USF turns tradition virtual

April 28, 2020

Long standing traditions were celebrated in brand new format today as the University of Sioux Falls community gathered virtually for its annual Spirit of Excellence Awards Celebration.

The celebration honoring scholarship and service has historically been held in Meredith Auditorium on USF’s campus, but this year the community gathered around screens to view the ceremony on YouTube and Facebook.

“Our spring semester has not played out the way anyone anticipated, but our professors, staff and students have demonstrated a resilient commitment to learning and care for one another during this unique time,” said Dr. Joy Lind, vice president for academic affairs at USF. “Taking time to virtually celebrate academics and service today was a great opportunity to reflect on the core values that characterize the University of Sioux Falls community.”

Top honorees were announced, and all nominees were recognized during today’s ceremony celebrating various areas of campus life from academics and leadership to athletics and service.

This year’s top honorees include:

  • Representative Man: Dayne Versteeg, a senior from Sioux Falls, SD, who is majoring in elementary education
  • Representative Woman: Emma Snow, a senior from Tekamah, NE, who is majoring in Spanish
  • Thomas F. Johnson Distinguished Service Award: Grant Johnston, a senior from O’Neill, NE, who is majoring in criminal justice and sociology
  • Outstanding Faculty Awards: Dr. Brooke Murphy, assistant professor of education and director of field experiences; Brian Lowery, assistant professor of biology
  • Part-time Faculty Honor Award: Dr. Jim Sturdevant, part-time instructor in the Vucurevich School of Business Nelson
  • Women in Leadership Award: Apolonia Davalos who is majoring in entrepreneurial studies and media studies
  • The Purple Feather Award, which recognizes the attributes of character, scholarship, leadership and service of juniors and seniors. These award recipients were previously announced, and are listed at the end of this release.

The Representative Man and Woman awards are given to two individuals who exemplify the ideal USF student—an individual committed to the University and the purposes for which it was founded. Final selection is determined by the senior class, which chooses from those nominated. This is the highest honor given to a student by the entire campus community.

Dayne Versteeg, the Representative Man recipient, has been an integral part of the music department, serving as a member of the concert chorale for four years, the singing Camerata and Madrigal singers for three years and the University Singers for two years. Versteeg has served as a Resident Assistant for three years and is the founding member of the USF Ukulele club. This spring, Versteeg is student teaching at Eugene Field Elementary and he will complete his student teaching in the fall. He hopes to teach middle school math.

Emma Snow, the Representative Woman recipient, is active in the music department and has been a member of the Concert Chorale, singing Camerata, Madrigal Singers and University Singers. Currently she serves the USF community as a student ambassador and has been a resident assistant for three years. She is also the vice president of the USF Culture Club. Off-campus she works as a barista at Coffea Roasterie. After graduation, Snow hopes to join the Peace Corps and eventually further her education to become a translator.

The Outstanding Faculty Awards are given to two full-time faculty members and one part-time faculty member. The purpose of these awards is to recognize excellence in teaching and scholarly endeavors that contribute in a meaningful and positive manner to the academic community of the University. Students, faculty and staff are involved in the nomination process.

Dr. Brooke Murphy joined the USF faculty teaching courses in education in 2017. She received her B.A., M.A. and Ed.D. from the University of South Dakota.

“Dr. Murphy’s passion for her occupation shows through every one of her classes, and one can tell she truly cares for each and every student,” said a USF community member who nominated her. “I have never experienced someone as real, hardworking and caring as her.”

Professor Brian Lowery has been teaching full time at USF since 2012. He received his B.S. at University of Sioux Falls and M.S. at Northern State University. He teaches courses in biology.

“Professor Lowery acts with a Culture for Service attitude each day on campus,” said a USF community member who nominated him. “He takes his role seriously as a professor, but also as a follower of Christ. He is giving, loyal and helpful to his students in their time of need. Professor Lowery has made me feel at home at USF, and as a non-traditional student, that's extremely important to me.”

Dr. Jim Sturdevant joined the Vucurevich School of Business faculty part-time in 2012. Sturdevant received his B.S. from South Dakota State University, M.S. from Oklahoma State University and Ed.D. from the University of St. Thomas.

“Dr. Sturdevant helped jump start the transition to online teaching in the Vucurevich School of Business in 2013,” said a USF community member who nominated Sturdevant. “He consistently earns high marks from his students via student evaluations.”

USF senior Apolonia Davalos is the recipient of this year’s Nelson Women in Leadership Award. In recognition of the role USF played in their development, Sara and Mat Nelson established this award to give to an individual who demonstrates leadership, an integration of the Christian mission of the University and a heart for ministry and serving others.

Apolonia is deeply involved in the life of the campus and in the lives of other students. Since arriving on campus she has been involved in numerous projects with theater and media studies, which includes founding the Coo Cinema Club. She has also been a leader in the classroom and in community life, and is always willing to help, encourage and lead when needed.

Already announced, the tradition of the Purple Feather Award is a prestigious award with a long history at the institution, and is given to no more than 10% of the senior class and 5% of the junior class in any academic year. The award is determined by the Student Senate, based on recommendations from faculty and staff.

Purple Feather Award recipients include: Emma Baker, Maya Belton, Hannah Curry, Hannah DeHoogh-Kliewer, Emma Deneui, Nakita Ewest, Victoria Frahm, Dana Hein, Rachel Holien, Abbie Holter, Abigail Kraft, Austin Ludens, Hannah Matzner, AbbyRose Miller, Olana Noble, Mercy Oyadare, Teathloach Pal, Adam Paulson, Naomi Peterson, Morgan Small, Greta Smith, Julie Spawn, Troy Soat and Julia Zanto.

The University of Sioux Falls reports that an outstanding 99% of graduates from the undergraduate Class of 2019 were either employed or attending graduate or professional school within six months of graduation.

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