A Celebration of Involvement

UM honors students for volunteer efforts and leadership abilities.

By Mike Piacentino
UM News

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (April 23, 2014) — The William R. Butler Center for Volunteer Service and Leadership Development, along with the Division of Student Affairs, recognized outstanding University of Miami students and faculty for their service contributions throughout the past year at the 29th annual Celebration of Involvement ceremony held on Tuesday, April 22 in the Student Activities Center.

“We hope all of you continue your service after your time at the University,” said UM President Donna E. Shalala as she welcomed attendees. “These awards are part of your journey, but it is what you do later in life that makes us even more proud of you.”

Throughout the past year, the UM community completed 146,000 hours of service. To recognize this accomplishment, nine awards were handed out Tuesday evening, with each award varying in criteria for selection.

“Each of you should be proud of your accomplishments,” Andrew Wiemer, director of the Butler Center, said to the award nominees and recipients. “Each of you brings a very special talent to our University community.”

The awards and winners were:

Excellence in Civic Engagement Award (presented by the Office of Civic and Community Engagement) – Sonia Chao, professor in the School of Architecture.

Graduate Award for Excellence in Student Leadership (presented by the Graduate School) – Henry Olano

Iron Arrow Honor Society Sophomore Leadership Award (presented by the Iron Arrow Honor Society) – Valerie Quirk

Newman Civic Fellows Award (presented jointly by the Butler Center and Office of Civic and Community Engagement) – Guerdiana Thelomar

Robert Bates Cole Award for Volunteer Leadership – Valerie Quirk

Gerald J. Pierri ’65 Read and Lead Award for Excellence in Academics and Intramural Sports Leadership Award (presented by the Department of Wellness and Recreation) – Samantha Lucci

Sherwood M. Weiser Memorial Fund for Student Community Service – Mischael Cetoute, Ryan Nolan, Guerdiana Thelomar, and Sopiko Jimsheleishvili

Vice President’s Award for Service – Stephen Leonard and Meera Nagarsheth

Edward T. Foote II Award in Student Leadership – Karam Alawa

William R. Butler, vice president for student affairs emeritus; Edward T. Foote II, UM president emeritus; and Judy Weiser, wife of the late UM trustee Sherwood “Woody” Weiser were in attendance to support the winners of awards bearing their names.

After the award recipients were announced, UM alumna and 2013 Foote Award recipient Caitlin Giles shared her “Words of Wisdom” with students in attendance. “As a student leader, you have both the knowledge and skills that will take you forward in life,” said Giles. “Never stop searching for what inspires you; it makes all of your hard work worthwhile.”

Karam Alawa, recipient of the 2014 Foote Award, was surprised by both the attendance of his sister, UM alumna Nawara Alawa, and by his recognition.

“I didn't expect to take the path I did while at UM,” said Alawa, a senior majoring in biomedical engineering. “[Underclassmen] should take advantage of all the great opportunities UM has to offer. You never know where you’ll end up.”

More information about award criteria and the selection process can be found at www.miami.edu/celebrationofinvovlement.


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Students received awards in a variety of categories, from civic engagement to excellence in leadership.

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University of Miami’s mission is to educate and nurture students, to create knowledge, and to provide service to our community and beyond. Committed to excellence and proud of our diversity of our University family, we strive to develop future leaders of our nation and the world.