Jennifer Jackson Sanner
KU Alumni Association

KU announces ExCEL Award winners, concludes 108th Homecoming celebration

Tue, 10/06/2020

LAWRENCE — Two University of Kansas students, Elaine Pope of Overland Park and Adrian Romero of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, are winners of the 30th annual Excellence in Community, Education and Leadership (ExCEL) Awards. The award presentation during the KU-Oklahoma State football game Oct. 3 in David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium concluded KU’s 108th Homecoming celebration. 

Pope, a senior in English and pre-medicine, participates in the University Honors Program. She is a member of Chi Omega sorority, where she served as special events coordinator and currently directs programming as a member of the executive board. She is director of Rock Chalk Revue and founder of FOCUS Bible Study. She participated in a study abroad program in England and Scotland in 2019 and was a member of the Business Leadership Program for two years. She traveled with the Jayhawk Health Initiative Medical Brigade to Panama in 2019 and participated in a FOCUS mission trip to Peru in 2020. She was a certified nurse aide at Mid-America Nursing & Allied-Health Institute in Overland Park, and she volunteered at the Hope Family Care Center in Kansas City, Missouri.   

Romero, a senior in chemical engineering with an environmental emphasis, is vice president of student outreach for the Engineering Student Council and a regional student representative for the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers. He participates in the University Honors Program and has been a resident assistant for KU Student Housing since 2018. He is an undergraduate research assistant in water sustainability and resource recovery, and he helps perform COVID-19 testing in wastewater samples in Douglas and Johnson counties. He was an engineering student senator and a student assistant in the Office of International Admissions. He interned in the water technology group at Black & Veatch in summer 2020 and participated in a summer research project at West Virginia University in 2019. He is an IHAWKe Exceptional Scholar and was named a Student Housing Staff Member of the Year in 2019.

The ExCEL Award provides an annual $250 scholarship to students. Nominees were selected on the basis of leadership, effective communication skills, involvement at KU and in the Lawrence community, academic scholarship and ability to work with a variety of students and organizations. 

The Alumni Association also honored Katy Wagner, a pre-medicine senior from Topeka, with the Jennifer Alderdice Homecoming Award, which recognizes students who demonstrate outstanding loyalty and dedication to the university. The award honors Alderdice, of Lawrence, who led student programs for the Alumni Association from 1999 to 2009 and earned her KU master’s degree education in 1999. 

The theme for this year’s Homecoming was “Rock Chalk Around the World.” The event was sponsored by the KU Bookstore and Truity Credit Union and supported by Crown Toyota, Volkswagen.

Several traditional Homecoming activities were replaced this year with digital events, including a weeklong game of bingo, which drew nearly 400 Jayhawk participants, and a virtual scavenger hunt, both of which were played via the KU Alumni app. More than 200 students and alumni also participated in Kyou Networking Week, a series of 11 virtual events in a variety of professional fields, hosted by the Alumni Association and its Jayhawk Career Network. A Facebook Live event, featuring a performance by the Marching Jayhawks and a celebratory flyover, rounded out the week and took the place of the annual Homecoming parade.

The week’s events were organized by the KU Alumni Association and a student-led steering committee, which was chaired by Peyton Hadley, a sophomore from Shawnee majoring in film & media studies; Julie Jorgensen, a senior from Cedar Falls, Iowa, majoring in strategic communications; Madi McGuire, a senior from Lake Saint Louis, Missouri, majoring in human biology; Andrew Ost, a junior from Olathe majoring in finance; and Peyton Werner, a senior from Topeka majoring in information systems and business analytics. They worked with Alumni Association staff member Megan McGinnis, assistant director of student programs.

For more information about this year’s event, visit

About the KU Alumni Association

Through the support of members and donors, the KU Alumni Association advocates for the University of Kansas, communicates with Jayhawks in all media, recruits students and volunteers, serves the KU community and unites Jayhawks. For more information, visit

Photos: Homecoming 2020. Credit Steve Puppe.

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