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Loyola University New Orleans Honors Student Wins National Award

Loyola press release - December 2, 2015

Edwin Unzalu of Miami is one of three in the nation to win a Freddye T. Davy Scholarship from the National Collegiate Honors Conference

Edwin Unzalu, a member of the Loyola University New Orleans Honors Program, has won the Freddye T. Davy Scholarship from the National Collegiate Honors Council. The award was presented at the 50th anniversary National Collegiate Honors Conference, held Nov. 13 in Chicago.

The $1,000 Davy research scholarship is presented annually to three Honors students from NCHC member institutions whose actions and engagement demonstrate a commitment to diversity in their Honors programs, institutions and communities. More than 890 institutions belong to the NCHC, where the mission is to support and enhance the community of educational institutions, professionals, and students who participate in collegiate honors education around the world. This year, more than 2,500 students from around the U.S. attended the organization’s annual conference

“It is not merely Edwin’s intelligence and research skills that make him an outstanding candidate for this scholarship,” said Naomi Yavneh Klos, director of Loyola’s University Honors program. “The mission of our Honors Program is to provide an enriching academic environment that fosters a strong sense of community and challenges our students to utilize their gifts to become men and women for and with others. Edwin exemplifies our mission by serving our community in multiple ways, leading by example and bringing others together.”

A first-generation bilingual American from Miami, Unzalu is a student in Loyola’s rapidly growing Honors Program, where students strive to be “scholars for justice in the heart of New Orleans.” The University Honors Program is one of the fastest-growing areas in the university, with a record number of first-year honors students representing almost 14 percent of the class.

A public relations major in Loyola’s award-winning School of Mass Communication, Unzalu serves as a fellow in the Shawn M. Donnelly Center for Nonprofit Communications, a world-class student-run agency that gives students real-world experience in public relations, design, advertising, event and strategic planning as they work with nonprofits to create communication solutions. Students help nonprofits to do valuable work they could not afford―and at the same time gain valuable training, conducting focus groups, developing public relations campaigns.

Since 1996, students working in The Donnelley Center have helped more than 300 nonprofit organizations in the New Orleans area to prepare media kits, marketing materials and brand identity. They also offer workshops on topics from social media to building effective websites and fundraising. According to the school’s director Sonya Duhé, there is no other program like this in the country.

“Donnelley staffers are not only learning communication skills. They are responsible for client selection and development, for leadership and training and for budgeting and administration,” says Valerie Andrews, director of the center and assistant professor of public relations. “And they provide these services for their nonprofit partners at no charge … Shawn Donnelley’s vision to create a real-world, hands-on experience has enabled students to provide more than 1,000 hours of service and learning each year for members of the New Orleans nonprofit community and beyond.”

Unzalu also serves as public relations chair for the University Honors Association and the first social justice chair of the Loyola Student Government Association. Since his first year at Loyola, Unzalu has been president of SMILE, a Loyola organization whose members visit a daycare center for memory-impaired adults several times a month to sing, chat with and embrace the guests.

Among his many other engagement activities, Unzalu helped last year during Mardi Gras to entertain special needs children and their families hosted by Touro Synagogue. He has previously received a LUX fellowship from Loyola’s College of Humanities and Natural Sciences to conduct research with Sister Terri Bednarz, assistant professor of New Testament Studies and chair of the department of religious studies at Loyola. One-on-one collaborative learning relationships are at the heart of a Loyola education.

Bednarz invited Unzalu to be a research fellow for her popular course “Humor and The Bible.” At the NCHC conference, Unzalu and Sr. Bednarz presented the results of that research and discussed how they used their collaboration to develop an experiential learning class they presented this fall to his Honors Seminar course.