The Office of Student Life hosted the Michigan Difference Student Leadership Awards on Tuesday to honor the outstanding work of various individuals and groups on campus. Thirty-seven groups and individuals were acknowledged for their work in public service, social justice, research and academic accomplishments.
Students are nominated by peers, faculty, and staff through an online form. This year, more than 300 individuals and groups were nominated.
The award categories ranged from leadership in club sports, sustainability, fine arts, research and innovation and social change. Many of the awards acknowledged both an individual and group. Freshman, sophomore, junior, senior and graduate student of the year awards were also announced.
The Nominations Committee, which determined the award winners, is comprised of nine members of campus life professional staff and undergraduate students. Some representatives included individuals from MLEAD, Graduate Student Employees for Fraternity & Sorority Life, Housing, Recreational Sports and the Center for Campus Involvement.
LSA sophomore Evie Winter, Nominations Committee member for MDSLA and chief of staff of Central Student Government, said this ceremony aims to recognize individuals and groups on campus who are not typically acknowledged.
“I think that a lot of groups that are nominated and win tonight are student groups who make really meaningful impacts on campus but often don't get the recognition for it,” Winter said.
Winter said groups like CSG are often more talked about campus, as opposed to other organizations on campus that also have impact on campus issues.
“For example, student government gets a lot of clout, but you know we’re really visible and some of these other organizations don’t necessarily have the same kind of name recognition on campus,” Winter said. “I think by recognizing a lot of these organizations and individuals it reinforces the idea that, you know, everyone has a place on this campus and a lot of people are doing good work even though it’s not often recognized the way it should be.”
University President Mark Schlissel and E. Royster Harper, vice president for student life, attended the event. Harper said the ceremony represents members of the University community supporting each other.
“Being a part of a strong community means celebrating and recognizing the accomplishments of others,” Harper said.
Harper said the awards are not about winning, but about recognizing the outstanding students working toward social change in the community.
“It’s an award ceremony, but really that’s not what this is all about. It’s about hard work, the prospect of creating positive change in the world.”
Harper acknowledged some individuals in the audience such as Meaghan Wheat, the recipient of the Social Change Award who worked with the Women’s Studies Department to create a new minor focused on social class and inequality that will be offered in the fall of 2019.
Public Health senior Amani Echols was awarded Senior of the Year. Echols is in the top 5 percent of her class in the School of Public Health, and program coordinator of Dial-a-Doula program, which connects women giving birth in the hospital to Doula services. In addition, she co-created and co-chaired the Health Equity High School Summit, which brings about 100 students to the Public Health School to teach about public health, and is on the Ginsberg Center Student Advisory Board for service and learning.
Echols said she usually doesn’t speak publicly about her work, and she appreciates receiving the recognition.
“The award means recognition for the work that I’m doing,” Echols said. “Because as people have mentioned, I don’t like to speak about what I’m doing. It’s not something I think about, it’s just I’m doing it because I’m passionate about it, it’s something that I want to do. So it’s nice that I have friends that are willing to nominate me and notice all the hours that I’m putting into my extracurriculars outside of school.”
The First Year Student of the Year Award was awarded to Aya Fattah, Sophomore of the Year Award went to Brett Zaslavsky, Junior of the Year Award was given to Olivia Livernois and Graduate Student of the Year was Kevin Lieberman.
Many organizations were acknowledged for international work. The student organization Blueprints For Pangaea was awarded the Global Impact Award for their work to alleviate global health disparities by distributing unused medical supplies from U.S. hospitals to people in need overseas.
The LGBTQ Survivor Peer Led Support Group was given the Social Justice Award and The Dot Org won the Innovation or Research Award for their commitment to raising awareness of menstruation-based health disparities and providing people experiencing poverty with menstrual hygiene products.
Winter emphasized the award ceremony’s intention of honoring the work of those on campus who are underrecognized.
“We just recognize there are a lot of student groups and individuals on campus who might not be recognized in other ways, so we just wanna take a night to really recognize their accomplishments and thank them for everything they’ve done for campus.”
Correction: A previous version of this article spelled Blueprints For Pangaea incorrectly.