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2016 DSL Award Winners – Students

Title: Rising Leader of the Year

Eligibility: Undergraduate student in their first or second year at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Description: This will be awarded to student leaders who have shown tremendous growth during their time at the institution and may be defined as “emerging leaders”. Nominees should be respected by their peers and should demonstrate leadership potential at UT.

Winners (2):


(1)MICHAEL “MICKEY” CURTIS – “Michael is my Supplemental Instructor for Chemistry 101, and twice a week he teaches the optional class to great effect. He is passionate, energetic, and above all, helpful. He works extremely hard to make sure everyone in the class grasps the concepts, and he desires to see us all succeed in the course. As a fellow nursing major, I am very inspired and motivated by Michael’s drive and motivation. He properly prepares us for each class, sometimes even teaching us a concept that will appear in the future. Michael’s passion, intelligence, and friendliness qualify him for the Rising Leader of the Year Award.”


(2)   ABBY GEATER – “Great is an understatement for the tremendous work Abby did this part fall to rejuvenate WCC’s annual event, Take Back the Night. Abby took on the challenge of moving the event to a new location due to construction, rerouting the Silent March’s path, reorganizing the event’s schedule to highlight the resource fair, creating a partnership with a fraternity, and speaking to the media on this sensitive issue with poise. Even though she is still a sophomore, she is a force to be reckoned with and knows how to plan an event with impact. She learns from her mistakes and creates opportunities for others to shine.”

Title: Leadership Legacy Award

Eligibility: Undergraduate student in their third or fourth year at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Description: This award celebrates students who have made a significant impact on the UT and/or surrounding community during their time at the institution, with an emphasis on how they have influenced the development and mentoring of future leaders. Nominees will be selected based on their breadth and/or depth of involvement and leadership in co-curricular activities, service in the community, involvement in professional and academic development experiences, and their overall impact on campus life and learning for students.


Winners (2):


(1) NATHAN BIRSCH – Nathan has served as an RA for three years while balancing other leadership roles and a heavy engineering course load. He has been one of the best RAs I have ever had the pleasure of working with and supervising. Nathan is seen as a leader on our staff. The first-year RAs seek his advice and emulate his work ethic. They constantly praise his mentorship and it shows in their work. He went out of his way to welcome and assimilate new staff members and his ability to build comradery is unmatched. His impact has been meaningful, and he deserves this recognition of his leadership and mentorship abilities.”

(2)HENAL MAJETHIA – Throughout her time spent in the role of Multicultural Greek Council President, I was able to witness Henal’s care for others and her dedication to success. Henal stands out among other student leaders as someone who is extremely compassionate, dedicated, and mature. Since her election. We have increased the chapter collaboration within the council, increased average organization GPAs, and have implemented new innovated council educational programming. She is completely dedicated to the improvement of the UT Greek Community and that was evident in the quality of her performance in this role and within her organization. Henal is a personal who truly embraces the Volunteer Spirit.”

Title: Graduate Student of the Year

Eligibility: Graduate student

Description: This award recognizes graduate students for their character, service, outstanding contributions, and academic achievements at the University of Tennessee.




“I can’t even begin to explain the impact that Grant Davis has on the University of Tennessee College of Law every day. He currently holds a Biosystems engineering degree from the University and is now pursuing a law degree and wants to practice patent law. Grant could have easily stopped after becoming an engineer, but he wanted to continue his education and become an attorney to make a difference in the lives of people here in Tennessee. He in every sense has the heart of a Volunteer. Grant excels academically, but most importantly, he embodies a sense of community that is unheard of at most law schools. He has served the University as the Student Services director for SGA and has campaigned for the TN General Assembly in support of Sex Week, the Office of Diversity & Inclusion, and on the issues concerning student fees. For the latter of these undertakings, Grant was quoted on the front page of the New York Times.”

Title: Unsung Hero

Eligibility: Undergraduate student

Description: This award recognizes students who have positively influenced a program or organization from behind the scenes with a positive attitude, a willingness to help in whatever capacity necessary, and a commitment to excellence.

