Skip to main content
Campus Resources

Charlotte Recognizes 20 Students for Numerous University Achievements

The 20 students, Chancellor Gaber and Vice Chancellor Bailey at the 2024 Honors and Awards ceremony
Article Date

From left to right: Back Row - Chancellor Sharon Gaber, Hector Bautista-Don, Lance Bumgardner, Ryan Shah, Rachel Showers, Raven Huiel and Kenan Moore; Middle Row - Jesse Gonzales-Smith, Sunnya Hadavi, Adams Familusi, AJ Siegel, Gray Lawson, Rachel Liang, Anisha Griffin and Vice Chancellor Kevin Bailey; Front Row - Alberta Asare Yeboah, Taylor Davis, Nneka Ubi, Serena Kamdem, Nya Coward, Mark Mistretta and Camille Clark


By Wyatt Crosher, Assistant Director of Communications for Student Affairs

UNC Charlotte presented awards to several students during the annual Honors and Awards Ceremony that took place April 29. Recipients of these prestigious honors demonstrate an attitude of unselfish interest in the welfare of their fellow students and the University as a whole.

This year’s Honors and Awards Ceremony came with a few new updates:

  • The Chancellor’s Citations for Leadership and Service were renamed the University Commendation for Leadership and Service.
  • The Noble Niner Award has been retired.
  • These honors and awards were also open to graduate students for the first time, with the exception of the Derrick Griffith Servant Leader and the Bonnie E. Cone Leadership awards.
  • There are now two Chancellor’s Awards, one each for an undergraduate and graduate student, in recognition of their outstanding leadership, academic excellence and commitment to the campus community.

The number of overall recipients expanded to 20 students at this year’s awards ceremony.


University Commendation for Leadership and Service

The University Commendations for Leadership and Service are presented to an elite group of graduating seniors in recognition of their outstanding leadership and commitment to the campus community. Their contributions help enrich the college experience for fellow students and help develop good citizens and stewards for the future.

This year’s recipients are:

Taylor Davis, a psychology major who has been actively involved with medical student organizations on campus, serving as the director of outreach for Black Women in Medicine, a Period Poverty campaign leader for the American Medical Association Chapter at Charlotte and has served two years as the president of the Pre-Physician Assistant Association.

Rachel Liang, who is earning her master of business administration and currently works as a graduate assistant in the University Center for Academic Excellence. She is actively engaged in the International Student and Scholar Office, notably serving on the International Student Advisory Committee and participating in the International Friendship and Cultural Exchange Program.

Raven Huiel, a double-major in public health and health systems management who has been deeply involved in Leadership & Community Engagement. She has been a STAR peer mentor for Leadership Fellows, is a graduate of the Executive Leadership Program, the Student Coordinator for LEAD Team and is a student director on SERVE Team

Anisha Griffin, a psychology major and graduate of the Leadership Journey Learning Community where she also served as a peer mentor her sophomore year. Anisha has had deep involvement with the Black Student Union, serving as recording secretary, community service officer and currently the president. She was also active in Housing and Residence Life, where she has been a resident advisor for two years.

Ryan Shah, who will be receiving his bachelor’s degree after completing a triple major: Business Analytics, Operations and Supply Chain Management, and Management Information Systems. A Leadership Fellows graduate, Ryan has led all over campus, getting involved with Beta Alpha Psi, the Student Government Association, the Student Activities Fees Commission and Alpha Kappa Psi. 

Gray Lawson, a sociology major who is the advocacy and outreach intern at the Jamil Niner Student Pantry after volunteering as a pantry ambassador the year before. Gray is president of two organizations, Sex Week UNC Charlotte and Peer Leaders Educating and Advocating for Sexual Education (PLEASE). They are also a member of Planned Parenthood Generation Action, Reproductive Justice Collective and have been a Health and Wellbeing ambassador in the Center for Wellness Promotion.

Camille Clark, a chemistry major who is a 2021 graduate of Leadership Fellows, where she went on to serve as a STAR peer mentor and then the STARS Coordinator upon completing the program. Camille has worked for two years as a resident advisor for Housing and Residence Life, and is a member of the Student Alumni Society, the Pre-Law Society and has been both a graduate and on-site coordinator for the LeaderShape Institute. 

Adams Familusi, who is completing his master in civil engineering this May and will be continuing on at Charlotte to earn a civil engineering doctorate. Adams is a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, volunteers with Freedom House in Charlotte and is the vice president of the Graduate and Professional Student Government where he was a key member of the Graduate Research Symposium planning team.

Lance Bumgardner, an economics major and brother of Delta Sigma Phi fraternity. Lance was a STAR peer mentor and graduate for the Leadership Fellows program, and has also served as a site-leader for the Alternative Service Break program in Leadership & Community Engagement. Lance was an orientation counselor and has worked for Transition and Success Initiatives as the Transition & Belonging student coordinator since December 2022.

Hector Bautista-Don, a marketing analytics major who has had broad engagement across campus. Hector is a 2022 graduate of the Leadership Fellows program and has held leadership positions in Alpha Kappa Psi Business Fraternity and the Latinx Student Union. Hector is also the current president of La Unidad Latino, Lambda Upsilon Lambda Fraternity, Inc. 

