Student achievements celebrated at Honors & Awards event

Veronika Paprocka and Biftu Bussa

Veronika Paprocka '18 (left) was the Mary E. McCahill Award winner, while Biftu Bussa '18 (right) won the Dean of Students Award. Photo: By Rebecca Studios

The 2018 Honors and Awards ceremony

The St. Catherine University community gathered Tuesday, May 1 to celebrate student academic and leadership achievements, including inductees into the 24 active academic honor societies and the recipients of scholarships and departmental honors.

The Honors and Awards ceremony also presents six All-University Student Leadership Awards that acknowledge leadership, outstanding loyalty and service, and contributions to the St. Kate’s mission.

Mary E. McCahill Award

Long recognized as the University’s most prestigious award, the Mary E. McCahill Award is presented to a senior who has consistently demonstrated outstanding leadership, academic excellence, loyalty and service to the University throughout her years here. This year’s award was presented to Veronika Paprocka, a history major with a minor in digital humanities minor. She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and a member of the Antonian Honors Program.

On of her faculty supporters wrote in a nomination "She has mentored, challenged and supported her peers, while constantly encouraging and challenging them to develop their own leadership skills. She does so in a very encouraging manner that enables students to believe in their own ideas and potential.”

At this ceremony last year, Veronika was a co-recipient of the Antonian Scholars Outstanding Senior Honors Project Award for her work Tunnels, Pools and Ghosts: Exploring Space at St. Catherine University. She was also awarded the Thomas More Student Leadership Award, an honor rarely bestowed upon juniors.

Veronika participated in the Assistantship Mentoring Program (AMP) in two capacities, as an AMP Program Assistant in Student Affairs, furthering the development of the “Finish in Four” student retention and completion initiative, and as an AMP Research Assistant, working in collaboration with Alumnae Relations to collect oral histories of alumnae experiences at St. Kate’s.

Veronika has served the University and her peers, and has honed and demonstrated her leadership skills, in a myriad of ways. She served as a member of the LEAD Team, and as the Student Coordinator for the First-Year Student Orientation Program. On the Student Senate, Veronika served as the Academic Affairs Committee co-chair, and as a member of the SEEK (Social Events and Experiences for Katies) Team, served as both the Development Coordinator and the Publicity Coordinator.

Perhaps her lasting legacy will be her impact upon the Antonian Scholars Honors Program, for which she has been widely credited for re-energizing the Honors Program Student Organization and reviving the Honors Program Newsletter The Antonian.

Described as being able to turn almost anything into a learning opportunity for herself and others, one of her mentors described how her intellectual curiosity, sense of commitment, maturity and engagement in the learning process added to the depth of classroom discussions with her student colleagues.

“Veronika believes in our mission and has lived the core values of St. Kate’s throughout her four years here," said one mentor. "She is an amazing example of the best of St. Kate’s and a role model for our mission and purpose.”

Dean of Students Award

The Dean of Students Award recognizes a senior who has made an outstanding contribution to the University’s mission throughout her years at St. Catherine University.

The Dean of Students Award was presented to Biftu Bussa for profoundly impacting the University and her constituents in so many ways, and her amazing on-campus leadership.

A staff nominator said “Biftu is ethical, acts with integrity and takes the empowerment of women very seriously – including her own.”

Biftu will soon be graduating with her bachelor's degree in public health, with concentrations in health sciences and public policy, and a minor in
psychology. She has served as this year’s Student Senate President, and previously served as the Senate Organizational Affairs Co-Chair and as First-Year representative. She was the Community Events Coordinator for SEEK Team during her first year, and has since served as a peer mentor in the Multicultural and International Programs and Services (MIPS) office, as an “Ask Katie” Peer Health Educator, a first year and transfer orientation leader, and later serving as the transfer student orientation coordinator. Biftu has been a member of the LEAD Team, and served as treasurer for the Public Health Club. Most recently she has co-chaired the University-wide ASER Task Force. As a research assistant within the Psychology Department, she has focused her work researching the intersections between micro-aggressions, race, people who identify as LGBTQ+ and career paths.

Biftu has been a contributor off-campus as well, engaging in impressive volunteer activities and internships that have enabled her to use her leadership skills as an advocate for justice for women and those marginalized by systemic oppression. Biftu has served as an Office of Inclusion intern for Governor Mark Dayton, as a Lutheran Social Services policy intern thru the Capitol Pathways Program in St. Paul, and currently serves as a young adult representative in the Adolescent and Young Adult Health office of the Minnesota Department of Health. She has also served as a research/education/advocacy intern at The Advocates for Human Rights in Minneapolis

But perhaps what the St. Kate's community will most remember Biftu for is her ability to listen and to build bridges. “She is approachable and listens with a sense of focus that enables others to feel truly heard," said one award nominator. "Her combination of listening intently and building relationship enables her to bring people together to work on projects, to participate in programs and to connect to each other. Biftu doesn't seek quick solutions; rather, she gathers all of the stakeholders, asks for input, and finds areas of common ground. Her positivity and genuineness make most work seem possible!”

