Posted April 10, 2014 by Justin Rudisille 

ACUI Recognizes Deserving Professionals, Students at 2014 Annual Conference

2014 Honors MCsDelegates gathered in Orlando to honor colleagues as nearly 40 awards were presented during the ACUI annual conference and the celebration of ACUI’s 100th anniversary. Below is an overview of the awards presented this week.

Butts-Whiting Award
As the Association’s top honor, the Butts-Whiting Award is presented to recognize and honor outstanding leaders in ACUI who have made significant contributions to the college union and student activities movement and whose accomplishments and careers are a credit to ACUI. This award also spotlights the accomplishments of the Association and thereby increases the pride of the staff and students who work with the college union program on each campus. It presents to college communities around the world tangible evidence of the effectiveness of the programs of the college union.

At the closing banquet of the ACUI annual conference, the 2014 Butts-Whiting Award was presented to Whit Hollis, University of Utah. Hollis has been a leader, advocate, mentor, and friend in the ACUI community, serving in many volunteer roles at the regional and international level, including being a Past President. With a career spanning several institutions and regions, Hollis is also known for his excellence in advancing campus community building as a professional, currently serving as the director of the union at University of Utah.

Presidential Award for Distinguished Service
Honoring members of the ACUI family for their contributions, this award is presented at the discretion of the ACUI President to recognize their service. While the award has not been presented in several years, in 2014, President Mark Guthier recognized three individuals with the designation:

  • Cynthia Woolbright of the Woolbright Group
  • Brenda Evans, University of Massachusetts–Lowell
  • Jeremy Schenk, Virginia Commonwealth University

Presented during The Honors: Community Builders Awards Ceremony on Tuesday, April 8, none of the recipients were aware of the award.

Honorary Membership
The Board of Trustees bestows honorary membership upon those individuals who have given exceptional service to the Association. This year, the board honored Jerry Mann, University of North Carolina-Charlotte. Mann has served as a volunteer at every level of the Association, playing important roles in ACUI’s benchmarking and assessment services, helping implement and define the core competencies and skill sets, serving as an Education Council member, and, most recently, completing a term on the Board of Trustees.

President of the Year Award
The President of the Year Award was established in 2012 to recognize those university presidents who advance the college union idea. The 2014 winner is Martin Meehan, University of Massachusetts–Lowell, whose commitment to the student experience on campus is evidenced in many ways, from holding monthly open forums with the student community to reinforcing the importance of student involvement. He has demonstrated exceptional advocacy for the division of student affairs, as well, supporting increases in financial resources for student organizations, tripling the number of staff in the student activities department, and reintroducing of fraternities and sororities to campus.

Emeritus Award
Since 1994, the Emeritus Award has recognized college union and student activities professionals who are retiring. Nominees must have worked in the profession for at least 10 years and be retiring in the next year. The Association honored eight individuals this year:

  • Don Castle, Southern Illinois University–Carbondale 
  • Richard Heller, Georgia State University 
  • Bruce Jacobs, Indiana University–Bloomington 
  • Karen Mehnert-Meland, Minnesota State University–Moorhead 
  • Larry Mosher, Valparaiso University 
  • David Robertson, Appalachian State University 
  • Thom Simmons, Indiana University–Bloomington 
  • Bob Yecke, University of Michigan–Ann Arbor

Campus Awards

Collaborative Program of the Year
The Collaborative Program of the Year Award recognizes programs that bring together two or more campus entities to achieve one goal. The 2014 winner was the Major Declaration Celebration at University of Rochester. The Sophomore Committee (a group consisting of representatives from academic affairs, student affairs, and alumni relations) began celebrating a major milestone in the life of students on campus—the declaration of their major. Including information sessions, alumni and faculty networking opportunities, live music, and more, this program has helped facilitate a 24% increase in the number of sophomores who have chosen a field of study by the end of the academic year. Program attendance has doubled since its first year.

Excellence in Innovations in Sustainability
To recognize creative projects that achieve sustainable outcomes on campus, we are here to present the Excellence in Innovations in Sustainability Award. In response to student demands for a quiet outdoor area around the union away from the central quad event space, the University of Arkansas purposefully designed a new space with social sustainability in mind. This natural outdoor space was equipped with a fireplace, environmentally sustainable IPE wood, LED lighting to expand hours, a mix of fixed and moveable seating, and a computer bar with stools and chairs created from recycled post-consumer milk jugs. Actively contributing to the student’s quality of life and sense of community on campus, the 2014 recipient was the South Terrace project at University of Arkansas.

Excellence in Student Training Programs
The Excellence in Student Training Award honors a campus for its innovative approach and commitment to effectively preparing students with the skills and leadership to staff a college union facility. A complex yearlong commitment, the training program at Frostburg State University features a series of skill-based courses for a variety of positions, ongoing relationship building activities, trips to observe operations at other institutions, and intentional opportunities for reflection and the reinforcement of learning.

