TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC) has selected University of Alabama student Kana Ellis of Northport as the first recipient of the Honors Student of the Year Award.
The national award is given to one student who has made a significant contribution to their honors program or college, and who has participated in honors on a regional or national level. The selection process was conducted by students on the NCHC Student Concerns Committee. The award will be presented at the NCHC 2002 conference in Salt Lake City Oct. 30-Nov. 3.
“I know there’s no way that I would have received this award if I hadn’t come to the University. I was afforded so many opportunities that I wouldn’t have been given at other colleges,” Ellis said.
Ellis, a senior psychology major and a graduate of Tuscaloosa’s Central High School, has been an active member of the UA Honors Program during her years at the University. She was elected the Honors Program Student Association president her junior and senior year. During this time, she created Alabama Action, a community service program that organizes community service projects for honors program freshmen. They earn one hour of college credit by attending a series of lectures presented by UA faculty, keeping journals and completing assigned readings in addition to the community service projects.
“While other student leaders accept the opportunities that the University opens for them and do a good job in those positions, Kana is creating opportunities and dramatically improving this campus and community,” Dr. Cathy Randall, director of the UA Computer-Based Honors Program, said.
At UA, Ellis has maintained a 4.0 average (on a 4.0 scale). She is a member of XXXI Women’s Honor Society, Anderson Society and numerous academic clubs and organizations. As a junior, she received the William P. Bloom Scholarship Award — one of four UA premier awards — given to a student who has improved relations among campus groups. Also in her junior year, she was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa honor society. Ellis received the Henry Pettus Randall Research Scholarship given for the Outstanding Research Project of the Year for her research on the death penalty in Alabama.
“Honors at Alabama have enriched and expanded my college education,” said Ellis, a member of all three University honors programs (Computer Based Honors, International Honors and University Honors Programs). “The honors program has given me freedom to fulfill honors requirements and given me free range of creativity for what I want my honors’ experience to be.
“Having increased my technical and research expertise through the Computer-Based Honors Program, I have worked with a law professor during the last year on ‘Proportionality Review: The Death Penalty in Alabama,’ a research database on aggravating and mitigating circumstances in capital punishment cases, which will lead to a publication.
“My work in the International Honors Program has emphasized America’s place in the world, the international impact of globalization, and the gap between rich and poor nations. This summer I studied at the University of Alcala, Spain.
“The University Honors Program has provided me disciplinary and interdisciplinary concentrations. I am completing my honors experience by writing an honors thesis in psychology, examining childhood aggression.
“But the cornerstone of my college career, Values and Society in my freshman year, honed my critical thinking, stimulated my ethical prioritizing, and began the creative process that eventually conceived Alabama Action,” Ellis said in her statement to the award committee explaining her involvement in honors and how honors helped her grow academically and as a person.
In 2001 Ellis created Alabama Action, an orientation course designed to immerse entering honors freshmen in poverty-related service learning.
The number of freshmen involved in Alabama Action has more than doubled over the 15 who refurbished the Eutaw Boys and Girls club as last year’s project. This year, some 36 freshmen, along with six upper class mentors, spent the week of Aug. 12-16 at Holt Elementary School building an outdoor classroom, painting a mural in the cafeteria, establishing a new organization system in the library, installing donated computers, creating a reading corner and reading books onto tape for use by early readers. The students also conducted mini-lessons for 5th-graders on goal setting, conflict resolution and computer skills. The students will return to Holt on the last Friday of each month to continue work on the school.
“In my 30 years of experience at the Capstone, I have never known a student who has made a bigger difference on the campus,” Randall said.
In addition to campus activities, Ellis has represented the UA Honors Program at the NCHC conference for the past two years. In 2000 she moderated a roundtable discussion on international affairs, and in 2001 she co-presented a session on summer opportunities where she described how honors students participated in Alabama Action. She is planning to attend the upcoming conference when she will receive the national award.
The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.