The St. Catherine University community gathered Tuesday, April 25 to celebrate student academic and leadership achievements, including top-10 graduating seniors, inductees into the 24 active academic honor societies and the recipients of scholarships and departmental honors.
In addition, the Honors and Awards ceremony presents six All-University Awards that acknowledge student leadership, outstanding loyalty and service, and contributions to the St. Kate’s mission.
“Today, we celebrate the many ways you have engaged in your St. Kate’s education. We celebrate your minds expanding and deepening, your spirits soaring and seeking insight, and your hearts embracing connections within the community,” said President ReBecca Koenig Roloff ’76. “Thank you for being devoted to the labor of the intellect and the advancement of your best selves.”
Mary E. McCahill Award-winner Ikram Koliso '17 with President ReBecca Koenig Roloff '76.
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 Ikram Koliso ’17, a double major in social work and public health.
“Ikram is a scholar and deeply engaged member of the St. Catherine community. Amazingly, she received 12 nominations for this award,” said Roloff.
During her time at St. Kate’s, Koliso has held several key student leadership positions, including as a peer mentor in the Multicultural and International Program and Services (MIPS) Office, a peer advisor in the Academic Advising Office, a 3-time orientation leader, and two years as a commuter advisor. For three years, Koliso served in the Assistantship Mentoring Program as a Study Advocate for the Emerging Scholars Program — a highly successful initiative she co-founded to help students who need extra assistance and resources to ensure academic success.
An active member of student activities and clubs, Koliso served as committee member or helped establish events like the Women of Color Full Circle Gathering, the Graduates of Color Dinner, and the African American Leadership Forum. She honed leadership skills as the current President of the Muslim Student Association and as Secretary for the First Generation Scholars League.
A staff nominator noted: “She wants to see students around her succeed in extravagant ways, and to be successful in college, even when they don’t believe in themselves.” One of Koliso’s professors described her as “precisely the type of individual St. Kate’s strives to send into the world: a transformative leader, committed to social justice, and (one) who deeply loves and cares for the dear neighbor.”
Her achievements and awards include Abigail Quigley McCarthy Center for Women Student Leadership Awards (2015 and 2017); an Antonian Scholars Senior Honors Project Award; and induction in the Phi Alpha (social work) and Kappa Gamma Pi (Catholic leadership) honor societies.
“Ikram also received the Thomas More Leadership Award as a sophomore — an unprecedented recognition of a student so early in her career,” noted Roloff.
In the community, Koliso has served as a case management assistant in the Hennepin County Multicultural Services Office, and as an Urban Scholar in both the Children's Cabinet for Governor Mark Dayton and for the City of Minneapolis Human Resources department.
A valedictorian, Koliso graduates summa cum laude with a 4.0 cumulative GPA in May, and was recently selected as the student commencement speaker for the Baccalaureate ceremony.
Shannon McKeever '17, winner of the Dean of Students award with Curt Galloway.
The Dean of Students Award was presented to Shannon McKeever ’17 for her outstanding contributions to the University’s mission throughout her St. Kate’s career, including leadership on Student Senate (this year as president), and deepening student ties with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet (CSJs).
“Courageous in her convictions, even under pressure, even at her own personal expense — Shannon has profoundly impacted the University and her constituents in so many ways,” said Dean of Students Curt Galloway.
As a first-year student, McKeever co-founded the CSJ–Student Alliance, providing an opportunity for students to engage more closely with the CSJ’s, and planning events that focused on community, social justice and service. She interned with The Advocates for Human Rights, engaging in work focused on human trafficking. She also served as member of the Anti-Human Trafficking Working Group of the Congregation of St. Joseph.
Sensing a need within the community, and in collaboration with University leadership, McKeever initiated and implemented a St. Kate’s Election-Reflection program last November, which provide an opportunity for the community to come together and reflect.
“And who can forget her speech at Opening Celebration this past Fall? Shannon used her platform as Student Senate President to speak about issues of social justice, and to encourage — actually challenge — her peers, and all of us, to advocate for what is right,” said Galloway.
McKeever was also recognized with an Abigail Quigley McCarthy Center for Women’s Outstanding Collaborative Leadership Award in 2014, and received the PLEN Women in Global Policy Seminar Scholarship last May.
Meaghan Bruening '17, winner of the Helen B Lemmer Award in Honor of Mother Antonia McHugh.
The Helen B. Lemmer Award in Honor of Mother Antonia McHugh was presented to chemistry major Meaghan Bruening ’17. The award recognizes a liberal arts student who intends to pursue a career in teaching at the college or university level, and who exemplifies the ideals of Mother Antonia, St. Kate’s first president. The award was first presented in 1973, the centennial year of Mother Antonia’s birth.
