USF Honors Students and Faculty for Academic Excellence and Service

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

“Our Spirit of Excellence program has become a special tradition that our campus community looks forward to each year,” said Dr. Joy Lind, vice president for academic affairs at USF. “It’s more than simply a ceremony, but rather a way to celebrate the values of academic excellence and service that we see being lived out in our students and faculty.”

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 and Thomas F. Johnson Distinguished Service Award: Karen Morales, a senior from Sioux Falls, SD, who is majoring in Spanish Education
  •  Representative Man: Devin Wolthuizen, a senior from Sheldon, IA, who is majoring in Communications Studies & Theatre and Media Studies
  • Sara and Mat Nelson Women in Leadership Award: Kristin Kotas, a senior from Emery, SD, who is majoring in Criminal Justice, Social Science, Sociology, and Business Administration
  • Outstanding Faculty Awards: Dr. Andrew Beck, assistant professor of psychology; Lisa Riddle, assistant professor of education
  • Part-time Faculty Honor Award: Dr. Lindsey Peterson, part-time instructor of History courses; Matthew Manes, part-time instructor of Mathematics courses
  • 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. 

Karen Morales, Representative Woman recipient, has served in a wide variety of capacities during her time at USF. These roles include being a part of the Student Executive Council, serving as vice president of the Cougar Activities Board and also as Student Body and Student Senate vice president. In addition to all this she runs a program called Bailando Conmigo each year on campus.

Devin Wolthuizen, the Representative Man recipient, has been very active in the Theatre department during his time at USF. He has performed in several mainstage productions, including his memorable performance as Uncle Fester in The Addams Family. Devin also serves as president of the Student Theatre Advisory Board. 

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. 

Dr. Andrew Beck has been teaching full time at USF since 2017. He received his B.A. at University of Sioux Falls, Ph.D. and M.A. at University of South Dakota. He teaches courses in Psychology.

“He has pushed me to excel in more ways than one, and I am so grateful to have him helping me in my journey,” said a USF student who nominated Beck. 

Professor Lisa Riddle joined the USF faculty teaching courses in Education in 2015. She received her B.A. from Concordia College and M.Ed. from South Dakota State University.

“She has been nothing short of an inspiration for me as a future teacher,” said a USF student who nominated Riddle.
Dr. Lindsey Peterson teaches History part-time at USF. She started teaching multiple sections of American history, but quickly expanded her courses to include Women's History, African American History, and Public History.

“Dr. Peterson is innovative in her teaching methods and is a passionate, caring, superb instructor who invests all her energy into her students,” said a USF faculty member. “We are so fortunate to have her teaching in the Liberal Arts Core and also working with upper-division students who will go on to be teachers themselves.”

Matthew Manes is a part-time Mathematics instructor at USF and also the recipient of the Part-Time Faculty Award.
“Manes has the right academic acumen that is composed of subject knowledge, student learning styles knowledge, instructional methods versatility and last but not least, a delightful sense of humor and personality,” said a USF faculty member.

USF senior Kristin Kotas 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.

Kristin has embodied the qualities of this award throughout her time at USF as she has integrated leadership and service through a wide range of activities at USF. She has served as a resident assistant in North Hall, Student Executive Council president, Student Body president, a member of the Campus Cupboard Committee and as an Admissions Ambassador and Tour Guide for prospective students and their families. 

Today’s celebration also recognized the Breckyn Montano Outstanding Service Recognition 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 Parker Brown. Parker is a Media Studies major with a Biblical Studies minor from Elk River, MN.  Parker represents the spirit of this award through his well-rounded excellence both in the classroom and off campus.

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: Sonia Agasaro, Annika Aho, Trevon Brown, Gopal Chamlagai, Ursula Demarquet Alban, Karlyssa Dickerson, Saharo Ibrahim, Ja’tai Jenkins, Niyomungere Kabura, Allison Kerkman, Elinor Kleinsasser, Katelyn Kotas, Giulia Marcon, TiaRose Nagami, Alex Odland, Jerome Poor Bear, Diana Rivera, Riley Robbe, Riley Robinson, Joselyn Rodriguez-Argueta, Raymundo Simon-Esteban, Tyrese Washington, Devin Wolthuizen, Lindsay Wynia, and Christian Zuniga Garcia.

The University of Sioux Falls reports that an outstanding 99 percent of graduates from the undergraduate Class of 2021 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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