UNC Asheville presented its annual student and faculty leadership awards at a special ceremony on campus on Tuesday, April 16, 2019.
“This is an evening about honoring and celebrating, and to do that we are going to hold up those of our colleagues and friends and faculty and staff and students who uphold our values, and who stand for what is best in all of us,” said Chancellor Nancy J. Cable at the ceremony.
The university’s two most prestigious student service awards went to graduating seniors James Smith and Michael Davis. Faculty members Lyndi Hewitt and Agya Boakye-Boaten also were honored, as were many other students and staff members.
Michael Davis received the William and Ida Friday Award honoring outstanding in service to the community. Davis was recognized for his work as Student Body President during his senior year, where he utilized his position to advocate for the needs of students in meaningful ways, as well as his continued work over his four years as a student at UNC Asheville. Davis served on the UNC System Campus Safety Committee, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Association of Asheville and Buncombe County Prayer Breakfast Committee, as a Hillcrest Learning Center Volunteer, as a student assistant to the Chancellor, an Orientation Leader, an AVID Peer Mentor, and on the Black Student Association, among many other roles both on campus and in the wider Asheville community. Davis was also a key player in bringing then-vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine to campus, and worked to expand community outreach by teaming up with UNC Asheville alumni to help several Buncombe County middle schools create their own constitutions to form their own student government associations.
James Smith received the A.C. Reynolds Award and Thomas D. Reynolds Prize for his service to the campus, including continued work and leadership with the UNCA Divestment Coalition. Smith’s work has included involvement with the Better Future Project; helping UNC Asheville gain recognition as a Green College from the Sierra Club; coordinating public actions by students advocating for divestment; contributing as a thought leader to the sustainable investing working group of the UNC System; presenting to the Endowment Investment Committee, Faculty Senate, Sustainability Council, and Student Government Association to advocate for clean energy and as sustainable future for the campus; serving as an active member of the UNC System Energy Summit hosted at Appalachian State; presenting in San Francisco about his efforts in working with the UNC Asheville administration to adopt sustainable investing practices; and working at The Collider in downtown Asheville as a representative of the student body for the advocacy of sustainable living and investment practices through the ClimateCon Summit. Smith also founded a community group of high school students called YES!, which includes students from every local city and county school, and aims to teach and empower future environmental leaders in the area.
Lyndi Hewitt, Sara and Joseph Breman Professor of Social Relations and Associate Professor of Sociology, and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program Director, was given the Community Connector Award for strengthening bonds between campus and community. Hewitt was recognized for her work with Women for Women, a women’s giving circle through the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina; her work with the Asheville City Schools Foundation’s Listening Project, which included student research and expanded to include Pisgah Legal Services and the Community Tool School for Girls; and for her dedication to advancing applied social research on campus.
Agya Boakye-Boaten, Chair and Associate Professor of Africana and Interdisciplinary and International Studies, received the Champion for Students Award. Boakye-Boaten was recognized for his ability to perfectly walk the line of both caring for and questioning his students, and for his empathy, patience, and mentorship. He has supported the Black Student Association for nine years, and is known for creating space where students can engage in civil discourse.
The following students and staff also were honored:
Kayla Taylor was awarded the Carolyn Briggs Diversity Award for her service as a Student Government Association senator and director of community engagement for the Student Organization Council, as a resident assistant in the leadership living learning community on campus, as a Fall 2018 Fellow with Ignite NC, and as a student mentor.
Sarah Lutes received the Newman Civic Fellows Award from Campus Compact for her volunteer work serving the Latinx community through Pisgah Legal Services, and serving the local homeless population through the Haywood Street Congregation in Asheville.
The student employee of the year was Khadiya Ross, who serves as a senior career peer in the university’s Career Center. Ross also serves on the student organization council, is vice president of the Black Student Association, and serves in an executive role in the Student Government Association.
Colleen O’Neil, alumni engagement coordinator, was awarded Student Employee Supervisor of the Year for her ability to connect with and support students as both students and employees.
Student Organization of the Year was awarded to the UNC Asheville Running Club for their success in creating a competitive co-curricular activity and achieving their highest rank at a competition to date.
Collaboration of the year was awarded to the Live at Lunch Program, organized by leaders of Asheville Campus Entertainment and the Department of Music. The collaboration emphasized the arts on the UNC Asheville campus through student performances, with a focus on performances that celebrate different cultures and genres from around the globe.
PEPAH (Peers Educating Peers Advancing Health) received the Program of the Year award. Throughout the academic year, PEPAH has planned, produced, implemented and evaluated several noteworthy programs that have collectively resulted in a record-breaking number of students engaging in events that promote healthy and responsible choices.
Julia Dorn, co-director of the Student Environmental Center, received the Emerging Leader of the Year award. Dorn is highly engaged in university efforts towards environmental sustainability, including organizing events, developing the Student Environmental Center’s resource guide for student organization events, and more.
Sara Hayes received the Student Leader of the Year award. Hayes provides leadership, direction, and guidance to the many clubs and organizations for which she is involved, including Alpha Xi Delta, Resident Assistant Hall Council, Student Organization Council, and the March of Dimes/Fullerton Genetics Center.
Helen LaHoda was given the Non-Traditional Student Leader of the Year award. LaHoda is a transfer student from Warren Wilson College who has impacted the campus community through her dedication and commitment to supporting students in the advising and OneStop center.