“The Rocky’s” Celebrate Campus Leadership

By Rei Ramos ’15
University Communications

Each spring, the Office of the Dean of Students and the Rochester Center for Community Leadership recognize undergraduate students and organizations that have made significant contributions to campus life. Nominated by faculty, staff, and peers, Student Life Award recipients represent diverse interests, talents, and accomplishments but are united in their strength in leadership, fervor for engagement in campus life, and their aim to be a positive influence on peers, all of which help the campus community become ever better.

This year, the awards, also referred to as the “The Rocky’s,” went to 20 undergraduates and two student organizations. “I think the winners represent a large demographic that follows their passions and gives back to others in all sorts of ways,” said Ed Feldman, associate director of leadership programs at the Rochester Center for Community Leadership and chair of the selection committee. “With over 200 organizations on campus, students have the resources and capacity to be part of something bigger than just themselves,” he added.  Feldman believes that the leadership opportunities on campus provide students with a means to create and promote positive social change in the immediate community and beyond.

2014-04-17_student_life_awards_13303Friends, family, and colleagues of the honorees were invited to an intimate awards reception, which also was attended by University administrators and campus leaders. All the winning students and organizations received engraved glass trophies and certificates.

Japanese Students’ Association was honored as this year’s Outstanding Student Organization. Founded in spring 2013, the group has rounded out its first year with events both cultural and philanthropic. In October, they hosted the Omatsuri Festival, offering the local community a glimpse (and taste) of the breadth of Japanese culture. In the spring, JSA collaborated with the Filipino American Students’ Association to host a Relief Concert to raise funds for the victims of Typhoon Haiyan.

Founding club president and biology major George Iwaoka ’16 said that JSA’s first year was focused and geared towards impactful programming.  The group aims not only to celebrate but also share Japan’s culture with people of all backgrounds. “Our goal is to provide an opportunity for the entire campus community to experience Japanese culture as more than just sushi, anime, or samurai,” said Iwaoka. In the coming years, Iwaoka hopes to see the group grow in size and prominence, comparable to other cultural groups like CSA or ADITI, in order to offer bigger programs and expand their reach.

Freshman Senator and Class Council President Stephen Wegman ‘17 received this year’s Award for Freshman 2014-04-17_student_life_awards_13316Leadership. “I think I learned most from my participation in SA Government,” said Wegman. “As a freshman senator, it can be very difficult to gain the respect of the more experienced senators at the table. By seeing so many diverse examples of effective management, I was able to model my leadership style after those peers who inspired me the most.” Taking after the common idiom, “lead by example,” Wegman hopes to encourage his peers to be more active in civic leadership, as offered by the Students’ Association.

Wegman plans to not only maintain but also increase his involvement with the SA Government in the coming years. “I hope to look back at my undergraduate experience and see my involvements as times of growth through which I helped others.” The 2014 Student Life Award recipients are as follows:

 

Individual Awards:   adulley

Andrew Fried Prize: Kelvin Adulley

Established by friends and family in 1961 in memory of Andrew Norman Fried, class of 1961. This prize is awarded to the man who, upon completion of his freshman year, has shown outstanding qualities of character, superior moral judgment, and interest in serving his fellow students.

 

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Delno Sisson Prize: Yuki Gonzalez

In 1957, this award was established by a gift from Delno Sisson, class of 1966. This prize is awarded annually to the freshman who has shown the most improvement not only in academic work, but also in adjusting to college life and the student body.

 

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Award for Freshman Leadership: Stephen Wegman

This award recognizes an exceptional man or woman of the freshman class who has motivated his or her fellow classmates to become actively involved in the campus community.

 

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Eli & Mildred Sokol Prize: Eudora Dickson

This award was established in 1985 by a gift from Eli and Mildred Sokol, class of 1933. This prize is awarded to a sophomore who has emerged as a leader who can be expected to contribute significantly to the welfare of his or her fellow students in the next two years.

 

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Award for Campus Contributions: Mary Baron (left) and Katherine Wegman (right)

Two awards, one each presented to a junior and senior class member who has made significant contributions to the University community, including, but not limited to, campus life, academic achievement and leadership, and community service. The award winner will have promoted and demonstrated excellence in all aspects of their college experience.

