Students, faculty and members of the University community gathered Wednesday night to honor students who were nominated for their leadership on campus.
Hosted by the Division of Student Life, the Michigan Difference Student Leadership Awards recognized about 100 student leaders and student organizations, chosen from several hundred nominations. Nearly 400 people attended the fourth annual event.
Awards recognized students and groups in various categories, including art, philanthropy, athletics and academics. For example, the Markley Hall Council won an award recognizing best teamwork by a student organization. The Detroit Partnership was noted as the group with the most impact on the campus community.
Steven Bodei, assistant director of student development and experiential learning, helped coordinate the event, and noted it focuses on recognizing students in all arenas of campus life.
“The Michigan Difference Student Leadership Awards is to recognize students who are doing really amazing things, not necessarily in the classroom,” he said.
Bodei said, as the event has evolved over the past few years, it’s become distinct from other award ceremonies because it focuses on more than just the awards, and aims to create a fun atmosphere.
“Five or six years ago they used to do an event that was similar to this and it was kind of your traditional everyone sits in an auditorium and people call people’s names,” Bodei said “It wasn’t very fun to be at, so unless you were winning there was basically no need to be there.”
Working with what Bodei described as “Oscar-esque style,” this year’s ceremony featured the two masters of ceremonies, LSA senior Simon Rivers and LSA sophomore Joshua Hobson, opening with a parody of “I Believe I Can Fly,” changed to “I Believe I Can Win.”
“There is a lot of effort that goes into this and I’m glad because we have so much talent within our university, and it’s something that (the Division of Student Life doesn’t) take lightly. They’re really trying to recognize these individuals and give them an opportunity to shine and be in the spotlight,” Hobson said.
Those in attendance walked a blue carpet as they arrived, and a photographer snapped photos of attendees both individually and in groups. The Friars, a University a cappella group, also performed halfway through the ceremony.
“One of the things we’ve kind of transitioned from is that, although professional staff and student life help organize the event, it’s very driven by students so all the awards are for students, most if not all of the presenters are students, performers are students, it’s very student-driven, whereas in the past it was very staff driven,” Bodei said.
LSA senior Janelle Wright, who attended the ceremony, said she thought the awards serve as an opportunity to recognize students for the various leadership work done at the University throughout the year. She added that she appreciates the diverse array of students and awards represented in the ceremony.
“This is something that students really look forward to, it’s kind of something that they’ve earned, obviously through all their spectacular things,” Wright said. “Just by seeing everyone and the amazing things they’ve been doing this year you can see we have amazing students here and they deserved to be recognized.”
Hobson said he thought the awards were important because they drew attention to leadership efforts performed by both individuals and student organizations on campus.
“I think when we talk about a school like University of Michigan — our name is, as we say, ‘the leaders and best’ here — it’s very true,” he said. “A lot of times it can be thrown around in a clichéd way, so an event like this is really important because it shows the community what we have to offer,” he said.