Seniors presented with awards from Division of Student Affairs
Alexandra Muck | Friday, May 18, 2018
At the 32nd annual Student Leadership Awards Banquet on April 10, seven graduating seniors were recognized for their contributions to the campus community, a University press release on April 18 said.
Flora Tang received the Rev. A. Leonard Collins, C.S.C. Award, which is given to a “senior who has made substantial personal efforts to advance the interests of students at Notre Dame,” the press release said. Tang received the award specifically for her work with Campus Ministry, where she served as a senior intern and co-led the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults program, the process for people looking to become Catholic, and founded a group for Chinese Catholic students on campus her junior year.
“For me, what I love about Campus Ministry is more than just my job,” Tang said. “It’s just being with people in a very welcoming space and a very diverse environment and seeing how my own faith and my own diversity could bring hope to people who might not be included on this campus.”
Tang said she feels blessed to have received the award.
“I was on a school visit when I saw the email,” she said. “I moved a lot growing up, and I never really had a home home, like a place that I can call home even though I have different places I’ve lived at. Notre Dame has been the longest place I’ve ever been at, which is four years, so this place means a lot to me. Getting the award is a really beautiful reminder that this is home for me.”
Gregory Jenn was awarded the Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, C.S.C., Award to recognize his efforts toward promoting inclusion on campus, especially for Latino and Latina students and students who are undocumented, the press release said.
“I got this overwhelming sense of excitement,” he said of the moment he received the award. “Everything that I did, I did because I wanted to or just because I enjoyed doing [it]. I never expected anything for what I was doing.”
Jenn said he was involved with the Latino community on campus since his freshman year in a variety of roles, including being a member of Mariachi ND, the director of the Dia De Los Muertos altar and the president of Latino Student Alliance. He also served as the director for the St. Anthony’s Initiative for the Institute of Latino Studies, which invites high school students from St. Anthony’s to campus and pairs them with Notre Dame students.
Majak Anyieth received the John W. Gardner Student Leadership Award, the press release said, which is given for “outstanding community service beyond the University community.”
“In his time at Notre Dame, he founded the nonprofit organization Education bridge with the purpose of building schools in [his home country of] South Sudan and educating children in the hopes of becoming leaders and proponents of peace,” the press release said. “Last spring, the organization opened its first school and welcomed more than 200 students.”
The Blessed Basil Moreau, C.S.C., Leadership Award was given to Liam Maher for “embodying Blessed Father Moreau’s vision of educating heart and mind,” the press release said.
“I was really humbled because I didn’t think anything I had done was necessarily award-worthy or anything,” Maher said. “I was just doing what I always do.”
Maher served in a variety of organizations, including the Folk Choir, where he was president, and PrismND where he was the spirituality commissioner.
“I got to occupy this really unique intersectional space between really practicing my faith and really being a proponent for creating an inclusive society on campus and helping LGBTQ Catholics reconcile their identity with their faith,” he said. “It was really neat to get to do that work. I got to meet a lot of great people and have a lot of great conversations about it.”
Chris Dethlefs, a four-year participant in the men’s boxing club, was recognized with the Ray Siegfried Award for Leadership Excellence, which is awarded to a senior who is devoted to the Catholic faith and athletics. The press release said Dethlefs raised over $17,000 through Bengal Bouts, a boxing tournament that raises money for the Holy Cross missions in Bangladesh.
Dethlefs said he participated in an international summer service learning program to Bangladesh after his freshman year and served as a captain of Bengal Bouts for two years.
“[Bengal Bouts is] a real brotherhood,” he said. “I met a lot of really amazing guys through it, and it’s an awesome way to learn an amazing sport. [It’s] highly competitive, takes a ton of training and work ethic and really forms you as a person I think, but also having it devoted to a mission that’s other centered is the biggest part of it for me.
“Having experienced going to Bangladesh right after my freshman year and kind of getting a better appreciation for what the Bengal Bouts has been able to do over there has really inspired me to give my full heart and effort to the program ever since then.”
Maxwell Ujdak received the Mike Russo Spirit Award for his work with the Notre Dame Band. The first student band manager to join the Irish Guard, Ujdak said he didn’t think about the influence he was having while going through his band experience.
“Being able to [become a member of the Irish Guard] in the marching band without playing an instrument is pretty phenomenal, and I guess I never gauged the impact of that,” he said. “And then I got that award and it kind of put everything in perspective for me.”
Selena Ponio received the Denny Moore Award for Excellence in Journalism for her work with journalism on and off campus, including writing for the The Observer and The South Bend Tribune and interning with CBS’ “60 Minutes.”
Editor’s Note: Selena Ponio is former associate news editor for The Observer.
Ponio said she felt more excited about the nomination than she did about receiving the award during the awards ceremony.
“I was more so moved by the fact that one of my professors that I really looked up to and whose writing I tried to emulate in mine and use his own tips and styles and incorporate them into my writing … thought I was deserving enough to nominate me,” she said.
As an intern with The South Bend Tribune the summer after her sophomore year, Ponio said she wrote a front-page column about the shooting in her hometown of Dallas in 2016, when five police officers were killed during a protest march.
“I think that was something I wrote for the Tribune that mattered the most to me because it was my hometown,” she said. “ … It was the first time I that I was away from Dallas, so I felt very removed from this very important event that just happened, this tragic event in my hometown. The fact that the Tribune gave me this platform to channel my anger and sadness and being so far away from home during this important time was very rewarding and that they cared that I had something to say about that was kind of surreal.”