The UNK Alumni Association has awarded the Outstanding Senior Award to deserving seniors since 1982. Applications are available each spring for students who will graduate by December of that year. An alumni committee will choose up to five outstanding seniors to be recognized in April.
Students who will graduate by December of the calendar year, maintain a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 overall, demonstrate leadership qualities, exude service to UNK and the community and is involved in a variety of student and community life can be considered for the award.
The University of Nebraska at Kearney Alumni Association recognizes five students with Outstanding Senior awards. The award honors UNK seniors for excellence in scholarship and leadership, as well as involvement and dedication to the university and Kearney community. Recipients were selected by a panel of UNK alumni.
Nate Grimm, son of Dave and Julie Grimm of Fremont. Nate graduates in May with a psychology degree with a minor in coaching and will be attending Minnesota State University Mankato in the sport, exercise, and performance psychology master’s program this fall.
During his time at UNK, Nate served as the coordinator of the Chancellor’s Ambassadors and was Interfraternity Council vice-president of community service and philanthropy. He was in the Honors Program, Mortar Board Honor Society, Psi Chi Psychology Honor Society and Order of Omega. Nate was also an undergraduate research fellow, was active in Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, the psychology club, Greeks Advocating for Healthy Lifestyles, a Loper Leader and a Kearney TOPSoccer volunteer. He is currently the Psychology department’s human subjects coordinator, a Learning Commons psychology subjects tutor and Welcome Desk assistant, and an assistant girls track and field coach for Kearney High School.
DJ Hardwick, son of Don and Donna Hardwick of Benkelman. DJ will graduate in May with a general studies degree. He will be attending Canisius College in Buffalo, New York, to pursue a master’s degree in higher education and student affairs administration.
While at UNK, DJ served as the First Year Experience Coordinator for the UNK Office of Student and Family Transitions. He was also a new student enrollment team leader, a resident assistant, student ambassador for the College of Business & Technology, a Title IX process advisor, chief justice of the UNK Student Court, served on the UNK First Generation Leadership Board, was active in Phi Beta Lambda both collegiately and nationally and was the 2021 UNK homecoming king. He received numerous awards for his involvement at UNK, including the Golden Loper Award, First-Generation Trailblazer Award, Student Employee Rookie of the Year, Teamwork Excellence Award and “Make Like a Duck” Award.
Jazmin Matias Trejo, daughter of Vianey Trejo of Wood River. Jazmin will graduate in May with a degree in family science and a minor in criminal justice. She will be attending UNK to pursue a master’s degree in secondary school counseling.
At UNK, Jazmin was in the Mortar Board Honor Society, Alpha Phi Sigma Criminal Justice Honor Society, Order of Omega and was on the Dean’s List. Jazmin served as a resident assistant, campus visit assistant, new student enrollment leader and student leader for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. Additionally, she was a peer mentor in the Thompson Scholar Learning Community, was active in the UNK Dreamers, Alpha Omicron Pi sorority and assisted with the Nebraska Cultural Unity Conference. Jazmin completed an internship with Kearney Public Schools and has served as an interpreter for Wood River Rural High School. She received numerous awards at UNK, including the First-Generation Trailblazer Award, Office of Diversity and Inclusion’s Student of the Year, Outstanding Student Award First-Year and Second-Year Thompson Scholar and a Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation recipient.
Holly Rockenbach, daughter of Paul and Susan Rockenbach of York. Holly will graduate in May with a degree in communication disorders and a minor in special education and will be pursuing a master’s degree in the speech/language pathology program at UNK.
During her time at UNK, Holly was in the Honors Program, Mortar Board Honor Society, Phi Eta Sigma Educational Honor Society, Order of Omega and the National Residence Hall Honorary. She was active in the Kearney Student Speech Language Hearing Association, National Student Speech Language Hearing Association, Alpha Omicron Pi sorority, Special Musicians, Conversation Tables, the Friends Program and Catholic Newman Center. Holly was the 2021 UNK homecoming queen and a UNK Alumni Association Gold Torch Society mentee. She served as a UNK Plambeck Early Childhood Education Center classroom teacher, undergraduate research fellow, resident assistant, new student enrollment leader, student diplomat and was a registered behavior technician at the Spectrum Center for Autism.
Austin Truex, son of Aaron and Jessica Truex of Norfolk. Austin graduates in August with a degree in organizational and relational communication with emphases in business administration and tourism and events, along with a minor in history. Following his graduation, Austin plans to open an escape room in Norfolk.
While at UNK, Austin served as the student manager of the College of Business & Technology Career Closet, was in the Honors Program, and was an undergraduate research fellow. He was also active in the Cultivate student organization, Christian Student Fellowship, and participated in the Leadership Education and Development Series and the International Food & Culture Festival. He completed internships with Growing Together Northeast Nebraska, the Elkhorn Valley Museum, and Norfolk Area Community Foundation Fund, and worked for News Channel Nebraska and UNK’s Residence Life as a desk assistant and an operations assistant. Austin has also volunteered with the Trails & Rails Museum in Kearney and the Norfolk Area Visitors Bureau.