Paul Magnuson Student Awards for Leadership and Service Announced

Posted on May 9th, 2008 by

Back Row: Ben Smith, Hon. Paul Magnuson, Mike Marcotte, and Mike Rueckert. Front Row: Asitha Jayawardena, Fatima-Zahra Elattir.

Back Row: Ben Smith, Hon. Paul Magnuson, Mike Marcotte, and Mike Rueckert. Front Row: Asitha Jayawardena, Fatima-Zahra Elattir.

Five student leaders, three student organizations, and two student-led events were recognized on Wednesday, May 7 at the annual Paul Magnuson Student Leadership and Service Awards Program at Gustavus Adolphus College.

Established in 1991 and annually supported by the Hon. Paul Magnuson ’59, chief judge of the U.S. Federal District Court in St. Paul and former trustee of the college, the awards recognize the significant contributions that individual students and student groups make to campus life.

Each year, outstanding students, organizations, and events are nominated by fellow students, faculty, administrators, or staff for recognition. A selection committee assembled by the Dean of Students reviews nominations and determines honorees in the three categories.

The following students, organizations, and student-led events were recognized this year:

Fatima-Zahra Elattir
Elattir was active in several student organizations, including the Pan Afrikan Student Organization and Model United Nations. She served as program coordinator of the Crossroads Program for the past two years, treasurer of the International Cultures Club, co-chair of the Our Story Conference and Building Bridges Conference, and member of the college Ambassadors and the Diversity Leadership Board.

Asitha Jayawardena
Jayawardena has been involved in African Partners Medical, Interfaith Forum, Big Partner-Little Partner, and the Gustavus tennis team. He is the founder of the college’s now-annual Buddhist Vesak Festival and will be a Gustie Greeter for the upcoming 2008-09 school year. He raised $5,000 on his own initiative through the sale of dedicated wrist bands to build two houses in Sri Lanka in areas hit hard by the tsunami. He also co-chaired this year’s Building Bridges Conference that drew a record crowd.

Michael Marcotte
Marcotte served as vice president for administration on the Student Senate for two years and was the main point person for several major policy changes on campus. He has served as secretary and executive board member of the Campus Activities Board and headed promotion for this spring’s sold out Ben Folds concert. A member of the Student Education Association, he coordinated the first Scholastic Book Fair at the college. He was also responsible for the planning and production of the first and second “Dancing With the Profs” events, which together raised nearly $7,000 for local charities. Voted president of the Minnesota Association of Private College students, he coordinated the College’s “Day at the Capitol” financial-aid lobbying event.

Michael Rueckert
Rueckert has been a team leader for Gustavus Youth Outreach, a chapel intern, a volunteer for chapel services, and a participant in the Chapel Apprentice program. He is involved in the servant leadership program through the Center for Vocational Reflection in conjunction with his summer counselor and camp chaplain position at Glen Lake Lutheran Ministries. He sings in the Gustavus Choir, St. Ansgar’s Chorus, the men’s septet, and a barbershop quartet. As a leader behind the scenes in the Department of Theatre and Dance, Rueckert serves as a scene shop supervisor, teaching assistant, lighting designer, and assistant technical director.

Benjamin Smith
Smith served on the Campus Activities Board for four years, beginning as a Special Events Committee member, then as Special Events executive chair, and finally as co-president for the past two years. He also serves as advertising manager for The Gustavian Weekly and is a co-chair for 2008 Senior Week.

Diversity Leadership Council
This student organization has effectively advocated for on-campus cultural and intellectual diversity to the organizations that are represented on it, including the Asian Cultures Club, the Pan Afrikan Student Organization, Queers and Allies, the Womyn’s Awareness Center, and the International Cultures Club. In December, the council sponsored an etiquette dinner for member organizations to practice professional behavior and connect with employer partners.

Peer Assistants
Known for presenting The Inside Scoop during New Student Orientation, sponsoring Midnight Express during finals, the Angel Tree, and Tie One On, and for producing sexual assault prevention presentations and other workshops for First-Term Seminars and residence halls, the Peer Assistants added several awareness activities in 2007-08. New initiatives this year included Health and Safety Week, Appreciation of Elders Week, Sexual Responsibility Week, Spring Break Week, and Mind Your Health Week.

PLEDGE Council
PLEDGE is a community of individuals dedicated to maintaining a substance-free lifestyle. Participants in the program, who sign a contract committing themselves to the lifestyle, also aim to put programs and activities into action that enhance the development of strong interpersonal relationships. The PLEDGE community organized programs and events such as a kick-off barbeque, bowling, Dive dances, a Big Partner-Little Partner party, and service projects for retirees and others.

Building Bridges Conference
The 13th annual Building Bridges Conference focused on genocide and moved to the next level by increasing student and faculty involvement, enhancing campus and community participation and awareness, actively contributing to an altruistic cause, and establishing a stronger foundation for future conferences. With Rwanda genocide hero Paul Rusesabagina as keynote speaker, the conference filled Christ Chapel to capacity. The event also included four well-attended workshops and a food-packaging project that sent 47,000 meals to Darfur refugee camps and schools in Rwanda.

Dancing With the Profs
A completely student-planned and student-run event, Dancing with the Profs grew significantly in its second year of existence. Sponsored by the Campus Activities Board, the Swing Club, and GAC-TV, the event played to an audience of more than 500 and raised $5,100 for the United Way. Program planners added a service auction to this year’s event, which helped to raise more money.


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication JJ Akin


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