UNI student organization wins awards

Delegates representing several University of Northern Iowa student organizations recently returned from a national conference, where one UNI group received some outstanding recognition.

Paul Sapp, admissions transfer coordinator and adviser of UNI's SAA (Student Admissions Ambassadors), won the National Adviser of the Year Award, and the SAA organization as a whole was recognized as the National Student Organization of the Year. The conference was hosted by ASAP (Affiliated Student Advancement Programs), which is a program of CASE (Council of Advancement and Support of Education).

Sapp was extremely grateful to receive the National Adviser of the Year Award, and gives all the credit to his entire SAA staff.

"I was shocked, thrilled and highly honored," he said. "I can't imagine receiving this award without receiving the other. To me, the two go hand-in-hand. I don't see how you could win outstanding adviser if you didn't have an outstanding organization. The students really make my job very easy."

SAA is a group of 50 select UNI students that serve UNI by promoting the university to prospective students and campus visitors.

In the eyes of Brad McLaury, member and vice president of public relations for SAA, Sapp was the ideal candidate to win the award.

"Paul is someone you can count on for absolutely anything," he said. "He puts so much time into advising our organization, and he is one of the most friendly, helpful people I have ever met. I know I can always count on him if I have a question or just want to chat. Not only is he there for students, but he also does his part to keep our campus clean. Keep an eye out; you will most likely see Paul walking through campus, with a hand full of trash, reaching deep into the bushes to get a wrapper left behind by someone else. He truly has passion for our community and Panther Pride."

But the humble Sapp couldn't be prouder of his SAA students, and feels they were more than deserving of their own award.

"They do so much for UNI -- from daily tours to Lunch Bunch to staffing Preview Days to helping at Up-Close and more," he said. "They give back to the community in so many ways as well -- by doing Habitat for Humanity, Adopt-a-Highway and volunteering at local elementary schools and nursing homes. I am very happy that they are being recognized for all their outstanding work."

Sapp feels the SAA award is a reflection of the entire UNI community.Student Alumni Ambassadors

"I think the award speaks to the level of commitment by our students and the overall quality of the experience they're having at UNI," he said. "Our student ambassadors group is still a volunteer group, whereas many groups like ours around the country pay their students, and yet we're able to attract and retain students because they're having such a great experience at UNI. They want to share that experience with prospective students."

To be eligible for the national awards, organizations must first win at the district level (there are eight CASE districts). In March, SAA was recognized as Outstanding Student Organization, Outstanding Adviser and Outstanding External Program for its Panther Push Program at the District 6 conference. These three awards moved on to compete against all of the other districts at the national conference in Kansas City, Mo., Aug. 7, where UNI came out with two national awards.

SAA members in attendance at the conference included Nick Sibenaller (president), Nicholas Kavanaugh (vice president of alumni), Jenny Gibbs (vice president of admissions), Brad McLaury (vice president of public relations) and Darion Watson (vice president of development).

Other UNI organizations that participated in the conference were the UNI CATS (Connecting Alumni to Students) and ESP (Ethnic Student Promoters).