On April 17, 2015, the Graduate Student Association held its annual Evening of Excellence and Make a Difference Award Ceremony at the Radisson Hotel in downtown Kalamazoo. Guests were offered an assortment of Mardi Gras-style masks to accent the theme and posed on a red carpet for formal photographs. Strains of classical music from the WMU Brass Quintet created an elegant atmosphere along with the sky-high centerpieces at the round tables, each seating 10 for a festive buffet dinner.
After a welcome from GSA Vice-President Amaury Pineda, PhD student in Political Science, Dr. Diane Anderson, Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, greeted the crowd of about 150. She was followed by GSA President Damon Chambers, PhD student in Counseling Education and Counseling Psychology, who addressed the gathered audience with a reminder that GSA serves all graduate students. Membership is automatic, and funding for activities like the Evening of Excellence comes from student-paid fees. Shealyn Blanchard, PhD student in CECP and GSA Standards Chair introduced Keynote Speaker Britne Amos. Ms. Amos, past chair of GSAC, is a doctoral candidate in Counseling Psychology. She spoke on establishing a positive reputation with your conduct and accomplishments and reminded listeners that your reputation precedes you in all areas of life: scholarly, personal, and professional.
Following Britne Amos’s speech, awards were given out in several categories. Three GSA President’s Awards were presented: Stephanie Goodman, PhD student in CECP, received the E-Board Member of the Year Award. Outstanding Service Awards for Long Service were presented to Denisha Griffey, PhD student in Geosciences and Shealyn Blanchard, PhD student in CECP. The Graduate Dean’s Awards for Graduate Ambassador of the Year were presented by Dr. Julie Apker, Graduate College Faculty Fellow and Professor in the School of Communication. She bestowed engraved glass plaques on Chartanay Bonner, PhD student in Chemistry, and Felicia Dotson, Master’s student in Blindness and Low Vision Rehabilitation.
Certificates to mark a “Successful Year in Office” were given to Marcial Amaury Pineda, PhD student in Political Science and Vice-President of GSA; Hilltop Review Editor Rebecca Straple, PhD student in English; GSA Legislative Chair Denisha Griffey; GSA Standards Chair Shealyn Blanchard; GSA Events Chair and Co-Chair Michael Bobbitt and Stephanie Goodman, both PhD students in CECP; GSA Communication Chairs Alex Houser, PhD student in Economics and Chartanay Bonner; GSA Outreach Chairs Justin Moore, PhD student in Psychology and Danielle Smith, MA student in CECP. Several graduate ambassadors who served as graduate student representatives on Faculty Senate Councils also received “Successful Year in Office” certificates: Research Policy Council Representative Michael Lindquist, MA student in Philosophy; Campus Planning and Finance Representative Carol Adams-Shearer, MA student in Higher Education and Student Affairs; Graduate Studies Council Representative Jesus Romero, MA student in HESA; Student Media Representatives Michael Saldana, MA student in Engineering and Felicia Dotson. Ambassadors Gregory Wallace, PhD student in Biological Sciences and Paola Maria Paniagua, MA student in Communication, also received certificates for their successful year in office.
The Graduate Student Make a Difference Award is given annually to graduate students who have distinguished themselves by assisting and mentoring other graduate students on campus. Winners included Codie Stone, PhD student in Sociology, Yngvi Einarsson, PhD student in PSYC, Princilla Ursery, MA student in CECP/SPADA, Danielle Smith, MA student in CECP, Courtney Dunsmore, Master’s student in Social Work, and Joel Sanford, MA student in Comparative Religion. Saleem Hussein, MS student in Electrical Engineering, Qiong Wu, PhD student in Sociology, Alberta Stover, PhD student in Interdisciplinary Health Sciences, Derricka Caldwell, MA student in CECP, and James Busuito, Master of Music, Conducting, all received certificates to recognize their service to the graduate student body at WMU. Graduate Students of Comparative Religion, led by Joel Sanford, MA student in Comparative Religion, won the Graduate Registered Student Organization of the Year for 2014-2015.
Last year’s graduate ambassadors Carol Adams-Shearer, Michael Bobbitt, Chartanay Bonner, Felicia Dotson, Stephanie Goodman, Alexander Houser, Michael Lundquist, Justin Moore, Paola Maria Paniagia, Jesus Romero, Michael Saldana, Danielle Smith and Gregory Wallace were saluted and thanked by GSA, Dean Stapleton, and the gathered students, faculty and staff. The new graduate ambassadors for 2015-16 were introduced, along with new executive board members of GSA, Rebecca Straple, George Lluberes, PhD student in PSCI; Stephanie Goodman; Michelle Deochand, PhD student in BIOS; Neil Deochand, PhD student in PSYC; Bob Agiro, MA student in HESA; and Michael Bobbitt. The 2015-16 ambassadors are Carol Adams-Shearer; Bilge Altay, PhD student in Paper and Chemical Engineering; Gary Atkins, MA student in CECP; Kaitlyn Cichocki-Goss, MA student in OT; Christina Collins, MA student in CECP; Felicia Dotson, Yu Du, PhD student in Evaluation, Measurement and Research; Joshua Greenman, MA student in PSCI; Kate Hibbard-Gibbon, PhD student in CECP; Olivia McLaughlin, MA student in SOC; Muhammad Mollah, MBA student; Princilla Ursery; and Mark Webster, PhD student in BIOS.
After the ceremonies, guests crowded the dance floor to show off their dance moves. The evening was a huge success and a wonderful send-off to those graduating in Spring 2015. The Graduate College congratulates all the award winners and members of the Graduate Student Association who help the Graduate College in advancing careers through advanced degrees.