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31st annual ExCEL Award finalists named

Back in Action | KU Homecoming 2021

Fifteen KU students have been selected for the 31st-annual Excellence in Community, Education and Leadership Awards at the University of Kansas. Three winners will be announced at the conclusion of Homecoming week, which culminates in the KU-Texas Tech football game at 3 p.m. Oct. 16 at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium.

The ExCEL Award provides an annual $250 scholarship to 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 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.



From Lawrence

Megah Shah, a senior in human biology with a minor in Spanish, participates in the University Honors Program and is a research assistant at the Life Span Institute’s Center for Community Health and Development. She is executive director of KU Dance Marathon and directs events for the Center for Community Outreach.



From Dodge City

Leah Stein, a pre-law senior in sociology with a minor in social justice, is president of Chi Omega sorority and previously served as the organization’s vice president and foundation ambassador. She participates in the University Honors Program and is a student ambassador for the Office of Admissions. She serves on the student advisory board for the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics.



From Ulysses

Emily Curl, a pre-medicine senior in behavioral neuroscience and strategic communications, is a student ambassador for the Office of Admissions and previously worked as an orientation assistant, Hawk Week leader and a peer mentor. She volunteers at Lawrence Memorial Hospital and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Lawrence.



From Lenexa

Natalie Krieger, a senior in marketing with a minor in photography, is president of the Multicultural Greek Council and a member of Sigma Psi Zeta Inc., a progressive, multicultural sorority. She also served as public relations and social media chair for the Asian American Student Union.


From Overland Park

Yasmin Edrees, a senior in behavioral neuroscience with a minor in Spanish, is communications director at the Center for Community Outreach. She is co-director of Camp Kasem and co-president of HEAL KU, a student-led group that builds sustainable relationships with community organizations. She participates in the pre-med fraternity Phi Delta Epsilon.


From Shawnee

Marah Shulda, a junior in chemical engineering with a minor in global and international studies, is a Self Engineering Leadership Fellow and rank leader and equipment manager for the Marching Jayhawks. She serves as vice president of KU Hearts for the Homeless.



From Wichita

Mikayla Leader, a junior in mathematics, is a customer service attendant for KU Info and building manager for the Kansas Union. She led Student Union Activities as executive director and served as director of finance and partnerships.


Lily Nguyen, a senior in global and international studies and Japanese language and culture with a minor in political science, is a resident assistant for KU Student Housing and an honors seminar assistant for the University Honors Program. She was a digital media engagement intern at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.



From Kansas City, Kansas

Javen Betts, a junior in education, is a student ambassador for the School of Education and an assistant for KU TRIO SES & STEM. He is president of the Black Student Union and serves as the Big XII constitution delegate for Black student government.



From Kansas City

Nikki Brown, a senior in political science, sociology and American studies with a minor in social justice, is vice president of the Latin American Student Union and vice president of the Latina-founded sorority Kappa Delta Chi. A McNair Scholar, she is a peer mentor for first-year minority and first-generation students as well as a social justice peer educator in the Office of Multicultural Affairs.


From St. Louis

Madison McGuire, a pre-med senior in human biology with a minor in American studies, is an undergraduate researcher on Alzheimer’s Disease and a volunteer crisis counselor. She serves on the Homecoming Steering Committee and is a member of the KU Chemistry Club.


Ellen Vandewater, a senior in computer science with a minor in business, directs marketing and engagement for Student Union Activities and serves as legacy chair for KU’s Board of Class Officers. She also was the Kansas Union Gallery coordinator.



From Pittsburgh

Maura Corder, a senior in communication studies and psychology, is a third-generation Jayhawk and a resident assistant for KU Student Housing. She is a rank leader in the Marching Jayhawks and president of Lambda Pi Eta, a communication studies honors fraternity.



From Fond du Lac

Sarah Moore, a senior in journalism with a minor in anthropology and dance, is a student ambassador for the Office of Admissions and a rank leader for the Marching Jayhawks. She directs diversity, equity and inclusion for Kappa Alpha Theta sorority and is a member of the national service fraternity Omega Phi Alpha.



From Lagos

Tamara-Doubra Anoruse-Thomas, a pre-med senior in microbiology with a minor in business, is an undergraduate teaching assistant for the department of chemistry and a data analyst for the Center for Community Health and Development. She is president of LEAD UP, an organization that helps underrepresented youths, and she served as vice president of the African and Caribbean Students Association.


The theme for KU’s 109th Homecoming is “Back in Action.” The Alumni Association and its Student Alumni Network Homecoming Steering Committee oversee this year’s event, which is sponsored by Best Western Plus West Lawrence, KU Bookstore and Truity Credit Union. Jayhawks can purchase Homecoming T-shirts while supplies last at the KU Bookstore and online at

For a complete schedule of Homecoming week activities, visit

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