Nominations for Honors and Awards in Bearcat Excellence are now open and will remain available until Feb. 28. The awards, which are distributed through the Honors and Awards in Bearcat Excellence Committee, seek to recognize students’ achievements and contributions to Willamette’s campus through a variety of honors and accolades.
According to Allie Kerkhoff (‘19), the chair of the committee, there are 16 awards open for student nomination this year, along with senior keys and certificates. These co-curricular honors include four campus-wise Associated Students of Willamette University (ASWU) awards, as well as awards for students who have shown exceptional leadership in the Office of Multicultural Affairs, Community Service Learning, the Office of Admissions, The Collegian, the Office of International Education and the American Studies Program. Awards through Bishop Wellness Center, the Chaplains and the Vice President of Student Affairs seek to recognize students for their contributions and leadership in those areas on campus.
Although many honors are given to students who have demonstrated high levels of involvement on campus, this doesn’t mean that students have to be upperclassmen to win. Past years have shown that members of all classes have been recognized for their contributions. “We want to see a lot of people nominated for a lot of things, because we know how involved Willamette students are,” explained Kerkhoff.
However, some awards are reserved for only one class of students. Senior keys and certificates are open to any seniors who stand out within the Class of 2019. As Kerkhoff explained, there is a slight difference between the two categories: certificates refer to students who exhibit service to the student body, while keys are a bit more selective and recognize students who demonstrate outstanding leadership and extraordinary service to the school. In 2018, five seniors were awarded keys and 12 were honored with certificates.
“We want to stray away from the idea that there’s a certain number of people who will always win a senior key, like the ASWU president or the Opening Days coordinator. That’s not necessarily true, because we want to look at visibility and what they’ve actually done. Someone could be a sports team captain and win a senior key because of how visible they are on campus and the impact that they’ve been able to make,” Kerkhoff said.
The Awards and Honors in Bearcat Excellence Committee currently consists of 10 members, including five students and five faculty or staff members. Once the nominations close on Feb. 28, the committee will take several hours to look through student comments and make decisions, through a blind judgement process. Awards will then be announced on April 25 at a 4 p.m. ceremony in Cat Cavern, while senior keys and certificates will be awarded at a separate luncheon.
Over the next few weeks, students will have the opportunity to visit willamette.edu/go/honorsandawards to search different awards and fill out nominations. The committee will also be hosting a pizza and nominations party in the Office of Student Activities (OSA) on Feb. 26 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., when students can use provided laptops to write their nominations and get help from OSA staff and committee members.
Although these co-curricular awards have existed on campus since the mid-1900s, nomination numbers have dwindled over the past year. According to Kerkhoff, there were around 300 nominations in 2017, but only 150 in 2018. However, she is optimistic about this year’s turnout.
“I’m really hoping that this year we get back up to at least the 200’s in nominations,” she said. “I’m hoping that people are excited this year … I think we’re on a really good track.”