These students contributed to Miami through their service and leadership.
These students contributed to Miami through their service and leadership.

Seventeen students earn President's Distinguished Service Award

by Kerry McFadden, university news and communications intern

Miami University President David Hodge honored 17 students for their contributions to campus and the community through service and leadership.

This year’s recipients of the President’s Distinguished Service Award are:

Megan Beaver – public health major from Brecksville. Beaver has been a leader on campus for student health and wellness, serving as a HAWK peer health educator for three years and serving as co-president alongside award winner Kathie Wollney. She expanded the StepUP! Bystander Intervention program and served as a chair of the Miami values committee. She also competed in the MAC championships multiple times as a middle distance runner. Beaver was nominated by Mike Curme and Leslie Haxby McNeill.

Margaret “Maggie” Botts – social work major from Middletown. Botts represented Miami in the Southwestern Ohio Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers and participated in the “Walk to Stop Executions” while completing her capstone in the Over-the-Rhine community of Cincinnati. Her nominator, Terri Spahr, described her as a “dedicated and engaging student with a strong sense of ethics and our (Miami’s) professional values.”

Charlie Chen – East Asian languages and cultures major from Cincinnati. In his first year at Miami, Chen began conducting research with a faculty member on alcohol use.  He presented his research at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research all four years, traveled with the office of diversity affairs, interned with the sports marketing department and co-founded the fraternity, Sigma Lambda Beta. Chen was nominated by Yvania Garcia-Pusateri, Rose Marie Ward, Gerald Yearwood and James Wu.

Briana Deer – zoology major from McMurray, Penn. During her time at Miami, Deer practiced activism through protest for her social justice class, attended LeaderShape and served as an officer for both Oxfam America and MEDLIFE. She also served the global community, doing humanitarian work in Central and South America and Africa. Deer was nominated by C. Lee Harrington and Sarah Meaney.

Deborah “Debi” Ellenburg –integrative studies major, from Madison Township. Ellenburg worked with different departments and administrative centers on campus. Her job as a medical assistant inspired her to make positive changes in the health care field. She also worked as an orientation leader and coordinator, treasurer of the Miami Middletown Student Government, and student specialist for the office of public affairs and marketing. She now has a full-time internship but still volunteers with orientation programs. Ellenburg was nominated by Carrie Chambers

Deepika Hebbalalu – psychology major from Mason. Hebbalalu has been a participant of the university honors program since coming to Miami. She has served on the Honors Student Advisory Board and as a resident assistant in the Honors Living Learning Community. She also served as a Student Orientation Undergraduate Leader (SOUL). Nominator Shamika Karikari said, “Deepika has used every opportunity Miami granted her to expand, grow and learn.”

Nora Husani – software engineering major from Solon. Husani has been a member of the scholar leader program and a cohort member of the Lockheed Martin Leadership Institute in the College of Engineering and Computing. In the fall of 2013, she founded Kode2Learn, an organization that educates elementary and middle school students in computer coding. She recruited many Miami students to implement and participate in coding clubs in Oxford’s elementary schools and middle school. Husani was nominated by Norm Krumpe.

Emily Johnson – civic and regional development major from West Chester. Johnson started her Miami career on the Hamilton campus. She joined Public Moderators, a group that trains students to facilitate public conversations on difficult issues, and served as a leader for the Hamilton STAYcation program. She got involved with the Urban Teaching Cohort on the Oxford campus and ran the Community Garden initiative to address issues of food insecurity and healthy food options. Johnson was nominated by Chris Klefeker and Sarah Woiteshek.

Casey Kaldahl – social justice studies and professional writing double major from Chicago, Ill. Kahdahl dedicated her time at Miami to serving others. She coordinated Habitat for Humanity weekend projects, interned at a social services organization in Chicago and volunteered with an organization dedicated to helping people overcome homelessness and unemployment. While studying in London, she volunteered as an advocate supporting deafblind people. Kaldahl was nominated by Michael Evans.

Sharon Kootin-Sanwu – marketing major from Cincinnati. Kootin-Sanwu has been involved with various leadership endeavors on campus. She worked with the Wilks Leadership Institute to start a student employee position and participated in the Scholar Leader program. She planned the Perlmutter Leadership Conference and a series of leadership programs called Lessons in Leadership. She tutored for America Reads, helped found Black Women Empowered and was selected to the Management Leadership for Tomorrow Career Prep cohort program. Kootin-Sanwu was nominated by Kathy Jicinsky and Courtney Wallace.

