LAWRENCE — Eight finalists have been selected for the 28th annual Excellence in Community, Education and Leadership Awards at the University of Kansas. The finalists, all seniors, will participate in the Homecoming parade at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 27, along Massachusetts Street in downtown Lawrence. Two winners will be announced during halftime of the KU-Oklahoma State Homecoming football game Sept. 29 at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium.
The Ex.C.E.L. Award provides an annual $250 scholarship to two students. Nominees were selected on the basis of leadership, effective communication skills, involvement at KU and in the Lawrence community, academic scholarship and ability to work with a variety of students and organizations. The selection committee included representatives from Student Union Activities, the Board of Class Officers, the Student Involvement & Leadership Center, the Office of Multicultural Affairs and the Homecoming Steering Committee.
The award was first given in 1991 to recognize two students for achievement. Names of winners are listed on a plaque on the fifth level of the Kansas Union. To be eligible, applicants must be full-time undergraduate students with an overall grade-point average of 3.0 or higher. Each finalist completed an application and participated in an interview. The finalists and their academic majors are listed below, along with highlights of their campus achievements.
Hannah Berland, Damar senior in human biology and pre-medicine, is a KU School of Medicine Rural Scholar and participates in the University Honors Program. She is president of Phi Delta Epsilon and has served as the medical fraternity’s vice president of programming and technology chair. She directs recruitment for the KU Dance Marathon and oversees the rural medical brigades for the Jayhawk Health Initiative. She is a mental health peer educator at KU Counseling and Psychological Services, and she interns at the JayDoc Free Clinic. She has volunteered at Lawrence Memorial Hospital and the St. Lawrence Center, where she currently serves as a eucharistic minister.
Autumn Crafton, Lawrence senior in management and leadership with a minor in psychology, is vice president of development for Student Union Activities and has coordinated events for the organization. She is a student assistant for School of Business career services and served as an Amazon Prime student lead brand ambassador. She volunteers at the Lawrence Public Library, where she assists with youth programs and services.
Ashley Dunn, Lawrence senior in communication studies with a minor in leadership studies, is a student ambassador for KU Admissions and an events coordinator for Student Union Activities. She served as a resident assistant for Student Housing and was a student assistant for the Center for Public Partnerships & Research. She is a Hawk Link graduate and participates in the Multicultural Scholars Program. She is a member of the Black Student Union and the Homecoming Steering Committee. She was a student senator for the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences and participated in the Rotary Youth Leadership Academy.
Nellie Landon Kassebaum, Burdick senior in English with a minor in public policy, is co-executive director of the student advocacy organization Rise KU and president of the board of class officers. She is a student advisory board member for the Dole Institute of Politics and a member of the Student Alumni Leadership Board. She participated in Student Senate and was vice president and founding member of Sigma Delta Tau sorority. She is a student ambassador for the University Honors Program and served as Homecoming executive director in 2017. She volunteers at Camp Planet D and the Lawrence Public Library. She was named a Hall Center Scholar in 2017.
Jose Montoya, Los Lunas, New Mexico, senior in sport management and journalism, is president of the Multicultural Greek Council. He is a Hawk Link Honors Program graduate and participates in the Multicultural Scholars Program. He served as vice president of the Latino fraternity Phi Iota Alpha. He is a Marching Jayhawks rank leader and press announcer for KU women’s tennis. He served as a sports reporter and crew member for Playmakers Central on KUJH-TV and was a volunteer crew member for Rock Chalk Video. He won the Earl Falkenstien Honor Award in 2018.
Jonnette Oakes, Topeka senior in political science with a minor in business, is a member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority and served as the chapter’s president and nominating chair. She was secretary of the law fraternity Phi Alpha Delta and currently serves as vice president of outreach for the National Pan-Hellenic Council. She has been a student ambassador at KU, and she assists new students as an Adidas peer mentor. She interned for the Kansas Legislature and was a desk assistant for the KU Office of Multicultural Affairs.
Nidhi Patel, Overland Park senior in English and biology, is a University Honors Scholar and student ambassador and peer mentor in the program. She also participates in the Honors Program Student Council and served as co-president. She has been a research assistant in medicinal chemistry and early childhood research, and she serves as academic chair of the medical fraternity Phi Delta Epsilon. She participated in the KU Jeeva Dance Team and was an APEX peer tutor. She volunteers at the Lawrence Community Shelter and Lawrence Memorial Hospital. She was named a Global Scholar in 2016 and a Hall Center Scholar in 2018.
Harneet Sanghera, Olathe senior in finance and political science, is president of the Kansas Memorial Unions Corporation Board and lead building manager for the Kansas Union. She has served Student Union Activities in several leadership roles, including president, vice president and special events coordinator. She participates in the University Honors Program and the Business Honors Program and is treasurer of Mortar Board. She was a student senator for the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. She has volunteered at Just Food, Kansas Appleseed, Project Create and KU Community Conversation.
About the KU Alumni Association
Through the support of members and donors, the KU Alumni Association advocates for the University of Kansas, communicates with Jayhawks in all media, recruits students and volunteers, serves the KU community and unites Jayhawks. For more information, visit kualumni.org.