Jennifer Sanner
KU Alumni Association

Ten seniors named finalists for 24th annual Ex.C.E.L. Awards

Thu, 09/18/2014

LAWRENCE — Ten finalists have been selected for the 24th 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. Friday, Sept. 26, along Massachusetts Street in downtown Lawrence. Two winners, one male and one female, will be announced during halftime of the KU-Texas homecoming football game Sept. 27 at Memorial Stadium. Kickoff is at 3 p.m.

The Ex.C.E.L. Award provides an annual $500 scholarship to two students. The winners will plan the Blueprints Leadership Conference ( next spring in conjunction with KU’s Student Involvement and Leadership Center. 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 and Leadership Center, and the Homecoming Steering Committee.

The award was first given in 1991 to recognize one male and one female student 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.


Vicky Reyes, Garden City, applied behavioral science with a minor in Italian, is vice president of the Hispanic American Leadership Organization and founder and president of the Latina sorority Hermandad de Sigma Iota Alpha. She was a Hawk Link Guide for the Office of Multicultural Affairs and a 2013-’14 KU Woman of Distinction.


Allyson Briggs, Ottawa, biochemistry with a minor in leadership studies, is the co-director of Alternative Breaks and has served for two years on the executive board. She was a resident assistant in Lewis Hall and a rank leader for the Marching Jayhawks. She participates in the Mortar Board Honor Society and was part of the inaugural class for the Kansas Women’s Leadership Institute.


Michael Garrett, Lenexa, journalism and Spanish with a minor in leadership studies, is executive director of the 2014 Big Event, an annual day of volunteer service in the spring to unite the KU and Lawrence communities. He leads the Class of 2015 as president, and he co-chairs campus outreach efforts for the Homecoming Steering Committee. He has served for two years on the executive board of Alpha Tau Omega fraternity.

Kevin Simpson, Mission Hills, finance and accounting, leads the Interfraternity Council as president and serves Mortar Board as treasurer. He is a Chancellors Club Scholar and a University Honors Program student. He served as president of Phi Delta Theta fraternity and was a member of the Student Alumni Leadership Board.

Mitchell Cota, Overland Park, marketing and international business, is president of Spectrum KU and chief of staff for Student Senate. He also directs legislative affairs for Students United for Reproductive & Gender Equity and serves on the Title IX Roundtable. He is a member of Mortar Board and was selected as a 2014 KU Man of Merit.

Graham Naasz, Overland Park, biology, is a member of the Student Endowment board and Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity. He was selected to attend the LeaderShape campus conference, and he created an Easter Egg Hunt to benefit Douglas County Special Olympics.

Micah Melia, Prairie Village, anthropology, is executive director of the Center for Community Outreach, where she also served as development director and program coordinator. She is a Hall Center Scholar and was a finalist for the Truman Scholarship. She participated in Alternative Breaks and studied abroad in Costa Rica and Ireland.


Ellie Eastes, Pratt, applied behavioral science with a minor in sociology, was an orientation coordinator and assistant for the Office of First-Year Experience and vice president of Best Buddies, a group dedicated to working with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She also has participated in Mortar Board, the University Honors Program and Omega Phi Alpha, the campus service sorority. She served as a site leader for Alternative Breaks.


Beatrice Tretbar, Wichita, journalism with minors in business and economics, leads Student Union Activities as president in her third year of involvement with the group. For Peer Leadership Consultants, she is the outreach chair, and she served on the first Hawks Helping Hawks executive team. She is a LeaderShape graduate and was a student facilitator for the first KUnity retreat. She is a member of Mortar Board as well as Kappa Delta sorority, where she has served on the executive council.


Drew Carlburg, Fredonia, applied behavioral science with a minor in leadership studies, is a member of Jayhawks DREAM (Developing Relationships Through Education and Mentoring), Hispanic American Leadership Organization and Alpha Tau Omega fraternity. He served as a Hawk Link Guide for two years. 

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