Alicia Powers, Gabby Thabes in the College of Human Sciences take top honors at the 2023 President’s Award Ceremony

Graham Brooks | Communications Editor

The College of Human Sciences was well represented at the 2023 President’s Award Ceremony held Tuesday, April 11, as several deserving individuals were recognized by Auburn University.

Alicia Powers, managing director of the College of Human Sciences’ Hunger Solutions Institute, received the distinguished Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award, recognizing her lifelong devotion to the fight against hunger. While Gabby Thabes, a senior majoring in philanthropy and nonprofit studies, was named this year’s President’s Award honoree for the College of Human Sciences.

The Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award has been presented at Auburn since 1951 as a reminder of the noblest human qualities exemplified by Algernon Sydney Sullivan, a prominent humanitarian and first president of the New York Southern Society, now the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Foundation.

“I am humbled to receive such a prestigious award from an institution that means so much to me,” Powers said. “But, more importantly, this award reflects the mentors, colleagues, organizations, communities, and universities with which I have had the blessing to collaborate. My pursuit of a Ph.D. and faculty position was to develop and offer skills supportive of community development in under-resourced areas. I count it a joy to wake up each day to continue the pursuit of a Zero Hunger World.”

Powers has spent her career advocating for change and inspiring innovative and collaborative solutions for the problem of hunger in the state of Alabama and beyond. As Director of the Hunger Solutions Institute in the College of Human Sciences, Powers founded the Alabama Campus Coalition for Basic Needs to unify colleges and universities in the fight against hunger, established the Alabama Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program to encourage the purchase of Alabama-grown produce and led a collaborative effort to establish Nourish Wellness, a pediatric health initiative.

An established national expert on hunger solutions, Powers also has served as a panelist and moderator at the White House and testified before the U.S. House of Representatives about the Hunger Solutions Institute’s efforts to address college student food insecurity. Powers earned her doctorate in Nutrition and Food Systems from the University of Southern Mississippi after completing her bachelor’s and master’s in the same discipline at Auburn.

The President’s Award and W. James Samford Jr. Foundation Award recognizes one graduate in each school or college who has completed at least three semesters at Auburn with a minimum grade-point average of 3.40 and possesses outstanding qualities of leadership, citizenship, character and promise of professional ability.

Thabes was nominated by Peter Weber, an assistant professor in philanthropy and nonprofit studies, and she was thrilled to learn of her nomination for the President’s Award. Thabes said Weber was one particular faculty member who helped her during her time at Auburn.

“Dr. Weber, for sure. He’s the one that nominated me for it, and he’s very cool,” Thabes said. “He’s been over my major, and he teaches a lot of our classes. They’re smaller classes and very discussion based, so I really appreciated that he’s gotten to know my cohort really well, and he’s very personable and knows what he’s talking about.”

Thabes says she was drawn to philanthropy and nonprofit studies after discovering the strength and size of the industry in the U.S. and the need for better business practices.

“My perception of what nonprofits were when I first came in was probably what most people think they are like soup kitchens and churches and things like that but I didn’t realize that nonprofits can be multi-million dollar companies,” Thabes said. “What made me more interested once I got into the major was the fact that nonprofits really do need to be run like businesses and there’s a need for the industry to be re-conceptualized a little bit.”

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