Senior award winners reflect on Stanford experience

March 8, 2017, 10:20 p.m.

As the nominations open for the Stanford Alumni Association senior awards this year, many members of the Class of 2017 may not be aware of the opportunity.

Senior award winners reflect on Stanford experience
Each year, the Stanford Alumni Association presents senior awards to outstanding memebrs of the graduating class (AXELLE TALMA/The Stanford Daily).

According to Emily Handy, manager of student and young alumni outreach, “A lot of [students] will be contacted saying that they’ve been nominated for an award, and they’ve never heard of it before, especially because these awards are exclusive to graduating seniors.”

The senior awards recognize graduating seniors for their contributions to Stanford taking into account outstanding service, academic, artistic and athletic achievement. After the Alumni Association staff review the nominations, a selection committee chooses recipients. Honors include the J.E. Wallace Sterling Award, the Outstanding Achievement Award and the Award of Excellence.

According to Bill Shen ’98, a previous recipient of the Sterling Award and member of the selection committee, every set of nominations is different.

“What I can count on every year is being absolutely blown away by the quality of nominees,” Shen said.

At Stanford, Shen was a public policy major who engaged in service and leadership through Stanford in Government. He also co-founded the Stanford Democrats and served as the ASSU’s president. During his term as president, Shen helped bring about the installation of Code Blue emergency phones, now a ubiquitous sight around campus.

“Stanford gave me multiple opportunities to explore my interest in public service, and taught me that I could do more than study policy or philosophize about politics,” Shen said. “I was empowered to actually make change happen.”

After graduation, Shen has continued his service to Stanford by co-chairing several class reunions and serving as a member of the board of the Stanford Alumni Association and the Stanford Associates’ Board of Governors.

Out of three finalists, the selection committee awards one recipient the Sterling Award and recognizes the other two finalists with the Outstanding Achievement Award. The Award of Excellence acknowledges the top 10 percent of the senior class for “sincere commitment to the University,” according to its website.

The Sterling Award recipient is given the opportunity to have lunch with Howard E. Wolf ’80, President of the Stanford Alumni Association.

Co-recipient of the 2014 Sterling Award, Hunter Kodama ’14, said that he was “pleasantly surprised” when he received the award.

“Spring quarter of senior year is emotional – lots of ‘lasts,’ [but also] excitement to start a new chapter, sadness to be leaving close friends, etc.,” Kodama said. “The award was a high point of that roller coaster [and receiving] it was completely unexpected.”

As a public policy major concentrating in health care policy, Kodama works in healthcare consulting in New York City, fulfilling his “lifelong dream” of living there. Living on the East Coast led Kodama to realize that Stanford gave Kodama a community beyond campus.

“I lived with fellow Stanford grads, and immediately had a network of friends with a common background,” Kodama said.

Robert Chun ’16, who received last year’s Sterling Award, combined his academic interests with his personal goals in his career. An economics major at Stanford, Chun currently works in nonprofit consulting at The Bridgespan Group. He chaired Stanford in Government and was involved with the Stanford Board of Trustees as an undergraduate.

“My choice to join Bridgespan was inspired by my experience with the Haas Center for Public Service” Chun said. “Bridgespan really gave me the opportunity to blend my work in economics and public service, and that was very exciting.”

Other notable recipients of senior awards include Senator Cory Booker ’91 (Sterling Award), the 2016 WNBA Most Valuable Player Nneka Ogwumike ’12 (Award of Excellence) and the current mayor of Stockton Michael Tubbs ’12 (Outstanding Achievement).
Contact Lark Wang at larkw ‘at’

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