Mount Mercy honors students during 2011 Commencement exercises

Mount Mercy University's two highest awards for graduates were presented during the 2011 Commencement ceremony on May 22 at the U.S. Cellular Center. Kelsey K. Hansen, a nursing major from Alton, Iowa, received the Catherine McAuley Award, the highest honor given to a student who has attended Mount Mercy for four years. Elizabeth Drop, a psychology major from Iowa City, Iowa, received the Mary Frances Warde Award, the highest honor given to a student who transferred to Mount Mercy.

Ashley Benter, a psychology major from Mt. Vernon, Iowa, received the prestigious President's Award during the Honors Convocation on Saturday, May 21. The President's award is bestowed upon a graduating senior who has demonstrated outstanding perseverance and diligence in pursuing his or her goals.

More than 345 students participated during Commencement this year, including 48 graduate candidates, the largest cohort of Mount Mercy students graduating with a master's degree.

Gary Hirshberg, President and CEO of Stonyfield Farm and Chairman of Climate Counts, delivered the keynote address during the Commencement ceremony. Ann Northrup, a human resource management graduate of Mount Mercy's Advance program for working adults, served as the student speaker.

Catherine McAuley Award
Kelsey HansenKelsey K. Hansen, a nursing major from Alton, Iowa, received the Catharine McAuley Award, which is presented to the graduate who, in addition to a high scholastic ranking of 3.0 or above, has exemplified a marked degree of cooperation with administration, faculty and students; integrity in his/her personal relationships; and leadership and loyalty in furthering the ideals of Mount Mercy. The award is named for Catherine McAuley, who founded the Sisters of Mercy in Ireland 1831.

Hansen has been heavily involved in activities during her undergraduate career and has made remarkable achievements as a student-athlete. Among her contributions, she has served as a resident assistant to a Living Learning Community on campus, participated in M2AP Board (Mount Mercy Activities Programming Board), served as co-captain of the track and field team, served as president, senator, and secretary of the Student Government Association, and was involved in the campus clubs Mount Mercy University Association of Nursing Students (MMUANS) and Circle K. She is also a member of NOVA and was recently inducted into the Sigma Theta Tau honor society for nurses.

As a student-athlete, Hansen has earned top honors. She is a two-time NAIA Scholar-Athlete and three-time NAIA national meet qualifier. Hansen qualified for the NAIA Indoor Track & Field Championships in the weight throw in 2010 and 2011, and qualified for the 2011 NAIA outdoor national meet in the hammer throw. This spring, she was also the outdoor conference champion in the hammer throw and all-MCC in the weight throw during the indoor season. The three-time academic all-conference selection was named Mount Mercy's Most Valuable Track Athlete in 2009 and Mount Mercy's NAIA Champion of Character in 2011. Hansen holds school records in the shot put, weight throw and hammer throw.

Hansen also received the Co-Curricular Service Award at the Honors Convocation on May 21. She has accepted a position as residence hall director at the University of Indianapolis, where she plans to pursue a master's degree.

Mary Frances Warde Award
Libby DropElizabeth Drop, a psychology major from Iowa City, Iowa, received the Mary Frances Warde Award, the highest honor given a student who has transferred into Mount Mercy and has acquired a minimum of 30 credit hours at the University. The award is conferred upon the graduate who, in addition to a high scholastic rating (3.0 or above), has exemplified to a marked degree cooperation with administration, faculty, and students; integrity in his/her personal relationships; and leadership and loyalty in furthering the ideals of Mount Mercy. The award is named for Mary Frances Warde, who founded the Sisters of Mercy in America in 1843.

While at Mount Mercy, Drop has participated in a variety of activities, including the Drama club, Core club and M2AP Board. She was part of a select group of students who served as orientation leaders, who help incoming students make a smooth transition to life at Mount Mercy. In 2010 – 2011 she served as vice president of the psychology club and participated in the campus pastoral council.

Drop received the Who's Who Among Students in American University and Colleges award during the Honors Convocation on May 21 for her campus involvement and contributions. She is heavily involved in volunteerism and service learning, having participated in Project America for several consecutive years, as well as traveling on service trips to Omaha, Neb. She also volunteered her time at the Catharine McAuley Center and helped with Iowa Private College Week for the past two years.

She is currently pursuing endeavors with the Peace Corps and is applying for AmeriCorps and Mercy Corps. She also plans to pursue graduate school and obtain a master's in forensic psychology.

President's Award
Ashley BenterAshley Benter, a psychology major from Mt. Vernon, Iowa, received the President's award during Mount Mercy's Honors Convocation on May 21. The President's Award is given to a graduating senior who has demonstrated outstanding perseverance and diligence in pursuing his or her goals. In addition to the President's award, Benter also received the Who's Who Among Students in American University and Colleges award, the Nancy LaMorgese Sociology award, and the Sisters of Mercy Social Justice award for her volunteer work at House of Hope.

Benter has made remarkable contributions to the campus community during her four years at Mount Mercy. She's participated in several clubs, including the campus pastoral council, where she served as co-president and secretary, as well as the psychology club, where she served as secretary. She participated in cheerleading her freshman year and went on to serve as the University mascot during home basketball games. She also earned Mount Mercy's Sophomore of the Year award.

She is a member of Mount Mercy's Hot Topics, which encourages students to talk about difficult subjects. She served as co-chair for the committee that coordinates Halloween on the Hill and has worked as a resident assistant and helped start one of Mount Mercy's first Living Learning Communities.

She has volunteered through Project America and has participated in service trips to New Orleans for flood-recovery work. Benter also raised more than $250 dollars for the local non-profit organization House of Hope by selling home-made scarves.

After graduation Benter will serve as an assistant hall director at Mount Mercy for the summer and then plans to pursue a career in student affairs. She eventually wants to pursue a master's degree. 

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