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Chancellor's Sesquicentennial Service Award honors community members

This year has been dedicated to looking back at 150 years of LSU, as well as looking ahead, to the future of the university. For the sesquicentennial year, the university wanted to find a way to acknowledge students, faculty, staff and alumni who demonstrate an extraordinary commitment to the community, making a positive difference.

The answer is the Chancellor's Sesquicentennial Service Award, which seeks to honor individuals or groups who have gone beyond the scope of their job or organization requirements to contribute their time and talents to LSU and/or the community in ways that benefit the common good.

Nominations for the award were accepted through April, and 10 winners were selected. The winners had to be full or part-time students, or retired faculty and staff members and alumni. The performed service had to be on a volunteer basis and could have been completed on- or off-campus.

Winners were selected based on various criteria such as activity, commitment, impact, initiative, need and spirit of service. Award winners have been invited to participate in Homecoming and LSU Day activities, Saturday, Nov. 13. They will be recognized at the LSU game Saturday night.

The award recipients are Claire Biggs, Pinki Diwan, Del H. Dugas, Focusing on College and Unlimited Success, LSU Community Playground Project, W. Henson Moore, Melissa Blaise Seanard, Jan Shoemaker, William and Christel Slaughter and Annette Zacharia.

The following is a look at five of the winners. The other five will be highlighted in part two of this story next week.

Claire Biggs

Many of the Chancellor's Sesquicentennial Service Award winners have participated in Community Bound, Saturday in Service and Service-Learning courses.

Since 2008, Biggs has served in several organizations including Residence Hall Association, or RHA; Helping Others Promote Empowerment, HOPE; Student Athletic Advisory Council; Manship Match; Youth Oasis; Phi Sigma Pi National Honor Fraternity; Honors College; To Write Love On Her Arms; and Tigers Against Trafficking.

She has also volunteered as a student tutor for her history 1001 class and served as the East Laville/Acadian Community Council president; where she organized a letter-writing campaign for soldiers. She has served as the RHA ambassador to the Student Athletic Advisory Council.

Biggs was the Alpha Beta service chair for the Gamma Theta Chapter of Phi Sigma Pi National Honor Fraternity, where she organized an event at the Sunrise Assisted Living Home. In the same semester, she served as the communications director for HOPE, recruiting new members and developing criteria for active membership.

During her second year at LSU, she was the welcome leader for the Honors College and the Community Bound Service Plunge leader, where she continues to serve as a mentor for incoming freshmen.

She is the spokesperson for Tigers Against Trafficking and has worked to promote To Write Love On Her Arms, a non-profit organization created to help those with mental health disorders and depression.

Biggs spent her summer in New York City working on fashion brand accounts for an internship. She is on track to graduate in May 2011, a year early, with a degree in public relations.

"Earlier this semester I led a team of public relations students in the CW Campaign Competition, which is a national PR competition sponsored by the Public Relations Student Society of America and The CW Television Network," Biggs said. "I just found out that I was selected to represent LSU and the Manship School in the Bateman Case Study Competition."

Biggs said participating in service has taught her about herself, what she wants out of life and what is important.

"I love helping people, which seems so simple to say, but it honestly means so much to me," she said. "I'm very determined and set in what I like and what I choose to pursue and I wouldn't make a single service commitment if it wasn't something I wanted to do for myself and for others."

Pinki Diwan

Award winner Pinki Diwan has dedicated her time to the LSU Libraries and the university Book Bazaar.

Since 1992, Diwan has been involved in several service activities and organizations including the LSU Libraries Book Bazaar, LSU Union Art Gallery, Staff Senate, LSU Women's Faculty Club, LSU Fall Fest, Battered Women's Program, Hospice of Baton Rouge, Hope Village, Arts India Council, American Red Cross, Folk Life Festival of Louisiana, Asian Pacific Society and Indian Women's Association of Louisiana.

Diwan is involved in helping to develop young leadership. She participates in Women Building Habitat for Humanity and the YWCA, where she is planning workshops on domestic violence. In order to promote an understanding of Indian culture, she donates time to several Louisiana festivals and charities.

She also sponsors International Cultural programs, raising funds for the Kidney Walk, LSU Friends of the Library, the LSU Music Program, Women's Exposition and Domestic Violence Awareness.

