LAWRENCE — Five seniors have been selected as finalists for the 30th annual Excellence in Community, Education and Leadership Awards at the University of Kansas. Two winners will be announced at the conclusion of Homecoming week, which culminates in the KU-Oklahoma State football game Oct. 3 at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium.
The ExCEL Award provides an annual $250 scholarship to two students. Nominees were selected on the basis of leadership, effective communication skills, involvement at KU and in the Lawrence community, academic scholarship and ability to work with a variety of students and organizations. The selection committee included representatives from Student Union Activities, the Board of Class Officers, the Student Involvement & Leadership Center and the Homecoming Steering Committee.
The award was first given in 1991 to recognize two students for achievement. Names of winners are listed on a plaque on the fifth level of the Kansas Union. To be eligible, applicants must be full-time undergraduate students with an overall grade-point average of 3.0 or higher. Each finalist completed an application and participated in an interview. The finalists and their academic majors are listed below, along with highlights of their campus achievements.
Jaya Chakka, a Collinsville, Oklahoma, senior in behavioral neuroscience and molecular, cellular & developmental biology, is a University Honors Scholar and participates in the University Honors Program. She has been a DJ at KJHK since her freshman year, serving as music director in 2019 before becoming station manager in summer 2020. She was an undergraduate research assistant in the Department of Psychology during her junior year and currently works as a research assistant at the Kansas Center for Autism Research & Training at KU. She worked for KU Info and reported on arts and culture for the University Daily Kansan. As a volunteer, she provided musical entertainment at the Hillside Village of De Soto senior community.
Adrian Cisneros, a Kansas City, Kansas, senior in sociology and women, gender & sexuality studies with a minor in social justice and leadership studies, is an off-campus student senator and vice chair of diversity, equity and inclusion. They served as vice president of programs for the Student Alumni Leadership Board and vice president of development and fine arts coordinator for Student Union Activities. They helped coordinate and lead orientation for two years for the Office of First-Year Experience and International Support Services. In addition, they served as an information specialist for KU Info and coordinated programs for the Association of University Residence Halls. They also worked as a desk assistant for KU Student Housing and as a receptionist at the Adams Alumni Center.
Deegan Poores, a Prairie Village senior in political science and a first-year law student through the Legal Education Accelerated Degree Program, is a lifelong musician. He became a DJ at KJHK during his freshman year and led the staff as programming director from 2019 to 2020, organizing several events for the KU and Lawrence communities. He currently serves as one of the radio station’s music directors. He became a Classroom Observation Protocol for Undergraduate STEM (COPUS) observer for the university in 2018.
Elaine Pope, an Overland Park senior in English and pre-medicine, participates in the University Honors Program. She is a member of Chi Omega sorority, where she served as special events coordinator and currently directs programming as a member of the executive board. She is director of Rock Chalk Revue and founder of FOCUS Bible Study. She participated in a study abroad program in England and Scotland in 2019 and was a member of the Business Leadership Program for two years. She traveled with the Jayhawk Health Initiative Medical Brigade to Panama in 2019 and participated in a FOCUS mission trip to Peru in 2020. She was a certified nurse aide at Mid-America Nursing & Allied-Health Institute in Overland Park, and she volunteered at the Hope Family Care Center in Kansas City, Missouri.
Adrian Romero, a Tegucigalpa, Honduras, senior in chemical engineering with an environmental emphasis, is vice president of student outreach for the Engineering Student Council and a regional student representative for the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers. He participates in the University Honors Program and has been a resident assistant for KU Student Housing since 2018. He is an undergraduate research assistant in water sustainability and resource recovery and helps perform COVID-19 testing in wastewater samples in Douglas and Johnson counties. He was an engineering student senator and a student assistant in the Office of International Admissions. He interned in the water technology group at Black & Veatch in summer 2020 and participated in a summer research project at West Virginia University in 2019. He is an IHAWKe Exceptional Scholar and was named a Student Housing Staff Member of the Year in 2019.
The theme for KU’s 108th Homecoming is “Rock Chalk Around the World.” The Alumni Association and its Student Alumni Network oversee this year’s event, which is sponsored by the KU Bookstore and Truity Credit Union and supported by Crown Toyota, Volkswagen. A complete schedule of Homecoming week activities can be found at kualumni.org/homecoming.
About the KU Alumni Association
Through the support of members and donors, the KU Alumni Association advocates for the University of Kansas, communicates with Jayhawks in all media, recruits students and volunteers, serves the KU community and unites Jayhawks. For more information, visit kualumni.org.