Thomas More Award

Out of the 57 students nominated, this year’s Thomas More award recipients are Shelby Auger, Angelina Balistreri, Mary Beth Becker, Stefany Calderson, Sadia Farah, Elizabeth Juarez Diaz, Hnouci Lee, Opema Marcy Lohese, Nimo Mohamed, Dulce Ocampo, Muna Scekomar, Mirna Serrano Barahona, Emaan Soliman, Ellen Wallingford, Zara Wolfe and Hlee Yang.

The Thomas More Award is presented to students who have demonstrated outstanding loyalty and service, as well as integrity and campus spirit. These students may have made a major contribution to a particular organization, department, program or issue, or may have consistently contributed to a broad range of activities.

Mary Alice Muellerleile Student Leadership Award

The Mary Alice Muellerleile Student Leadership Award was presented to Terese Hermann '18. Named in honor of the first director of continuing education, the Muellerleile Award is presented to College for Adult student who has demonstrated outstanding leadership and service to her peers and to the University, and who has been an advocate of the strengths and development of women of all ages.

Terese will soon receive her bachelor's degree in English from the College for Adults, graduating Summa Cum Laude. She is a member of Sigma Tau Delta Honor Society, and has consistently appeared on the academic dean's list during her time at St. Kate’s.

She has served her College for Adult peers as a leader on the College for Adults Student Advisory Board since 2015, and has worked with representatives from the Student Senate and the Graduate Student Advisory Board in a very collaborative way, representing student voices and concerns and to be part of creating positive change. Most recently she represented students across the University as a member of the University’s ASER Task Force.

In the greater community, she has served as a member of the 60-person Cultural Agility Collaboration through Minnesota Campus Compact. The primary objective of CAC is to promote inclusiveness and equity for all students by creating campus-community partnerships, meeting with college staff and faculty, and collaborating with other cohorts to invoke positive change.

Terese is currently interning at the State Capitol in the Constituent Services Department, assisting Minnesotans with various issues including healthcare, mental health, and education issues.

A mother of two, Terese served in the Army as a combat medic, and has pursued college education part-time since 2009. Her motivation has always stemmed from understanding the hardships faced by her parents and striving to become the first in her family to earn a baccalaureate degree.

Michael J. Baynes Reflective Life Award

In its sixth year, the Michael J. Baynes Reflective Life Award recognizes a student in the Associate Degree program who, through leadership, service to peers and community, and adherence to high personal and academic standards, meets Michael’s daily challenge to himself and others to “Bring Good!” This year’s recipient is This year’s recipient is Brittany Ogbeifun, a student in the occupational therapy assistant program.

Brittany currently serves as the Treasurer for the Occupational Therapy Assistant Association. She has served on the student Minneapolis Advisory Board (MAB) and as a College for Adults Fall Orientation Leader. As a student employee on the Minneapolis Campus, she has served in the Minneapolis Student Life Office, as a Minneapolis Campus Library Circulation Desk Assistant, and as a Student Compliance Office Student Assistant.

Brittany’s nominators and supporters describe the energy of fun and positivity that she brings to all her positions, sharing that her sunny attitude has been a palpable mood lifter for the Minneapolis campus. Students, faculty, and staff all stop by to speak with her, and her insight, openness, and humor brighten their day.

One nominator described Brittany as a central voice for the students on the Minneapolis campus, noting that while she has helped create many fun events for the student body, it is her own faith journey that has deepened her compassion and her drive for social justice, leading her to create events that have deeper meaning, including bringing in a guest speaker from the Islamic Resource Group, welcoming Fr. Vincent to the Minneapolis campus for an Ash Wednesday reflection, and creating an informative campus-wide event for International Women’s Day.

Faculty Mentorship Honor

The Patricia O’Connor Myser Award for Excellence in Faculty Mentoring recognizes a St. Catherine University faculty member who has demonstrated a sustained record of exceptional mentoring of undergraduates engaged in research and scholarship. Thirteen faculty were nominated, and this year’s award went to associate professor of chemistry James Wollack.

During Wollack’s 8 years at St. Kate’s, he has collaborated with over 20 dozen students on individual research projects in chemistry. These collaborations have resulted in numerous student presentations.

"Professor Wollack is known for meeting students where they're at," said award presenter Daron Janzen, a chemistry department colleague and last year's winner of the award. "James commits to students at every level and seeks students with tenacity and a desire to learn."