GV Student Awards Convocation honors exceptional students


GVL Archives

Elizabeth Schanz

In the midst of COVID-19, Grand Valley State University hosted a virtual Student Award Convocation that helped to honor student achievement across all disciplines and activities during their time at GVSU.

One honoree, mechanical engineering senior Jenna Stolzman, received the Kenneth R. Venderbush Leadership Award which honors exceptional performance in both leadership and academic achievements.

Stolzman is on the executive board of the Society of Women Engineers that focuses on community engagement with women in STEM. In addition to this, she is the secretary of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and participates in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration design challenge where she is a part of the team that designs and tests projects. She has also worked with General Electric Aviation and Additive, as well as conducting various research projects. 

Stolzman emphasized that this level of involvement that led to this award was not always natural to her. She decided to take a jump into various opportunities in college.

“Just get involved early,” Stolzman said. “Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. It’s not going to hurt you at all in any way, it’s only going to help and open so many doors.” 

Stolzman felt the support from her professors at GVSU. She said Sanjivan Manoharan, a professor in mechanical engineering, has helped her reach her potential. She took this support and worked hard throughout her schooling.

“When I received the award, I sat there for like five minutes in shock,” Stolzman said. “There weren’t any words to describe it. It feels good to know all my hard work was recognized.”

Additionally, individuals were honored from each undergraduate and graduate program with the Excellence-in-a-Discipline Award. The honoree from the GVSU Dance Department is Rya Greene. 

Greene’s journey into her dance major was not a straight line. She explored many majors including physical therapy and political science, but continually felt drawn to dance. 

Greene emphasizes this need for self-discovery for all incoming college students.

“Find what you love to do and do it,” Greene said. “Don’t waste time doing what other people want you to do or what you think you should do. I am a full believer in that if you are doing what you love, you will find success.”

Greene took the “leap” into the dance department wholeheartedly. She performed with the American College Dance Association, won the short paper category in departmental writing for a research paper on dance history, received both Alexander Calder Honors Dance and the Upper Division Dance Scholarships, and performed her senior solo at the Regional-Alternative Dance Festival.

“I came to class ready to learn and ask questions, but I made sure to also honor when I was having a hard day and adjusted accordingly,” Greene said. “I believe the ‘excellence’ came from being fully devoted and true to myself and what I was doing.”

With both Stolzmand and Greene graduating this Winter semester, they have many opportunities to look forward to beyond their recognition at GVSU. Stolzmand will be attending the University of Michigan for her Ph.D. in mechanical engineering for the next four years. Greene hopes to get a job working in administration at a dance company while further pursuing dance and choreography.