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MC Awards Gala Celebrates Outstanding Student Leaders, Organizations, Community Partners

Dr. Jonathan Ambrose, associate vice president for the student experience and dean of students, said the Student Experience Awards Gala recognizes the excellent work MC students produce every year.
Dr. Jonathan Ambrose, associate vice president for the student experience and dean of students, said the Student Experience Awards Gala recognizes the excellent work MC students produce every year.

Mallory Burnside remembers the eagerness she felt when she received an invitation to the Student Experience Awards Gala at Mississippi College last year.

Then a freshman, the marketing major from Clinton, wasn’t exactly sure what would be in store for her during the second-annual event, the first to take place in person because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

She recalls the experience as akin to a leading actress attending her first Academy Awards.

“Not knowing why you were invited to the Awards Gala brings excitement and anticipation,” said Burnside, who received a Spirit of MC Award last year. “Being invited is an honor itself. No matter what award an individual may leave with, it shows the students are appreciated and valued by the school.”

That’s the aim of the ceremony sponsored by the Division of Student Experience: to celebrate outstanding student leaders of all classifications who have contributed to campus life at Mississippi College. The third annual gala took place Monday, April 25, in Anderson Hall in the B.C. Rogers Student Center.

Dr. Jonathan Ambrose, associate vice president for the student experience and dean of students, said the ceremony and corresponding dinner is a black-tie affair for MC faculty, staff, students, and their parents to commemorate the award recipients’ achievements outside of the classroom.

“We want this to be a significant night, because these are some of the biggest awards MC gives,” Ambrose said. “We send out invitations to anyone getting an award, but we keep the actual award winners under wraps until the night of the event.

“The students know they’re going to be recognized, but they don’t know what they’ll be getting. It remains a surprise to the students and their families until their name is called.”

Camryn Johnson, a senior math major from Byram, said she enjoys the air of mystery that surrounds the event.

“I like to find out who receives which award the night of the gala because it’s a special honor when the University takes the time to recognize student achievements,” said Johnson, who received a Student Experience Servant Leadership Award during last year’s ceremony. “Hearing the introduction of each award and why each recipient was chosen, then hearing your name called is a great feeling. It’s a nice pat on the back to keep up the great work.

“It’s a special and exciting time to share with your family, friends, and the University.”

The campus community is given the opportunity to nominate MC students for the awards. Chief among them is the Hall of Fame.

Established in 1960, the Hall of Fame is awarded to four senior students – two female and two male – for outstanding leadership ability, scholastic achievement, extracurricular activities, participation and contribution to student life, and dedication to serving God and their fellow man. Among the highest honors to be presented at MC, Hall of Fame members are chosen by a select student committee.

The 2022 Hall of Fame members are Davis Barnes, Megan Baylis, John Harvey, and Camryn Johnson.

Several other honors were presented during the ceremony. They included:

The Scott-Swor Founder’s Award recognizes a senior student for making a significant contribution to the student life of the college and exemplifying the ideals of the University’s founders and their successors, quality of living, leadership, and service. The award is named in memory of Dr. Charles W. Scott, who served the MC community for 30 years, and Dr. Chester E. Swor, a Baptist evangelist, alumnus, and former MC faculty member.

The 2022 Scott-Swor Founder’s Award recipient is Riley Paige Lara.

Senior Awards of Excellence in Leadership are presented to senior students who distinguish themselves by their visionary leadership on campus and their vision of greatness.

The 2022 Senior Awards of Excellence in Leadership recipients are Olivia Grace Brookins, Breana Chastang, Emmy Coleman, Alice Dowdy, Will Edwards, Emily-Kate Ford, Ishmon Foster, Jonathan Hestres-Rivera, Raley Holman, Samuel Hughes, Cairo Plauche, Hannah Grace Plunkett, Alexander Poore, Hannah Quigley, Cayden Shirley Roberts, Wesley Thomas, and Matthew Whiting.

The Community Impact Award recognizes a student who has devoted his or her time and energy to serve the greater Jackson metropolitan area and empower members of the MC community to love their neighbors in tangible, life-changing ways.

The 2022 Community Impact Award recipient is Jarred Couch.

Student Experience Servant Leadership Awards acknowledge sophomore and junior students who have served the campus as a whole and are actively leading through engagement, service to the institution, and living MC’s Christian mission.

