Overland Park & Leawood

KU grads receive honor awards

Three University of Kansas graduates from Johnson County recently capped off their years in Lawrence with special honors.

The school’s 2013 University Student Awards recognized Bernadette Myers, 22, of Prairie Village and Sida Niu, 23, of Overland Park with the Class of 1913 Award, an accolade that goes to students “who show evidence of intelligence, devotion to studies, personal character and promise of usefulness to society,” according to the school’s official announcement.

Also taking home honors was Megan Watson, 22, of Overland Park, who received the Rusty Leffel Concerned Student Award for students “who demonstrate a concern for furthering the ideals of the university and higher education,” the announcement said.

Myers is a graduate of Shawnee Mission East, Niu of Shawnee Mission South and Watson of Blue Valley North.

The awards work like this: Students apply for the entire pool of honors, and the school decides which students match each award criteria the best.

For Myers, who graduated with bachelor’s degrees in Italian and English, winning presents a chance for her to advocate for the importance of studying the humanities.

“I think it’s very important that we cultivate skills that go along with a humanistic education,” said Myers, who hopes to earn a doctorate in Renaissance literature and become a professor.

“I think it’s important that we have people who stand up for what those values are. A lot of people don’t recognize how studying literature can be useful to society, and (the award) gives me motivation to study what I’m studying …and (knowing) that other people value that too is encouraging.”

Myers said she thought her college education at the university, along with a semester abroad in Italy, was well-rounded.

“I have learned a lot about how to see things from multiple different perspectives. (It has) shown me how looking at something from one angle is only seeing part of the picture,” she said.

Sida Niu, who received the same award as Myers, said it’s “a good way to cap off your collegiate experience… I’m very honored. It just motivates me more to achieve at the next level.”

Now that he’s earned his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering, he’ll be heading to Kansas City this month to begin studies at the University of Kansas School of Medicine.

“I think (becoming a doctor) is one of the most selfless acts of kindness you can do — to give it your all to save someone’s life,” Niu said.

He considers his time as an undergraduate a formative experience.

“I think all the relationships and the friendships I made at KU have molded me and shaped me into the person I am,” Niu said.

Watson, who earned bachelor’s degrees in chemistry and English, also will be studying at the University of Kansas School of Medicine this year.

For her, one of the best parts of receiving the Rusty Leffel Concerned Student Award is that previous recipients of the award have reached out to congratulate her and welcome her to their group. The $1,000 scholarship that came with it isn’t too bad either.

“I was very honored to be selected, knowing the caliber of the students who have received these awards in the past,” Watson said.

She plans to take five years to complete medical school and hopes to earn both a medical degree and a master’s degree in public health.

“I really tried to maximize those opportunities that enhanced my education outside of the classroom,” said Watson, who spent two years as the executive director of the university’s dance marathon, a charity fundraiser.