KU News Release

April 28, 2011
Contact: Tammara Durham, Student Success, 785-864-4068

Graduating senior will receive 2011 Campanile Award

Matthew Rissien

More Information

LAWRENCE — A University of Kansas senior recognized as a “KU superfan” by students and as the founder of KU Israel Week will receive the 2011 Campanile Award.

Matthew David Rissien, of Overland Park, will receive the $500 award that was established by the Class of 2000 to honor a graduating senior who has displayed remarkable leadership, character and respect for KU.

Rissien will graduate May 22 with a bachelor’s degree in religious studies and a minor in Judaic studies.

A familiar face to many students on campus, Rissien has served in leadership roles for Student Union Activities, the KU Info desk and KU Hillel. In his work with campus groups, he has represented KU regionally and nationally.

“I made it a point to be as active as possible on campus and have been involved in the greatest organizations with the greatest people,” Rissien said. “After going to a private Jewish day school for 13 years, KU has taught me the networking and leadership skills to take me to the next step in my life,” Rissien said.

That next step included serving as the first spirit coordinator for SUA, where he was in charge of running the Hawk Zone at football games. During KU games, he was often seen near the front of the crowd wearing a Jayhawk beak.

He has also worked at the KU Info desk in the Kansas Union, answering questions from students and the public.

This year, Rissien participated in “Dancing With the Stars,” an event hosted by SUA. Students picked the participants by voting for celebrities, and Rissien was chosen as KU’s superfan. He received the only perfect score in the dance competition, but eventually lost to Baby Jay.

In his sophomore year, Rissien established KU Israel Week, or Hatika (the hope), a student organization aimed to highlight Israel’s culture with a week of events. The organization raised $20,000 the first year and flew in bands from Israel. The third annual Israel Week took place this year from April 11 to 15.

In 2010, he was named a KU Man of Merit, an honor bestowed by the Emily Taylor Women’s Resource Center to recognize men who positively define masculinity by challenging the norms.

Rissien served on the Student Senate for two years and this year was a holdover senator.

In his fraternity, Alpha Epsilon Pi, he has served as the rush chair and the heritage chair. Rissien represented his fraternity at the Midwest Regional Conclave Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C.

As a member of Chabad on Campus, he served as a Sinai Scholars intern, planning and recruiting for the Sinai Scholars Program. In 2010, he was a KU representative for the Sinai Scholars Leadership Symposium in Reston, Va., and was campus organizer for the New York International Shabbaton.

As a member of KU Hillel, Rissien has served as a representative to the FYSH (First Year Students of Hillel) council, which plans on campus programs for freshmen. He also was a member of the Rock Chalk Shabbat service committee and was the leader for Friday night services. He has also volunteered with Hillel Alternative Spring Break in New York City. In 2006, he was a KU representative to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee Saban conference in Washington, D.C., and served as the KU Hillel vice president of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in 2010.

After graduation, Rissien hopes to work with Jewish community and youth programs. He is the son of Aaron and Shelley Rissien of Overland Park and a graduate of Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy in Overland Park.

The University of Kansas is a major comprehensive research and teaching university. University Relations is the central public relations office for KU's Lawrence campus.

kunews@ku.edu | (785) 864-3256 | 1314 Jayhawk Blvd., Lawrence, KS 66045

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