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2024 President's Distinguished Service Award Recipients

Celia Banda

Celia Banda

Criminal Justice, Social Work

Austin, TX

Celia Banda's journey and invaluable contributions have shaped the Miami University community for the better. Celia has an unwavering dedication to building a better society. In her capacity as an Ignite Peace Intern, Celia advocates for fair housing for immigrants and refugees. She also nurtures understanding and unity within diverse communities as a Lead Student Assistant for Miami Hamilton’s Center for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. 

Beyond the university, Celia’s volunteer work with orphaned girls in Guatemala and marginalized communities in North Austin, Texas has made a real impact for others. Celia's enthusiasm, empathy, and innovative spirit leaves a lasting impact on Miami University and the broader community. 

Taylor Black

Taylor Black

Kinesiology, Honors College

Cincinnati, OH

Taylor Black is steadfastly committed to health and service. With an academic repertoire that also encompasses a minor in Medical Sociology and membership in the Honors College, Taylor's academic pursuits mirror the breadth of her global perspective on health. Taylor studied abroad in Luxembourg, and volunteered over 80 hours with MedLife in Lima, Peru. And more locally, Taylor has spent over 100 hours with the Kettering Health Fort Hamilton Emergency Department.

Beyond service, Taylor’s leadership in student organizations demonstrates her passion for health and making a difference. From the Medical Ethics Club to the American Medical Women’s Association, to her tenure as president of the Club Jump Rope team, Taylor consistently fosters a culture of health and active living. She advocates for health education and career readiness through her involvement in the College of Education, Health, and Society’s Undergraduate Leadership Council. Her research, notably her contribution to a study on memory and motor performance, reflects her intellectual curiosity and significant contributions to the academic community.

Hanah Bloom

Hanah Bloom

Political Science, Philosophy, Honors College

Montgomery, AL

Hanah Bloom has a proven track record of public service, leadership, and academic excellence. Hanah's passion for politics and policy extends beyond the classroom through an extensive list of student organization leadership positions, impressive internships, and service including serving as the President of the Asian American Association, membership on the diversity affairs council, and interning with Hillel and the Government Relations Network. Her deep interest in international security, particularly with the U.S., the Indo-Pacific region, and Japan, has been a hallmark of her experience. She is a profound thinker ready to challenge and contribute to global dialogues.

From inspiring peers in a senior capstone on conflict management to engaging in nuanced policy discussions with experts, Hanah has demonstrated extraordinary initiative and poise. She has a fine-tuned ability to navigate complex issues and inspire others. Beyond academia, Hanah's global perspective is enriched by study abroad experiences and a prestigious Fulbright Finalist position, preparing her for a promising future in public policy. 

Kasie Bowman

Kasie Bowman

English Studies

Hamilton, OH

Kasie Bowman has demonstrated remarkable leadership and service throughout her time at the Miami University Regionals. Her exceptional contributions will leave an enduring legacy in the areas of activities, orientation, admissions, and beyond. 

As the President of the Regional Student Government, Kasie has focused on eliciting student feedback and improving the dining, recreation, and involvement experiences for regional students. She aimed to bridge the student experience with staff and faculty.

Kasie's leadership extends to her roles as a Regional Orientation Leader and Coordinator, where she not only excelled but also inspired her peers to deepen their engagement with the campus and surrounding community. Kasie served with passion, energy, and unwavering dedication to cultivating a sense of belonging and excellence at Miami University Regionals. One nominator writes, “Her positive influence in our office and on our campuses will be felt for years to come.”

Simon DeBruin

Simon DeBruin

Mechanical Engineering

Bloomingburg, OH

Simon DeBruin’s Miami experience is defined by leadership, service, and academic excellence. He has engaged in scientific discovery research with faculty and conducted several undergraduate research projects. As an undergraduate associate for CEC 101 and UNV 101 classes, and a lab assistant for a computation class, he has continually found ways to connect with and mentor peers in the classroom.

