ST. GEORGE —  A Monday night event at Utah Tech University spotlighted the diverse forms of black excellence on the campus, showcasing students who have achieved extraordinary feats in various domains.

Clouds fill the sky above Utah Tech University in this file photo, Feb. 9, 2024 | Photo courtesy of Utah Tech University, St. George News

The Black Student Union at Utah Tech, in collaboration with the Multicultural International Student Association, hosted the “Night of Excellence” Gala at 5:30 p.m.

“As a member of the Multicultural Inclusion Student Association, being acknowledged for my involvement emphasizes the importance of promoting diversity, inclusion and social justice within our academic community,” Nevaéh Anderson, a junior at Utah Tech and vice president of the association, told St. George News.

The gala recognized outstanding achievements across five key categories: Academics, Leadership and Service, Athletics and Activity, Arts and Creativity, and Social Justice and Civic Engagement. These categories were selected because they encompass a wide range of student talents and contributions.

Anderson was awarded the 2024 Social Justice and Civic Engagement Award.

“Earning recognition for a diverse set of interests is empowering, highlighting a shift towards valuing multifaceted individuals who contribute to social justice, diversity and civic engagement in various ways,” she said.

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One of the most notable aspects of the “Night of Excellence” was the student-driven nomination process. Students had the ability to nominate their classmates who embodied excellence in those five categories. This approach celebrates individual achievements and contributes to creating a supportive and inspiring campus environment, said Mike Nelson, director of the Center for Inclusion and Belonging.

“The importance of peer-to-peer support was a big take-away,” Nelson said. “There are many times students see their peers do amazing things, and they should be celebrated. We have an amazing community, and coming from other students means a lot.”

Anderson agreed that it’s empowering to be recognized by fellow classmates.

“Awards issued for the peers by the peers, rather than officials, brings a deeper and more passionate dimension to the roles played out each day,” she said. “It fosters a sense of admiration and acknowledgments from each other.”

The gala honored the students’ hard work and dedication and encouraged a culture of inclusivity and support extending beyond Black History Month, said Nelson.

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Everyone is eager to see what the future holds for these groups. For Nelson, the event has him thinking about the future.

“We may look into increasing the categories or increasing the marketing so students have a better opportunity and more time to nominate their peers,” he said.

For Anderson, it’s the future of the Multicultural Inclusion Student Association.

“Looking ahead, I aim to expand advocacy efforts beyond campus and in the courtroom, connecting with the wider community to contribute to a more just and equitable society,” Anderson said. “I anticipate a future where individuals are celebrated for their unique contributions to societal betterment.”

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