2022 Student Experience Servant Leadership Award recipients are Cole Benoit, Camryn Bruce, Jameson Cook, Anna Davis, Carly Fisher, Mary Margaret Freeman, Cooper Gadman, Mason Kennedy, Kendall Lauderdale, Timothy Martin, Abigail McCoy, Hannah Mullins, Noemi Perez, Dylan Robertson, David Torrent, Evan Warnick, and Abbey Williams.

The Freshman of the Year Awards recognize one female and one male student for their ability to emulate the vision and mission of the University throughout their first year at Mississippi College.

The 2022 Freshman Man of the Year is Conner Dyess. The 2022 Freshman Woman of the Year is Nadiya Foster.​​​​​​​

Spirit of MC Awards are presented to freshmen students who have ignited their college careers at MC, stepping into their roles as young leaders by cultivating a positive atmosphere and experience for their classes and the campus community.

2022 Spirit of MC Award recipients are Bethany Bradshaw, Conner Cantrell, Genevieve Dart, Isabella Dart, Janie Gray, Kaitlyn Hamilton, Blocker Harvison, Caroline McCaleb, Cameron Melton, William Peeler, Haleigh Roberts, John Tabor Stokes, and Lauren Wallace. 

The Student Organization Award of Excellence acknowledges a registered MC student organization committed to the continued advancement of MC’s mission and the engagement of the student body in the vision of the student organization.

The 2022 Student Organization Award of Excellence recipient is the Baptist Student Union.

The Student Organization Advisor of the Year Award of Excellence recognizes a faculty or staff sponsor of an MC student organization, club, or tribe who goes “above and beyond” to assist students and contribute to the life of the student organization he or she advises.

The 2022 Student Organization Advisor of the Year Award of Excellence recipient is Dr. Trent Selby.

The Community Partner of the Year Award is presented to a local business or organization that has served MC with excellence throughout the academic year.

The 2022 Community Partner of the Year Award recipient is Campus Dining.

The Perry Academic Awards were established by Mr. and Mrs. M. W. Perry (Marion Walter Perry ’32, and Effie Elaine McDonald Perry ’33) to recognize scholastic achievement at Mississippi College.

The 2022 Perry Academic Award recipients are Olivia Grace Brookins (biology), Matthew M. Drew (history), Elizabeth Dudley (social work), John McCormick Harvey (Christian Biblical languages), Ann Elisabeth Marks (English and psychology), Caitlin E. McCormick (ACS chemical physics), Kathryn Deanne Miller (communication and Spanish), and Marina Nader Rizk (electrical engineering).

Ambrose said the awards are intended to spotlight the top student leaders MC produces each year.

“The students we cultivate at MC have become some of the finest leaders produced by any institution across the country,” he said. “The work they do in their four years here is incredible. This night is intended to recognize the excellent work they produce year in and year out.

“I want people to walk away from this celebration with a strong idea of who these individuals are, what they’ve accomplished, and that these students are the essence of what MC is.”

Burnside, who proudly displays her hardware in her MC dorm room alongside that of her roommate, Shauna Gandenberger, who also received a Spirit of MC Award last year, said the Awards Gala is important to students like her because it recognizes contributions that others may not always see.

“Students who actively participate in student life on campus truly love and adore Mississippi College and its people,” she said. “There are many sleepless nights, busy days, and hard-working volunteer positions that students have to serve the campus – and we love every minute of it.

“With the Awards Gala to look forward to, I believe students work harder and are more motivated to pour into MC. During the event last year, I was so excited to show my parents how much I love MC, and I know they were proud that their daughter went to a school that took the time and effort to put on the Awards Gala.”

Johnson said last year, she so enjoyed the fellowship and meal – especially the cheesecake – that she forgot to take her award with her when she left Anderson Hall.

“It was a fun event and moment to share with my family and roommate,” she said. “My family had the opportunity to meet all of the faculty and administrators that I constantly tell them about, and vice versa.

“It’s a great end-of-the-year occasion to celebrate MC’s students, organizations, and community partners who have made a positive impact on and for the campus.”

While the gala is a festive occasion, Ambrose said he can’t help but feel a tinge of sadness whenever he watches graduating seniors receive their awards.

“These students are the best MC has to offer,” he said. “These are the students who impact the world as catalysts for Christ. For me, getting to celebrate them is bittersweet, because we’re letting go of some amazing leaders who have had an impact, not just on our campus, but on each of us as faculty, staff, and administrators.

“Seeing how far they have come and grown as leaders and as individuals is a great experience.”