Sarah Loomis – anthropology and English literature double major from Mitchell, Ky. While at Miami, Loomis made significant contributions to the anthropology department and the study of artifacts. She worked extensively with 3-D technology, namely 3-D printing, and its connection to the replication and accessibility of ancient artifacts. She presented this work to legislators in Columbus and Washington, D.C. Loomis was nominated by Mark Peterson and Jeb Card.

Tanner McClellan – kinesiology and health major from Columbus. McClellan has been a leader with the Best Buddies organization through music on campus. She formed a close relationship with her “buddy,” Tommy, and she founded the Best Buddies Friends Choir, giving members an opportunity to sing regardless of ability. She is a member of the a capella group, Just Duet, and organized the A Cappella Awareness concert this year. She spoke at TEDx Miami and taught classes at the Best Buddies International Leadership Conference. Her work was instrumental in achieving the Best Buddies Overall Most Outstanding College Chapter of the Year Award. McClellan was nominated by JS Bragg and Ritter Hoy.

Jaree Naqvi – biology major from West Chester. Naqvi has been involved with the Student Government Association on the Hamilton campus. He served as senator, marketing director and president. Some of his accomplishments include discussing potential changes to the regional campuses with President Hodge, developing an Act of Random Kindness Campaign, and promoting a healthy foods giveaway. He also participated in Big Brothers Big Sisters and has been a tutor and orientation leader at the Hamilton campus, an Oxford EMT and a Taekwondo instructor. Naqvi was nominated by Robert Rusbosin.

Abbie Schultheis – English literature major from Hudson. Schultheis has had various leadership roles on campus. During her time as a resident assistant she served on the diversity and inclusion committee in the office of residence life, organizing 200 RAs in groups to discuss diversity and inclusion. She also served on the student court and earned the position of Chief Justice. She worked to make the court a place where students were held accountable and their voices were heard. Schultheis was nominated by Vicka Bell-Robinson, Kelly Ramsey and Mark Freidline.

Ashton Spann – graphic design major from Pickerington. After attending the LeaderShape Institute Spann founded the student organization Project You, a group that promotes self-acceptance and individuality. She also led the group in a new initiative, 100 Days of Happy, that encourages students to find an element of good in every day. In addition to these projects, Spann served as a resident assistant for three years and as the president of her sorority, Sigma Lambda Gamma. She was nominated by Mike Curme.

Deana Williams – health promotion and music double major from Park Forest, Ill. Williams’ musicality, dedication to gender issues and faith have led her to get involved with different groups on campus. A voice major, she has performed concert solos, including Handel’s Messiah. She interned with the women’s center where she raised awareness about sexual assault through the Clothesline Project and dialogues across campus. She organized initiatives about health and gender equality in the workplace and served the Christian sorority Kappa Phi as president, raising awareness about different issues including human trafficking and homelessness in Ohio. Williams was nominated by Alison Acord.

Kathie Wollney – kinesiology major from Cary, Ill. Wollney contributed to the Miami community’s health and wellness initiatives through her involvement on campus. She was a HAWK peer health educator for three years and served as co-president alongside award winner Megan Beaver. Together they implemented the sexual and interpersonal violence program that is presented to student athletic teams. She has written and presented about her bystander intervention initiatives and earned recognition for Miami through this work. Wollney competed in the MAC championships multiple times as a sprinter, hurdler and relay team member. Wollney was nominated by Leslie Haxby McNeill and Jennie Gilbert.

All award winners were honored at a ceremony with the president on Sunday, April 17. They will wear a medal with their robes and cords at commencement for this achievement. 

Pictured above:

Front (L-R) 
Casey Kaldahl, Sharon Kootin-Sanwu, Megan Beaver, Kathie Wollney, Nora Husani, Jaree Naqvi,  Ashton Spann, Margaret "Maggie" Botts, Deepika Hebbalalu, Deborah "Debi" Ellenburg
Back (L-R)
Emily Johnson, Sarah Loomis, Briana Deer, President Hodge, Deana Williams, Abbie Schultheis, Tanner McClellan, Charlie Chen