Vincennes University students and programs honored with Awards for Excellence

Vincennes University students and programs honored with Awards for Excellence

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February 19, 2020

February 19, 2020 / Vincennes University students and programs honored with Awards for Excellence

Vincennes University Award for Excellence student photo

INDIANAPOLIS – Vincennes University students and programs have earned multiple Indiana College and Career Readiness Awards for Excellence. The awards were presented during a Feb. 18 ceremony at the Indiana Government Center in Indianapolis.

Six students were honored along with VU’s Law Enforcement Program and VU’s Pharmacy Technology program.

The Indiana Awards for Excellence (AFE) Program celebrates distinguished Career and Technical Education (CTE) students, programs, and partnerships that benefit the state. The program is supported by a grant through the Indiana Department of Education and by contributions from the Indiana Dept. of Workforce Development, VU, Ivy Tech Community College, and the Indiana Association of Career and Technical Education Districts.

VU’s student award recipients, include MaKenna Chumbley, Ferdinand, Information Technology; Mollie Foerster-Daniels, Evansville, Advanced Manufacturing Technician; Jodie Gawthrop, Westfield, Aviation Maintenance; Selam Kelil, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Architectural Studies/CAD; Parwinder “Sonia” Raj, Indianapolis, Aviation Flight; and Luke Spurgeon, Vincennes, Graphic Design Occupational.

In the partnership category, the collaboration between VU’s Law Enforcement program and the Knox County Sheriff’s Office received an Award for Excellence. The partnership prepares future skilled officers and offers continuing education. Students take courses taught by the Knox County Sheriff’s Office, earn certifications through the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy, and participate in learning experiences outside of the classroom. Helping to prepare skilled officers saves time and resources in helping to fill positions. The partnership led to the purchase of a simulator used by students and the Knox County Sheriff’s Office. An upcoming project will allow students to interact with soon-to-be-released inmates. The students will assist them in obtaining important documentation that will aid them in attaining employment and housing.

VU’s Pharmacy Technology program was honored for its partnership with Twin Rivers Career and Technical Education Area, a cooperative composed of 12 school corporations serving area high schools in Daviess, Greene, Knox, Martin, and Sullivan counties in southwest Indiana. The partnership provides students with the opportunity to get a jump start on their careers by becoming licensed pharmacy technicians, while the industry gains and benefits from having licensed, highly qualified, and well-trained technicians who are ready for immediate job placement.


MaKenna Chumbley, Ferdinand, Information Technology

MaKenna stands out on the Vincennes University Jasper campus due to her many strengths and her dedication to succeed in academics, extracurricular activities, and professional career. She is treasurer of the Campus Activities Board club, a member of Phi Theta Kappa, and has made the Dean’s List her entire post-secondary career. She also volunteers with an organization that works toward preventing animal cruelty. “MaKenna is a phenomenal young individual. Her achievement and strong work ethic can be attributed to her ambition, diligence, positive attitude, and leadership skills. She is a pleasure to know.” noted a VU Jasper staff member. Makenna has accepted a full-time marketing position with Stemle & Associates, Inc. in Jasper.

Mollie Foerster-Daniels, Evansville, Advanced Manufacturing Technician

Mollie was a homeschool student prior to college, which made for quite a transition academically. She conquered obstacles and learned new skills, and maintains a 4.0 grade point average in the Advanced Manufacturing Technician (AMT) program. Mollie is an exemplary VU student and Toyota employee. One of her professors says she demonstrates the AMT program’s six professional behaviors: attendance, initiative, diligence, teamwork, interpersonal relations, and communications, then added, “At Toyota, the two pillars are respect for people and continuous improvement. Mollie is a great example of this philosophy”. She plans to continue her education by pursuing a bachelor’s degree in manufacturing.

