Arizona State University’s Hillel chapter was nominated for several categories at the college’s 2018 Pitchfork Awards. ASU Hillel took home the Outstanding Undergraduate Student Organization award, which recognizes the achievements and successes of a registered ASU student organization that is primarily composed of undergraduate students.
“I was really excited about winning the Pitchfork Award this year because I got to see all of the hard work that was put into Hillel and I’m so glad that everyone who worked hard now has something to say for it,” said ASU Hillel’s student president, Sarah Balis. “I am so honored to have won this award because there were so many great nominees as well.”
This was the first Pitchfork Awards win for ASU Hillel. ASU Hillel Executive Director Debbie Yunker Kail said that the organization was excited to have won such a prestigious award, whose application process was spearheaded by ASU Hillel’s student board.
“I think a lot of them feel very connected and proud to be involved at Hillel,” said ASU Hillel Jewish Student Life Coordinator Madeline Dolgin. “To be recognized by the larger ASU community meant a lot to them. The students were sharing photos of the award and saying ‘we won this’ and ‘I’m so proud to be a part of this organization.’”
The Pitchfork Awards first came to ASU in 2012. The Outstanding Undergraduate Student Organization honors organizations that are “examples of spirit, pride and tradition for the larger campus community and exemplify the Sun Devil Way of achievement, engagement and responsibility.”
All organizations had to answer the same question to be considered for the category: “In what ways does the organization nominated enhance undergraduate student life at ASU?”
Balis offered a brief answer. “Hillel is so much more than the ‘Jewish Student Center’ at ASU,” the student president wrote in her nomination. “It’s a place for students to reinvent themselves. It’s a place for students to make lifelong friends. It’s a place for students to have a home at ASU. It’s a place for students to make a difference in the community.”
ASU Hillel nominated itself for several different Pitchfork Award categories and was a finalist for Sun Devil Spirit Award and Outstanding Wellness Project/Program.
The Pitchfork Awards ceremony is designed to celebrate people and organizations that strive to make a difference on ASU’s campus. There were about 200 finalists who attended this year’s ceremony, which took place at the ASU student pavilion. Members of the student board attended the award ceremony to accept the award. Yunker Kail thinks that this award is a testament to how much ASU Hillel has grown since she joined the organization in 2013.
“When I started here, there weren’t a lot of avenues for students to take leadership roles, whereas most Hillels across the country had student boards and student internship programs where the students are really the producers for their community,” Yunker Kail said. “In my first year, we created a student board and developed a lot of leadership opportunities.”
Balis, who just finished her first semester as student president for ASU Hillel, is grateful for the group’s influence on her development as a student.
“Hillel means so much to me because I’ve seen the impact that I can have on another student at ASU,” she said. “In just a few short years, we’ve grown so dramatically, thanks to our amazing staff, I’m so excited to see how the next few years go. Hillel actually applied for and was nominated for multiple categories because we do so many different types of events at Hillel, so it’s even more of an honor to win outstanding student organization of the year.” JN