Top students will be recognized at annual award convocation

The Student Award Convocation on April 8 will recognize top academic scholars and students who will receive Excellence-in-a-Discipline Award.

The ceremony will begin at 6 p.m. at the Eberhard Center. A list of all award recipients is posted on the Office of the Provost website. Profiles of three students are below.

Also, the Division of Student Affairs recently recognized top student leaders during an award ceremony.

Tianna Davis

Tianna Davis seated in checked sweater
Tianna Davis will receive the Gayle R. Davis First Generation College Student Emerging Leader Award.
Image credit - Amanda Pitts

Tianna Davis, who will receive the Gayle R. Davis First Generation College Student Emerging Leader Award, was initially surprised when she learned that a faculty member had nominated her for a fellowship in the Hauenstein Center's Cook Leadership Academy.

Then she read the description Darren Walhof, professor and chair of political science, had written and began to see herself as a leader.

"I always thought I was a regular student doing regular things," said Davis, a junior majoring in political science. "But professor Walhof sees me as a leader and I'm going to live up to that."

A native of Detroit, Davis said it took some "major hopping" before deciding on political science. Adding a minor in human rights was key, she said. 

She plans to explore the field more during the summer months during an internship as a victim advocate.

"I'll be able to learn more about the court process and get hands-on experience in this field. I would like to work in the victim advocacy realm and bring that work back to Detroit," she said. "There are not many people in these positions."

Davis works in the Office of the Provost at the front desk and is a member of Pi Sigma Alpha, the national honors society for political science. 

She will be the first person in her family to earn a college degree, a fact she carries with pride and, sometimes, a few tears. She has two younger sisters, one who is a senior in high school.

"I try to be a role model and leader for my sisters. I'm proud of myself and I know my mom and my family are proud of me," she said.

– Michele Coffill

Aseel Ayesh

Aseel Ayesh in a maroon hajib standing outside
Aseel Ayesh will receive a Glenn A. Niemeyer Award.
Image credit - Kendra Stanley-Mills

Aseel Ayesh, a native of Grand Rapids, will receive a Glenn A. Niemeyer Award , presented to undergraduate and graduate students who demonstrate excellence in the classroom and extracurricular activities.

As a third-year student, Ayesh will earn two bachelor’s degrees in accounting and finance this spring. Ayesh is also part of a combined degree program and is working to complete a master’s in scientific accounting degree concurrently with her bachelor's degree programs. She said it's a stepping stone to her goal of attaining a Certified Public Accounting license.

“By fully immersing myself in my studies with enthusiasm and dedication, I unlock potential for growth and development," Ayesh said. "This entails embracing challenges as opportunities for learning, persisting through setbacks, and continuously seeking to expand my knowledge and skills."

Ayesh said she is thankful to her parents for all her successes. As first-generation immigrants from Palestine, Ayesh said her parents worked hard to immerse her and her siblings in the best education systems they could find. Ayesh said they also shaped her views of the world by providing her with the opportunity to live and study abroad in Palestine for three years. She said that experience grounded her in her identity, roots and faith.

“Being exposed to two completely different ways of life (in the East and the West) made me appreciate the richness of each and gave me the opportunity to selectively incorporate aspects from both into my own life while discarding those that do not resonate with me, allowing me to shape my own identity and world view,” said Ayesh.

During her time at GVSU, Ayesh has been a part of several organizations, including the Frederik Meijer Honors College, Hauenstein Center's Cook Leadership Academy and the Seidman College of Business mentorship program. 

“There are many career paths I'm currently considering. Regardless of my choice, I aim to pursue a career that will give me an opportunity to give back to the community that has supported me,” she said.

– Thomas Garrett is a student writer for University Communications. Garrett, a native of Stevensville, is a senior who is majoring in writing.

Henry Peña

Henry Peña seated laughs with a professor in a white coat during a suturing lab
Henry Peña, pictured in a suturing lab at the Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences, will receive a Niemeyer Award.
Image credit - Kendra Stanley-Mills

Graduate student Henry Peña will receive a Niemeyer Award. Peña will graduate in April with a doctor of nursing practice degree. 

Peña said he is grateful and honored to receive this award. As a nursing student, he said this award shows what nurses are all about: serving others and improving their care of patients.

“To me, it’s validating, it’s humbling, it just brings so many emotions,” Peña said.

He is proud to earn an advanced nursing degree and to show his parents, knowing that they led him on the right path.

“This is as much about them, my family, and my support system as it is about me,” Peña said.

Peña has had several leadership roles on campus. It started when he was nominated for Hauenstein Center's Cook Leadership Academy fellowship by one of his professors. He said it created a desire to get involved in his community.

“It has been a sequence of leadership initiatives and opportunities that formed outside of academics,” said Peña.

At the end of his first year, he became the president of KCON's Graduate Student Nursing Association. Through that experience he realized a need in his community and, with another student, formed the Multicultural Student Nurses Organization. That group is still active today under new leadership. He was also president of Grand Valley’s Graduate Student Organization. 

Being a well-rounded student, Peña said he considers himself a “jack of all trades” and hopes to spread his knowledge to others.

“I think a well-rounded student encompasses different spheres of influence, whether that be academics, community service to others or understanding,” said Peña.

– Samantha Drougel is a student writer for University Communications. Drougel is from Monroe and is a double major in film and video production, and journalism, broadcasting and digital media.


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