Pictured above – award recipients at Tech’s 2023 Student Leadership Awards.

Unsung Hero Award was presented to students who may not be accustomed to recognition

Cookeville – Students at Tennessee Tech University make an impact on their campus community in ways that extend beyond the classroom, bringing vibrancy to campus life and advancing the university’s mission through meaningful connections with their peers. As the spring 2023 semester ended, a number of these engaged and impactful students were recognized in the university’s Student Leadership Awards, sponsored by the Student Government Association.

“Students are doing amazing things here at Tech, and not only those recognized here,” SGA President Addison Dorris told attendees at a ceremony held to honor the winners. “Congratulations again to all of our award recipients. Keep up the good work.”

The Unsung Hero Award was presented to students who may not be accustomed to recognition.

“Our Unsung Heroes work behind the scenes to make organizations and campus programs better,” said Katie Aikens, Dean of Students. “According to their nominators, these students create a cheerful and welcoming environment for others, serve as an example to other students, help their peers succeed and more.”

Unsung Hero Award winners included Gracie Rae Austin, Brynn Hagar, Alyssa Battaglia, Tymothy Brandel and Kaitlyn Baltz.

From the Office of Communications and Marketing, Katie Blair was recognized as Student Worker of the Year for her work with the class of 2027 Instagram account. Emily Armstrong and Sophia Foster were also recognized as nominees for the OCM award.

Legacy Awards were presented to student members of the fraternity and sorority life community who have helped take their chapters to the next level. Winners included Megan Brown, Kappa Delta; Jasmine Johnson, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc.; Elijah Brooks, Kappa Alpha Psi; Nolan Burgess, Kappa Sigma; Savannah Griffin, Alpha Delta Pi and Ben Ebel, Sigma Phi Epsilon.

“Legacy Awards recipients are seniors whose work has paved the way for others, helped to take their chapter to the next level, or increased the visibility and reputation of the FSL community at large,” said Jacob Jeffers, fraternity and sorority life coordinator.

Fraternities and sororities earning the Chapter of Excellence distinction for 2022-2023 included:

  • Alpha Delta Pi
  • Phi Mu
  • Delta Phi Epsilon
  • Delta Gamma
  • Kappa Delta
  • Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc.
  • Pi Kappa Alpha
  • Phi Gamma Delta
  • Tau Kappa Epsilon
  • Kappa Alpha
  • Sigma Chi
  • Kappa Sigma
  • Sigma Phi Epsilon

Five students on their way to leaving a legacy of their own on campus were recognized with the Outstanding Student Leader awards, including Jaden Mullins, J.D. Rankin, Kensea Skelton, Sophie Helton and Kelsey Hewitt.

“Student organizations play a major role in the life of the University and the lives of thousands of Tennessee Tech students,” said Ben Stubbs, assistant vice president for student engagement. “These organizations give students the chance to build professional networks, connect with peers around shared interests, relax and relieve stress outside of class and more.”

Recognized organizations include:

  • Student members of the American Chemical Society, program or event of the year for National Chemistry Week
  • Autonomous Robotics Club, breakout student organization of the year
  • Fashion Merchandising Organization, organizational excellence award for large organizations
  • National Society of Black Engineers, organizational excellence award for small organizations
  • Tau Beta Pu, student organization of the year

Student organization officers recognized for their leadership and service include:

  • Claire Myers, Student Government Association, American Institute of Chemical Engineers and Tech BIKE Club
  • Cadence Miller, Lambda GSA
  • Brittney Phillips, Chi Sigman Iota
  • Jymon Scott, Kappa Alpha Psi, National Society of Black Engineers, RACE and College Engineering Ambassadors
  • Yasmeen Mahmoud, Psi Chi

Deanna King, president of the Autonomous Robotics Club, was named president of the year for an academic or professional student organization.

“Deanna has worked tirelessly to make the club more accessible to anyone interested in robotics, not just engineers or programmers, to develop and work toward ambitious goals, and to create new community engagement programs,” Stubbs said. “Deanna is proud of her efforts to create a sense of community and belonging and credits her leadership experience with helping her to discover a passion for business administration and engineering management. She now hopes to work in project management or a similar field post-graduation, so that she is able to combine her skills in computer science with the skills gained from her leadership experience.”

Michele Niec, president of the Non-Traditional Student Organization, was named president of the year for a special interest organization.

“The NTSO seeks to provide a support system to help nontraditional college students navigate challenges such as balancing work, family and school responsibilities,” Stubbs said. “To this end, Michele facilitates weekly communication so that no member feels alone, and she seeks to be her members’ biggest cheerleader. Many NTSO members know firsthand the challenges of attending college as a parent, so Michele spearheaded a very successful Diaper and Baby Wipes Drive for the Food Pantry. According to Michele, her campus involvement has led to ‘a sense of belonging, new friends, many of which are the same age as my child, and a sense of pride in knowing I am making a difference.’”

Hannah Willis was recognized as the graduate student leader of the year.

“Hannah has a long legacy of service to the university and advocacy for others,” Stubbs said. “She is working on her fourth Tennessee Tech degree, and has served as a graduate assistant, academic coach, SGA senator, student organization officer, a member of several university and community standing committees, and as the student trustee. As a nontraditional student with a disability, Hannah serves as an advocate for all students, and for marginalized students in particular. She reflected in her application on the ways that leadership can impact others. For one parent, Hannah served as an example of what students with disabilities can do.”

Lilly Davis and Corina Cook were each recognized with 2022-2023 Changemaker Awards.

Davis is involved in several campus activities, including work with campus residence halls, the Women’s Center and the Peer Empowerment Program.

“She spearheaded a period poverty drive and helped to collect more than 1,000 donations of menstrual products,” said Robert Owens, Tech’s chief diversity officer. “Through the Peer Empowerment Program, she helps make the campus a better place for survivors of intimate partner violence, especially LGBTQ+ identities. She has led many campus events, including a coming out tie-dye event for coming out day and the Women’s Center’s one billion Rising event. According to her nominator, ‘She brings the energy, and she makes things happen. She really is a Tech hero.’”

Cook is a member of the E-STAR Sanos grant team, an interdisciplinary and cross-cultural team that conducts monthly community outreach programs, sharing a “be healthy” message to Hispanic and rural populations in the Upper Cumberland Region.

“In this capacity, (Cook) helps design and deliver educational materials in Spanish to support the program’s outreach efforts,” Owens explained. “An effective communicator who consistently demonstrates the ability to engage individuals in difficult conversations, (Cook) responds to misinformation without judgment by providing evidence-based information in an accessible way. According to her nominator, (Cook) contributes excellent ideas for events and strategies to convey the message to the target populations. She is passionate about improving the lives of others through ‘boots on the ground’ interactions, lifting the target populations one conversation at a time.”

Recognizing students’ overall contributions to the Tech community and the embodiment of Tech school spirit and values, the Spirit of Tennessee Tech Award was presented to Alyssa Kitchen for her work helping the department of computer science to “create community, facilitate professional networks, and engage students in valuable mentoring opportunities.”

“In this role, (Kitchen) coordinates the tools that facilitate open and frequent communication, hosts meetings and events and leads other students,” Dorris said in presenting the award. “She demonstrates a clear vision for the program and care for her fellow students. Her nominators describe her as ambitious, enthusiastic, committed, creative, and hard-working.”

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