HOUGHTON – Sometimes, it seems, leadership runs in the family. Michigan Tech University held it’s 20th annual Student Leadership Awards ceremony Friday, and Kerstin Cleveland took home the biggest prize, the President’s Award for Leadership.
Her mother was even there to see it. Marie Cleveland, a 1982 Tech graduate and a member of Tech President Glenn Mroz’s Advancement Council, was the keynote speaker for the event.
“It’s fantastic,” Marie said of her daughter’s accomplishment after the ceremony. “It’s interesting, because she had nominated a few of her peers, and was hoping others would win.”
Tech Vice President for Student Affairs and Advancement Les Cook, who presented the award, cited Kerstin’s internships, service as Treasurer of the Blue Key National Honor Society, work in the Career Services and Admissions departments, and Sunday school teaching among her leadership accomplishments. Most recently, and perhaps most impressively, she served as co-chair for the recent Society of Women Engineers conference Tech hosted.
Kerstin double-majored in Chemical Engineering and Pharmaceutical Chemistry, and, Cook noted, in her essay for the award credited her parents with passing down a desire to make a difference at Tech.
Kerstin, who will be going to work for Dow Chemical in Houston, Tex. after graduation, said joining organizations and volunteering brought plenty of rewards long before she was officially recognized for her efforts.
“I think my career here at Tech would only be a fraction of what it was if I wasn’t involved in organizations,” she said. “I’ve made so many friends and mentors through organizations.”
In her speech, Marie said a positive attitude, being grateful for opportunities given, and living in the moment are all keys to success and happiness in careers and in life. When it comes to volunteering, she said, the key is choosing causes you’re passionate about, and not just saying yes every time you’re asked.
“Think about what you’re talking about when your voice gets higher and you start talking faster,” she said. “That’s where your passion’s at.”
“There are so many opportunities to give back,” she added, “and nothing feels better than to be able to give back.”
After the ceremony, she said Kerstin seems to have gotten the message.
“She gets what it means to give back,” she said.
Houghton native Rebeka Horsch, a third-year Tech student, also took home a prize, the Vice President for Student Affairs and Advancement Award for Service.
Horsch was credited for her work as a volunteer figure skating coach, volunteer efforts with the Houghton Rotary and Dial Help, and her diabetes research fundraising efforts as president of Alpha Gamma Delta Women’s Fraternity.
Horsch also credited her parents with instilling the service ethic, noting she’s been involved in the Houghton Rotary Club’s Seafood Fest since she was four year’s old. Being recognized for service was a little strange, she admitted, as keeping busy juggling school, volunteering and other activities has always been “just a normal day.”
“It’s nice to sit back and see what I’m doing makes a difference,” she said.
Troy Hecht, recognized as departmental scholar for the Business and Economics department, and also a member of Tech’s mens basketball team, agreed with the sentiment that getting involved leads to happiness and growth.
“A lot of (students) come in and don’t know anybody,” he said. “Get out of the dorm, meet people, have fun, and good things will follow.”
Sara Alian, a native of Iran, was given the award for Exceptional Enthusiasm as a Student Leader. Alian said she first came to Houghton as the dependent of a Tech student, unsure of her English and with few social opportunities. She found a place to fit in at the Canterbury House, where students and there spouses can go for help with English, and quickly started reaching out.
“I started posting on the (online) volunteer board,” she said. “I didn’t care how many times.”
With help from community members, she became involved in the Houghton Rotary, and soon enrolled at Tech and became involved in several activities, including founding the Iranian Community at Michigan Tech, teaching Farsi at Canterbury House, and teaching Salsa dancing.
Other prize winners were Holly Zehfus, the Provost’s Award for Scholarship; Kristin Flickinger, Exceptional Leadership in Student Governance; Kimberly D’Augustino, Student Employee of the Year; Carly Joseph, Rising Star of the Year; the Finance Club, Exceptional Program of the Year; the International Club, Most Improved Student Organization; Abhilash Kantamneni, Exceptional Community Service Project; Scott MacInnes, Clair M. Donovan Award; Wadsworth Hall, Student Organization of the Year; Jessie Stapleton, Student Organization Advisor of the Year; and David Shull, Outstanding Future Alumni.