For several years, Lehigh’s annual Student Life Leadership Awards Celebration was a rather intimate affair. Winners and their families were lauded by the university at a banquet, and most of the nominations came from administrators in just a few campus departments.
There was nothing inherently wrong with that approach, said Jess Manno, assistant dean of students, but many in Student Affairs thought there was room for improvement.
“We were thinking it had not been as inclusive as it could be,” Manno said. “So we discussed how we could make it less exclusive, enhance the visibility of it, and promote the peer-to-peer recognition aspect.”
A group of students and administrators known as the Inspiration Team set about revamping the annual celebration, and the results of their efforts will be on display April 24. This year’s Student Life Leadership Awards Celebration will be held at the Memorial Drive flagpole at 4:15 p.m., with a reception on Karakash Plaza to follow. For the first time, the event will be open to the entire university community.
Sharon Basso, associate vice provost and dean of students, praised the efforts of the Inspiration Team.
"I believe the new format will add to a sense of unity and pride on campus, where students can see their peers’ accomplishments celebrated in a public venue,” Basso said. “From what I've been told, years ago, there was a similar ‘flagpole’ awards ceremony that occurred annually on campus, and I think of this year's new format as the resurrection of a fabulous Lehigh student tradition."
Added Manno: “It’s important for students to see that there are other groups and students out there doing great things to give back to their university. The awards will recognize things like service to the university, leadership, and character—all things Lehigh wants to foster in its students.”
The team engaged in an intensive marketing initiative to raise the visibility of the event, creating a slogan (“On the road to Lehigh, there are students and there are leaders. Leaders wanted.”) and logo, and placing them on materials throughout campus. They hung banners from campus buildings, handed out index cards to students to encourage them to nominate their peers, distributed fliers to clubs and organizations, and asked staff members to discuss the awards with the student groups they work with.
That effort was a success. Manno reported that nominations tripled from 100 to 300, with more coming from students than ever before. “It was great to see the students nominate their peers,” she said.
New awards for 2008 will recognize superior educational, entertainment, and cultural programming, and will acknowledge seniors’ dedication to particular organizations. Existing awards will continue to publicly laud Lehigh students and groups that go above and beyond in the areas of diversity, service, character, leadership, and scholarship.
“It’s important for students to see their friends and other people recognized and acknowledged for all the work they do,” said Megan Pendleton ’10, a student who served on the Inspiration Team and also contributed to the marketing effort. “So often you know a lot of people who are very involved, but you don't necessarily always see them getting the pat on the back or the ‘good job.’ With these new leadership awards, we're really trying to make that visible.”