Keeping on top of classes can be hard enough for any college student. For those who can find time for activities and interests other than their own, their efforts may receive some deserved recognition.
Every year, Butler University recognizes its best and brightest students by measuring their academic success, service to the community and interest in the improvement and success of the university and their fellow students. Students can be nominated by other University faculty, staff and students.
The Program designed to acknowledge the talent and dedication of students, is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
All students who are nominated for the program are given the opportunity to fill out an application to be judged by a panel of faculty from each academic college, student affairs, academic affairs and athletics, as well as other staff members and alumni. These groups judge the first of the two rounds on the process.
Applications are due by Oct. 24.
In the first round, the judging panel selects the “Top 100” from the many nominees.
After the top 100 is selected, those students have the opportunity to move to the second round by submitting their application along with three letters of recommendation to a new judging panel.
This second judging panel is made up of different representatives of the same groups: academic colleges, student affairs, academic affairs, athletics, faculty, staff and alumni.
During the second round of evaluation, the judging panel selects the top 10 Men and top 10 Women from the top 100, as well as selecting the Most Outstanding Man and the Most Outstanding Woman.
At the banquet, each of the top students, the top 10 groups and all top 100 students are honored and recognized, according to Jennie Jones associate director of alumni and parent programs.
The students chosen as recipients of the Most Outstanding Student Award are acknowledged for being admirable students and community members.
“They reflect outstanding character, scholarship, engaged citizenship, leadership and commitment to fostering diversity,” Jones said.
The program specifically looks for students who give back to the university and community unselfishly, who are held in high regards by the administration and who take an interest in continuing to contribute to the success of Butler University after graduation.
Ryan Waggoner, 2010 Butler graduate, was the recipient of the Most Outstanding Man Award last year and was extremely honored to have been nominated and selected as the male winner.
“I was really surprised when they called my name, and I was super caught off guard when they asked me to step forward in front of hundreds of people and give an acceptance speech,” Waggoner said.
Since graduation, Waggoner got married and moved to Malibu, Calif., to attend law school at Pepperdine University.
“I really like California,” Waggoner said. “Law school is hard but interesting. I’ve never worked this intensely in my life.
“Its like finals week at Butler, every week of the year,” Waggoner said. “But, I’m adjusting.”
Waggoner said he and his wife hope to move back to their hometown of Franklin, Ind. because “Indiana is the best state in the country. Believe that.”
Being named to the top 100, not to mention receiving the Most Outstanding Student Award, is one of the most prestigious and honorable awards a student can receive while at Butler University.
“It was really humbling to be recognized in such a meaningful way in front of the best students at the university. It was a storybook ending to a four-year fairy tale that I lived during my time at Butler,” Waggoner said.
Christina Lear, also a 2010 graduate, was presented with last year’s Most Outstanding Woman Award and said her sister now calls her “the Gordon Hayward of homework.”
“I think the greatest thing about receiving the award is becoming a part of a Butler legacy,” Lear said. “One cool thing about the banquet is that they always print all the previous award winners’ names on the program. I’m a big Butler history nerd, so I feel really lucky to have my name on that and to be part of Butler tradition.”
Lear said the honor was an excellent way to finish up her already enjoyable college career.
“I really threw myself wholeheartedly into life at this university and tried to leave my mark,” she said. “I would have felt proud of everything I worked for without or without the award, but of course it was nice to be recognized for all my hard work and Butler passion.”
Lear is now working as a corps member for Teach for America and is based at Arsenal Tech, a public high school on the east side of downtown Indianapolis. She is teaching English, reading and advertising, as well as starting on her masters degree in education from Marion University.
“Right now, I am still trying to adjust to my new roles as a teacher and ‘real world’ adult,” she said. “It is very strange to go from being a college student and still feeling slightly like a kid to suddenly being responsible for the education of 90 teenagers.
“I feel like I grow up years every day.”
Lear, who recently bought a house in Broad Ripple, said she enjoys staying close to her Butler roots.
“Unlike that West coast-dweller Ryan Wagonner, I am only a bike ride away down the canal, so Butler hasn’t seen the last of me,” Lear said. “I actually still use the Butler library all the time to do research for teaching, so some things haven’t changed.”
The top 100 students will be announced on Nov. 29, and the Most Outstanding Man and Woman will be announced April 1, 2011.