The Graduate College Presents: Kindness Champion Award Winners

Written by Erin Michel, Graduate Assistant for the Graduate College. 

November 13 was World Kindness Day, and to mark this special occasion, the Graduate College (along with CAPs and the Student Wellness Center) put together an entire week of special events. We solicited nominations from faculty for graduate students who have been exemplary in demonstrating kindness and making an impact on the graduate community, and from this pool the Graduate College staff selected our Kindness Champions! Read on for more information about our winners as well as the list of nominees.  

First Place: Jenny Havlovick (she/her/hers)

A professional headshot of a smiling woman with brown hair

Program: Communication Sciences and Disorders, 4th year, PhD candidate

Research focus: School age language and literacy

Nomination (Professor Nancy Creaghead): “Jenny has provided MANY acts of kindness during the three years that she has been in the PhD program in Communication Sciences and Disorders.  Examples include:    

  • Securing necessities for a UC international PhD student, including a microwave, toaster oven, kitchen table, and bed and taking the student to the grocery weekly. 
  • Holding a baby shower for an international student who had no family in Cincinnati.   
  • Buying a chest full of learning/educational books and toys with her own money for a toddler of a single mother (UC student) who did not have these important resources.   
  • Applying for and receiving a grant to fund purchasing children's books for a Literacy project for UC undergraduate students to read to kindergarten and first grade students in Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) and coordinating the program with CPS and the UC students and faculty.  
  • Personally purchasing children’s books for Day Care centers where she provides services so that the children will have quality children's books. 
  • Walking dogs for an animal shelter four times a week and securing a home in Wisconsin for one dog and driving the dog to Wisconsin.
  • Setting an example of "giving back" for UC students that she supervises. 
  • She is always looking for and securing opportunities to support children's literacy and learning.”

Q&A With Jenny

Q: What does kindness mean to you?

A: “Kindness is following the golden rule and treating others how you want to be treated. It means living your life with the goal of trying to leave the world a better place. It is also reflecting about who you are as a person and acting the way you want people to remember you.”

Q: Why does kindness matter—why be kind?

A: “In response to ‘why does kindness matter?’ I ask, ‘why not be kind?’ There are so many acts of kindness that do not take much effort. Remember that many people are going through struggles that you will never know about. Showing a small act of kindness to someone can be the small beacon of light in the dark place they are currently living in.”

Q: What makes kindness particularly important in graduate school versus everyday life?

A: “Graduate school is a stressful time in people’s lives. It is easy to get discouraged or feel down on yourself. Many graduate students, myself included, moved away from their family and support system to attend graduate school. We need people to fill that gap for the sake of our mental health and well-being. Being kind to one another is a way we can all support each other to succeed.”

Q: Please share a memory of a moment when someone else was kind to you in a way that was impactful.

“One of the first weeks of fifth grade I walked into class one morning and found the book Morning Girl inside my desk. There was a post-it note attached to the book which read, “Jenny H. I am glad you are in my class. Here is a book for you! Mr. Stoskopf.” Inside the front cover the following was written: “To: Jenny H. From: Mr. Stoskopf. You are quiet but nice. Set your goals high and you will reach them.” It was one of the first times in my life that someone besides my parents encouraged me to set high goals for myself. This small act of kindness from my fifth grade teacher helped inspire me to work hard to follow my dream of earning a PhD.”

Second Place: Audrey Pumford (she/her/hers)

A woman in a black coat stands in front of a Christmas wreath

Program: Chemistry, 3rd year, PhD Candidate

Research focus: Analytical/electrochemistry

Nomination (Professor Ryan White)*: “I fully support Audrey’s nomination. As her research advisor and head of chemistry, I see her kindness on a daily basis. She has taken the role of the president of our grad student association in chemistry, and I could not think of a better ambassador. Some examples of her kindness include:

  • She donates time to help new students to find their feet in grad school – always welcomes them and offers the opportunity to get them involved in the department. 
  • She always finds diverse and creative ways to break the ice with people who are hesitant to talk about their concerns or fears, and to welcome new students from different cultures coming to new communities. She smoothly and lovely finds ways to engage them in a conversation, small talk, or an activity and share a good time. 
  • In crowded gatherings, she notices people who are alone or don’t have someone to chat with, and she starts to friendly communicate with them to help them feel comfortable and delighted to be part of this gathering.
  • She always checks on her colleagues and lab mates in different situations and circumstances, asking if they need any help and truly offers her assistance.  She always appreciates anyone who is in service and expresses gratitude for people doing different tasks.  
  • In her hectic schedule she finds time to do some volunteering activities as well, and she is committed and manages to fulfill these duties regardless of how demanding the graduate schoolwork can be.
  • She also loves her family members, and she treats them with love and kindness. She attends to their needs and is a great supporter when her siblings need help or assurance.  
  • She always cares for people in her life and wants to treat them with love. She loves to bake and share her food with us. It is her happiness to see that we enjoy her food, and we are feeling very content, loved, and cared for.”

*Nomination has been shortened for publication.

Q: What does kindness mean to you?

A: “I think in its simplest form, kindness is taking a moment to consider another in a way that is loving towards them. It is so meaningful when time is taken to see someone else and acknowledge their human experience as it crosses path with yours.”

Q: Why does kindness matter—why be kind?

