The purpose of the Meet The Challenge Awards is to recognize undergraduate students who exemplify the values promoted by The IOWA Challenge through their actions within the University of Iowa and surrounding communities.

The Meet The Challenge Awards is a collaboration between the Division of Student Life and the Office of the Provost. Students can nominate themselves or be nominated by a University or community member. Each year one winner is selected for recognition in each of the five IOWA Challenge areas: Excel, Stretch, Engage, Choose, and Serve. Winners will receive a $500 award sponsored by the Office of the Provost and the Division of Student Life and will be honored during the Hawkeye Leadership and Service Awards.

Award nomination form

2024 Meet the Challenge Awards Nomination form


Students who are engaged on campus and in the community often do the work that they do because it is fulfilling to them, not for recognition.

In 2017 the Meet the Challenge Awards were renamed for Dr. Tom Rocklin, former Vice President for Student Life at the University of Iowa. Dr. Rocklin served the University of Iowa in various capacities over 30 years – including being a founding member of a collaborative, grassroots effort known as the Student Success Team. The IOWA Challenge is one of the many projects to emerge from his investment and commitment to student success. Nominees and Award Winners of the Meet the Challenge Awards are the legacies of what it means to be a Hawkeye and strongly represent Dr. Rocklin’s advocacy and vision for student success.

Award recipients

Excel Award

  • Mackenzie Berschel

Stretch Award

  • Radha Velamuri

Engage Award

  • Abinaya Paravasthuramesh

Serve Award

  • McKrina Lopez

Kelly S. Bender Choose Award

  • Abbie Williams-Yee

Excel Award

  • Alexa Kort
  • Mackenzie Berschel

Stretch Award

  • Allison Kim
  • Radha Velamuri

Engage Award

  • Abinaya Paravasthuramesh
  • Olivia Westemeier

Kelly S. Bender Choose Award

  • Katherine Rasmuson
  • Abbie Williams-Yee

Serve Award

  • McKrina Lopez
  • Alexia Sanchez



Award descriptions and criteria


The IOWA Challenge puts academic achievement first, emphasizing that the university expects students to excel—and that the commitment to excellence comes from students themselves.

The following tips can help students meet this challenge:

  • Set and pursue ambitious academic objectives that advance your overall goals and challenge your abilities. Setting goals is a great way to stay focused and motivated.
  • You’re responsible for your own success, but university advisors, faculty mentors, and others can help you define your goals and determine how to meet them.
  • Use campus resources early and often—don’t wait until it’s too late, and don’t hesitate to ask for assistance. Knowing when to seek help shows that you’re committed to your goals.
  • Stay active in class and beyond. Interact with your instructors, ask questions, take advantage of office hours, and get involved in research.


Living and learning in a diverse environment are central to a University of Iowa education and to the principles established in The IOWA Challenge. The range of people, ideas, and opportunities at the university help UI students learn from each other, discover personal goals, and develop essential skills for education, life, and work:

  • All of us achieve our best only in an environment that respects differences in backgrounds, perspectives, and beliefs.
  • Be open to considering new ideas that challenge your personal viewpoints—hear people out, and listen without judgment.
  • Actively seek out ways to meet people who are different from you.
  • Take classes in subjects you haven’t studied before, and find things to do on and off-campus that you’ve never tried.


The Kelly S. Bender Choose Award: Many UI students are learning to make decisions that affect not only their college experiences but also their lives beyond the University. The IOWA Challenge urges students to make choices deliberately and thoughtfully, keeping overall goals in sight.

In 2015, the Office of the Vice President for Student Life and the Office of the Provost renamed the Choose Award the Kelly S. Bender Choose Award, in celebration of Kelly’s life and in recognition of her dedication to alcohol harm reduction work at the University of Iowa and in our surrounding communities. Embodying the spirit of this award, Kelly was a consistent voice behind the important message to students that they take their choices seriously and approach their new-found freedoms wisely. Under Kelly's direction, we achieved significant progress in harm reduction and a substantial increase in student involvement in harm reduction efforts. We all can be proud of Kelly’s time as a professional staff member in the Office of the Vice President for Student Life and her lasting impact on the University of Iowa, our surrounding communities, and the lives of countless students.

You can live Kelly's legacy, too, when you:

  • Choose a path that’s right for you—don’t let others choose for you, and surround yourself with people who support your choices.
  • As a student, you’ll be asked to set priorities and make choices in new ways. It’s okay to make mistakes but learn from the consequences of your decisions.
  • become a UI student can be liberating, but the demands can be unexpected, exhausting, and sometimes stressful. Learn when to seek advice or assistance.
  • Don’t be afraid to take risks that help you explore your goals, but don’t feel obligated to do things that aren’t in your best interests.


A University of Iowa education takes place both within and beyond the classroom, and The IOWA Challenge calls on students to be active participants in campus and community life:

  • Co-curricular activities, volunteer service, and employment complement classroom education—they can even help you be a better student.
  • Getting involved helps you form friendships and support networks that make a big school seem smaller.
  • Campus and community activities help you develop leadership, teamwork, and other skills that will prove beneficial for the rest of your life.
  • Take the initiative and learn what inspires you. Then you can focus on one or two activities that are personally meaningful and give them your all.
  • Be fully engaged in your classes, too—form study groups, talk about the material and interact with your instructors.


UI students contribute not just to their university, but to their larger communities, too. Service and citizenship offer opportunities for growth, lessons for a lifetime, and feelings of accomplishment:

  • Contributing to the community where you live provides a sense of belonging and leaves each place better than you found it.
  • As a student, you’re an ambassador for the university and for your fellow students—let your actions show your respect and Hawkeye pride.
  • Make service a regular part of your life, and give back to campus and community in ways you can be proud of.
  • Lead by example every day. You don’t have to be president of a student organization to be a true leader.