State of the Union newsletter logo

2012 Student Award Winners

Each spring, the University Unions honors two students who exemplify the pinnacle of leadership, public service and campus involvement and action. These awards are the J.J. Jake Pickle Citizenship Award and the Pal – Make a Difference Award. This year’s student recipients are Ramu Kharel and Ben Weiss.

Dr. Syed Hyder with Bergan Casey
Dr. Syed Hyder (left) accepted the Pickle Award on behalf of Ramu Kharel
and is pictured with Congressman Pickle’s granddaughter, Bergan Casey.

Ramu Kharel, the 2012 Pickle Award recipient, is an honors candidate in Asian Studies with aconcentration on Urdu studies and pre-medical sciences. The award recognizes a student who exhibits exemplary leadership, citizenship and service - all qualities that are exemplified by Ramu. When studying in India as part of the Hindi-Urdu flagship program, he took on an internship with the dispossessedcommunities. During this internship he took on what seemed a small challenge to end the rampant abuse of tobacco by teaming up with local health professionals. Upon his return to Austin he created HAPSA, Health Aware Programs in South Asia, where members organize workshops on infectious diseases, tobacco, alcohol, sexual education, and nutrition in order to provide basic health awareness to marginalized communities around South Asia. With expanding membership across campus, HAPSA programs no longer solely focus on South Asia, but are also geared toward UT students as well. HAPSA has actively participated in raising awareness on these issues at university events such as Forty Acres Fest, World Aids Day and Explore UT.

His leadership skills have also been highlighted through such honors as the Ghandi Memorial Scholarship, the Lone Star of Academic Excellence Award, the Outstanding Student Award from the Cactus Yearbook, and an undergraduate research fellowship to pursue research in India for his honors thesis. Ramu truly embodies the spirit of The University of Texas at Austin through his exemplary leadership and commitment to serve both the campus and the global community.

Ben Weiss
2012 Pal – Make a Difference Award winner - Ben Weiss

Ben Weiss, the 2012 Pal - Make A Difference Award recipient, is the type of leader who works toextend his public service with the White Rose Society to impact and educate the campus and the community. Ben began his involvement with the White Rose Society, an organization on campus dedicated to genocide awareness and Holocaust remembrance, as a freshman in 2010. He quickly earned a leadership position in 2011 on the executive board as the Action Over Apathy Human Rights Symposium Director. His responsibilities included bringing together a group of speakers for a weeklong awareness campaign on campus, which included such individuals as a internationally respected Sudanese refugee, a brilliant Congolese scholar, and U.S. Ambassador Ronald McMullen. Not only did he organize such an impressive program of speakers, he also raisedover $10,000 for the event. Not stopping there, Ben was then elected as President of the White Rose Society and has reorganized the structure of the group by expanding it. Through his leadership, the society has attracted over 100 prospective students, a vast improvement on attendance in the past. He also led five team members to the Genocide Intervention Network conference in Washington D.C. where they met with Senators Hutchison and Cornyn to promote genocide prevention legislation.

Ben has proven himself to be a very committed and involved student, one who is truly making a difference both on campus and beyond. He will graduate in May 2013, earning a degree in Government, History and Humanities.

Congratulations to Ramu and Ben!


Newsletter Edition: 
August 2012