Student of the Year winners talk mental health, academic success


Courtesy of Wichita State

Courtney Price-Dukes (left) and Max Karst) are this year’s winners of the Student of the Year award.

Wichita State University held their annual Student of the Year scholarship competition for undergraduates this fall semester. Two students, Courtney Price-Dukes and Max Karst, took home top honors.


Courtney Price-Dukes

Junior Courtney Price-Dukes, a strategic communications major, was announced as one of the Student of the Year winners.

Price-Dukes is involved with a handful of organizations on campus, including Phenomenal Woman, Black Student Union, Student Ambassadors Society, On the Reel Film Club, and the P.A.S.S student mentoring program.

The process to become student of the year is a long one. A candidate must first submit an application. Twenty-four applications were accepted this year. The 24 candidates then went on to the interview stage. After the interview, the top eight candidates must give a 10-minute presentation. This year, candidates had to present over their top five CliftonStrengths.

The CliftonStrengths assessment helps users identify their leadership strengths within the work setting. There are 34 “strengths” to choose from, including adaptability, communication, empathy, inclusion and more.

“What I wanted to make sure I did was not sound too robotic. In order to give a good presentation, you want to make sure you’re being your authentic self,” Price-Dukes said. “So, I actually sang in my presentation. I thought, ‘I have to stand out’ and just show this is who I am — I am a very musical person, a very theatrical person. I actually even talked about my struggle with mental health, to just be vulnerable with them — to be raw.”

She said she wanted to show the judges that the Student of the Year doesn’t have to fit into a “cookie cutter” description.

“I think a lot of people think, ‘I can’t compete in Student of the Year because I don’t have the credentials,’ but if we’re being honest, there were people competing who had higher GPAs than I did,” Price-Dukes said. “But I think the thing the judges appreciated in me was me being willing to say, ‘I’m not this perfect person. I’m [far] from perfect. I have a lot of work that still needs to be done.’

“So, I think someone who is not ashamed to say that is who I think Student of the Year is. Someone who doesn’t let adversity in their life, or struggle in their life stop them from realizing their capabilities and their strengths and using those for something bigger than themselves.”

Regarding mental health, Price-Dukes said she hopes to encourage students who are struggling to seek help.

“We aren’t meant to do life alone,” she said. “We are meant to do life as unity, and I personally believe that communication is one of the most powerful things in the world. So if you have a voice, use it, cause you never know how your story is going to affect somebody after you.”

The Counseling and Testing Center is located in Grace Wilkie Hall Room 320. The center offers counseling sessions at a rate of $10 per session.


Max Karst

After extensive preparation, Max Karst, a junior majoring in nursing, won the second spot of Student of the Year 2019 scholarship competition. Karst is the vice president of his nursing class, a member of the Kansas Association of Nursing Students, a transition mentor and a frequent volunteer for the Community Service Board.

Karst first heard about the scholarship opportunity through his friends.

“Honestly, I didn’t really know about it until I was just sitting around with a few of my friends,” Karst said. “They got the email before me, and I was like, ‘You guys should definitely apply — you would do well,’ and then my phone went off and I was like, ‘Maybe I’ll apply. I don’t know,’” Karst said.

He submitted an application. At first, Karst said he didn’t feel nervous about the competition, but as the process continued, the nerves caught up to him.

“The application wasn’t too hard, but once I made it to the interview round, that was kind of stressful and then I had to prepare for a 10-minute presentation,” Karst said. “And I’m not the best public speaker, so I was really nervous. I put a lot of work into it.”

Having been mentored his first few years of college, Karst said he believes that the Student of the Year should be “a good role model for their peers and incoming students.” And as a transition mentor, he stresses to new students that getting involved on campus factors heavily into academic success.

“I think the reason I’ve been successful academically is because I got involved early on,” Karst said. “It doesn’t mean you have to get involved right away. Just try to ease yourself into it. It technically means you have less time for school, but I definitely think it makes you more organized, and you get so many associates that you probably wouldn’t know about if you weren’t really connected on campus.

“You meet people to study with, and obviously, getting involved makes you more motivated to go to campus and to go to class.”