Outstanding Service Project of the Year
The Outstanding Service Project of the Year Award acknowledges those programs and program leaders who not only make a difference on campus, but also in the community. To create awareness and understanding about issues of hunger, homelessness, and poverty both in the surrounding community and in the world, Oregon State University coordinated a week of service-related activities titled National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week. A hallmark of the week was the Faces of Homelessness program, which humanized the issues through stories shared by a panel of people experiencing homelessness.

Staff-Driven Program of the Year
This award recognizes a program developed by staff that positively impacted student learning. This year’s winner, Virginia Tech, offered a workshop series to students on defining their professional identity online using social networks being first-year students to graduating and beginning their careers. Workshops also encouraged students to incorporate their campus involvement and employment into their use of social media and included an assessment of improvements made to the actual online profiles of attendees following the final workshop.

Student-Driven Program of the Year
Students can affect their peers through programming, and this award is given for such achievement. This year’s winner is the Election Watch Party at the University of Kansas. Hosted in the main lounge and the media laboratory of the Kansas Union, more than 500 students attended the watch party, which featured politically themed games and food, live radio panel discussions on election issues, and interaction with peers from a variety of backgrounds while watching the results broadcast in the living room of the campus.

Facility Design Award of Excellence
The Facility Design Award of Excellence recognizes outstanding and successful collaborations between architect and staff in the design of these buildings. The 2014 Facility and Design Award recipients were: 

  • WTW Architects and Bowie State University for the Student Center
  • Sasaki Associates, Inc. and Slippery Rock University for the Robert M. Smith Student Center 
  • Perkins+Will and University of Texas–Dallas for the Student Services Building 
  • Bruner/Cott & Associates and Vanderbilt University for the Alumni Hall project 
  • Perkins+Will and University of Washington for the Husky Union Building 
  • CannonDesign and University of Wisconsin–Madison for the Gordon Dining and Event Center 
  • Mackey Mitchell Architects and University of Wisconsin–Stout for the Memorial Student Center

Steal this Idea Best in Show
Steal this Idea seeks the best in graphic design and marketing. In 2014, more than 300 submissions were received, and designs by students and professionals which placed in the 13 different categories. Of all these Steal This Idea submissions, one promotional campaign that rose to the top. The graphic design and creative brand identity developed to promote the student union as a place to study was featured in posters, t-shirts, brochures, and more promotional items. This year’s honoree for the Steal This Idea Best In Show Award was presented to Ron Ferree, a student at the University of Central Florida.

Individual Awards and Scholarships

ACUI Values Award
In its inaugural year, the ACUI Values Award honors an individual who actively and continuously demonstrates adherence to the core values of the Association on his/her home campus. These enduring and fundamental tenets are unconditional human worth, joy, learning, caring community, innovation, diversity, and integrity. The 2014 winner was Tina Pinocci, Rowan University.

Adell McMillan Memorial Scholarship
The Adell McMillan Memorial Scholarship was first given last year in memory of one of the first women to lead in the Association. Funds from the scholarship are to be used support the recipient’s leadership development. In her personal essay written when applying for this scholarship, the 2014 recipient reflected on not only the importance of developing as an professional within the field, but more specifically on developing as a woman in the field—acknowledging the importance of developing relationships with and encouraging the growth of other women in the field. This year’s scholarship went to Jennifer Powell, Valparaiso University.

Affirmative Action Scholarship
The Association has made funds available for traditionally underrepresented staff to attend ACUI’s professional development programs. Applicants are required to have at least three years of professional experience, work at a member institution, and have not received this award in the previous two years. The 2014 Affirmative Action Scholarship recipient was Tricia Rodriguez, Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi.

C. Richard Scott Memorial Scholarship
The C. Richard Scott Memorial Scholarship Fund, established in 1995, was created through contributions from the family of C. Richard Scott, colleagues, and friends who wished for him to be remembered for his dedication and commitment to the development of students as leaders. Often serving as a first point of contact for other students looking to connect to the various resources around the student center on campus, nominators described the 2014 recipient as: having an ability to relate to a variety of students; being committed and organized in her work; and as demonstrating a maturity and eagerness to be engaged in the learning process. This year’s recipient was Abreetta Goode, a graduate student at Texas State University.

Chester A. Berry Scholar Award for Excellence in Writing
Named for ACUI’s first executive director, this award recognizes outstanding writing the field of college unions and student activities. The recipients of the 2014 Chester A. Berry Scholar Award were Eric Love & Robert Meyer from Indiana University–Bloomington for their article “The Influence of Whiteness on College Unions,” published in the September 2012 Bulletin.

