Unflappable students celebrated at '20s-themed Honors Banquet

Jess Landes, Global Studies program coordinator (left), and Anya Cofrancesco, Honors College and Global Studies program manager (right), celebrate alongside award winners Jenny Michaels (second from left) and Aaryanna Nelson at Monday's Honors Banquet. (Photo by Ralph Freso)

Keerthana Krishnakumar Juttu doesn’t let moss grow under her feet.

The busy animation/programming student zips from one project to another in the Grand Canyon University Honors College as co-director of the Global Health Committee, ambassador in the Young Athena Valley of the Sun Leadership Program, and as a member of the Relationships Over Transactions taskforce in the Honors College’s RISE Fellowship program.

That collegiate go-getter spark started three years ago, in the waning days of the COVID-19 global pandemic, when she and her family were surprised at a Students Inspiring Students ceremony. That's when she leared she was a recipient of the full-tuition scholarship to attend GCU.

But perhaps no one should be surprised by her success at GCU, especially her parents, who moved to the United States from India eight years ago and who attended Monday’s Honors College Banquet at Global Credit Union Arena to watch Juttu receive one of the evening’s top honors: the Dean’s Award.

Keerthana Krishnakumar Juttu received the Dean's Award. (Photo by Ralph Freso)

It seemed like the perfect affirmation for Juttu, whose real-life dreams might just exceed those dreamy animation films that inspired her to go to college and pursue an animation degree.

“I’m ecstatic – absolutely thrilled!” said Juttu after receiving the award. “I did not expect it to be me, and I’m so, so grateful that I got it. I’m so happy.”

Dr. Breanna Naegeli, dean of the Honors College, was at a conference in Chicago but presented the accolade via video. It was one award she said she “absolutely could not miss.”

Juttu “has taken on projects completely outside of her scope of what her major is because she is invested in learning and growing and giving back. She’s an absolute role model for all of our students here in the Honors community,” Naegeli said.

The Dean’s Award was just one of a slew of awards presented at the banquet, the culminating event of the year for the Honors College as it celebrates its 10th anniversary in the same year the University is celebrating its 75th anniversary.

More than 300 students attended the banquet.

Isa Joy Abbott, one of the student leaders in the Honors College, helped plan the banquet, whose theme this year was “Night of the Roaring 20s.”

“We put on the banquet to reflect on all the students who participated in Honors College programs,” Abbott said. “These students took the extra steps and were committed to weekly meetings and put in hours on end. … We just wanted to acknowledge and make sure the Honors College students are fully appreciated.”

Daniela Chavira took home two awards. She received the Distinguished Achievement Award alongside fellow recipients Ashley Larson, Karen Velazquez and Aaryanna Nelson.

Emcees Olivia Stradley (left) and Dillon Webb embrace the "Night of the Roaring 20s" theme.

She also was the education division winner in the Honors Showcase, held a few weeks ago. Her presentation in the showcase, in which students shared their research and projects with the campus community, was “Entiéndeme” (“Understand Me”): A Reflection on the Interdisciplinary Problems Surrounding Educational Models and English Language Acquisition.”

Chavira, student coordinator in the Multicultural Office, has come full circle since her start at GCU as a mechanical engineering major. She changed her major to psychology with a minor in pre-law after connecting with her passion to advocate for immigrants, Dreamers and first-generation students.

“It’s been an amazing four years at GCU,” said Chavira, who will be graduating in a little more than a week. “I’ve done a lot. … I’m really excited about the people I got to meet, the connections I got to make and the lasting impact I made,” Chavira said.

JForte performs at the event. The duo includes former Honors College Director of Operations Dennis Williams (right) and his wife, Julianne.

Other awards presented at the banquet were:

  • Faculty of the Year Award:
    • Dr. Paul Danuser, COE
    • Dr. Ryan Brandt, COT
  • Innovation Through Collaboration Award
    • Ally Wright – Event Coordinator II in Event Services
    • Dr. Craig Detweiler – Dean of the College of Arts and Media
    • Grace Laidlaw – Honors Student Services Counselor (SSC)
    • Jenny Kuban – Managing editor for the Canyon Journal of Undergraduate Research
  • Inspirational Leader Award
    • Olivia Stradley
  • Giving Back Award:
    • Elle Mowbray
  • Academic Excellence Award:
    • Mayah Shadley
  • Interdisciplinary Excellence Award
    • Elayna Anderson
  • Discipleship Award
    • Sarah Mullisen
  • Noble Spirit Award
    • Shane Feichtinger
  • Male Champion of Character Award:
    • Alexander Peña
  • Female Champion of Character Award:
    • Samara La Roche
  • Male Newcomer of the Year Award:
    • Eli Riney
  • Female Newcomer of the Year Award:
    • Jeanie Hunt
  • Male Senior of the Year Award:
    • Noah Portis
  • Female Senior of the Year Award:
    • Natalie Osborne
  • Distinguished Achievement Award:
    • Ashley Larson
    • Karen Velazquez
    • Aaryanna Nelson
    • Daniela Chavira
  • Dean’s Award:
    • Keerthana Krishnakumar Juttu
  • Thank You for Your Service & Leadership
    • Jenny Michaels
    • Lilly Jiroudek
    • Isa Abbott
  • PAC Professional Development Program Honorees for Fall 2023:
    • 2023 PAC Bronze Finalist - Jordan Jaramillo
    • 2023 PAC Silver Finalist - Logan Magee
    • 2023 PAC Gold Finalist - Paige Pastrell
    • 2023 PAC Platinum Finalist - Addison Wilson
    • 2023 PAC Champion - Ana Wright
  • 2024 Honors Showcase Winners & Honorable Mentions
    • STEM Winner: “Ina: Smaller Updates for Software Applications” by Logan Magee
    • Humanities Winner: “The Changing Lives Outreach Program and Career-Relevant Skill Building” by Ashley Larson, Anisa Barbosa and Elizabeth Guillermo
    • Business, Entrepreneurship & Internships Winner: “Authentic Performance, The Podcast” by Natalie Osborne
    • Ministry, Service and Community Outreach Winner: “Honors VOICES – From People to Pets” by Amelia Miller
    • Education Winner: “Entiéndeme”: A Reflection on the Interdisciplinary Problems Surrounding Educational Models and English Language Acquisition” by Daniela Chavira
    • Honorable Mentions:
      • “Lounge Lessons” by Sarah Mullisen
      • “Car Chap” by Caleb McCandliss
      • “The Dark Triad: Real World Implications” by Aliya Kuester, Zachary Singleton and Kobe Lage
      • “Medicinal Properties of Euphorbia tirucalli and Euphorbia lomelii and their Potential Contribution Against Microbial Growth and Cancer Cell Proliferation” by Daniella Sanchez Mata and Ryan Blevins

Related content:

GCU News: Honors College event celebrates supporters, alumni, decade of growth

GCU News: Honors students use their medical skills to serve communities in Mexico

GCU News: Honors students make an impact during Community Service Week

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