Student Award Convocation virtually recognizes top achievers, excellence in disciplines

headshot: Allyson Schultz
Allyson Schultz received a Niemeyer Award; she is a graduate student studying physical therapy.
Image Credit: courtesy photo
student speaking from podium
Domonique Palmer speaks at a 2019 event for Thompson Scholars. She earned a Niemeyer Award.
Image Credit: University Communications
selfie of Matthew Smith
Matthew Smith will earn a bachelor's degree in nursing this month. He is a Niemeyer Award recipient.
Image Credit: courtesy photo
photo of Bradley Barningham in GVSU sweatshirt
Bradley Barningham is a junior who is majoring in nursing and the recipient of the Gayle R. Davis First Generation College Student Emerging Leader Award.
Image Credit: courtesy photo

If this were a winter semester like any other, the accomplishments of hundreds of students would have been celebrated in the Kirkhof Center.

Instead, students who would have been recognized for academic excellence at the Student Awards Convocation have been congratulated virtually. The annual ceremony recognizes students who have been nominated for top awards, recognizing overall achievements in the classroom and on campus, and students who achieved excellence in every graduate and undergraduate discipline.

Visit this Provost Office website to read the names of all students who received awards; several top awardees are highlighted below.

Allyson Schultz received a Niemeyer Award, presented to graduate and undergraduate students who demonstrate excellence in the classroom and co-curricular activities.

Schultz will receive a doctorate of physical therapy degree in April. A native of Traverse City, Schultz earned a bachelor's degree in actuarial science and math from Olivet College.

"My sister, at the time, was going through PT school herself and I absolutely loved everything she was learning and was intrigued by the field," Schultz said. "I have always been very active, passionate about human movement and helping others reach their full potential and goals, so physical therapy seemed like a great route for me."

Schultz has worked as a graduate assistant for Grand Valley's PT department for two years. She has served as class treasurer, volunteered for Wheels in Motion, and participated in National Eating Disorder Awareness events, including a Grand Rapids fundraiser in which Schultz raised more than $800.

After graduating, Schultz will work as an orthopedic resident with University of Michigan Medicine, and begin a one-year intensive residency to earn an orthopedic clinical specialty in physical therapy

Domonique Palmer received a Niemeyer Award. Palmer, from Detroit, will earn a bachelor's degree in integrative studies later this month.

Palmer's degree emphasis is Social Impact for Urban Youth, and her studies and co-curricular activities have focused on historically marginalized youth and college retention. Palmer has worked as a resident assistant, an intern for Pathways to College, a TRIO mentor, and during orientations for Black Excellence and Laker Familia. She has also worked for the Admissions Office and during new student orientation.

She said transitioning to Grand Valley from her Detroit high school, University Prep Academy, was difficult but she utilized many university resources and created many professional relationships.

Palmer hopes to do the same for other first-generation students after graduation, and said she will pursue taking an entry-level job focused on college access and retention at one of Michigan's public universities.

Matthew Smith will earn a bachelor's degree in nursing this month. He is also a Niemeyer Award recipient.

A graduate of Grandville High School, Smith said he chose nursing as a major "because there is no better way to positively impact a person's life."

"Whether you're caring for patients in their own homes or in the hospital, you're part of a health care team that is improving the quality of life for many people," he said.

An active student, Smith received a Sustainability Champion Award for his efforts in food waste prevention and dumpster diving. He said he rescued about $45,000 worth of food that would have gone to a landfill. He gave a presentation on the subject during the 2018 TEDxGVSU event.

Smith also gave a presentation on his nursing thesis, focused on gender-based differences in eating disorders, at the Midwestern Nursing Research Society and Sigma Theta Tau research conferences.

He is in the process of applying to work at one of the Grand Rapids hospitals in an intensive care unit.

Bradley Barningham is a junior who is majoring in nursing and the recipient of the Gayle R. Davis First Generation College Student Emerging Leader Award. The award is presented to a sophomore or junior who is the first generation in their family to attend college and shows promise as a future leader.

Barningham, from Eaton Rapids, had worked as a certified nursing assistant after high school at an adult foster care home and a hospital. "Nursing to me felt more like a calling, I've been drawn to the field since I was in high school," he said.

Barningham said his parents instilled in him and his sister the value of a college education. "I always knew I would go to college," he said.

When he arrived at Grand Valley, Barningham quickly found the Pre-Nursing Association student organization during a Campus Life Night event. He served as the group's president, which was his first leadership experience. Barningham is now an active member and secretary of the Student Nurses Association, within Kirkhof College of Nursing.

SNA continues to meet virtually throughout the semester, encouraging its members to donate blood and make protective masks to donate to health care organizations.