2019 President's Distinguished Service Award Recipients
Cincinnati, Ohio | Management and Leadership Major
Sara’s nominator described her as an exceptional person in whose hands we feel comfortable placing the future of our global society. Sara is Miami’s first Truman Scholar in 15 years and was a finalist for the Rhodes Scholarship. Her work has been intensely focused on the mental health challenges refugees face when they arrive in the United States from their home countries. As a naturalized American citizen who immigrated from Jordan as a child, Sara empathizes with the experience of starting a new life in a new country.
When Sara arrived at Miami as a first-year student, she was already operating a non-profit sending letters of support to children who fled the Syrian civil war. She worked as a refugee transition coach for RefugeeConnect Ohio, assisting five recently relocated families in the Cincinnati area. Sara then founded an organization that provides mental health training for those working with refugees. She worked with the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations to interpret and draft United Nations legislation and has served on the Ohio Refugee Advisory Council.
These experiences led to Sara’s appointment as the U.S. Country Ambassador of Humanitarian Affairs to the United Nations, as well as her founding of 3Sisters Foundation, which will directly address the mental health challenges confronted by refugees. Sara also excelled on campus, completing extensive undergraduate research, studying abroad, and working with our Government Relations Network.
Brunswick, Ohio | History and Political Science Double Major
Jacob Bruggeman exemplifies the type of intellectual rigor available to Miami students. He has been deeply involved with political science and history as he works concurrently towards his bachelors degrees in those subjects and a masters degree in political science. Jacob has a sincere commitment to promoting humanistic inquiry through civil dialogue.
Much of this commitment is to studying historical concepts of homelessness, which Jacob firmly believes will lead to more enlightened notions of civil responsibility and more well-informed policy approaches to affordable housing. Jacob is the 2018-2019 recipient of Miami’s Joanna Jackson Goldman Memorial Prize, which provides up to $11,000 to support an independent research project. Jacob’s is titled “The origins of homelessness in frontier cities: A comparative study of Cincinnati, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Albuquerque, and Salt Lake City.” He was also one of only 15 undergraduates nationwide recognized with the History Scholar Award from the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.
Jacob has also worked as a resident assistant, on the board of Miami’s Janus Forum, an honors ambassador, College of Arts and Science Ambassador, and as a student representative on the City of Oxford Housing Advisory Council. As one nominator stated, Jacob is a campus leader, wonderful student ambassador, and model citizen at Miami University.
Oxford, Ohio | Classical Humanities, Creative Writing, and Women's, Gender & Sexuality Studies Triple Major
Hannah Clarke’s nominator wrote that Hannah quickly took on the mantle of ally, advocate, champion, and educator for the queer community at Miami. Hannah, an Oxford native and Talawanda High School graduate, made it their mission to educate the Miami community and is a visible symbol of queer identity on campus.
As a first-year student, Hannah joined Spectrum and immediately started presenting on Pride Panels in Miami classrooms. Hannah then served as the social chair for Spectrum, creating events that engaged the queer community and the overall Miami community in safe and productive dialogues. They spent the last two years serving as the president of Spectrum and one of their accomplishments in this role include working with LGBTQ+ Services to bring back the Miami Pride Parade, a signature event that had not occurred for multiple years. Hannah also served as an editor for the Women*s Center’s annual publication the Femmellectual. This publication provides a space where feminist, activist, queer, and multicultural students know that truth is spoken and creative thought is welcomed.
In addition to these contributions, Hannah was an Altman Fellow, a member of the College of Arts and Science Student Advisory Council, and conducted research on the impact of the Classics on queer youth identity formation.
Los Altos, California | Environmental Science and Zoology Double Major
Katja Diekgers brings a life science perspective to her passion of addressing environmental issues. This has led her to Thailand for conservation fieldwork with elephants, to complete senior capstones on conservation biology and animal behavior, become an active member of our apiculture society–that’s beekeeping, and to learn taxidermy at the Hefner Museum on campus.
She and another of this year’s recipients, Madison Olds, co-founded Zero Waste Oxford, a student organization focused on waste reduction, over consumption, and other sustainability issues on campus and in Oxford. The organization, under their leadership, hosts a weekly cleanup of Uptown Oxford and worked with Miami’s Institute for Food to pilot a composting project at Peabody Hall.