She is currently working as the director of research and prospect management at the LSU Foundation and is also serving on the board of Sharing Shores and the Capital Area Family Violence Intervention Center.

"I want to continue to serve in the nonprofit world to give back and encourage others to get involved," Diwan said. "I find peace of mind and it is my passion to help where I can."

LSU Community Playground Project

The LSU Community Playground Project, or LSU-CPP, began in 1998 to provide children enrolled in Baton Rouge public schools and surrounding communities with safe and fun playgrounds.

CPP participants include Marybeth Lima, Alicia Abadie, Julianne Forman Audiffred, Megan Barnum, T. Kyle Bridges, Tessa Byrne, Jennifer Craig, Cody Darnell, W. Chandler Emery, Stuart Feilden, Bilal Ghosn, Lynn Hathaway, Melinda Hunter, Jackie Jones, Andrew Keller, Brandon Kilbourne, Brooke Morris, Sean Nolan, Katie Rousseau, Nicole Walker and Lakiesha Claude Williams.

For the CPP, design begins with the elementary students concocting their dream playgrounds. They discuss their wishes with the biological engineering students, parents, teachers and school staff.

Through the CPP, nearly 20 playgrounds have been built in Baton Rouge and surrounding areas.

"I draw inspiration and wisdom from providing service with others to address critical community needs," said Lima, director for the Center for Community Engagement, Learning and Leadership, or CCELL.

Many of the participants in the CPP began in service with Lima and are still working with her.

"I loved the process of seeing a project completely through, establishing a relationship with a community partner and really helping to make a difference," Rousseau said.

All of the participants are enthusiastic about winning the Chancellor's Sesquicentennial Service Award.

"It's actually unbelievable to receive recognition of this magnitude on something I enjoy doing and do selflessly: volunteering," Hunter said. "I've always had a passion for being active within my community an campus and making a difference whether it be on a large or small scale."

Jan Shoemaker

Jan Shoemaker has lead many LSU students in community projects over the years, providing service to others.

Since 1995, Shoemaker has improved service-learning at LSU. Because of her efforts, students accomplish approximately 24,000 volunteer hours each year.

She taught service-learning course, crafted the infrastructure for the service-learning program and has assisted in faculty development activities and awards, including the Service-Learning Advisory Council and the Service-Learning Faculty Fellow award. She has also developed a website for the Center for Community Engagement, Learning and Leadership, or CCELL, and a library that holds resources for faculty, students and community partners.

Shoemaker served as a board member of Volunteers in Public Schools' Board of Directors and participated as a "Reading Friend" in the VIPS Everybody Reads program. She has organized Community Bound and has volunteered in the event each year. She has also participated in many Saturday In-Service Days and helped with the LSU Community Playground Project. In the last year, she was the Serves the World committee co-chair.

"I am accepting this award on behalf of CCELL," Shoemaker said. "It is really the service of thousands of students and faculty that is being honored. By facilitating service-learning, CCELL has had a huge impact on the lives of Louisiana Citizens."

Annette Zacharia

Zacharia is being recognized for her work in Alpha Epsilon Delta, the Health Professional Honor Society. Currently, she is a medical student at LSUHSC School of Medicine in New Orleans and serves as the vice president of Community Affairs for the class of 2013. As a part of that service, she serves as the director of Camp Tiger 2010—a camp for children with special needs.

In previous years, she has organized and advised a Freshman Sophomore Committee for Alpha Epsilon Delta, putting together service events, including a Big Sister-Big Brother event. She has volunteered at two Baton Rouge hospitals and had a unique opportunity to volunteer at Mother Theresa's Missionaries of Charity on a trip to Calcutta, India.

She was a volunteer and advocate for Boys and Girls Club of Baton Rouge and for LSU Best Buddies. She organized a bone marrow drive to sign up Asian and Indian donors to benefit a patient with infantile myelo-fibrosis.

"It's truly an honor to have won the Chancellor's Sesquicentennial Service Award, yet at the same time it's very humbling because I know there were plenty of other deserving individuals," she said. "LSU is home to such a diverse group of students, all so eager to serve the community in unique ways."