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2016 Tower Awards Honor Students, Faculty and Community Partners

The Longhorn Center for Community Engagement celebrated students, student organizations, faculty, and community partners at its annual Tower Awards on April 22, 2016. The Tower Awards recognize those who are committed to community service, improving the UT campus community and the greater Austin community. Sebastian Solis, a senior history major, and Claudia Lay, a sophomore biochemistry major, emceed the event.

photo of honorees
2016 Tower Award honorees


Outstanding Student Organizations

  • Lions Club International – The UT chapter hosts 2-5 service events each weekend and is nearing 4,000 cumulative service hours for this academic year.
  • Ismaili Muslim Students Association – IMSA seeks to build bridges between people, community and cultures and hosts community service and social events.
  • Camp Kesem – Texas – Camp Kesem is a student-run nonprofit organization that provides a free week of summer camp as well as year-round support to kids who have been touched by a parent’s cancer.

Outstanding Service Project

  • Camp Kesem – Texas

Outstanding Student Volunteer Awards

The award comes with a $600 scholarship, courtesy of the Texas Cowboys.

  • Reginald Smith –  Reggie has come full circle ending an almost 20-year odyssey in the school-to-prison pipeline, by returning to school. He has worked in recovery and reentry advocacy since his release from prison in 2012. He is a senior in the School of Social Work and a 2016 College Scholar. Reggie is presently working on digital inclusion projects with the Housing Authority of Austin and Google Fiber.
  • Sarah Ritch – Sarah volunteers as a Healthyhorns Peer Education with University Health Services. She values volunteering at UHS because she enjoys teaching peers about health topics they may be unfamiliar with and is committed promoting a health campus culture.
  • David Lopez Jr. – David is a junior Managment Information Systems major. He has touched all corners of campus through his work with the Hispanic Business Association, Texas THON, the Orientation Advisor Program and employment with the Division of Recreational Sports. He started an empowerment program at Austin ISD’s Akins High School an dled the HBSA to raise an unprecedented $7,600 for Texas Thon

Gender and Sexuality Center Service Awards

Interim GSC director Liz Elson recognized two senior students for service to LGBTQA and feminist communities.

  • Mirusha Yogarajah – Mirusha is a senior majoring in Black Studies and Government. She is an Eelam Tamil and queer woman who hails from Toronto, Canada. Mirusha has been involved with Texas Orange Jackets, White Rose Society, Feminist Action Project, SAGE, and worked at the Gender and Sexuality Center during her time at UT.
  • Elizabeth Kushnereit Peña – Elizabeth has spent much of her time at UT in service to feminist and queer communities, working at the Gender and Sexuality Center to facilitate weekly Feminist Friday discussion groups, helping individual students with their identity development questions and concerns, and encouraging folks to think broadly about how race, class, and disability can also heavily inform conversations around sexual identity and gender. Liz is never afraid to roll up her sleeves and get work done in the service of her communities, and social justice ideals.

Outstanding Community-Based Learning Professor

This award recognizes a course that demonstrates mutually beneficial relationships with community partners.

  • Karen Landholdt, J.D. – Professor Landolt teaches Business Law, Behavioral Ethics and Entrepreneurship at the McCombs School of Business. Outside-the-classroom experiences are integral to her courses. She is the founding partner of Engage Leadership Consulting.

Outstanding Community-Based Learning Course

This award recognizes a course that has made significant contributions to the community through its advocacy for service. Two courses received the award this year>

  • Impacting Males through Mentoring – This course is taken by all Project MALES undergraduate students in preparation for their mentoring assignment at an AISD school. The course readings and discussions introduce students to existing research on Latino males and various mentoring practices.
  • Healthyhorns Peer Educator Program – This course is for students to be health leaders on campus, empowering fellow students to make well-informed decisions about their health and well-being and positively influencing a healthy campus culture.

Helping Hand Tower Award – The Helping Hand award recognizes dedication from a community partner that has made significant contributions to service efforts of UT Austin through a partnership with the Longhorn Center for Civic Engagement.

  • Winner Proyecto Azteca is a nonprofit self-help construction company located in San Juan, Texas, that serves low-income families in colonias and other rural areas in Hidalgo County. Proyecto Azteca partnered with LCCE through the Alternative Breaks program.

The Bright Future Award recognizes a UT program that encourages success through service for and among students within the K-12 education pipeline.

  • Project MALES Student Mentoring Program connects UT Austin students with male AISD middle school and high school students. The goal is to help improve the educational attainment and college-going competencies of young men of color.

Each year LCCE honors an Outstanding Campus Partner.

  • College of Liberal Arts which partnered with LCCE to organize service opportunities for 242 first-year students. The students served 905 hours with an economic impact of over $20,000.

Glen Baumgart Award for Visionary Civic Engagement seeks to honor a UT alum who has demonstrated a sincere vision for civic engagement in either their professional or personal life.

Parisa Fatehi-Weeks with graduate student Tracie Lowe
Parisa Fatehi-Weeks with Longhorn Center for Community Engagement graduate student Tracie Lowe


  • Parisa Fatehi-Weeks, head of community impact programs and investment for Google Fiber in Austin, was named the Glen Baumgart Award recipient. She directs digital inclusion investments and partnerships and manages Google Fiber’s local philanthropic strategy. She also serves as a local spokesperson for community education related to Google Fiber deployment and serves as a mayoral appointee to the City’s Urban Renewal Board. In addition, Parisa is on the board of directors for the nonprofit Proyecto Defensa Laboral (Workers Defense Project) and UT’s Texas Union advisory council. She received her BA, JD and master’s degree in Public Affairs from UT Austin and served as the student body president.

Gold Awards

In addition the awards noted above, the following students received Gold-level status after having served a minimum of 250 hours of service.

  • Alexandra Goodell
  • Austin Robinson
  • Clarissa Pedraza
  • Claudia Lay
  • Julio Lerma
  • Abby Hull

Alpha Epsilon Delta and the UT Lions Club were honored with Gold Awards as well for having provided more than 1000 hours of service within the past 12 months.

Silver Awards  are given to students who serve 175-249 hours in a year.

  • Hannah West Nover

Bronze Awards are given to students who serve 100-174 hours in a year.

  • William Goodell
  • Aaron Flores
  • Chelsea Amen
  • Jamie Wientjes
  • Sarah Khan
  • Therese Deike
  • Estela Lopez