2020 P.A.N.D.A. Awards!

2020 PANDA AwardsY’all, get excited! The P.A.N.D.A. Awards are back!

Started in 2015 on the night of the 87th Academy Awards, the P.A.N.D.A. Awards were created in a 10 minute time span. They were originally created to celebrate people who  engaged with me on my social media platforms. However, beginning this year I’m pivoting to celebrating any individuals in my life for being positive and nifty peoples. In true Brian Form, naming them the P.A.N.D.A. Awards was a  requirement and therefore came up with the best acronym ever (again in a 10 minutes time span):

Positive And Niftily Delightful Associates

So without delay, let me present to you the 2020 Class of P.A.N.D.A. Awardees!

Dr. Clyde Barnett dressed in formal academic regalia

Dr. Clyde Barnett

Let me tell you about this individual. I first met Clyde when I was a baby professional in the Student Affairs Field. He was a student admininistrative assistant for the Student Life Office at our alma mater, University of Michigan-Flint. Over the years, he has become a great friend, collegeague, and confidant and it’s be awesome to witness his journey as well as build our friendship. Clyde is an inspiration. His approach to life, to being himself and to his profession just gives me goosebumps. It was so amazing being able to listen to his dissertation defense and witness and celebrate his doctoral journey. He’s brutally honest and is always the one I turn to, to provide that extra little bit of shady motivation for me to reflect on as I move through my life journey.


Erik Maillard dressed in a light blue shirt and dark blue tie.

Erik Maillard

Erik and I go WAY back. Unknowingly, we met in undergrad in 2006! He was on Northern Michigan University’s Student Government and I was on University of Michigan-Flint’s Student Government and we met at what used to be called AMU (the Association of Michigan Universities) which was a body of student goverment representatives from the 15 public universities of Michigan. Our favorite story from back then is how we played a part in the dismantling of the organization. What can I say, we’re change agents. Our colorful history also includes working together at Marygrove College, overcoming all that is Michigan State University and building up what I’d like to consider one of the strongest partnerships between our current offices that has ever existed. But over the years between overhauling state associations and surviving higher education politics, I can’t imagine surviving this field without his advice. He’s straight to the point, focused and student centered. His student love him and he’s dedicated to not just a student experience but the human experience and making lasting impacts. He’s also got the most adorable children and amazing wife and witnesssing him balance family and profession is humbling.


The Bensons

Michael Benson and Shannon Cohen-Benson

So let me spill the tea on this team. I couldn’t appreciate one without the other. And in all honesty this is a situation where my worlds combined. Michael (a.k.a. Benson) and I are Kappa Sigma Brothers. I first met him when I was appointed as a volunteer for the fraternity back in 2011. Over the years he has become one of the closest humans I have in my life. We labor over the fraternity, gossip about the world and brutally give opinions on everything. When he met Shannon, it was clear she was his lobster (Kudos to those of you who get that reference). She is also in Student Affairs and I consider her an inspiration and mentor in the field for me. Together they are a force for good and awesomeness. They are genuine and authentic and truly care for not only each other but their family and friends and they have been part of the chosen family that has genuinely supported Michael and my relationship and journey. Witnessing their individual and joint journeys is inspirational and hilarious and am so glad I get to call them friends.


Johnathan in a blue button shirt, dark grey jacket and bow tie

Jonathan Marcinko

So this dude cracks me up. Jonathan is one my closest Brothers in Kappa Sigma. As he recently put out in the universe we are the Kappa Sigma “Asian Sensations”. Whether phone calls about volunteering, pints at leadership, classying it up at Finest Hour or dancing on the tables at the 150th, this guy here is a badass. I have come to really appreciate this guy on so many levels from his service as a fireman, volunteering with the fraternity, or being his authentic self in his Pittsburgh Penguins jerseys. His genuine care for other humans, infectious laughter and abilty to power through life is amazing!


Margaret and Karlee dressed as Arthur and D.W.

Margaret Smith and Karlee Garcia

There’s no way to really put into words the awesomness of these two individuals. They are both individually phenomenal but there’s no way I could acknowledge one without the other. Let me tell you that we have been through it over the past few months with 2 of our full time advisors not with us and so their responsiblities spread between the three of us. But I appreciate Margaret and Karlee for far more than just pushing through and keeping the provobial UAB ship a float. Arthur

Margaret’s intentional approach to life awes me. Their care for others all the while challenging for growth and deeper understanding is one of the many traits I admire them for and appreciate that they push me to also grow and deepen my understanding of the human phenomenon that is life and the work that we do. Karlee’s passion for life and an intentionality of balancing the individual with the collective amazes me. As one who basically doesn’t do it, I witness her exampling how to grow and discover that ratio that fits for her and am inspired to continue to find my ratio with more intention. I couldn’t imagine any two better individuals to go through some of the most developmental months of my professional career with! Our Dynamic Trio will no doubt last the tests of time and the field. I can’t wait to witness their awesomness and contributions I know they will make to the field and the world! 

2020 PANDA Awards

So there you have it! I share with you the 2020 P.A.N.D.A. Awardees. I’m fortunate to have SO many in my life I am inspired by, in awe of, and admire and I’m glad that I have this platform to share just some of those individuals!

Happy 2020 and I hope this will be THE year for each of you!

Until next time
Peace, Love and Pandas!

Published by Brian

I am currently the Assistant Director of Student Life for Registered Student Organizations and Late-Night Programming at Michigan State University. After earning my B.A. from the University of Michigan-Flint, I entered the Student Affairs profession. After a few years in the field, I returned to school and earned my M.A. in Educational Leadership-Higher Education Student Affairs from Eastern Michigan University. In my spare time I blog about my thoughts and musings on current issues in higher education, student affairs, digital worlds, identity development and general life inspirations and observations. I also volunteer a lot for my fraternity and multiple regional and national professional associations.

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