One nominator wrote that Katja is the model of a true employee and citizen of the world. View more about Zero Waste Oxford on Madison's page.
Parma Heights, Ohio | Anthropology and Public Administration Double Major
Charles Kennick currently serves as the Secretary for Off-Campus Affairs in the Associated Student Government. In this role, he serves as a an advocate of the student voice in town-gown relations and chairs the City of Oxford Student Community Relations Commission, made up of students, Oxford residents, and Miami faculty and staff. Charles’ nominator wrote that he breathed new life into the commission and has improved relations between Miami University students and Oxford citizens.
Charles also served as the chair of Miami’s Parking and Transportation Board, focusing his energies on advocating for e-scooters as an alternative transportation option for students. He has also been involved as the Chair of the Armstrong Student Center Board and president of Miami’s chapter of College Democrats. Through all of this, Charles is working on a combined bachelors and masters in political science, studying public administration and policy analysis.
Oakdale, Minnesota | Marketing Major
Zach LaValle came to Miami as a recruited scholarship athlete for our hockey team. But it’s his contributions off the ice for which Zach is being honored today. Zach has been the team’s community service coordinator since 2015, a role that does not officially exist but has added immense value to players’ experience.
He organized weekly service opportunities, including the Junior RedHawks hockey program, serving food in the community, and volunteering at local elementary schools. This is in addition to the expected activities for varsity athletes, such as alumni events, fundraisers, and Skate with the Hawks.
Zach took it upon himself to be a single point of contact when requests come in for hockey players to attend an event. He selects the teammates, provides them with the time, location, and attire, and gives the event contact a list of players and short bios of each. His dedication and logistics have proved invaluable, particularly to event planners in University Advancement.
Through it all, Zach has earned Dean’s List recognition several semesters as he completes his degree in Marketing.
Mars, Pennsylvania | Integrated Mathematics Education and Mathematics Double Major
Jenna’s service in college can be described by three words: Ambassador of Miami. She served as an undergraduate associate for not one, but two University 101 classes during the same semester, helping first-year students learn about all aspects of college. The professor for one of those classes wrote of Jenna’s innate ability to relate to students, easing their transition to Miami.
Jenna also helped found and lead the College of Education, Health & Society Ambassadors program, which helps the college recruit students to Miami and assists current students in educational initiatives that enhance their academic experience. Jenna was handpicked by the college’s associate dean for this role.
Jenna also served as an orientation leader, representing the Miami student experience to incoming students and their families. Another nominator wrote that Jenna leads with who she is versus what she does. Her authenticity, vulnerability, positive energy, and intelligence helped countless students transition to Miami. As an aspiring math teacher, Jenna is currently the co-president of the Miami University Council of Teachers of Mathematics and serves on the state-wide board for the organization. Jenna also taught peers as a supplemental instruction leader for Calculus 2 and completed part of her student teaching at an international school in Luxembourg.
Westerville, Ohio | Computer Science and Software Engineering Double Major
Adetayo Alexander Oladele was described by his nominator as selfless, passionate, and humble. Alex has served as a resident assistant for three of his four years at Miami, mostly with first-year students. He exemplifies what Love and Honor means through the ethic of care he shows for his residents and other RAs in his building. Alex goes well out of his way to make sure others are taken care of, taking on extra nights on duty when a colleague is stressed out, sitting with residents to process a difficult situation, and much more.
Alex is also committed to diverse issues around campus. His nominator wrote that Alex frequently speaks about the lack of diversity in his computer science and software engineering majors, as well as around campus. He intentionally reaches out to students from marginalized communities to serve as a mentor and inspiration, instilling confidence in students who may not find it elsewhere at Miami.
For Alex, helping others brings him pure joy and he is driven by this enjoyment.
Sabina, Ohio | Psychology Major
Maddie is focused on social inequality and the power of education and awareness-raising activities to make social change. In the face of distressing and sometimes depressing environmental challenges, Maddie helps maintain a balance between urgency and a sense of hope. She looks for practical ways to support behavior change across diverse populations.
Madison is the other co-founder of Zero Waste Oxford (with Katja Diekgers), which you heard about a few minutes ago. Another major accomplishment of this organization, under Madison and Katja’s leadership, is a pop-up thrift shop that was launched in the Armstrong Student Center earlier this semester. This shop is an intentional effort to recycle or upcycle items and provide affordable clothing options for Miami students, rather than let those items end up in a landfiill.