Next month, Bruening graduates Phi Beta Kappa, Top-10 and is one of six valedictorians with a 4.0 GPA. She plans to attend CalTech this fall to study inorganic chemistry with an eye toward teaching at a liberal arts institution. She worked to complete both the B.A. and the rigorous American Chemical Society certified B.S. degree in Chemistry with a physics minor.
An active researcher, Bruening co-authored a peer-reviewed article with faculty advisor Daron Janzen, presented at numerous regional and national conferences, including the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR), and participated in highly competitive summer research programs at the University of Minnesota and Northwestern.
In addition to her scholarly work, Bruening has earned a reputation as a patient, gifted mentor and instructor to other students in her department and the O’Neill Center, where she works as a tutor.
One nominator summed up Bruening best: "I could not imagine a better example of a strong, fearless St. Kate's graduate willing to take risks and work exceedingly hard to reach her goals, all the while serving others in a self-effacing but effective manner."
Thomas More Award honorees.
Out of the 84 students nominated, this year’s Thomas More award recipients are Kalice Allen, Alisa Bednarchuk, Brianna Byram, Elizabeth Cleary, Cielo Florez, Stephanie Herr, Shaunequa James, Hillary Lor, Odilia Mentari, Linh Nhu, Veronika Paprocka, Carmen Grace Poppert, Maggie Singerhouse, Gabrielle Thompson, Pachia Vang and Julia Zyla.
The Thomas More Award is presented to students who have demonstrated outstanding loyalty and service, as well as integrity and campus spirit.
Among their ranks, this year’s Thomas More recipients include: Antonian Scholars; a National Science Foundation STEM scholar; a Kappa Gamma Pi – St. Catherine Medal winner; an Academic All-MIAC student athlete; and members of the Phi Beta Kappa (liberal arts), Iota Sigma Pi (chemistry), Kappa Gamma Pi (leadership) and Phi Lamda Theta (education) honor societies.
Amanda Campbell '17, winner of the Mary Alice Muellerleile Student Leadership Award.
The Mary Alice Muellerleile Student Leadership Award was presented to Amanda Campbell ’17. 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.
Campbell served as a teaching assistant and has been an active contributor to the College for Adults Student Advisory Board, serving both as a member-at-large and this year on the Board’s leadership team.
Anne Weyandt, dean of the College for Adults, shared comments written by Campbell’s nominators: “Amanda is a bright, charismatic woman who exudes the bold spirit of St. Catherine University and the compassion and commitment to social justice of our founders. She is passionate about helping other students embrace the magic of St. Kate’s and get the most out of their educational experience.”
She participated in the Summer Scholars program with Dr. Kim Heikkila conducting research on “Unwed Mothers in Midcentury America,” and presented at NCUR and the MPCC Scholars Showcase last year. She will graduate summa cum laude this Spring with a degree in English and serve as the Valedictorian for the College for Adults ceremony.
Anna Altman '17, winner of the Michael J. Baynes Reflective Life Award.
In its fifth 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 Anna Altman ’17, who’s completing an associate of science degree in nursing.
From the start of her time at St. Kate’s, Altman volunteered at Access and Success through its Mother-to-Mother program. Through this program, she’s presented to pregnant and parenting teens at 10 metro area high schools, and at events. She shares her own story of young motherhood and the skills she uses to balance the challenges of schoolwork and home life — demonstrating that while challenging, it is possible for young student parents to attend college.
“Anna’s story and personal experience helps not only high school students, but her fellow St. Kate’s students in their own journey as well,” said Weyandt. "She is a true leader. Her willingness to be vulnerable and share her life story for the benefit of others is truly impressive.”
Altman serves as a home health aid, a personal care assistant at Regions Hospital, and as a tutor in the St. Kate’s Academic Success Center.
Patricia O'Connor Myser '56 with Chemistry Professor Daron Janzen.
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 Chemistry Professor Daron Janzen.
During Janzen’s 11 years at St. Kate’s, he has collaborated with over two dozen students on individual research projects in chemistry. These collaborations have resulted in nearly 50 student presentations, including 20 at national meetings and another 14 at regional meetings.
“In Chemistry, the gold standard for scholarship is peer-reviewed publications. Professor Janzen has co-authored nine publications with his students — a truly remarkable achievement,” said Colleen Hegranes, executive vice president and provost.
Janzen is known for helping students develop their confidence as scientists by coaching them to “own” their skills and become independent scholars.
“Under his mentorship, I have developed into an independent undergraduate researcher, and I have learned to synthesize and fully characterize the compounds, analyze the literature to identify related publications, and present the results in both poster sessions and oral presentations,” wrote one student nominator. “I am able to think critically about my project every day that I am in the lab because I have the independence to make research-based decisions on my own.”