Beyond the classroom, Simon has been dedicated to enriching student life, uplifting his community, and serving others. As a two-time Student Orientation Undergraduate Leader, Simon facilitated and shared information with care, tact, and unwavering accuracy. He also holds the title of the longest-serving president of the Alpha Phi Omega chapter, where he spearheaded membership recruitment efforts and led many impactful service projects. In addition, Simon served as a Resident Assistant, secretary for the Miami Men's Glee Club, and Scribe of the professional engineering fraternity Theta Tau.

Kathryn Gabe

Kathryn Gabe

Biology, Sustainability, Honors College

Blacklick, OH

Katie Gabe is fervently dedicated to marine biology and the environment. As the co-founder and president of the Miami University Marine Biology Club, she cultivated a thriving community and fostered invaluable connections with researchers and activists in the field.

Katie has been actively involved in marine research endeavors, including a notable internship at Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium and a transformative research expedition to Bonaire with Reef Expeditions. Moreover, her engagement in campus organizations such as Miami Activities and Programming and the Chi Omega sorority, along with her role as a campus tour guide, underscores her commitment to campus life, service, and community involvement. She has used her passion and talent for photography throughout her experience - as a photographer for University Communications and Marketing, for her sorority, for UP Magazine, and beyond.

Karla Garcia Cardenas

Carla Garcia Cardenas

Applied Communication, English Studies

Fairfield, OH

Karla Garcia Cardenas' excellent academic performance is underscored by numerous accolades and awards. But Karla's intellectual curiosity and engagement extend well beyond the classroom.

As an intern in the Languages, Literature, and Writing department, Karla played a pivotal role in creating a website to foster a sense of community among English Studies majors. Her commitment to service is evident in her volunteer work with English Language Learners at the Fairfield Lane Library, where she used her language and communication skills to make a meaningful impact.

Karla also served as Treasurer of the Miami University Regionals International Club and Marketing Director for the Miami University Regional Student Government Association. Her contributions to student organizations and campus life highlight her exceptional writing, communication, and social media skills.

Karla is an engaged student, a servant leader, and an outstanding member of the Miami University community.

Jules Jefferson

Jules Jefferson

Biochemistry, Environmental Science, Nutrition, Pre-Medical Studies, Honors College

West Chester, OH

 Beyond her perfect GPA and academic excellence, Jules Jefferson has made Miami a better place through her leadership and service.

In her role as Student Body Vice President, Jules demonstrates a steadfast commitment to enhancing the student experience at Miami. She helped create the ASG open forum, coordinated a new, successful RedHawk Day of Service, and initiated a compost program with Cafe Lux, among other things.

Jules's involvement at Miami has centered around sustainability and service. From the Student Sustainability Council, to EcoReps, to Engineers Without Borders, Jules pushed herself, her peers, and Miami to make a positive impact on the environment. She's also passionate about diversity, equity, and inclusion and has served on several advisory boards to ensure that student perspectives were considered in decision making.

Jules has demonstrated a genuine commitment to nurturing a supportive campus environment.

Kelsey Norris

Kelsey Norris

Political Science, Latin American Studies, Spanish

Medina, OH

Kelsey Norris has an intellectual curiosity and dedication to social justice matched by few. She has demonstrated exemplary service through research, multiple study abroad experiences, community engagement, and political activism.

Through various roles with the Government Relations Network and the Office of ASPIRE, Kelsey helped write grant applications, led advocacy meetings between students and legislators, conducted research, and wrote daily briefings. As an Undergraduate Summer Scholar, she conducted in-depth interviews and did independent research on femicide in Latin America. Her commitment to social justice is further evidenced by her roles as an intern for a women’s activism organization in Uruguay and Field Canvasser in Parma, Ohio.

Kelsey's dedication to empowering her peers and creating community has made a true difference on campus and beyond.

Wes Payne

Wes Payne

Sports Leadership and Management, Journalism, Honors College

Lexington, KY

Wes Payne has exhibited remarkable dedication and leadership qualities throughout his time on campus. 