Franklin, Pennsylvania | Strategic Communications and Theatre Double Major
Beth Pfohl spent Fall 2018 at our Luxembourg campus, where she quickly distinguished herself as a leader among peers. As the co-chair of the student faculty council, she organized activities for students and their local host families and a fundraiser for a local refugee center. She even found time to volunteer at a local school while she was there.
Beth was chosen to give the introductory address at last fall’s 50th anniversary celebration of our Dolibois European Center in Luxembourg. She opened her speech with a lengthy greeting in Luxembourgish, which she spent hours writing and practicing so as to honor the Luxembourgish guests, which included members of the royal family. She also readily volunteered many times to speak with local press covering the 50th anniversary, serving as an unofficial ambassador for Miami and for the United States.
Outside of her time in Luxembourg, Beth has served as a College of Arts and Science Ambassador, a College of Creative Arts divisional representative, and a teaching assistant for qualitative research methods.
Oxford, Ohio | Bassoon Performance Major
One nominator wrote that it is difficult to separate Emily’s contributions as a student, a performer, and those that are exclusively service because everything she does is imbued with a concern for the benefit of others and the greater good. She serves as one of the student managers for the Miami University Wind Ensemble, where she has transformed the morale of the organization.
Emily is a bassoon performance major, which demands hours each week of sessions with faculty, ensemble rehearsals, and individual practice. On top of these commitments, Emily is a consistent presence for the Music department at all audition days and Make It Miami events, welcoming and assisting new and potential students. As a life-long resident of Oxford, she has a great deal of knowledge about the Department, Miami, and Oxford. Emily willingly shares this information with prospective students and parents, helping them envision being a part of the Miami family.
As another nominator wrote, the Department of Music literally depends on a strong incoming class of students each year, making the culture of the department critical to success. Emily exemplifies a dedication to creating a vibrant, inviting, and supportive culture.
Bradford, Ohio | Integrated English Language Arts Education Major
Courtney has been heavily involved since the moment they stepped on campus four years ago. Their nominator described Courtney as a fierce advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion from every possible vantage point on this campus.
They have served as the director for advocacy in the Residence Hall Association, president of the Diversity Affairs Council, a member of the University’s Council for Diversity and Inclusion, and, most recently, as Secretary for Diversity and Inclusion in the Associated Student Government. Through all of these experiences, Courtney has focused on creating a more inclusive and culturally competent campus community for all Miamians. One way they take on this task is by building bridges between various populations on campus.
Courtney was recently recognized for their dedication and advocacy when they received Miami’s first Inclusive Excellence Award, given by the Office of the President, Office of Institutional Diversity, and Intercollegiate Athletics.
Victoria Carvalho Salles
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania | Diplomacy and Global Politics Major
Victoria is active on campus in ways we've come to expect of our top students at Miami. She is a member of the Alexander Hamilton Society, the Water Polo Club, and a sorority. She is also the president of the Portuguese Club and founder and president of Claws with a Cause, which focuses on reducing the cat overpopulation and abandonment problem in Oxford. However, it is her deep commitment to social justice that sets her apart and is why we are recognizing her.
Before leaving her native country of Brazil to start school at Miami, Victoria founded the Octavarium Project, which works to raise money and awareness for education inequality in the country. She still runs this organization, though she is here in Ohio. This interest in education disparity influenced her research into funding disparities of Cincinnati high schools, which received recognition from the Ohio Association of Economists and Political Scientists. Another research project Victoria is currently working on focuses on gendered violence in Brazil. These projects exemplify her passion for social justice and equity.
Toledo, Ohio | Psychology Major
Advocate is a word used by all nominators to describe Amanda Sargent. For example, as a two-term president of her sorority, she worked to re-establish the organization with a healthy culture and stop traditions that threatened the safety of her sisters. She took a hard stance to protect the values of the organization, the benefit of which will be realized well after she leaves Miami.
Amanda was also extensively involved with Miami’s Government Relations Network (GRN), where she served as the team leader for GRN students that attended the 2017 presidential inauguration, the 2016 Democratic National Convention, and the GRN Alternative Spring Break Advocacy and Leadership conference. She also completed an internship with a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Amanda focuses on exposing students to the GRN, but she does so as a means to assist in their success and inform them of other university resources. She has also served as an Resident Assistant for three years, including two with the GRN community. Also within Residence Life, Amanda is one of few RAs who sits on a departmental committee, working on the Research and Assessment Committee for two years.
