations team and tour guide, Kristy was able to improve procedures that increased productivity in the overall admissions process and resulted in students having more fulfilling visits on campus.

Kristy has been a strong advocate for the UWRF goal concerning global education and engagement and will herself be part of the Semester Abroad: Europe Fall 2018 group. As part of this independent, self-led, semester-long study abroad program, Kristy hopes to intern with the World Health Organization and do research on public health, possibly also studying of the health care system in Slovenia.

Closer to home, Kristy is an auditing intern specializing in health care at Clifton Larson Allen LLP in Minneapolis where she has been asked to join the consulting group, a rare recognition for an intern, much less for even their entry-level employees.

McCarty summed it up best when she said “if I had a top-ten list of students who are capable of great achievements, Kristy would be on that list.”

Abby Wendt 

A senior from Green Bay, Abby will graduate in May with a double major in business administration and marketing/sales and a minor in communication. She was nominated by Gregg Heinselman, assistant chancellor for Student Affairs.

Abby has served as an elected student leader since her freshman year at UW-River Falls and is currently president of the UWRF Student Government Association where she previously served as the Finance Committee chair. Abby has also served as a student representative on several UW System and State of Wisconsin legislative initiatives addressing student fee allocation policies and compliance, criminal background disclosure and freedom of expression.

She serves as an advocate for women in leadership, inclusivity and mental health awareness and works with campus groups to coordinate action initiatives on challenging issues including sexual violence and mental health. She has been instrumental in organizing events like Mental Health Awareness Week and De-Stress Fest. Her involvement in the It’s on Us campaign against sexual harassment also helped strengthen the relationship between students and River Falls community organizations like the St. Croix Valley Sexual Assault Response Team.

Abby is also involved with the Professional Sales Club and with DECA where she has competed in regional, state and national competitions. 

True to the UWRF mission, Abby has grown her global awareness through international education. During her sophomore year, she traveled to Germany and Austria, studying culture, history and politics of the area.

One of the many great things about Abby is that she is visible in the campus community. She is known for her efforts in diversity, community building, self-care and financial stewardship, and she can usually be seen where people gather on our campus.

As Heinselman said in his letter of nomination, “The daily trials of being an engaged student leader are challenging. Abby always seems to find the time to attend to each student, faculty member and administrator’s needs while maintaining her own.”

Amy Lloyd, associate director of Student Involvement, wrote a letter of support for Abby in  how she upholds the core values of the university:Abby and the Student Government have made a concerted effort to make the University of Wisconsin-River Falls a place that upholds integrity. As this value is defined on UWRF’s website, we earn trust through honesty, accountability, and ethical behavior.”

All of those traits perfectly describe Abby who has given of herself for her entire academic career.

“UW-River Falls is simply a better place with her here," said UWRF alumna and Teacher Education Program Assistant Halie Ament.