EDWARDSVILLE/CARBONDALE - The Southern Illinois University System Board of Trustees and the SIU System Student Advisory Board (SSAB) honored eight outstanding students with the inaugural 2021 SIU System Distinguished Student Service Award at the board’s July meeting.

The SSAB was created to advise SIU administrators on student-related issues pertinent at the system level. It also serves as a vehicle to discuss matters impacting the campuses, share ideas and projects, find solutions to problems and work together on vital student concerns. In one of the SSAB’s first acts, it worked with the president’s office to create the award to recognize student achievement.

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The SSAB received applications from across the system and selected one undergraduate student and graduate student from both SIU Edwardsville and SIU Carbondale. In addition, one student from the schools of medicine, dental medicine, law and pharmacy were also chosen. Members of the selection committee consisted of Dianah McGreehan (SIUC), Steven Gear (SIUC), Olivia Middendorf (SIUE), Aneesh Asokan (SOP), and Luis Rubio (SOM). Winners received a $100 gift certificate and an honorary plaque.

“Congratulations to the winners. I could not be more impressed with the accomplishments of these awardees and I thank them for what they have done both individually on their campus and collectively as representatives of the system. I also want to express my appreciation for the work of the SSAB that did a great deal in a short amount of time to make this happen,” said SIU System President Dan Mahony.

“On behalf of the Student Advisory Board, I’m proud and honored to recognize the inaugural winners of the distinguished service award. We received nominations from across the system and the caliber of nominees made the final decision a difficult choice,” said SSAB Co-Chair Dianah McGreehan.

2021 SIU System Distinguished Student Service Award Winners:

Taylor Jean, SIU Edwardsville undergraduate student. Serves as a Peer Support Volunteer in the Public Health program and was selected to serve on the SIUE CORE T.E.A.M. (College Readiness Transition. Engage. Achieve. Mentor.) which works with low-income high school and first-generation college students providing resources to excel in high school and prepare for college.

Madalynn McKenzie, SIU Edwardsville graduate student. A graduate assistant in the Center for Student Diversity, Madalynn serves as a diversity officer for student government and helped develop the campus diversity and inclusion training effectiveness survey. She has served on numerous important campus and system search committees and participated in one of the university’s Conversations of Understanding.

Nelson Fernandez, SIU Carbondale undergraduate student. Nelson has quite literally helped change the campus landscape as the founder and project manager of the SIUC Green Roof Project which has transformed an existing green space into a multidisciplinary innovation hub for experimental learning. Nelson and his team are leading the charge for sustainability efforts across the campus.

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Otis Duncan, SIU Carbondale graduate student. In his application, he stated a personal motto “Be the person you needed when you were younger.” O.J. is the manager and Chair of the Board for the Rainbow Café LGBTQ Youth Center and has personally helped hundreds of LGBTQ youth become healthy, proud young adults through outreach, education, and training.

Alexander Worix, SIU School of Medicine. Serving in leadership roles for the Student National Medical Association including President of the SIU Chapter, Alexander was Social Media Coordinator for the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association. As a Hotspotting coach, he trained students to work with clients with complex medical and social needs. He was also a panelist in one of the university’s Conversations of Understanding.

Daniel Asonye, SIU School of Law. A participant with the SIU Law Journal and the Moot Court Board, Dan is active in organizations including the Law School Democrats and the National Lawyers Guild Social Justice Initiative. During the 2020 fall semester, he was the co-organizer of the All Salukis Vote initiative that aimed to register as many local community members as possible for the 2021 presidential election.

Nourah Abdual Kader, SIU School of Dental Medicine. Over the past year, Nourah developed her own not-for-profit organization - Centralized Application for Advanced Placement for International Dentists Simplified - to assist international applicants in achieving admission into multiple U.S. dentistry programs. She is also the Community Service Chair for the Special Care Dentistry Association.

Justin Shiau, SIU School of Pharmacy. Justin has served as president of the Student Society of Health System Pharmacists, as leadership and development chair of Phi Lambda Sigma Pharmacy Leadership Society and as co-founder of the Industry Pharmacy Organization. He volunteers at the St. Louis Chinese Center monthly clinic providing free pharmaceutical care to underserved Chinese-speaking patients.

“It is tremendous to know our university system is producing the quality of students like those we are recognizing. I am always amazed at their motivation and expertise. This award is not only a tribute to our students, but it also shines a positive light on our dedicated faculty as well. On behalf of the entire board, we are pleased to recognize these accomplishments,” said SIU Board of Trustees Chair Phil Gilbert.

“I very much appreciate the outstanding work these students are doing on behalf of our SIU campuses. I am also pleased to see the services and activities our students across the system have dedicated themselves to. Their actions reflect the commitment SIU has to the communities within our regions,” said SIU Board of Trustees Vice Chair Dr. Ed Hightower.

“The Student Advisory Board has worked very hard to develop this award and I first want to congratulate them for their efforts. I also want to congratulate our distinguished student award winners who represent the best of the best across our campuses. Thank you for your leadership and the great example you are setting for your peers,” said Vice President for Academic Innovation, Planning and Partnerships Dr. Gireesh Gupchup.

The announcement of the award winners can be viewed at the SIU Board of Trustees YouTube channel (beginning at the 50:14 mark) at this link.

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