A funny thing happened at the awards ceremony

We recently hosted a celebration for the learning community peer mentors on our campus. Our campus offers many learning communities linking courses and residence halls and this ceremony is an annual event to honor the student leaders in the academic units and courses. The mentors are nominated for the awards by their professors, course coordinators, and also their students.

As with many ceremonies, some students are able to attend, some have schedule conflicts. This year, we had an opportunity to honor a student who was a mentor last fall and then graduated at semester. At first he was not able to attend, but when he checked in and picked up his nametag, our committee made certain that his award was added to the program for presentation.

The student’s name was announced and he made his way to the podium while glowing praise was read from his award recommendation letters. He was one of the students who dressed up for the event, even donning a tie. The student accepted his certificate and paused for photos with the other student award recipients.

But it was the wrong guy.

You see, when the nominated peer mentor graduated last December, his university email account was closed. When notification was sent to award recipients, the email bounced to a student with the same name. This student with the same name believes he was nominated for and won an award, because we told him that he did. He then dressed up, attended the awards ceremony, and accepted an award to much fanfare and applause. If the learning community coordinator had not been there to discretely mention that he wasn’t the correct student, we would never have known.

Lessons to learn? Double-checking email addresses is pretty obvious. But what do we learn from a student who accepts an award that he has not earned? Is there a message here about the need to be noticed among a sea of faces on the university campus? I’ll take it as a special reminder that all of our students deserve recognition and appreciation. And perhaps they need it more than once a year at awards ceremonies.

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