USF Honors Students and Faculty for Academic Excellence and Service

April 27, 2021,

University of Sioux Falls honored outstanding students and faculty at the annual Spirit of Excellence Awards Celebration. 

“Our annual Spirit of Excellence program is a special celebration that is more than simply a ceremony, but rather a tangible way to honor students and faculty living out the values of academic excellence and service that have formed USF’s 137-year identity,” said Dr. Joy Lind, vice president for academic affairs at USF. 

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 Woman: Hannah DeHoogh-Kliewer, a senior from Sioux Falls, SD, who is majoring in Biology
•    Representative Man: Jacob Zosel, a senior from Morris, MN, who is majoring in Theology & Youth Ministry and Educational Studies
•    Thomas F. Johnson Distinguished Service Award: Adam Paulson, a senior from Wessington Springs, SD, who is majoring in Media Studies
•    Outstanding Faculty Awards: Jamie Juhl, assistant professor of special education; Dr. Tricia Cole, associate professor of business administration & area chair of the Vucurevich School of Business
•    Part-time Faculty Honor Award: Dr. Amy Johnson, part-time instructor of exercise science courses; Dr. Elizabeth Venenga, part-time instructor of graduate education courses
•    Sara and Mat Nelson Women in Leadership Award: Sonia Agasaro, a sophomore from Sioux Falls, SD, who is majoring in Media Studies and Criminal Justice
•    The Purple Feather Award, which recognizes the attributes of character, scholarship, leadership and service of juniors and seniors. These award recipients 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. 

Hannah DeHoogh-Kliewer, Representative Woman Recipient, is an honors scholar, a member USF Concert Chorale, Singing Camerata, Madrigal Singers, has been active in the USF community as a resident assistant in Sullivan Hall and a student leader for the USF chapter of Lost & Found, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting lifelong resilience and suicide prevention.  After graduation, Hannah plans to take a gap year before attending medical school.
Jacob Zosel, the Representative Man Recipient, a leader on the USF golf team who has been named to the Academic All-NSIC team two straight years, an emerging leader in the life of the church has taken his heart for ministry to the golf team by starting a scripture of the week via Instagram to encourage his teammates and other USF students. Jacob is also a founder of the Yahweh Podcast to encourage young adults in their faith.  

The Outstanding Faculty Awards announced today are given to two full-time faculty members and two part-time faculty members. 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. 

Professor Jamie Juhl has been teaching full time at USF since 2019. She received her B.A. at Boise State University and M.A. at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota. She teaches courses in Special Education.

“She cares for everyone,” said a USF student who nominated Juhl. “She cares not just about how we are doing in class, but how we are doing in life. She goes out of her way to ensure that her students are ok both emotionally and academically.”

Dr. Tricia Cole joined the USF faculty teaching courses in business administration in 2004. She received her B.S., M.P.A., and Ph.D. at Texas A&M University.

“She is a wonderful professor who cares about her students,” said an anonymous USF community member who nominated Cole.  “Even though her classes can be rigorous, students always learn so much from them and are able to apply concepts to the real world.”

Dr. Amy Johnson has been teaching exercise science courses as an adjunct instructor at USF since 2008. Johnson received her B.A. from Central University and Ph.D. from the University of Iowa. This spring semester Johnson has served as the USF COVID-19 Response Team Lead.

“She shows a great level of concern for students to be competent and successful, both in her classes and for the long-term,” said an anonymous USF community member who nominated Johnson.

Dr. Elizabeth Venenga has been an adjunct instructor in USF’s Graduate Education program since 2006. She received her B.A. from University of Sioux Falls, M.A. from South Dakota State University and Ed.D. from University of South Dakota.

“She has encouraged and coached numerous educators and administrators over the years,” said an anonymous USF community member who nominated Venenga. “The impact she has made, and continues to make, on education in SD is evidence of powerful servant leadership.”

USF sophomore Sonia Agasaro is the recipient of this year’s Sara and Mat 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.

Sonia has exemplified a passion for leadership, a heart for service, and integrates the Christian mission throughout her work as the Culture Club President, Resident Assistant for North Hall, Student Life Office Assistant and through the many extracurricular activities she is involved in.  Sonia’s positivity and joy is inspiring and encouraging and we look forward to more years of Sonia’s leadership in the USF community.

Today’s celebration also recognized the Breckyn Montano Outstanding Service Scholarship Award. The award is given in loving memory of Breckyn Montano, a University of Sioux Falls student who passed away in 2018. This year’s recipient is Cassidy Nelson a Biology major from Sioux Falls, SD. Cassidy embodies the USF motto of Culture for Service in all that she does.

Also 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: Kayla Andersen, Emily Applegate, Libby Bailey, Brady Boerema, Rachel Boyer, Parker Brown, Jenelee Buehring, Erin Cheney, Apolonia Davalos, Janae Gustafson, Charlotte Haag, Amelia Hanson, Tatiana Jaimes Molina, Jacob Johnson, Sydney Johnson, Kristin Kotas, Kylin McKean, Karen Morales, Cassidy Nelson, Jordyn Reider, Austin Schoenbeck, Elizabeth Spaans, Noah Tyson, Brenda Wipf and Jacob Zosel.

The University of Sioux Falls reports that an outstanding 99 percent of graduates from the undergraduate Class of 2020 were either employed or attending graduate or professional school within six months of graduation.

The full ceremony can be viewed at

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