On Wednesday, campus leaders had a Hollywood night as they were recognized in an award-show-style celebration of student achievement.
Now in its 34th year, the Michigan Difference Student Leadership Awards honor student leaders from across the University. Individuals and groups are recognized based on their work promoting the University and serving the community through philanthropy, social work, school spirit or notable accomplishments.
The event, which was held in the Union’s Rogel Ballroom, drew about 300 students, faculty and community members. The Central Student Government also presented several awards as part of the UM-Heroes initiative launched this year.
CSG president Manish Parikh said the awards recognized individuals who might not receive consistent recognition for their positive impact on campus.
“I think we really saw the leaders of the campus community,” Parikh said. “Most of the people here today don’t seek the spotlight. This is a quiet moment of recognition. These awards serve as a powerful source of inspiration and motivation for future Wolverines.”
E-MAGINE, a campus organization that works to provide Internet access to rural areas of Africa, won the World Leaders Award in the group category and the Innovation or Research Award.
Engineering graduate student Nick Fredricks, the group’s chief engineer, said he didn’t expect either award.
Fredricks added that E-MAGINE hasn’t been on campus for very long but has already shown its impact.
“It was amazing to win both of these,” Fredricks said. “It’s just a resemblance of how far we’ve come. We’ve just made such an impact on this college, and it’s all due to this amazing group, not just one person’s effort.”
Malinda Matney, a senior research associate in the Division of Student Affairs, managed the selection process for the 50 awards presented at this year’s ceremony. She said the organizations that received awards were selected in a two-step process: initial nomination and selection by the committee.
This year, about 200 individuals and groups received nominations. After nominations are received, Matney said the committee contacts the nominators and nominees directly to get more information and make their decision.
“We make step one very easy,” Matney said. “We just want to know who’s out there. A lot of what we’ll be talking about in granting the winners their awards comes directly from that second step of the process.”
Kate Poisson, a student involvement advisor at the Center for Campus Involvement, said the event draws its award winners from across campus.
“There’s a wide range of different organizations and individuals that are recognized. We tried to hit all of those main groups that we have on campus,” Poisson said.
Poisson said the event offers a unique look at what leaders on campus were able to attain this past year.
“What we’re really trying to do here is not just recognize the student groups we have here on campus, but celebrate them,” Poisson said. “We don’t always get a chance to take a step back and think, ‘Wow, look at everything we’ve accomplished in the last year.’ ”
The ceremony underwent a major transformation two years ago to give it more flair. Matney described it as “Emmys meets MTV awards.”
The event borrowed many of its themes from Hollywood award shows, including a ceremonial blue carpet for students entering the ballroom and a memorial video segment for all the trends, memes and fads that “died” in the last year. There were also live performances by Maize Mirchi, a South Asian acappella group, and the Michigan Pompon team.
Kinesiology senior Dustyn Wright attended this year’s event to represent the University’s chapter of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity, which won the Fraternity or Sorority of the Year Award at last year’s ceremony. Wright said his fraternity has dedicated itself to promoting a “higher standard” within the Greek life system after the chapter was banned from the University from 2007 to 2011 for issues with alcohol.
This year’s honor went to Lambda Theta Alpha. Though his fraternity didn’t win the award for a second year, Wright said the ceremony has a very positive impact on the Greek system.
“It allows the (community) to celebrate their success alongside other organizations’ successes.”
—Daily Staff Reporter Ariana Assaf contributed reporting.