Jodie Gawthrop, Westfield, Aviation Maintenance

Jodie sets the bar high for her fellow aviation students. She carries a 3.96 grade point averages, consistently leads her group in lab assignments, always has a ready correct answer, and shares information about general aviation from her experience from her job with Tom Wood Aviation Services. She obtained her FAA mechanic certificate, airframe rating this year and is actively repairing aircraft in an airframe mechanic capacity after school. “The title of mechanic is a great milestone in an aviation technician’s career. To live daily work life with the knowledge that one cannot make mistakes requires a rare and special person, and Jodie Gawthrop personifies that person,” notes one of her instructors. She plans to enter the workforce as a mechanic and continue her education in Purdue’s Aeronautical Technology program.

Selam Kelil, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Architectural Studies/CAD

Selam is a standout in my ways. She is an international student from Ethiopia and has fully succeeded in the American post-secondary education system. She overcame cultural and language barriers plus learned a completely learned a new measuring system as an architectural/CAD/surveying student, becoming proficient in the imperial system in less than a semester. Selam serves as president of both the architecture club and international club. She is a resident assistant as well as a student tour guide. She is an intern for the VU Architectural Services department and drawing sets she created are currently being used in construction projects on the VU campus. A professor cites, “Her thirst for knowledge and tenacity for hard work have enabled her to receive multiple scholarships. Her technical competencies are at a level rarely seen at the college level.” Selam plans to complete her undergraduate degree, then pursue a master’s degree in engineering or architecture.

Parwinder “Sonia” Raj, Indianapolis, Aviation Flight

Raj “has distinguished herself on many occasions and continues to set the standard for academic excellence”, according to one of her instructors. In less than 24 months, she has completed Private Pilot, Instrument Rating, Commercial Pilot – Multi Engine, Single Engine, Advanced Ground Instructor and most recently Flight Instructor checkride exams. Such pilot examinations can typically take over four years to accomplish through other programs. By excelling in the VU Aviation Technology Flight Associate Degree program, Sonia achieves significant advantages over students from other aviation programs. As a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI), she now logs flight experiences and gainful employment – all while acquiring additional instructor ratings. Sonia, a native of India, has chosen to continue her formal collegiate education by enrolling in a Purdue bachelor’s degree offered through a partnership with the VU Aviation Technology Center.

Luke Spurgeon, Vincennes, Graphic Design Occupational

Luke has proven his technical ability by getting an early start on working with clients. He created a number of projects, including flyers, advertising, a book cover, and book illustration, this past summer for United Insurance Services, an independent insurance agency located in Vincennes. The client was so impressed he is recommending Luke to other businesses, according to one of his professors. The professor also commends Luke on his leadership in the classroom and exceptional technical skills. “His design concepts are well researched and planned, and their execution is superior. His communication skills are excellent as he helps other student with their projects or technical difficulties. His GPA is currently 3.855 and will be higher when he graduates,” says one of his professors. After graduation, Luke plans to start a freelance business.

VINCENNES UNIVERSITY - Indiana’s First College

VU is state-supported with campuses in Vincennes and Jasper, the Aviation Technology Center and American Sign Language program in Indianapolis, Early College Career and Technical Education Centers, and additional sites such as the Gene Haas Training and Education Center in Lebanon, the Logistics Training and Education Center in Plainfield, and the Gibson County Center for Advanced Manufacturing and Logistics in Fort Branch. A leader in developing Early Colleges statewide, VU also offers instruction at military sites throughout the nation.

In addition to offering a wide range of associate degree and certificate programs, VU also offers bachelor’s degree programs in technology, homeland security, nursing, secondary education programs in mathematics and science, and special education/elementary education.

VU enrolls students from throughout Indiana, 36 other states, and 21 other countries. Tuition and fees are the lowest among Indiana campuses with residence halls. VU is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Founded in 1801, VU is Indiana’s first college and is the only college in the nation founded by an individual who would later become President of the United States. William Henry Harrison, the ninth U.S. President, founded VU while serving as governor of the Indiana Territory. More information is available at


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MARCIA MARTINEZ, University Life Reporter & Sports Information Director
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VINCENNES UNIVERSITY, Department of University Relations,