Sunnya Hadavi, a double major in international studies and data science, has been involved with the Niner Times, serving as an assistant copy editor before becoming editor-in-chief for two consecutive years. She is the founder and president of the Security & Intelligence Student Organization, a student research assistant in the School of Data Science and a member of the Presidential Advisory Board in the Student Government Association.

Kenan Moore, a marketing major, is a brother of Kappa Alpha Psi, Fraternity, Inc., where he has held the roles of president and vice president. Kenan is the founder and president of the Black Organization Alliance Board on campus and has been both a SAFE mentor and a mentor in the Belk College of Business. Kenan was also this year’s Golden Niner and will represent the University as a bell ringer at the spring commencement ceremony.

AJ Siegel, a double major in writing, rhetoric & digital studies (WORDS) and in psychology, have been published 14 times as a writer during their time at Charlotte. AJ was the first student to declare WORDS as their major at Charlotte. They are also the co-founder of the Axe & Quill Writing Society, and have been an assistant copy editor, interim Arts & Culture editor, and a two-year copy editor for the Niner Times.

Alberta Asare Yeboah, who is earning a master of science in criminal justice. Alberta is a member of the Tuition and Fees Advisory Board, a Graduate Life ambassador and a Finance Committee member for the Graduate and Professional Student Government. Alberta has been a graduate assistant for the Center for Graduate Life and Learning and the Criminal Justice department.

Nya Coward, a public health major who transferred to Charlotte. Nya is a founder and serves as the president of the Public Health Association. She also serves as coordinator for the SERVE Team, leading a team of 20 students to facilitate service events, and has completed 160 hours of service.


Derrick Griffith Servant Leader Award

The Derrick Griffith Servant Leader Award was established to honor the memory and legacy of alumnus Derrick Griffith, who was an active student and community leader dedicated to the service and mentorship of others. This award is given to a first-generation college student of junior or senior standing. 

This year’s Derrick Griffith recipient is Rachel Showers. Rachel is a biology major and has been both a communication consultant and undergraduate researcher on campus for two years. Rachel shared how being accepted into college has paved the way for her younger brother to achieve the same goal; a goal her parents were unable to experience. A first-generation student, Rachel believes that helping others gives us purpose in our lives and mentorship gives us the opportunity to serve others.


Chuck Lynch Leadership Award

The Chuck Lynch Leadership Award is presented in honor of former Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Chuck Lynch, who served the University with distinction for 34 years.  This award recognizes student leadership in building relationships and programs while also mentoring others to reach their maximum potential.  

This year’s Chuck Lynch Leadership Award winner is Jesse Gonzales-Smith. Jesse is a data science major and currently holds a 4.0 GPA. In her first-year, Jesse co-founded two organizations; the Charlotte Climbing Club, where she served as vice president, and the Charlotte Cinemaholics, where she was also the co-president. Jesse is a sister of Chi Omega Fraternity and has held multiple leadership roles, most notably as chapter president from 2021-22. 

Jesse is a Levine Scholar, a graduate of the Emerging Leaders program, was the student Homecoming chair for the Niner 9, is newsletter editor-in-chief for Bridging the Gap, a nationwide newsletter for BIPOC students interested in tech, finance and consulting, and has been a VOLT Intern with Venture Outdoor Leadership. Jesse is also the founder and student director of Niners Against Violence, a collaborative initiative with the Center for Wellness Promotion designed to educate students about interpersonal violence.


Chancellor’s Awards

The Chancellor’s Awards are designated for one undergraduate and one graduate student leader in recognition of their outstanding leadership, academic excellence and commitment to the campus community. Their contributions help enrich the college experience for fellow students and help develop good citizens and stewards for the future.

Nneka Ubi is earning her master in construction and facilities management. An international student, Nneka has been a cultural ambassador and recurring volunteer with the International Student Scholars Office and Office of International Programs, participating in panels and helping out at orientations, welcome events and the International Festival. Nneka has also been a college ambassador for the College of Engineering at a career fair and participated in the fall Alternative Service Break trip through Leadership & Community Engagement. 

Mark Mistretta is a double major in biology and interdisciplinary studies. Mark is a Leadership Fellows program graduate and served as a STAR peer mentor. He is a member of Minority Association for Premedical Students, holding the roles of event and service coordinators, was a site leader for a fall Alternative Service Break trip and recently joined Zeta Beta Tau fraternity. He is the founding president of Plants for People, an organization developed to help address food insecurity. Plants for People has connected with the Charlotte Green Initiative, Office of Sustainability and cares for the garden beds at the Jamil Niner Student Pantry.


Bonnie E. Cone Leadership Award

The Bonnie E. Cone Leadership Award is presented to a member of the graduating class whose leadership, scholarship and service to the University embodies the spirit of Bonnie E. Cone, the founder of the University. The funding for this award is provided by UNC Charlotte alumni who served as student leaders during their tenure on campus.  

This year’s Bonnie E. Cone recipient is Serena Kandem, a double major in political science and criminal justice. Serena has been involved across campus, including as a member of the Student Alumni Society, a graduate of the Executive Leadership Program, a student justice in the Student Government Association, a lead ambassador for the University Honors Program, and a building manager in the Popp Martin Student Union and Cone University Center. 

Serena holds the distinction of being president of not one, but two pre-law student organizations. She is the president of the Pre-Law Society and is the founder and president of the Black-Law Society. Serena is a student who has spent her time at Charlotte upholding the same transformative power of vision, dedication and service.