Wes's service to Miami's community is evident through his notable roles in Associated Student Government as Speaker Pro Tempore and Senator of the Year in 2021, along with his contributions to Miami's Student Life Council. Additional roles on campus range from writing for the Miami Student to leading the Soul 2 Soul a cappella group as president, to creating leadership and professional development opportunities for peers through the Wilks Institute for Leadership and Service.

Beyond campus, Wes participated in Kentucky's Governor's Scholar Program and volunteered with the Alpha Phi Omega Service Fraternity. One nominator writes, “Wes truly leads others from a place of love and compassion… He is able to look at every issue objectively and makes his decisions based on “what is best” for the students, while leaving popular opinion behind when it is necessary.”

Isabelle Perese

Isabelle Perese

Inclusive Special Education

Worthington, OH

Isabelle Perese has excelled academically and athletically at Miami University. As a member of Miami's Division I field hockey team, Isabelle has set national records and garnered numerous accolades for her performance on the field, including Miami's female athlete of the year in 2022-23, and MAC goalkeeper of the year in 2022, among many others.

Aside from her excellence as a player, Isabelle was a leader on the field hockey team. She mentored younger players, led by example, and often served as a liaison between players and coaches. She maintained her commitment to the team even through long, rigorous days of student teaching.

Beyond her athletic achievements, Isabelle tutors and mentors students with disabilities in all school subjects. Her passion for universal design and opening doors for young people is evident.

Ryan Rosu

Ryan Rosu

Film Studies, English Literature, Philosophy, Honors College

Cleveland, OH

Ryan Rosu has a profound intellectual curiosity and commitment to social change. He stands out as a dedicated advocate for sustainability, a leader in community engagement, and a passionate scholar of film studies, philosophy, and literature.

As the president of Zero Waste Oxford, Ryan organized initiatives like a summer book club, weekly trash pickups, and info sessions on sustainability topics. Ryan also championed sustainable practices and community partnerships through his membership on the board of Oxford's MOON Co-op.

As a student employee for the Western Center for Social Impact and Innovation, Ryan founded the Western Center's classic film series, where he often introduces the films to foster community dialogue. He has hosted three RedHawk radio shows, including "Songs from the Silver Screen."

Mason Schmitt

Mason Schmitt

Biology, Pre-Medical Studies

Bollingbrook, IL

Mason Schmitt has been a persistent researcher, a compassionate leader, and an excellent student. His contributions to research the effects of a widely-used herbicide on zebrafish embryos has sparked a new branch of the lab to focus on eco-toxicology.

Beyond research, Mason has shined as a leader and resident assistant in the Pre-medical and Pre-Health LLC. His initiative to organize bi-weekly suture clinics demonstrates his proactive approach and entrepreneurial spirit. As Vice President of Finance for the Phi Delta Epsilon medical fraternity, he organized and hosted a record-setting charity banquet for the Cincinnati Children’s Miracle Network.

In the classroom, Mason fosters collaboration and inclusivity. He has routinely demonstrated resilience, adaptability, and a compassionate nature. One nominator wrote, "Mason makes the most of every opportunity provided to him and, most impressively, creates opportunities where others would not have known to look."

Teryn Scott

Teryn Scott

Diplomacy and Global Politics, Sustainable Development

Columbus, OH

Teryn Scott has exhibited unparalleled leadership, advocacy, and service. In her capacity as the Chief of Staff for ASPIRE, Teryn led, trained, and mentored 50 student staff members. As a resident assistant, Teryn connected residents with faculty members and went above and beyond to ensure students had access to unique opportunities.

Teryn is passionate about serving diverse communities and leveraging education to overcome adversity. She does this with empathy and encouragement. Her notable achievements include being a Fulbright semi-finalist, participating in the White House Climate Change Summit, and investigating groundwater supply in low-income communities in Zambia. Teryn has also contributed to her home community in Columbus, working with immigrant populations and promoting cultural understanding. 

Her extensive campus involvement and impactful community service reflect her passion for social justice and community empowerment.

Erin Sexton

Erin Sexton


Tipp City, OH

Erin Sexton has had a tremendous impact across the College of Education, Health, and Society through her leadership and service. Her influence is palpable in various facets of campus life, particularly in her efforts to enhance student support services and build community with peers. 