A: “It brings beauty to the world and makes life better, I think. When I see kindness (and I do all around me - I have really wonderful people in my life as examples) I know that it is a soft place to land in an often harsh world. Everyone has difficult experiences, some under wraps to the human eye and some not, but even small moments of uplifting have changed the momentum of a day that was headed south or have brought a small bit of light amidst a dark circumstance.”

Q: What makes kindness particularly important in graduate school versus everyday life?

A: “Good question! Grad school can be a difficult place -. Most students juggle research, teaching/grading, taking classes, and occasionally professional growth, all in a workday (that is, on top of other normal parts of life like family, friends, self-care, responsibilities, hobbies). It can be overwhelming! And a lot of time it is. There are seldom things that are sweeter than receiving kindness from someone on a day when you are overwhelmed.”

Q: Please share a memory of a moment when someone else was kind to you in a way that was impactful.

A: “Too many to choose from! Recently though, I had a friend who invited me over after a tough day, and just listened to me with such care and kindness until things were a little lighter. She sent me home with a tub of homemade spaghetti, so I didn't have to cook the next day (it was really, really tasty). It was the sweetest thing.”

Third Place: Chayanika Devi (she/her/hers)

A woman poses in front of a green bush.

Program: Geography, 1st year, PhD candidate, UC Office of Research Digital Futures Student Fellow

Research Focus: Public health, spatial epidemiology, geographic information systems.

Nomination (Teresa Hamrick, Office of Research): “Chayanika Devi recently joined the Digital Epidemiology laboratory at Digital Futures (DF) as a PhD student. Chayanika joins us from a small town in the Assam State in Northern India where, according to her, the community considers kindness and thoughtfulness as important virtues to be nourished and fosters a desire to help when it is needed, and she has certainly brought those qualities from the moment she arrived. While being the most recent addition to our team, Chayanika has already demonstrated her willingness and dedication to support and collaborate with all members, projects and activities of our lab. She has a unique combination of determination, drive and focus with light-heartedness, kindness and humor, that she demonstrates in her everyday activities and interactions with everyone, from the janitor cleaning up the spaces to the constant visitors that we received at the DF building, making everybody feel welcomed and comfortable around her.”

Q&A with Chayanika

Q: What does kindness mean to you?

A: “I strongly believe that kindness is love. Our nice words and deeds are not only a blessing to the one we are doing for them, but they are also a blessing to ourselves. Also, I think that being kind to others does not always entail going above and beyond for them. Even something as simple as being kind and supporting someone emotionally counts.”

Q: Why does kindness matter—why be kind?

A: “Kindness is a gift everyone can give every day not only to others, but also to ourselves. It's wonderful that being kind isn't challenging. As the Dalai Lama said, ‘Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible’. The real reward for a kindness is in the inner positivity, rather than any external reward or recognition.”

Q: What makes kindness particularly important in graduate school versus everyday life?

A: “I think words are powerful. We can create a culture of kindness and an attitude of gratitude in everyday life and that is possible when we could practice kindness just by learning in school. I believe in kindness to all because we never know. We never know what anyone is going through unless we live their life or see things through their eyes. A simple hello to a stranger walking on campus can brighten their day, and a kind smile can soften the hardships of life. I feel by fostering a culture where kindness is valued and practiced, schools have a wonderful opportunity to develop students' capacity for compassion.”

Q: Please share a memory of a moment when someone else was kind to you in a way that was impactful.

A: “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”–Leo Buscaglia.

Behind every success there is a sacrifice. I am sharing a few personal stories of kindness. My story started in 2018. I met a friend who started India’s first ‘happiness brigade’ in New Delhi. This gratitude drive has now expanded to different parts of India and involves the youth giving gratitude cards to people who do ‘thankless jobs’ – traffic policemen, security guards, cart pullers, sweepers, ambulance drivers, bus drivers, and others. This ‘happiness brigade’ aims to create equality, break barriers, alleviate stress, and spread the message of peace and love by consciously practicing gratitude. I truly have learned that kindness does inspire kindness and even the smallest of kind gestures can make a significant difference to the world! […] Don't hold back in your connections. The importance of loving oneself every day cannot be overstated. You are more likely to be content, joyful, healthy, and appreciative of others you come into contact with when you live in love and with passion. I'm putting it out there for YOU to continue living your life with this attitude of loving both yourself and others. You'll be glad you continued to show your admiration, gratitude, and appreciation for all the amazing people you know.”


The following students were also nominated as kindness champions. While we are unfortunately unable to offer awards to each nominee, we would like to congratulate each individual on their contribution to our community.

  • Aref Golsorkh
  • Jacob Hosffmann
  • Rose Porter
  • Jim Abanazu
  • Roozbeh Kholdani
  • Armita Chitsaz
  • Matthew Davis
  • Darsh Shah
  • Asha White
  • Meranda Quijas
  • Erinn Sweet
  • Sepideh Miraba
  • James McKenna
  • Katrina Shafor
  • Jirah Llerena
  • Christopher O’Connell
  • Bianca Ruffalo
  • Taylor Lange
  • Anton Manak
  • Brian Reid
  • Taylor Coughlin
  • Kate Stone
  • James Avant
  • Shelby Schaffer
  • Loran Sanvido
  • Pantawat Tongrod
  • Colin Bresler
  • Angela Hunt
  • Jou Lin
  • Caris Wadding-Lee
  • Marine Eckert
  • Missy Pope
  • Eric Hayford
  • Sara Miller
  • Gibin Raju
  • Emily Wang
  • Aida Ramusovic
  • Dalton Cooper