The University of Sioux Falls community today celebrated scholarship and service in its annual Spirit of Excellence Awards Celebration. The event is more than an end-of-the-year award ceremony for students and faculty—it represents tradition and a tangible look into the values that the University strives to cultivate in a holistic way. During the ceremony students and faculty were recognized for their devotion to scholarship and contribution to service.

“Academic excellence and service are both near to the heart of our University and greatly celebrated,” USF President Brett Bradfield said. “As we look to commemorate 135 years as an institution in September, we find the Spirit of Excellence as one of the many traditions that remind us what we value, who we are and what we strive to be.”

Top honorees were announced and all nominees were recognized at 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: Tuakah Whiangar, a senior from Monrovia, Liberia, who is majoring in Music Ministry
  • Representative Woman: Moira Duffy, a senior from Rapid City, South Dakota, who is majoring in Nursing
  • Thomas F. Johnson Distinguished Service Award: Allie Thiesse, a senior from Yankton, South Dakota, who is majoring in Elementary Education and Special Education
  • Outstanding Faculty Awards: Dr. Kevin Cole, Professor of English; Dr. Adam Sturlaugson, Assistant Professor of Chemistry
  • Part-time Faculty Honor Award: Dr. Brenda Paulsen, a part-time instructor for first-year writing research, theatre and education courses
  • Nelson Women in Leadership Award: Andrea Manning, a senior from New Brighton, Minnesota, who is majoring in Entrepreneurial Studies
  • The Purple Feather Award, which recognizes the attributes of character, scholarship, leadership and service, was given to 17 juniors and 16 seniors 

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.

This year’s Representative Man winner, Tuakah Whiangar, is involved in all aspects of the USF choral program. He’s been a featured as a soloist during tours and home concerts for the Concert Chorale, The Singing Camerata & Madrigals, and the University Singers, as well as serving as a section leader in the Chorale and, on occasion, as a percussionist.

Moira Duffy, the Representative Woman recipient is an honors scholar, basketball player and recent recipient of a prestigious Fulbright scholarship. Through the Fulbright program Duffy will teach English in a Bulgarian public secondary school for one academic year following her graduation from USF this weekend.

The Outstanding Faculty Awards announced today 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. Kevin Cole joined the USF faculty as in 1999. He received his Ph.D. in literature from Baylor University. He teaches several courses in USF’s English department, and he recently published a collection of original poems entitled “Late Summer Plums”. For the past 10 years, Dr. Cole has led the USF Undergraduate Research Symposium (formerly known as the Undergraduate Research Conference). Additionally, he serves as a member of the Higher Learning Commission’s peer review corps.

“Dr. Cole has continuously served the university through his oversight of the Liberal Arts Core and promoting student research through the Undergraduate Research Symposium,” said a USF community member who was among many to anonymously nominate Dr. Cole for his leadership and service.

After receiving his Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry from Stanford University, Dr. Adam Sturlaugson began teaching at USF in 2013. At USF, his primary research interests include the physical chemistry of ionic liquids and their applications to batteries, solar cells and fuel cells.

“Dr. Sturlaugson is invested, encouraging and considerate when it comes to teaching us,” said a USF student who nominated Dr. Sturlaugson. “He not only cares about our academic success but our success as people. He covers us in prayers and goes above and beyond to help us in any way necessary. 

Dr. Brenda Paulsen began adjunct teaching at the University of Sioux Falls upon completion of her M.A. degree in English from the University of South Dakota in 2003. She has an Ed.D. degree in Education Administration Adult and Higher Education from the University of South Dakota. At USF, she teaches primarily first-year writing research, but she has taught other courses in theatre and education.

“Dr. Paulsen is an absolutely wonderful person who strives to enrich the journey of all those who encounter her,” said a USF community member who was among many to anonymously nominate Dr. Paulsen. “I can always count on her to be fully present, to sacrifice her time and energy for the sake of the students, to show up ready to offer support, encouragement, and advice.”

USF senior Andrea Manning 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.

Manning has been an innovator in fostering an environment for spiritual formation. She has been integral to the development of a Monday night prayer group, the growth of Thursday night worship, and the depth of several Chapel programs. She has created programs for the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and partnered well with her colleagues in Student Government.

Also 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 percent of the senior class and 5 percent 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: Mariah Bonestroo, Kylie Boston, Ashlea Brenna, Connor DeJong, Ian Doyle, Elizabeth Enalls, Madison Jons, Rebecca Onnen, Jared Peasley, Brandon Record, Micah Reierson, Paige Sandbulte, Andrew Shumake, Lindsey Sullivan, Emily Wieczorek, Tristan Zawadzki, Marianna Brawand, Yuharelly Comparan, Moira Duffy, Amy Elston, Allyson Ewest, Whitney Fryer, Joshua Gabel, Hannah Krause, Nicholaus Lawson, Israel Parsons, Tenley Schwartz, Allie Thiesse, Joshua Tuttle, Tuakah Whiangar and Taylor Wickberg.

The University of Sioux Falls reports that 98 percent of 2017 grads were either employed or attending graduate or professional school within six months of graduation. In addition, students reported 100% placement rates in over three-fourths of majors.

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