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04/18/2014 | Created by Darla Martin Tucker

La Sierra University senior Andrew Pedersen had no idea what was coming until he heard university President Randal Wisbey announce his name during a campus assembly April 17 as winner of both state and regional Student Employee of the Year awards. The audience of more than 1,000 students erupted in applause.

Andrew Pedersen (center) wins state and regional student employee awards. His family joined the celebration. Left to right, Lukas Pedersen, Kristian Pedersen, Andrew, Wanda Pedersen, Glenn Pedersen.
Left to right, Campus Pastor Sam Leonor, University President Randal Wisbey, Assistant Chaplain Linda Biswas, Andrew Pedersen, Senior Human Resources Analyst Desiree Noah.
Senior Andrew Pedersen with La Sierra President Randal Wisbey just after a surprise announcement of his student employee state and regional awards.
Andrew Pedersen in a happy reunion with his family from Maryland.

“I was just completely blown away,” Pedersen said later that day during an afternoon reception. Adding to the jaw-dropping surprise, family members whom he had not expected to see until his June graduation walked on stage to greet him. The reunion resulted in happy tears for Pedersen. “It’s still sort of surreal seeing them out here,” he said.

Pedersen, a senior religious studies/pre-nursing major and La Sierra student missions director, received the Student Employee of the Year award from the 13-state Western Association of Student Employment Administrators. The association is a nonprofit organization that represents college and university student employment professionals in student financial services, career services, human resources and stand-alone student employment offices.

It is the first time a student from La Sierra University has landed the prestigious prize which involves the selection of a winner from a pool of about 500 students. To be considered for the regional award, the student must first win employee of the year recognition at the university and state level.

The Pedersen family had made plans to attend Andrew’s June graduation, but traveled from Maryland this month after learning of the award.

“We were just ecstatic,” Andrew’s father Glenn Pedersen said, describing the moment two weeks ago when Andrew’s supervisor, Assistant Chaplain Linda Biswas called the family with the news.

“My mouth dropped open for an hour,” added his mother, Wanda Pedersen.

Andrew’s brother Kristian Pedersen, a corporal with the Takoma Park Police Department in Maryland, described Andrew as an individual who wants to help others, “who never says no to anyone. I was super excited for him.” Kristian also attended the April 17 award presentation along with his 8-year-old son, Lukas. When Kristian returns to California for Andrew’s graduation, he will bring his wife, Kiran, a La Sierra alum, and their new baby daughter, Aleksia.

Andrew grew up in Maryland attending Sligo Adventist School and Takoma Park Academy. His father is a contractor and his mother a nurse. His grandfather, Emmanuel W. Pedersen, served as a missionary in Africa 14 years and had a significant impact on young Andrew. “Andrew always loved missions work. He went on a lot of missions activities in academy,” Glenn said. “[His grandfather] was a big influence on Andrew.”

La Sierra’s Office of Human Resources officially celebrated Andrew’s success as well as that of additional nominated student employees during an afternoon ceremony and reception on a patio area of the Tom and Vi Zapara School of Business. Pedersen received plaques in recognition of his accomplishment along with a $1,000 cash prize and a $250 scholarship.

“This particular student exemplifies La Sierra’s mission ‘To Seek, To Know and To Serve.’ His community service involvement sets him apart from everyone else who was nominated, at the university, state and regional level,” said Desiree Noah, senior human resources analyst at La Sierra and board president of the Western Association of Student Employment Administrators.

She added that Pedersen’s work with Project: Syria, a yearlong campaign to help Syrian refugees through ADRA Jordan, was instrumental in the judges’ awarding decision.

Biswas nominated Andrew for Student Employee of the Year for his tireless work helping with every department and school event that needed his assistance, and for his compassion for others.

“Andrew has a drive to help others that is unparalleled. He has played a role in nearly every entity of spiritual and campus life -- Sabbath School, dorm worships, Rendezvous, outreach, short-term [mission] trips, university worship, REVO, First Service, assembly, SALSU events. You name the campus event, Andrew has been there,” Biswas said.

“You can find him helping a student with a mechanical problem at 2 a.m. on the side of the freeway, or out on a quest to bring food to a student that has not yet eaten that day. He bakes for his freshmen family group members and mentors those that are searching for God. He’ll pray for a student who is mourning a loss as sure as he would give his last dollar for a person in need,” she said. “This is the strength of character and passion that Andrew has put into his role as student director of missions over the past three years as well. A genuine and humble servant through and through, his actions and deeds only help this campus better understand the love that Jesus has for each one of us.

Why did I nominate Andrew Pedersen for Student Employee of the Year? How could I not.”

At La Sierra University, approximately 650 students work on campus while taking classes. Each year one or two are selected through a campus-wide nomination process as Student Employee of the Year for their excellent contributions. Campus winners are then submitted to the western association’s state liaison office which narrows the field through a ratings process. The regional association board uses the same nomination form and a weighted process to select a winner. Regional winners from the four regions around the United States then compete for the national Student Employee of the Year title.

The western region consists of Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. Student employees in this region are nominated based on students’ achievements and contributions with emphasis on reliability, initiative, uniqueness of contribution, quality of work, professionalism, and community and campus service. The nominating college or university must be a paid member with the western regional association or the national association.

At La Sierra a committee of five staff members chooses the student employee of the year based on nominations from departments across campus. Eligible students must be employed three months full time or six months part time during the university’s fiscal year.

“Students contribute many services and perform many job functions on campus. Departments have an opportunity to recognize a student who provides exceptional service to the university,” Noah said.