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Seth H. & Harriet Terry Prize: Matias Piva

Established in 1928 as a gift from Seth H. Terry, class of 1883, in memory of his parents. This award is given to the male member of the senior class who, by his industry, character and honorable conduct, has done the most for the life and character of the undergraduate community.

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Percy Dutton Prize: Julian Lunger

This prize was established in 1946 as a gift from Percy Dutton. This award is given to the male member of the graduating class who has excelled in “wholesome, unselfish and helpful influence” among his fellow students.

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Award for Outstanding Fraternity and Sorority Leadership: Harini Morissety

This award recognizes the positive contributions fraternities and sororities make to the campus community. It is awarded to a fraternity or sorority member who has led with integrity within their fraternal organization while also making significant contributions to the greater campus community.

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Simeon Cheatham Award: Madison Wagner

Established in the 1970s by the Office of the Dean of Students to recognize outstanding University of Rochester students. This award is given to a student who has outstanding qualities in devotion to community service and to growth and development of children.

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Rob Rouzer Award for Excellence in Student Government Leadership: Shilpa Topudurti

 

Established in honor of his 28 years of service to the University of Rochester, the Rob Rouzer Award is conferred annually to a student affiliated with either of the three branches of the Students’ Association Government who has shown immense integrity and perseverance in striving to improve student life and welfare

 

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Logan Hazen Award for Outstanding Contributions to Residential Life: Alysha Alani (left) and Barra Madden(right)

This award is given annually to the student who has “made significant contributions to the community and experience of students living in undergraduate residence halls. This student, through his or her actions, leadership, and innovation has promoted community through respect, fairness, and inclusion.”

 

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Award for Athletic Leadership: Lila Cantor

This award recognizes the positive contributions athletes make to the campus community. It is awarded to a student athlete who has demonstrated leadership within their club or varsity sport while also making significant contributions to other aspects of campus life.

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Presidential Award for Community Service: Kyra Bradley

Established by the Dean of Students in 1990 to recognize University students who are committed to community service. Given to a senior for outstanding participation and leadership in service to the community beyond the campus, this award recognizes a student who has worked selflessly and effectively in addressing social causes. Areas of focus include, but are not limited to, improving literacy, reducing hunger and hopelessness, providing legal or medical assistance to the needy, and serving as a mentor.

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Entrepreneurship Award: Harshita Venkatesh

The award for entrepreneurship is given to a student, or group of students, who has turned an idea into a venture that benefited others. The recipient will have demonstrated individual initiative and knowledge through awareness of markets and attention to the needs of others.

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Michael Lowenstein Memorial Award: Alexandra Poindexter

This award, named for Michael Lowenstein, class of 1960 is presented to the University of Rochester River Campus undergraduate who deepens student, faculty, and community awareness of existing social, racial, or political inequities. This undergraduate through his/her words and actions has endeavored to promote the ideals which Michael cherished. Michael sought to give a fresh view of things around us, to focus upon issues, to probe deeply using fact and objectivity and to open a dialogue with the community to find some answers.

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Transfer Student Award: Sophie Rusnock

This award, recognizing the unique role of transfer students to the campus community, is given to a student who transferred with sophomore standing or above, and has completed a full year of study at the University. The recipient will have demonstrated a quick, successful, and seamless transition to the institution and will have taken full advantage of his or her time spent at the University.

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Simeon Cheatham Award: Madison Wagner

Established in the 1970s by the Office of the Dean of Students to recognize outstanding University of Rochester students. This award is given to a student who has outstanding qualities in devotion to community service and to growth and development of children.

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The Communal Principles Award: Jon Macoskey

Established by the Office of the Dean of Students during the 2011-2012 academic year, this award is given annually to the student(s) or organization that best promote(s) the Communal Principals, as adopted by The College. These principles include Fairness, Freedom, Honesty, Inclusion, Respect, and Responsibility. One of these six principles will be highlighted annually and the recipient will have demonstrated qualities that exemplify the principles and/or created programming and activities related to this year’s Communal Principle:Honesty.

 

Student Organization and Programming Awards:

 

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Excellence in Programming: Class Council 2014/Winter Senior Week

This Excellence in Programming Award recognizes a student organization or group, either formal or informal, for its exceptional creativity, planning, and execution of a University program. Criteria upon which decisions are based include appeal to a broad cross-section of the University community, originality, and participation by members of the organization during all phases of the effort.