In her role at the EHS Success Center, Erin adopted a proactive stance in addressing inquiries and refining operational processes. As President of the EHS Ambassadors, she significantly improved engagement with prospective students through campus tours and admission events, while building the organization to be stronger than ever- a particularly big challenge following the COVID-19 pandemic. One nominator wrote about Erin, "She exemplifies citizen leadership through her consistent ethic of care for others and exceptional initiative to improve students’ experiences." Beyond EHS, Erin has volunteered more than 125 hours at Dayton Children’s Hospital and has been a four year member in the Miami University marching band.

Marguerite Smith

Marguerite Smith

Electrical Engineering, Engineering Management, Honors College

Avon Lake, OH

Marguerite's impact as a student associate for the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering extends far beyond operational support; her exceptional leadership and organizational skills are truly commendable.

As a leader, Marguerite brought her student organizations to new levels of success. As president of the Society of Women Engineers, she spearheaded the re-establishing of the group in high standing, and for that effort, they were awarded “resilient student organization of the year” in 2023. As president of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, she achieved a 900% increase in active membership in restoring the organization post pandemic.

Marguerite competed on both the Miami University Beach Volleyball and Women’s Club Volleyball teams, being selected as captain for both teams in her final year. Her ability to foster collaboration and inclusivity was made evident when she founded the annual Dig Pink intercollegiate volleyball tournament.

Nyah Smith

Nyah Smith

Public Health, Social Work

Canton, OH

Nyah Smith has made a lasting and positive impact on campus life at Miami University. The list of Nyah's involvement and achievements is long. She is a Chick Evans Scholarship recipient and served as the Evans Scholarship Center Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. She was chair of the Armstrong Student Center Board. She was a Head S.E.A.L. Ambassador. She is a PR/Marketing photographer for the UP Magazine and MU Fashion and Design. Finally, and certainly not least, she has served as Miami’s Student Body President this year.

As president, Nyah was determined to use her talents and the position to bring people together. During a year of political unrest, Nyah had her work cut out for her. She displayed conviction and courage navigating challenging situations. She is adept at listening to and advocating for her fellow students.

Beyond campus, Nyah's sustained work to improve the health and well-being of vulnerable groups is commendable. One nominator wrote, "Nyah is a true example of excellence, perseverance, and meaningful, selfless service."

Haley Stanaford

Haley Stanaford

Art Education

Troy, OH

Haley Stanaford has made significant contributions to the art community on campus. Serving as the inaugural President of the Ceramics Club, she organized events and mobilized the ceramic department’s growing community to engage in campus, local, and regional events. Haley also used her passion for art to design an interactive educational activity featuring approved Myaamia words to share aspects of the Myaamia culture and imagery for an event during the 50th anniversary celebrations.

Haley has also served as a member of the Scholar Leader community and the Miami University Marching Band, where she earned several awards for leadership and service. One nominator wrote, "Haley is caring, respectful and an open-minded young artist, and exhibits an excitement to learn and grow from her life experiences."

Sevara Ubaydullaeva

Sevara Ubaydullaeva

Diplomacy and Global Politics, American Studies

Plainfield, IL

Sevara Ubaydullaeva graduated in December 2023. In her time at Miami, Sevara demonstrated exceptional leadership and dedication to fostering inclusivity within the campus community. 

Sevara is passionate about understanding different cultures and making sure those from non-majority cultures are seen and heard. As a founding member of Miami's Multicultural Greek Council and Theta Nu Xi Multicultural Sorority, Inc., she played a pivotal role in creating spaces where students from diverse backgrounds could thrive within the fraternity and sorority life community.

Sevara served as a Lead Mentor for the ACROPOLIS emerging leadership retreat, impacting more than 80 members of the larger fraternity and sorority community. She has also served the university through roles on the Diversity Affairs Council, the Associated Student Government, and as an Undergraduate Assistant with the Department of Political Science. 

Her commitment to representing all voices and fostering understanding among different cultures reflects her desire to bridge gaps and build connections.

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