Winners (2):


(1)KORBIN NIEHAUS: “Korbin is a general body member of the Issues Committee of the Campus Events Board. Since Korbin is not serving as an executive member, his contributions often go unnoticed. This semester, Korbin has a class at 5:45, he stays at the Issues Committee meetings until the last minute. He is not shy to volunteer. With just a few minutes between classes, Korbin volunteers to table, even though this is not a glorious job. At events, he is usually the member who delegates the question and answer sessions after a lecture. Little contributions go a long way and our events would not run smoothly without Korbin.”

(2)JASMINE SINGLETON: “Jasmine has been a tremendous mentor, role model, and friend to many. She first stepped foot onto UT campus in a mentoring program, as well as hall councils and diverse organizations of business students. However, her greatest impact has been in housing. Year after year I have residents come to me and ask if she still works here and will go on to tell a story of how she helped them academically, socially and interpersonally. Watching her work with residents that go on to become Vol Cheerleaders, members of SGA, and the band, I know that she had a significant part in their growing and I appreciate someone like Jasmine who goes above and beyond to uplift others.”

Title: Small Organization of the Year

Eligibility: Registered student organization with 20 or fewer active members

Description: This award recognizes a small student organization that has fulfilled its mission, involved the campus in its purpose, plays a leadership role on campus, is involved in the campus community, is open-minded and diverse, has the ability to accept and overcome challenges, and sustains itself in creative ways. This honors an organization for developing and implementing improvements in the quality of student life. The organization fosters positive change within the university community with focus on enhancing the student experience through effective programming and/or student activism.




“EEP is an active and diverse organization that participates in all University activities with seal and spirit as VOLS. Our organization not only attracts the graduate and undergraduate students, it also encourages the outside community in participation at our events. Events organized by the EEP include: The Annual Buggy Buffet, Cricket Spittin’ Contest, Ag Day, Insect Zoo & Ag Day and more. The organization also has EEP Day planned which will involve the display of Entomological, Plant Pathology, Nematological specimens and simple molecular techniques to high school students, graduate and undergraduate students.”

Title: Large Organization of the Year

Eligibility: Registered student organization with 21 or more active members

Description: This award recognizes a large student organization that has fulfilled its mission, involved the campus in its purpose, plays a leadership role on campus, is involved in the campus community, is open-minded and diverse, has the ability to accept and overcome challenges, and sustains itself in creative ways. This honors an organization for developing and implementing improvements in the quality of student life. The organization fosters positive change within the university community with focus on enhancing the student experience through effective programming and/or student activism.

Winners (2):


(1)STUDENT GOVERNMENT ASSOCIATION – SGA has a difficult responsibility of representing over 27,000 students. A few of the initiatives that SGA members have enacted this year include: an All Campus Survey, President’s Roundtable, Fort Sanders Task Force, Judicial Branch, Option 1 Campaign, Increased Transparency, Smokey’s Pantry, and Big Orange Fridays. Many students across campus will argue that the most important student issue right now stems from the many pieces of legislation from Nashville, so SGA Government Affairs and others have also represented students in Nashville, hosted phone-banking events, and connected with students who needed information to share concerns with state legislatures. We are proud of the members in SGA for their hard work to complete events and initiatives like the ones mentioned above to continue trying to fulfill our mission and improve the quality of student life.”

(2)   STUDENT SPACE TECHNOLOGY ASSOCIATION – The original goal set by the founders of the Student Space Technology Association is, ‘to inspire the next generation of engineers and innovators.’ This goal is accomplished by two separate functions, an engineering team and outreach. The Student Space Technology Association exists to give ALL students, regardless of year, practical experience for their future careers in engineering and to develop them into better leaders and members of the UT community. The outreach portion of the SSTA takes completed projects and uses them to educate and inspire local Knoxville high school students. With our flagship high-altitude atmospheric science balloon set to launch in March, we have several visits to schools lined up. On-campus outreach is also important to the SSTA, which is why we participated in the TechCarniVOL, have booked a NASA administrator to speak on April 19th, and have applied to host an ARISS event in 2017.”

Title: New Organization of the Year

Eligibility: Registered student organization newly registered on VOLink during 2015-2016 academic year

Description: This award will be presented to a student organization that registered on VOLink for the first time during the 2015-2016 academic year. This organization will have demonstrated promise in recruitment, retention, creativity, and teamwork. The organization has made a positive impact on the campus and community in their first year on campus and fulfilled its mission. This honors an organization for developing and implementing improvements in the quality of student life. The organization fosters positive change within the university community with focus on enhancing the student experience through effective programming and/or student activism.