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Outstanding Student Organization Award: Japanese Students’ Association

Awarded to a student organization that has gone beyond the bounds of their membership by helping to create a positive campus environment for all students.

Oladoyin Oladeru ’13 Leads Nonviolence Program for Middle Schoolers

By Caitlin Mack ’12 (T5)
Univ. Communications

Last year, Oladoyin Oladeru ’13 mentored middle school students about the benefits of nonviolence during in-school suspension hours and decided he wanted to create an after school program of a similar nature.  With help from the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence and fellow University of Rochester undergraduates, Oladeru established the Young Men at Peace program last fall.  The program allows 6th, 7th, and 8th grade male students at Dr. Charles Lunsford School #19 the unique opportunity to explore a wide range of important issues related to nonviolence.

Oladeru is one of five students chosen to be a 2012-20130 Meliora Leader, a new community service initiative through the Rochester Center for Community Leadership (RCCL). Meliora Leaders create individualized service projects, allowing them to exercise intensive leadership in the Rochester community for an extended period of time. The program benefits organizations and individuals in need while providing a substantial learning experience for the students involved.

The topics addressed in Young Men at Peace are meant to inform the middle schoolers about the power of nonviolent self-transformation to overcome physical and mental obstacles. This includes awareness of positive lifestyle choices and social interactions, how to become better advocates against community and school violence, and learning about social justice heroes like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi.

In addition to Oladeru, other Young Men at Peace undergraduate mentors include Milan Byrdwell ’14, Reginald Hooks ’15, Shaquill McCullers ’14, Michael Mobarak ’15, Carl Parker ’13, and Taurean Parker ’13. All six undergraduates, whom Oladeru gathered before the start of the program last fall, serve as a source of inspiration for the students.

“We want to make the dream of obtaining a college education more attainable by showing them young men from the U of R who are living proof,” says Oladeru.

George Payne, who works at the Gandhi Institute as a Peace and Justice Educator and helps oversee the program, applauds Oladeru’s “vision and dedication,” for allowing the students involved to form “meaningful bonds with mentors in college who know about their challenges and believe in their potential.”  Echoing Payne’s praise is Principal Eva Thomas, who has called the Young Men at Peace program a “blessing” to her school.

Oladeru exercises his own life experiences while serving as a nonviolence ambassador to the young males of School # 19.  Oladeru moved from Lagos, Nigeria to the United States when he was nine years old and lived in the Bronx until college.  Around the age of the students he now mentors, Oladeru was bullied for being foreign, African, and studious. A personal “turning point” that alerted him to the importance of nonviolence occurred in 6th grade when his friend got shot on his way home after school.

“Mentorship is really important, especially at a young age,” says Oladeru. “I remember giving into peer pressure when I came to this country and I think this is an issue most prevalent with young males at that age.  It’s not enough to have two parents at home because they can’t relate and there’s only so much they can understand.”

Oladeru, who is set to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in epidemiology this May, is a McNair Scholar, a Ronald McDonald scholar, a Gilman Scholar, and a Gates Millennium Scholar.  In addition to being a Meliora Leader, he works at Carlson Library and is a Resident Advisor.  He hopes to get a master’s and doctoral degree in epidemiology and conduct population-based research in cardiovascular disease.

Oladeru has high hopes for the future of the program because the young male participants have noticeably progressed as a result of the efforts of Oladeru, his fellow UR mentors, and the Gandhi Institute.  The number of attendees has been steadily increasing and Oladeru aims for a total of 15 boys that come on a regular basis. He also hopes to plan field trips to the U of R campus, Foodlink, and Darien Lake to teach them about rules in different social settings and inspire them to be respectful no matter where you are.

“To see someone with a similar background having made it goes a long way,” says Oladeru. “The greatest joy for me is that I got people interested in volunteering who really care. We go back every week and it makes a difference.”

This article is part two of a series that features the Meliora Leaders of 2012-2013. Undergraduates interested in participating in the program should look for information on the RCCL page in the coming months. Information about the program can be found on the RCCL page at http://rochester.edu/college/rccl/meliora.html.

