The 38th Annual Ohio University Leadership Awards honored and recognized 39 diverse students and organizations. 

The theme of the awards ceremony this year was Ohio Strong, stemming from the student affairs basis; “we care, educate and empower, foster inclusive communities, and make OHIO strong.” The students and organizations were each individually recognized for their input in making the Ohio community stronger. 

The planning for this ceremony began about a year ago directly after the previous awards ceremony. The ceremony required a lot of planning and processes. Hailee Tavoian, student affairs director of communication and marketing, said the committees selecting the awardees spend a lot of time sifting through the hundreds of applications to decide the best fit for each award. 

“We really try to be thoughtful about our inclusivity practices and making sure that we are running equitable searches,” Tavoian said. “We feel a responsibility to make sure that it’s a fair and honest process and a true reflection of the quality of students.” 

The awards this year took place over YouTube Live due to COVID-19. This adaptation brought a positive change, Tavoian said. Due to this style, the audience was able to see what the awardees did to earn their respective awards through videos, rather than just having their biographies read off a script. In these videos, the audience heard from the people being recognized and what they do to make Ohio strong. 

“It is just a different year in so many ways but it brought up really great opportunities for us, as far as how the programs come together,” Tavoian said. 

Many awardees said in their acceptance video that receiving these recognitions assured them that they are truly doing something that is benefiting the community. Farah Chidiac, the winner of the Outstanding Senior Leader Award, said she started her student astrology club just for fun so students could have a safe space to learn more, but she is very excited to have won an award for her efforts. 

“I think being recognized for being a leader has really just affirmed that I’ve done a good job and made me want to keep going and be a leader in all aspects of life,” Chidiac said. 

Others who were recognized felt the same way. Majed Zailaee, the winner of the Charles J. Ping International Leadership Award, said he believes the awards are an affirmation that his and his team’s work benefited people and had an impact on the community. 

“I didn’t imagine that I would be this happy when I saw my name there,” Zailaee said. “This means that the work that me and other friends put together had paid off. I think that’s an example to my friends or to my fellow international students: when you work you will be rewarded in the end.”

The recognition shows these diverse winners that their work is being seen, it is being validated, it is being recognized and that small gestures or acts of leadership do not go unnoticed by OU. 

“Personally, it is an external validation of all of the hard work that I put into my academics,” Jacob Levin, the winner of the Student Affairs Employee Scholarship for Academic Excellence, said.

Tavoian said these awards not only give recognition, but they make students feel more a part of the fabric of the university as a whole. She believes this year’s awards ceremony did just that and many left feeling appreciated.

“I would love the Athens people to know that we love them so much and I want to thank them for everything they have done,” Zailaee said.

In the words of the LGBT Center Student Hart Award winner, Andy Figueroa, “change can ripple upwards and outwards from something very small.”

To see the full list of winners, visit OU’s website