2021 P.A.N.D.A. Awards

You know, I’m late already with my initial 2021 blog schedule, so figured why not make my first blog of 2021 be a celebration! It’s time for the P.A.N.D.A. Awards!

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, after a couple of years and a short reprieve I started them back up last year and now use this to celebrate any individuals in my life for being positive and nifty peoples, online or IRL. 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 minute time span):

Positive And Niftily Delightful Associates

So now that you know all the random stuff about the awards, without further ado, I present the inconsistent 5th Annual P.A.N.D.A. Awards!!

Candace Hough

Whew, what can I say about Candace? She’s one of my oldest and closest friends, a sister really. More commonly known as the Pink Princess to me. The nickname is also why at Michael and my wedding she slayed in a very pink dress!

She’s the trailblazer of life who was instrumental in showing me how to own who I was and to just live life to the best you can. She was one of the first people I met in college, helped me get my first “real” job at abc12, and was key in introducing me to fraternities and sororities. She was one of the key people who helped me in making the decision to join Kappa Sigma. (So depending on how you view me, blame her. LOL) She’s always been there and supported me through all the drama of my life. The random phone calls dealing with love and work and all the “WTF” life stuff that has come my way. She’s also one of the ones who came through being the family I needed since coming out. She’s always been real and has never led me astray…well not too much LOL, and I love she always has time for a Dirty Girl Scout Shot.

Matthew Charnas

So, here’s the thing about Charnas. He’s from Ohio AND an alum of The Ohio State University. Now, I could just leave it at that as is our forever friendly rivalry between the great states of Michigan and Ohio and our great alma maters. But Charnas has been a steady staple in my Kappa Sigma journey. As the District Grand Master for Southern Ohio (regional president) and lead advisor for the southern chapters of Ohio, I’ve learned a lot from his leadership and approach in working with the Brothers and have valued his insights as we learned to navigate being district volunteers in our fraternity. I’ve also enjoy his friendship throughout the years, being able to enjoy the state/college rivalry and having long conversations in only gifs and memes about the ongoings in the world. And this past year I can confidently say that our gif/meme games have been on point. Now if only I can get him to admit Michigan is the Champion of West…LOL

Ronnie Benion

This fabulous human being strutted into my life when I first started working with the Coalition for Sexuality and Gender Identities, which is an identity coalition of ACPA, a professional association I am a member of. I was a newbie to the coalition/commission world, having come up through the association engaging with the conference and convention side of things and so was a bit nervous and timid. But the spirit of this individual radiated and embraced my awkwardness and I quickly found a place in the group and its work. I’ve also been so amazed at being able to witness their journey in becoming a Bookstagramer and centering LGBTQ+ and POC voices through literature. Between the energy and the books Ronnie always helps put things into perspective and provides joy during a wild time of COVID. Plus the tea and the realness of our catch ups are always life giving.

Delta-Psi Chapter of Kappa Sigma

So this chapter and I have some history; one of the first AAs I had as an active undergraduate Brother at UM-Flint was from Delta-Psi; the first conduct case I had to review, as a district volunteer was Delta-Psi; the first chapter that I really got to work with an housing was Delta-Psi; and some of the pettiest conflicts have some come out of Delta-Psi; and currently, it is the primary chapter I advise and have worked with through COVID.

Through it all I’ve learned a lot from them and I hope they’ve learned from me. But the current group of Brothers over the past year have really stepped up, not only in regards to addressing COVID safety but just as a chapter and moving it forward. It’s not easy work and the Brothers have been doing some great over the past couple of years and this year the guys are starting to really grow. Even in COVID they are thriving and it is awesome to witness.


Then there is the Asian, Pacific Islander, Desi American/Asian Faculty Staff Association (APIDA/AFSA). This is a group of phenomenal faculty, staff and graduate students that I have had the privilege of being a part of for the last three years. I started my journey with them when they were just starting to reorganize in response for the need to amplify APIDA faculty and staff voices on campus. And over the past couple of years I’ve been able to learn, teach and advocate with some fantastic APIDA peoples. I’m definitely learning a lot from this group; everything from being an Asian identified professional in higher education, advocating for the community, and leading an organization of both faculty and staff. I’ve also developed a better understanding of my Asian-ness, my Korean-ness, and how my narrative fits into the greater Asian story. I’ve also had some of the best laughs with this group from the memes to the gifs and the stories. The sass, the sarcasm and the joy has been nice reprieves especially this year in the remote world all the while doing good work for MSU and the community.

So there you have it! Hope you enjoyed reading about and getting to know the individuals and groups who help shape who I am (and who you can blame for shaping me into who I am LOL)! And thanks for celebrating the inconsistent 5th Annual P.A.N.D.A.s!

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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