The University of Minnesota Crookston held its 2023 Student Awards Ceremony April 20 in Bede Ballroom and students were honored at the formal event for their work over the school year. Among those recognized were UMC Students of the Year - Bren Fox, Laney Swiers, and Ben Olander. 

Students of the Year

UMC Students of the Year 2023 - Bren Fox, Laney Swiers, and Ben Olander
2023 Students of the Year - Laney Swiers, Ben Olander, and Bren Fox

The UMN Crookston Student of the Year award goes to a junior or senior who best demonstrates the skills and commitment required to succeed in college, business, and life while exhibiting Golden Eagle Pride, professionalism, and strong work ethic, all while excelling in academics. 

In their Student of the Year nominations: 

Bren Fox

Bren Fox was described as a leader in academics, athletics, and extracurricular activities. Her hard work and dedication led her to become a go-to recruiter for the last several years including study groups for the most challenging classes on campus. She has been on the Chancellor’s List for the past several years, and her determination and team spirit have earned her the NSIC Player of the Week award, plus her contribution to the women’s basketball team helped lead them in an incredibly successful season. 

Laney Swiers

Laney Swiers was described as a student who exemplifies what it takes to be a Golden Eagle and has been heavily involved in on-campus clubs and organizations including Ag Arama, Collegiate FFA, and NACTA. She has served on the full board and executive board for Golden Eagle Entertainment, and, for years, played a critical role in onboarding new students as an SOS leader. Swiers also stepped up off campus to assist a local FFA chapter that was in need of an Ag education teacher and helped provide essential opportunities for many young people. She continues to create inclusive environments infused with positivity and Golden Eagle Pride wherever she goes.

Ben Olander

Ben Olander was described as a friendly, outgoing, natural leader who has taken leadership roles in state FFA, as an SOS specialist, and in multiple on-campus clubs and organizations. He was voted Ag Arama king and has been recognized on the Chancellor’s List every single semester. His academic dedication shines through his roles as a peer tutor and earned him the Peer Mentor award in 2022. Olander has balanced all these responsibilities while maintaining an exemplary grade point average, and has been heavily involved and committed to enacting a positive change on campus and fostering a sense of community and belonging.


The full list of award recipients included:

  • Peer Mentor of the Year - Elaina Knott
  • Peer Tutor of the Year - Abigail Maunu
  • Male Scholar Student-Athlete of the Year - Alex Koep
  • Female Scholar Student-Athlete of the Year - Madeleine Schneider
  • Outstanding Communication Student - Lauren Klein
  • Programmer of the Year - Jackson Fuller
  • Outstanding Student Orientation Staff Award - Rachel Meany
  • UMC Computer Help Desk Students of the Year - Samantha Olek and Tseten Gurung
  • Outstanding Student Employee of the Year - Lindsey Strendin
  • Mestenhauser Student Award - Tseten Gurung and Madeleine Schneider
  • Agriculture and Natural Resources Department Outstanding Spring Semester Student - Melissa Hammer
  • Humanities, Social Sciences, and Education Department Outstanding Spring Semester Student - Kathryn Halos
  • Math, Science, and Technology Department Outstanding Spring Semester Student - Madison Klimek
  • Business Department Outstanding Spring Semester Student - Brianna Hinman
  • Outstanding Management Scholar - Mara Weisensel, Annjelica Moreno-Englebrecht, Zoe Christensent
  • Outstanding Management Service and Leadership Award - Brianna Hinman and Ben Goelz
  • Outstanding Horticulture Student - Marie Wald
  • Most Supportive of Students - Terrill Bradford
  • Outstanding Educator - Leslie Lekatz
  • Outstanding Service to Students - Mandy Gudvangen
  • Outstanding CSA Senator - Braden Letourneau
  • Outstanding Group Spokesperson - KJ Franklin
  • Norman Pankratz Memorial Conservation Award - Eric Gunderson and Ryan Kalal
  • John Polley Soil and Water Conservation Award - Hailey Olson
  • The Wildlife Society Travel Award - Ryan Kalal and Hunter Kasprowicz
  • Outstanding Future Educator Award - Syd Bly
  • Outstanding Student in Equine Science - Carlee Oberlin
  • Outstanding Student in Equine Business Management - Savea Zimmerman and Sydney Engel
  • Animal Science Student of the Year - Rebecca Clark
  • Animal Science Pre-Vet Student of the Year - Katie Orth
  • Systemwide Sustainability Impact Awards - Sydney Campbell and Jordyn Ellis
  • Outstanding Environmental Sciences Student - Sydney Campbell
  • Outstanding First Year Biology Student Award - Emilee Haggadone
  • Community Advisor of the Year - David Maschhoff
  • Outstanding Accounting Student - Alyssa Pavlacic
  • UMC Student of the Year - Bren Fox
  • UMC Student of the Year - Laney Swiers
  • UMC Student of the Year - Ben Olander

Presenters of the awards included Interim Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs Anthony Kern, Assistant Professor Rachel Lundbohm, Director of Residential Life Corey Klatt, Associate Professor Katy Chapman, Instructor Terrill Bradford, Assistant Professor Morgan Pyles, Professor Soo-Yin Lim Thompson, Associate Professor Matt Simmons, Associate Professor Eric Castle, Associate Director of the Veden Center Mitch Berg, Associate Professor Megan Bell, International Programs Advisor Rae French, Interim Dean of Student Services Chris Ehrhart, Director of Financial Aid Kayla Pahlen, Assistant Athletic Director/Media Relations Shawn Smith, Assistant Director of Student Success Josh Parrill, and Academic Advisor Kelsey Torgerson. 

Student Awards Photo Gallery


Story Contact: Jess Bengtson