UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN River Falls
April 29, 2016 -- Six University of Wisconsin-River Falls students received the 2016 Chancellor's Award for Students and were honored at a ceremony on campus April 28. The Chancellor's Award for Students is the highest non-academic honor a student can receive at UW-River Falls.
First awarded in 1980, the Chancellor's Award for Students is presented annually to a small group of juniors and seniors for distinguished leadership and service to the campus and external communities during the course of their time at UW-River Falls.
During the ceremony, UWRF Chancellor Dean Van Galen congratulated the recipients and challenged them to continue their commitment to service.
"Here in River Falls, you are part of campus and a broader community," said Van Galen. "Over the course of your life, you will likely be part of many communities, and in each place you will have the opportunity to lead -- to, if you will -- exert strength."
Students receiving the 2016 Chancellor's Award were Mohammad Battah of Hudson; Jessica Knapp of Chippewa Falls; Marie-Morella Kponou of Cotonou, Benin (Africa); Angela Ludvigsen of St. Paul; Madeleine Pemberton of Minneapolis; and Emma Sweet of Hartland.
Battah is a senior majoring in biology in the biomedical option. He has established himself as a true leader on campus, eagerly serving the campus community during his time here. From RHA president, to ambassador for the Disability Advisory Committee on the Student Senate, from president for the Pre-Health Society to president of the Muslim Student Association, Battah's influence has made a difference campus-wide, according to his nominator.
Battah has a true servant's heart, and many of his friends and professors tell stories of his passion for students with disabilities who encounter physical barriers on campus. So much so, that he was asked to become an informal student ambassador for the university's Disability Advisory Committee his first year on campus.
"It was Mohammad who approached the Ability Services office to ask how he might support disabled students," said Mark Johnson, Student Ability Services coordinator. With an "obvious propensity for tactful peer leadership… [he] effectively advocated for specific students that encountered physical barriers on campus. Mohammad is a credit to our campus."
In her letter of support, Chuayi Yang, director of Student Support Services and Multicultural Student Services, noted, "It truly takes an innovative mind and heart to initiate a shift in the way a community talks, thinks, and acts; and I believe Mohammad is such a force."
Knapp, known to friends as JJ, is a junior art history and photography major. Knapp's time at UWRF has been busy with positions such as treasurer of the Executive Board of the Gender and Sexuality Alliance, Active Minds Club, president of the Student Feminist Organization, and Inclusivity Senator for the 78th Student Senate where bringing inclusive events, positions of employment, and services to students throughout campus has become a passion.
But for Knapp, being an agent for change means digging in deep at the university with even more opportunities to serve as a member of the Student Affairs Committee for the Student Senate, a member of the University Center Committee, and a member of the University Sexual Assault Coalition which is working on a sexual assault prevention campaign for campus.
"A natural born leader," Knapp has also been a beacon for students in the LGBTQIA+ community, mentoring peers on their journey of self-awareness and self-acceptance, becoming a true role model and advocate, according to Knapp's nominator.
Kponou came to UWRF at age 17 as an international student. A senior with a biology major in the biomedical option, and a double minor in chemistry and French, Kponou speaks five languages and is described as "a person with exceptional drive, an infectious, bubbly personality and a desire to be exposed to new people, new opportunities, and new ideas," according to support letters.
Kponou is co-president of the campus Black Student Union, spearheading the group's annual African Night event, a successful event due in large part to her efforts. She also helped bring educational initiatives to campus that helped reframe and validate the purpose of BSU.
"She consciously practices the maturity, the commitment, the passion, and the courage to talk and act on matters that impact the livelihood of her peers and community members," said Chuayi Yang, Multicultural Student Services director.
Ludvigsen, a senior with a physics and mathematics major, is described as "articulate, committed, enthusiastic, and inspiring – with an open disposition and a willingness to work – a natural leader," by her nominator. She has completed five grant projects in Optical Trapping and Quantum Entanglement.
Ludvigsen has put her passion for research into practice and allowed her influence to reach beyond the classroom. She is president of the Society of Undergraduate Research, Scholarly, and Creative Activity (URSCA) where she helped organize the Fall Gala event, and evaluated yearly applications for Falcon Travel Grants. She has also been a key part of the Physics Study Center and Math Help Center, tutoring students in introductory courses and taking leadership of coordinating the Physics Study Center tutors.
She has held several leadership roles in the Society of Physics Students, on campus and beyond, and is student vice president of Phi Kappa Phi. In her letter of support, URSCA Director Lissa Schneider-Rebozo noted, "She displays an unlimited capacity for intellectual development in physics, mathematics and in any area she chooses to pursue. She is always ready to share her enthusiasm for her research and to generate enthusiasm for the research of others."
Pemberton, an elementary education major with minors in early childhood and Spanish, is described as "capable, self-confident and reliable." Beyond her studies, she is involved president of Early Years Enthusiasts, a leadership recognition intern for the Office of Student Involvement, and a two-time participant at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research, where she has demonstrated her commitment to the integration of service and scholarship with her projects on early childhood literacy and promotion of nature education.
Pemberton also served as representative on the Student Senate Review Board and is secretary for the Hathorn Hall Residence Council, and she has worked as a resident assistant. Perhaps, most notably, she is also a student representative for the Education Preparation Program Council chosen specially by the Dean of the College of Education Larry Solberg. This committee is responsible for aligning the UWRF education program with new state requirements for teacher candidates.
Sweet is a senior with a double major in biology and Spanish. In letters of nomination, she is described as "genuine," "a mentor," and "someone who always and without fail, operates with integrity wanting to improve her campus and community using the best available understanding and evidence."
During her time at UWRF, Sweet has been recognized academically with her nomination to the Phi Kappa Phi honor society, and has travelled abroad to Mexico, encouraging others to have an international experience. She has been engaged with the Girls in SCIENCE event held at UWRF and advocated with parents in encouraging their children to explore careers in STEM.
Perhaps most notably, Sweet is active in several student organizations, including the Gender and Sexuality Alliance, the Student Feminist Organization, and the campus Sexual Assault Coalition. In the words of her nominator, physics Professor Rellen Hardtke, "[Emma] embodies the ideas of inclusivity in her constant work for women, the LGBTQ+ community, students of color, her foreign language expertise, and her international travels. Emma has fought against bullying … and promoted positive self-image, through her work as an RA and a student organization leader, helping students with their academic, intellectual and emotional development as well as their mental health."
UW-River Falls student Lisa Erickson spoke briefly at the ceremony and conveyed her congratulations to the group. Erickson will replace Regent Nic Harsy as the non-traditional student on the UW System Board of Regents in June.
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