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Graduating seniors earn APSU’s most prestigious student awards

Mackenzie Carr, left, and Susan Conner, right.

(Posted on Thursday, May 4, 2023)

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. - Two graduating seniors from Austin Peay State University (APSU) – mathematics major Mackenzie Carr and education major Susan Conner - recently earned the University’s most prestigious student accolades during the APSU Student Organization and Leader Awards.

Carr received the William McClure Drane Award, while Conner won the Harvill-Civitan Citzenship Award. Recipients of both awards are chosen annually by a panel of faculty members and selected staff.

‘Volunteering opened my eyes:’ Mackenzie Carr’s legacy of service

The Drane Award is presented to an outstanding member of the graduating class based on their character, scholarship, leadership and service to the University. Carr was selected based on her exemplary achievements and contributions to the community.

Carr is graduating on May 5 with a degree in mathematics with a concentration in actuarial science and has been a dedicated member of the Austin Peay community for four years. She has served in various leadership positions, including as president of the Student Organization Council, vice president of Omicron Delta Kappa, vice president and membership outreach chair of the National Society of Leadership and Success and community outreach chair for the Honors and PELP Student Advisory Council.

“Throughout my life, I have made it my mission to serve others whenever possible,” Carr said. “I have served this University because I truly care about the people it encompasses and want to see it thrive well beyond my lifetime. Winning the Drane Award means so much more to me than just notoriety; it means that I have made a difference in the lives of myself, others and the University.”

Carr’s dedication to serving others is clear in the essay she submitted as part of the Drane Award application. In her essay, she wrote about her experiences volunteering with the Save Our Students (S.O.S.) Food Pantry and the impact it had on her life.

“Volunteering at the food pantry opened my eyes to the reality that food insecurity is not just a problem that exists in far-off places,” she wrote. “It is a problem that affects our community, our neighbors and even our fellow students. I was shocked to learn that 1 in 4 Austin Peay Students experiences food insecurity.”

Carr has also orchestrated a supply drive for victims of the war in Ukraine, sending 20 families care packages stocked with necessities, as well as a school supply drive for students in need in Jamaica in collaboration with several of her student organizations.

“Both of these drives are serving other communities and also spreading the spirit of Austin Peay internationally – two things I am extremely passionate about,” she wrote in her essay.

After graduation, Carr hopes to continue making a positive impact through her upcoming job as an actuarial analyst for Aetna, a CVS Health Company in Atlanta, Georgia.

“I am honored to receive the Drane Award and to be recognized for my contributions to the University,” Carr said. “But more importantly, I hope that my experiences inspire others to get involved and make a difference in their communities. Austin Peay will always have a special place in my heart, and I am so thankful for the opportunity to serve the University and its community.”

‘That 30-second conversation changed my life:’ Susan Conner’s leadership journey

The Harvill Award is presented annually to a graduating senior who has made an outstanding contribution to good citizenship during their college career. Conner was selected for leaving a strong impact on her fellow students through several leadership positions. 

Conner is graduating on May 5 with a degree in elementary education and has attended Austin Peay since Fall 2019. She has served in leadership positions including: the personnel chair and diversity, equity and inclusion chair of Chi Omega; hall council president for Meacham Apartments; president of Tennessee Aspiring Math Teachers; junior class senator and College of Education senator for the Student Government Association; and peer leader for several APSU 1000 courses. She was also a member of the National Society of Leadership and Success and Omicron Delta Kappa.

“This was really meaningful to me because my aunt [Loretta Griffy, associate vice president for academic strategic initiatives and foundation engagement] was the one who gave me the award,” Conner said. “Education is a big part of my family and she’s such a role model for me, so it was amazing to continue that legacy at Austin Peay.”

Conner said being a peer leader was the most rewarding part of her time at Austin Peay, and credited Greg Singleton, interim vice president for student Affairs and dean of Students, with inspiring her to step out of her comfort zone and apply.

“It was Dean Singleton who pulled me aside on my last day of his APSU 1000 class and told me that he would be ‘surprised’ if I did not apply to be a peer leader,” Conner wrote in her essay for the Harvill Award application. “At that point, I had no intention of joining anything but still gave it a try because I was afraid that I’d disappoint him … that 30 second conversation changed my life. It was the beginning of the person I am today. Confident, brave, an advocate, a leader – none of which would have accurately described my outer self before.”

Conner also helped develop the University’s Purpose First Scholars Program as an assistant student worker, and said it helped her discover a passion for working with college students. She is currently weighing several options for her post-graduate career.

“I love working with the college student demographic and helping with those kinds of programs, so I’m looking at jobs with Student Success, community service work or nonprofits,” she said. “I need to have a career with the clear purpose of doing good for those around me, whether that’s classroom teaching, being part of a nonprofit or working for a university.”

Wherever she decides to take her skills, Conner said she wants to continue serving those within her community and inspire future generations of leaders.

“Everywhere I turn, there are people who believe in me and want to help lift me up,” she said. “Without the support I’ve had from everyone I don’t think I could have realized my potential. I was going to coast through four years, get my degree and get out, and I can’t even imagine what my life would be like if I wasn’t forced out of my shell by all the people who believed in me … I want to do the best I can to be that person for other students.”