Formally a committee of the Commission for Women, consisting of just 13 students, “Pipeline: Vols for Women in STEM” became an official student organization this year garnering over 50 new members, men and women, faculty, staff and students, from 28 different science, technology, engineering and math fields. In just a few short months of being an organization, they have already taken campus by storm. Pipeline has established a sustainable student organization actively helping to recruit and retain women in fields critical to UT’s mission to becoming a Top 25 public research institution. The same fields where there is a stark need for more diverse and innovated ideas and approaches to solve the increasingly complex programs that face our society today…”

Title: Innovative Program of the Year

Eligibility: Registered student organization

Description: This award honors excellence in the development and implementation of an original program. Recognized programs demonstrate: 1) the growth of students and enhancement of campus life, 2) new ideas, methods or programs which result in improved educational activities or services for the campus community. Both new and revamped programs are eligible for this award.




“Pipeline has created the first ever professional conference on campus dedicated to highlighting the phenomenal and diverse scientific research being docuted by women at every level in all of the nearly 50 different science, technology, engineering, and math fields at UT. Presenters at the symposium gain valuable professional development experience by learning how to effectively present their research to a diverse and interdisciplinary audience and how to interact with faculty members and potential collaborators. The best research presentations are awarded certificates and a prize, recognition of their hard work and potential to succeed, which is critical to these students staying motivated to pursue STEM.”

Title: Organization Advisor of the Year

Eligibility: Staff or faculty advisor to a registered student organization

Description: This award is designed to recognize a faculty or staff advisor to a student organization who has made a significant contribution to both the student members and the organization as a whole. The award will recognize an individual for their service, dedication, mentorship, compassion, consistency, and wisdom.




“Renee D’Elia Zunino is one of the most passionate and dedicated professors and club advisors with whom I have had the honor and pleasure of working with throughout my years here at UT. She motivates her students, club members, and local community to seek knowledge in multicultural studies and always stresses the importance of being respectful of others ways of lives. She is a role model to myself and the other students in the Italian club and with the help of her unwavering dedication and passion and leadership, the Italian Club has become more successful this year than ever before. She is a community, member, professor, and role model truly worthy of recognition.”

Title: Civic Engagement

Eligibility: Undergraduate student

Description: This award recognizes a student who has demonstrated a substantive and positive community impact through involvement and engagement. Civic engagement includes a wide range of activities by which students are engaged in service to the campus, local, national and/or international communities.




“Monil is an exemplary candidate for the Civic Engagement Award because he is aggressively motivated by his desire to improve the lives of others. Through collaboration with other nonprofits Monil created his own organizational entity and planned an oral-hygiene awareness campaign to serve underserved populations in his native India. By project’s end some 625 impoverished students had been educated and by coordinating with local dentists, 100+ patients received free treatment. He is also a campus leader through multiple organizations like Student Dental Association and Alpha Kappa Psi where he holds leadership positions.”

Title: Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion

Eligibility: Undergraduate student

Description: This award embodies the division’s commitment to educate and/or advocate for the importance of valuing and appreciating difference, similarities, and uniqueness within our community and beyond. The award will be given to an undergraduate who is dedicated to promoting understanding, acceptance, and celebration of our diversity.

Winners (2):


(1)BEVERLY BANKS: “She has been actively involved in the diversity conversations within the Student Government Association. She co-wrote the diversity bill and visited Nashville to have diversity and inclusion conversations with legislators. Because of her efforts, URHC is hosting Diversity Week which will impact a majority of the 7,000+ on campus residents in April. She has partnered with Dr. Shivers to plan and implement the Tunnel of Oppression on the University of Tennessee, Knoxville campus as well. She also started the Women’s Media Group on campus. It is clear to see that Beverly’s commitment to diversity and inclusion spans beyond a single organization, person, or population.”


(2)GREGG CRAWFORD: “Not only did he serve in the United States Marine Corps, he is also trying to make a difference for those, who served our country, at UT.  He’s the current president of Vol Fighters Student Veterans of America, UTK chapter. He is dedicated to making sure that his fellow veterans transitioned back into civilian life smoothly. Gregg is actively been the voice of our student veterans in securing a space for the Veteran Resource Center at the UTK campus.”



Division of Student Life