College Announces Winners of Top Awards

Over the course of their careers at MSU, two College of Arts & Letters students, Kiana Elkins and Karah Smith, have gone above and beyond in their academics, community, and personal pursuits. They are both being recognized for their efforts by the College.

Elkins is this year’s recipient of the Alumni Award for Undergraduate Excellence, presented annually by the College of Arts & Letters Alumni Association, and Elkins was chosen for the College of Arts & Letters Outstanding Senior Achievement Award, presented annually to a graduating senior in the College of Arts & Letters for academic excellence, service and leadership, commitment to personal and professional development, and commitment to cross-cultural sensitivity and diversity.   

Kiana Elkins – Alumni Award for Undergraduate Excellence

woman accepting award from the college of arts & letters dean

Elkins is graduating in three and a half years with a major in Global Studies in the Arts & Humanities, minors in Women and Gender Studies and Peace and Justice Studies, and a language specialization in Arabic.

“When I list off my major and people ask what I want to do with it, I always just say ‘change the world,’” Elkins said. “I’m not entirely sure what I want to do, but if I can change literally one person’s life, I can die happy.”

Elkins has already begun changing lives through her extensive involvement in community service. She has worked at the former Women’s Resource Center on campus, is on the executive board for the Successful Black Women of MSU, and has attended two conferences to advocate for the queer/trans community. She also volunteers for The House of Promise, which provides services to survivors of human trafficking, and The Lansing Association of Human Rights, where she provides training for mentors for queer/trans youth.

When I list off my major and people ask what I want to do with it, I always just say ‘change the world.'

“I’m very proud of myself for all of the things that I’ve done and being able to do it all successfully is a huge achievement for me,” Elkins said. “Before coming to college, I was not this person; I definitely blossomed at Michigan State.”

Elkins will be graduating from Michigan State after the Fall 2017 semester. She will spend her summer in Washington, D.C., where she has accepted an internship with Girls Inc., a mentor organization for female youth in the metro D.C. area.

Karah Smith – College of Arts & Letters Outstanding Senior Achievement Award

Smith is graduating in May 2017 with a portrait of a woman in jean jacketdual degree in English and Psychology and a minor in Digital Humanities. These past four years, she has worked at the MSU College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, had an internship with the Ella Sharp Museum, an editing position with Editana, and roles as Secretary and Vice President of the English Honors Society, Sigma Tau Delta.

“I did a lot of extra work while I was here, but it was stuff that I was really excited about doing all along,” Smith said. “I didn’t need this extra recognition, but it is such an honor to have been selected out of all of the seniors in CAL.”

Smith also is involved with the MSU Digital Humanities and Literary Cognition Lab (DHLC) and has served as an Undergraduate Researcher, a lab lead, and an intern for the lab. Her research through the DHLC has been published in two scholarly journals and presented at conferences around the country.

“Going to Michigan State and being in the College of Arts & Letters has given me so many opportunities to get involved and find my niche,” Smith said. “I think about CAL as my home; It’s where I go to really enjoy what I do.”

It is such an honor to have been selected out of all of the seniors in CAL.

Post-graduation, Smith would either like to pursue publishing, work with nonprofits, or continue to do research through a life in academia.


Written by Alexandria Drzazgowski, Professional Writing Major