University presents Celebration of Service Awards

OXFORD, Mississippi — The University of Mississippi Division of Diversity and Community Engagement will recognize outstanding achievement in community-engaged research, learning, service, and scholarship on Tuesday, April 12, at its celebration annual service awards.

The program begins at 2 p.m. in the Johnson Commons Ballroom. Honors to be presented include the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award, the Excellence in Community Engagement Award and the new Community Engaged Partnership Fund.

“This year’s celebration of service shines a spotlight on people who exemplify the value of selfless service, elevates a year-long program that aims to bridge the trauma and complexity of our local history with the beauty of our potential,” said said Cade Smith, assistant vice-chancellor for community engagement.

madison alliston

“It also celebrates partnerships that are taking the next steps in building more resilient, trust-based relationships between the University of Mississippi and communities and organizations beyond campus.”

The recipients of the Sullivan Awards are Madison Alliston, a young public policy leadership student from Hattiesburg, as the student winner; Premalatha Balachandran, senior researcher at UM’s National Center for Natural Products Research, staff member; and Ryan Upshaw, Assistant Dean for Student Life, Diversity and Inclusion at Millsaps College, Alumni.

The award was established in 1890 by the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Foundation to honor individuals who demonstrate character, exemplified by selfless service to others and the community.

“This award is the University of Mississippi’s highest honor for service,” said Katlyn Tidwell, graduate assistant in marketing and communications for community engagement. “The award criteria emphasize service to others and the community before self, while embodying the qualities of honesty, morality, ethics, integrity, responsibility, determination, of courage and compassion.

“Each of these recipients embodies these characteristics within their community, campus and inner circles.”

Alliston, who is also the food, housing, and poverty zone coordinator for UM’s Office of Community Engagement, has been involved in service activities since her freshman year. A member of the Luckyday program, she has worked hard to involve her fellow Luckyday students in the LOU community through programs such as Habitat for Humanity.

She has worked with the organizations More Than a Meal, Doors of Hope and Oxford Community Market and helped the UM School of Business Administration create a micro-internship program. After graduating, she plans to attend law school and specialize in advocacy for vulnerable populations.

Premalatha Balachandran

Balachandran sits on several university and community committees, including Staff Council, UM Dames, Chancellor’s Student Affairs Committee, Chancellor’s Library Board Committee, United Way of Oxford, and the Leadership Lafayette Program Steering Committee.

She has also worked as a judge for Speaker’s Edge, Quiz Bowl and the UM Debating Competition, and served as a mentor for the Lott Leadership Students program. Since 2015, Balachandran has volunteered as a ballot manager for federal, state, municipal, and county elections, and she has served on several Oxford School District committees. She received the Girl Scouts Heart of the South Women of Distinction Award and the UM Outstanding Staff Member Award.

Originally from Moss Point, Upshaw served several years as Assistant Dean of Student Services at the UM School of Engineering before moving to Jackson in 2020 as Director of Diversity and Outreach at Jackson Preparatory School. He received his bachelor’s degree in psychology as well as a master’s and doctorate in higher education, all from Ole Miss.

A graduate of Leadership Lafayette, he took the skills he learned and applied them to the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Program, a half-week summer camp for 11th graders that aims to develop their leadership skills and potential. While on staff at Ole Miss, he received the Frist Student Service Award, the university’s highest honor for outstanding student service.

The Lafayette County Memorial Project is the recipient of this year’s Excellence in Community Engagement Award. Members include Anne Cafer, Janice Carr, Lisa Carwyle, April Grayson, Randon Hill, Alonzo Hilliard, Deanna Kriesel, Cynthia Parham, Pastor Andrew Robinson, Jonathan Scott, Hans Sinha, Robin Tannehill and Keiana West.

This award was established in 2019 to recognize outstanding achievement in scholarship and research, learning, and engaged service to the community. Finalists receive a $1,000 award to continue their engaged work in the community, and one overall award recipient is selected to receive a $5,000 award.

Ryan Upshaw

“The Lafayette Community Remembrance Project was selected because of its impact and involvement in the local community,” Tidwell said. “The project is a great example of community-led and university-supported partnership in a way that is mutually beneficial to them and mutually beneficial to humanity, the community, and the university.”

The Community-Engaged Partnership Development Fund is a program designed to provide support for the development of partnerships between UM faculty, staff, or students collaborating with a community. Communities are not limited to geographically defined areas and also include individuals or groups linked by shared interests or practices, similarities in situation or even culture and beliefs.

UM faculty, staff, students, and registered student organizations are eligible to apply. Students must be enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate program at the university at the time of nomination and for the period of funded activity.

Funded projects include:

  • Mississippi Creates/Southern Punk Archives film and performance series project; John Rash, team leader.
  • H4H Healthy Foods for Healthy Hearts Project; Valérie Quach, team leader.
  • OXCM Flower of Life Volunteer Squad Project; Jackson McArthur, team leader;
  • Family Yoga Engagement Event Project; Alicia Stapp, team leader;
  • Tunica County Community Development Coalition Empowerment Assessment Project; Monica L. Coleman, team leader;
  • Storytelling Project for Oxford and Lafayette County Nonprofits; Jody Holland, team leader.

“We want to publicize these awards, with the hope that more people apply next year,” Tidwell said.

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