Volunteer USI, the University of Southern Indiana’s volunteer organization, celebrated its 2021 award recipients and dedicated volunteer community during the annual Volunteer Recognition Dinner on Wednesday, August 25.
While a global pandemic presented many unexpected challenges, volunteers devoted 61,715 hours to giving back throughout the 2020-2021 fiscal year. Since 1996, Volunteer USI has recorded more than 2.2 million volunteer hours.
The Student Volunteer of the Year award recognizes a student who has performed outstanding volunteer service to USI and/or the community through the Volunteer USI program. The Mentor of the Year award recognizes a USI faculty, staff, alumni or community member who has mentored a current USI student to enhance their development in their overall academic field. The Volunteer of the Year award recognizes a USI faculty, staff, alumni or community member who has performed outstanding volunteer service to USI and/or the community through the Volunteer USI Program.
Volunteer of the Year
Dr. James R. Porter, President of Deaconess Health System, was recognized as the 2021 Volunteer of the Year. Porter has made invaluable contributions to USI’s Presidential Task Force, established in April of 2020 to help guide the University’s COVID-19 response. Responsible for our region’s largest hospital system during a global pandemic, Porter has given generously of his time and knowledge to help promote the safety and well-being of each member of our community and campus.
Porter’s nominator writes “Our entire community owes Porter immensely for his dedication and leadership through the pandemic. He has always been a dedicated community volunteer, but the past year has highlighted his volunteerism and community spirit.”
Mentor of the Year
Jennifer Fehrenbacher, Assistant Professor of Dental Hygiene and Clinic Coordinator, was recognized as the 2021 Mentor of the Year. Fehrenbacher prepares students to treat patients in the dental clinic and guides them through the process throughout their time in the dental hygiene program. She fosters clinical and leadership skills in her students, inspiring them to be culturally aware and civically engaged, and is devoted to helping her students learn valuable critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
Fehrenbacher’s nominators write “She is such a great teacher and is always there for her students no matter what. She is such an advocate for us. I felt like she was the only person I could go to in the program when I had a problem or just needed someone to talk to. You can just tell she really and truly cares about her students. She goes above and beyond to make sure her dental hygiene students receive the best education possible.”
Student Volunteer of the Year
Elissa Tam, a senior biology major and World Language and Culture minor, was recognized as the 2021 Student Volunteer of the Year. Since her freshman year, Tam has been a significant contributor to the University’s Student Ambassador Organization, dedicating over 125 hours of her time to this organization alone. Tam is also the President and founder of Eagles in Action, a service-based club with the goal of helping USI students create and carry out their own service projects.
Her nominator writes “When Elissa gives tours to students and their families, I witness the genuine connection she makes with them. I can often find her chatting with individual families after tours because they feel comfortable enough to approach her with questions, and she makes everyone feel as if their unique interests and situations truly matter. Elissa's mark on Student Ambassadors will be long-lasting. I am so appreciative of her commitment to our campus community.”
Established in 1996, Volunteer USI is a University-wide program to recruit, place and recognize volunteers who give their services and talents to benefit USI and the surrounding communities. While a global pandemic presented many unexpected challenges, volunteers devoted 61,715 hours to giving back throughout the 2020-2021 fiscal year. Volunteer USI has recorded more than 2.2 million volunteer hours since its founding.
For more information on Volunteer USI, visit USI.edu/volunteer.