Students, staff and faculty recognized for accomplishments and contributions to the university.
By Tamara Jones
Call them the givers: Whether championing human rights, consoling homesick freshmen or lobbying for an extra break on the academic calendar, the often-unsung heroes of campus life took a bow Wednesday night at the George Washington University’s largest “celebration of excellence.”
Top students, faculty, staff and organizations were honored with Excellence in Student Life Awards during a rollicking ceremony at Lisner Auditorium featuring comedy sketches, ballerinas, a special nod to “Students Who Don’t Watch Scandal” and a rogue toddler who stole the show with an improv happy-dance across the stage.
More than 20 certificates and seven scholarships were awarded to winners chosen from a field of 300 nominees. The event is sponsored by the Center for Student Engagement in the Division for Student Affairs. (See full list of award winners and nominees.)
The program kicked off with professorial lecturer in law Kuyomars “Q” Golparvar taking home the Honey Nashman Spark a Life Award for Faculty Member of the Year. The chief of the Immigration Law and Practice Division at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement was cited for his “eagerness to connect students to resources and opportunities.”
Hailed for her “truly transformative work” with GW’s outdoor adventure club, TRAiLS, experiential program coordinator Rachael Wise of the Center for Student Engagement claimed the Robert A. Chernak Spark a Life Award for Staff Member of the Year.
The prestigious Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Award went to senior Steven Hamburgo, while Allied in Pride, the Organization of Latino American Students and the Indian Students Association collected Excellence in Diversity Awards.
Three new caricatures will be added to the fifth floor Wall of Fame in the Marvin Center, saluting the leadership and service of junior Kate Bell, graduating senior Mollie Bowman and Zinhle Essamuah, a Presidential Administrative Fellow whose award-winning film, Hands Up, focuses on the Black Lives Matter movement.
Chi Omega’s 2,289 volunteer hours and nearly $24,000 raised for charity helped land the sorority in the winner’s circle for Greek Chapter of the Year in the Panhellenic category, with Sigma Psi Zeta and Beta Theta Pi claiming top Multicultural and Interfraternity council honors, respectively.
Interim Provost Forrest Maltzman presented the Learning through Action Award to the GW Career Quest Program for its spring break personal development trek to New York City, where GW students hone their interviewing and networking skills in the professional world.
Stewart Robinette, senior director of residential engagement, brought his two small children onstage to help present the Resident Advisor of the Year Award, a prospect that sent his toddler son shrieking for joy across the stage, dancing in circles to the laughter and cheers of the audience. Sophomore Calla Gilson was eventually able to claim her place at the podium to accept the award and the pint-sized congratulations.
Entertainment also was provided throughout the evening by finalists for Student Performance Group of the Year, with live text-voting from the audience crowning the a cappella group GW Vibes the winner.
The Joint Committee of Faculty and Students awarded $3,000 scholarships recognizing “the potential to demonstrate exceptional leadership” to juniors Kathleen Hunt and Gabriela Madrid and sophomores Kenneth Shin, Cristian Vides and Priyanka Walimbe.
Jeff Schechter, a junior who plans to pursue a career in law enforcement and supervises operations for EMeRG won the $2,500 scholarship funded by the Class of 2005 to commemorate 9/11.
The Manatt-Trachtenberg Prize recognizing the graduating senior “who most significantly challenged the social and intellectual conscience” of GW went to Chris Evans. In the intramural sports program, graduating senior Amit Nayak landed the Marc A. Zambetti Award commemorating a member of the class of 1985 who was killed in the devastating 1989 earthquake that hit the San Francisco Bay area.
From a field of nearly 50 nominees, sophomore Matthew Nicholas was named undergrad Student Employee of the Year for the “long and often physically challenging hours” he spends as student leader supervisor and coordinator for Facilities Services. Joy Yi claimed the graduate student title for “increasing the level of online engagement” at the Nashman Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service.
Cierra Kaler-Jones claimed the Graduate Award for Individual Excellence, cited for her “ability to encourage constructive dialogue among students and colleagues.”
Five students were singled out for their “integrity and leadership” in the Colonial community, given Baer Awards for Individual Excellence in memory of 1910 alum David Baer, whose granddaughter, Barbara, applauded the winners from her front-row seat. Honorees were sophomore Allison Bejar, junior Lindsay Goodman and seniors Juman Kekhia, Cassidy Moriarty and Lauren Steagal.
Before announcing nominees for best student organizations, emcees Karli Ring and Christian Escoto drew guffaws for a slideshow tribute to GW’s “most under-recognized orgs”—Part-Time Students, Full-Time Hillterns, Students Who Don’t Watch Scandal and Steven Knapp’s Sing-A-Long Starring Steven Knapp, to name a few.
The real winners of the Pyramid Award for Student Organization of the Year were Students Against Sexual Assault, Students for Recovery and the Organization of Latino American Students.
Senior and self-proclaimed “Vernie for life” Evan Nielson accepted the Mount Vernon Award, while the University Pride honors went to Rebecca Haber.