Dissertation of the Year Award
Introduced in 2012, the Dissertation of the Year Award recognizes outstanding research conducted by a doctoral degree recipient presently in or intending to enter the profession. This year’s honor went to Krista Harrell, University of South Alabama. Her dissertation, completed while at Old Dominion University, was titled “Green Student Centers’ Influence on the Campus Environment.” She also presented her findings at an educational session in Orlando.

Earl Whitfield Regional Newsletter Award
This award recognizes volunteers who strive to keep all members of their region updated and convey the news of both the region and international Association through different forms of communication. The 2014 winner was the Region 8 Communique and volunteers Kevin Davis and Ruby Vega from the University of Illinois–Chicago.

Edward S. "Beanie" Drake Founders' Award
This is the inaugural year of this award. Named after Edward S. “Beanie” Drake, it recognizes a a professional who has been in the field a minimum of five years but no more than 15 years. The scholarship may be used to support any activity that develops leadership potential. This year’s winner was Michael Makoski, Fitchburg State University. Makoski is described as a professional who truly understands the purpose of a college union—making improvements to student employment, customer service, and the overall student-focused community atmosphere of the Hammond Campus Center.

Excellence in Volunteer Service Award
This is the inaugural year of this award. The Excellence in Volunteer Service Award will be presented to individuals who have demonstrated exceptional commitment to and success in their volunteer role within the Association during the previous 12 months. This year, four individuals are being recognized for their service:  

  • Laura Ballou, University of Rochester 
  • Mandy Ellertson, Portland Community College
  • Scott Reed, Virginia Tech
  • Molly Ward, Tulane University

Gretchen Laatsch Scholarship
Gretchn Laastsh and her husband, Jim Switzer, created a scholarship for graduate students currently in the field or intending to enter the field. To receive this award, applicants must submit an article suitable for publication. This year’s recipient was Victoria Culver, Indiana University–Bloomington. The article submitted for this award shared lessons learned while volunteering for ACUI, which directly reflected the core values of learning, caring community, and joy. It communicated a true passion for the role of the college union and the people who are committed to doing the work.

Meg Sutton I-LEAD® Scholarship
The Meg Sutton I-LEAD® Scholarship recognizes a student who has overcome obstacles and challenges in their education and have a leadership role in their college union or student activities program. The 2014 recipient was Amy Sawdey, SUNY–Brockport. In her application for the scholarship, Sawdey noted a desire to gain enhanced leadership and communication skills, a network of other passionate students from across the Association, and an energy to make a difference on campus and in her future beyond college.

President of the Year
ACUI’s President of the Year Award was created in 2012 to recognize a university president who advances the college union idea, and in 2014, the honor went to Martin Meehan from the University of Massachusetts–Lowell. Since becoming Chancellor in 2007, the institution has seen tremendous growth in enrollment and graduation rates, as well as receiving several acknowledgements for affordability, value, and community service. In addition to his commitment to the student experience and advocacy for student affairs, Meehan played an instrumental role in plans for the new $95 million dollar student center, called the University Crossings, which will open later this year.

Research and Education Grant
Now in its second year, the ACUI Research and Education Grant provides up to $1,500 to fund research in the field. This year’s winner, Zane Reif from the University of North Texas, received support for a study that would analyze the physical layouts and aesthetics of a college union to see if there are common attributes within the facility that have the greatest impact for community building and social interaction. This study also focused on developing an understanding of how and if college unions can create community for community college transfer students at their transfer institution.

Revis A. Cox Memorial Award
This award was created as a tribute to Revis Cox and his contributions, commitment, creativity, and relentless support of multicultural education. This year’s winner, Tari Wimbley, California State University–San Bernardino, has established herself as not only a supportive mentor and student organization advisor, but also as a collaborative partner on projects that are focused on addressing the gaps in retention of students from underrepresented minority groups. In her two years at her current institution, she has developed a core group of students to charter a Black Student Union, and Wimbley works actively as a community building member of the Black Faculty, Staff, and Student Association.

Richard D. Blackburn New Professional Award
Richard D. Blackburn’s influence on and encouragement of new professionals is reflected in this award honoring an individual who demonstrates the potential for excellence in the field of college union and student activities. This year’s recipient was Kim Pho, University of Notre Dame. Since becoming a full-time professional in 2012, Pho has made an immediate and profound impact for students at her institution, has enhanced the services provided by her department to help build community on campus, and has shown a passion to give back to ACUI and to develop as a future leader in the Association.

More about these awards and scholarships is available at



Justin Rudisille

Justin Rudisille is the Director of Volunteer & Member Engagement at ACUI.

Justin coordinates the recruitment, training, and recognition initiatives for volunteers at all levels, as well as oversees research initiatives. He liaises with ACUI’s regions, the Volunteer Development Team, the Research Program Team, the Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education, the College Union and Student Activities (CUSA) evaluation program, and the awards and scholarships programs.


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