In the photos: Photo 1: Oladoyin Oladeru with one of the young men in his program. Photo 2: Oladoyin Oladeru and a group of University of Rochester undergraduate mentors teach male students from Dr. Charles Lunsford School #19 about the benefits of nonviolence.

Meet Samantha Whalen: Meliora Leader

By Caitlin Mack ’12 (T5)
Univ. Communications

Though only a sophomore, Samantha Whalen ’15 has managed to effectively find a  real-world application for her majors in anthropology and health, behavior & society and complement her interests in peer health advocacy and community outreach. As a participant in the Meliora Leaders Program, Whalen was given the opportunity to volunteer at the Sojourner House, a transitional housing program for homeless women and children located in the 19th ward community. There, she helps residents plan and cook healthy, nutritious meals.

For the 2012-2013 academic year, five Rochester students, including Whalen, were selected as inaugural participants in the Meliora Leaders program. Designed to support and incentivize community-based leadership among Rochester students, the new initiative is a part of the Rochester Center for Community Leadership (RCCL).

In addition to serving as publicity chair of the Refugee Student Alliance on campus and volunteering as a part of community service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega, Whalen will spend the year running a local community service project, embodying the University motto by “seeking to ameliorate the Rochester community.”

In exchange for 300 hours of service throughout the academic year, leaders receive supplemental funding through AmeriCorps, which is matched by the University of Rochester. Participants undergo leadership training, keep in contact with a member of the host organization where the service is performed, and receive regular advisement by faculty or staff at the College.

“The program benefits organizations and individuals in need in Rochester, but also provides a substantive learning experience for our students,” says Glenn Cerosaletti, director of Rochester Center for Community Leadership. “Students stand to gain a keener understanding of the Rochester community—both its needs and assets—and make lasting connections with particular individuals in the community. At the same time, I hope they will gain an understanding of project management and how to enact social change.”

Whalen’s host organization, the Sojourner House, provides shelter for roughly 16 women at a time and any children they may have. The women living in the house must complete assigned chores, attend life skills programs that help them find jobs, and sometimes undergo counseling and therapy for issues like drug and alcohol addiction. Women and their families usually stay around six months, which is preferred to secure living arrangements, although stays vary from one month to more than a year.

At the house, Whalen noticed that women usually pooled their food stamps and resources to prepare ‘comfort’ foods, which were often unhealthy. She has been working with the life skills coordinator at the house to plan healthy meals, make shopping lists, organize the kitchen so the women have better access to adequate cooking supplies, and provide advice on healthy portion sizes. She also suggests simple recipes with varied and interesting ingredients and tries to make them as healthy and nutritious as possible while staying within budget.

“The women go back to the same things that they grew up making, which is fine every once in awhile, but it’s about teaching them and their children how to live a healthier lifestyle,” Whalen explains.

Examples of healthy meals that Whalen helped plan include chicken pasta primavera, chicken stir fry, smoked pork chops with corn and okra, chicken asparagus crepes, turkey meatloaf, and chicken quesadillas.

Whalen especially appreciates her interactions with the children who live in the Sojourner House. In addition to biweekly visits to the house to help plan meals and improve overall nutrition, Whalen hosts a “study buddy” program on Tuesday nights, where she provides homework help to the kids who live there. The kids also participate in “Dream Seeds,” an arts enrichment program that has activities, including drumming and tap dancing. She says that talking and interacting with the children has given her a new perspective on Rochester outside of the microcosm of the River Campus.

“It’s eye-opening to interact with a different socioeconomic group. It helps me to understand Rochester more as a community,” Whalen explains. “There are two little girls that told me they aren’t allowed to play outside because there’s a criminal who lives on their street. Sojourner House is a place to go to feel safe and to do fun activities.”

A native of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., Whalen pursued this opportunity after hearing about it through Alpha Phi Omega and was in charge of finding her own project and contacts. Whalen posts monthly reflections on Blackboard so that RCCL staff can monitor her progress and make sure she stays on track.  She remains focused on maintaining a nutrition program and committed to helping the residents of the Sojourner House in any way that she can.

This article is part one of a series that will feature the Meliora Leaders of 2012-2013. Undergraduates interested in participating in the program should look for information on the RCCL page in Spring 2013. Information about the program can be found on the RCCL page at http://rochester.edu/college/rccl/meliora.html.