Middletown, Ohio | Nonprofit and Community Studies Major
Jade’s nominators wrote that she has a passion and commitment to service, both on campus and in the community. On our Middletown campus, Jade has served as the president of Campus Activities Board and an Orientation Coordinator, creating opportunities for incoming and current students to make the most of their Miami experience.
Jade worked in the Middletown Office of External Relations and Communications to support the information desk, but was quickly recognized for her potential to do more and ended up as a student writer for the department, helping to tell the story of our Middletown campus.
Off campus, Jade has held internships at Vitas Hospice Care and 3R Development Care, which strives to empower disenfranchised individuals and families to regain control of their lives. She also leads Young Life at Middletown High School. For her commitment to creating thriving communities, on and off campus, we are proud to recognize Jade with the President’s Distinguished Service Award.
Libertyville, Illinois | Creative Writing and English Literature Double Major
Whether it is her writing about tropes of female hysteria or her research on "Reconsidering the 'Unreliability' and Treatment of a Mentally Ill Narrator," one nominator wrote that Ellen weaves together insightful and wide-reaching arguments that challenge peers and faculty in her courses.
After a semester as an undergraduate associate for a linguistics course, Ellen worked with the Howe Writing Center to design and start a new position: writing associates. These positions are now a permanent feature of the Writing Center’s offerings and help individual professors by holding out-of-class writing workshops and individual writing consultations with students in the course. Ellen also served for three years as undergraduate associate for the same UNV 101 instructor, continually finding innovative ways to help first year students in their transition to college.
Ellen has also been deeply involved with Miami’s Collegiate Chorale, going well beyond the academic and organizational requirements of membership. She currently serves as the vice president and has played a key role in organizing outreach tours in Columbus, Indianapolis, Nashville, Chicago and Atlanta. A common thread through all of these accomplishments is a dedication to bring her best self to every endeavor. She exudes compassion and positivity to those around her.
Lydia Yellow Hawk
Rosebud, South Dakota | Anthropology and Political Science Double Major
Student organization life on our regional campuses is vastly different than in Oxford because of the student population. Most of the forty clubs do smaller weekly programs that rely on walk-by traffic during the lunch hour. This context did not stop Lydia Yellow Hawk from shooting for the stars in her role as founder and president of the Native American Student Association on our Hamilton campus.
Lydia created successful large-scale programs that reached across multiple campuses and introduced students to Indigenous culture. Programs included an artist and activist, a traditional Medicine Man speaking about Indigenous healing practices, and a lecture about Guatemalan Mayans.
Lydia has also worked as a College of Arts and Science Ambassador on our Oxford campus, completed an internship where she conducted a community health needs assessment for the Rosebud Sioux Tribe in South Dakota, and a second internship where she worked to help promote the Lakota language at the Lakota Summer Institute.
Lydia’s dedication has led to positive changes at our regional campuses and proved that in-depth programming can be done with a commuter student population.
West Chester, Ohio | Interactive Media Studies and Journalism Double Major
Megan is the managing editor of The Miami Student and editor of The Miami Student Magazine, has completed an internship with The Chronicle of Higher Education, and is a prolific contributor to our student-produced community paper, the Oxford Observer. Megan is also completing her year as an undergraduate fellow through the Altman Program in our Humanities Center. Through this fellowship, the highest undergraduate honor through the Humanities Center, Megan has worked with a small team of faculty and graduate fellows to explore advanced research in humanities.
Megan is a founding member and current co-president of our Students with Disabilities Advisory Council (SDAC), through which she started Coffee and Conversations panels, where students with disabilities share their Miami experience with faculty members. SDAC received the 2017 Best New Student Organization Award due in large part to Megan’s leadership. She has worked closely with staff from our Miller Center for Student Disability Services and the College of Education Health & Society to create an accessible classroom in McGuffey Hall, where many special education classes are now held. Through this work and much more, including serving as an undergraduate teaching assistant for a disability studies course, Megan is an intellectual leader in resisting ableism on campus and in society.
One nominator summed it up by writing that through Megan’s leadership there has been a culture shift on campus with respect to viewing disability as a facet of diversity and bringing disability related topics into everyday campus conversations.