Kirstie Gust, a senior majoring in business administration with a concentration in accounting and management, has been named “Student of the Block” for the first block of the 2011-12 academic year at Tusculum College.
Gust was commended for her leadership on campus, her involvement on campus including the founding of a thriving student organization, her academic excellence and her strength of Christian character during a ceremony October 6 to percent the honor.
The Student of the Block Award is presented each block by the Office of Student Affairs to recognize students for academic achievement, leadership on campus and contributions to the college community. A plaque recognizing Gust’s accomplishments will be displayed in the Niswonger Commons and other campus buildings.
Gust, who is from Rutledge, has a passion for Tusculum College and making a difference wherever she goes. Dr. Michelle Freeman, associate professor of administration, nominated Gust with high praise for the integrity, work ethic, dedication and wonderful personality that her student possesses.
“She never does anything half-way, but instead gives over and above to any task she is given,” Dr. Freeman said in her nomination. “Kirstie is always looking for new challenges, and she always rises to them. I am very proud of Kirstie, and I have been blessed by being her teacher. She inspires me to be a better person.”
Gust came to Tusculum initially because of its convenience to her family’s home, she said, but soon came to appreciate the “personality that the Tusculum College name, campus and employees possessed. I really felt like I would be nurtured into a woman who would have the skills to be successful in my chosen career.”
While her first impression of college classes was that she would not be able to make it, Gust has excelled in the classroom, regularly named to the college’s academic honor lists and inducted into the Alpha Chi National Honor Society, an honor for which only the top 10 percent academically of upperclassman are eligible.
As she settled into campus life, Gust immediately became involved in many student organizations and created one to resolve a serious need for recycling and environmental awareness that she saw in the campus community. Gust founded the Pioneer Green Team and worked diligently as president for the first three years to make the program sustainable. Under her leadership, the organization had recycling bins placed in the residence halls and other high-traffic buildings on campus, raised awareness about environmental issues through such activities as Earth Day events and started a successful community flower garden for the campus.
This year, she is serving as president of the Tusculum College Business Club and the president of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. She is serving as community outreach project leader for the Bonner Leader program, a service leader program for students. This position means a great deal to Gust. “Community service is not about doing what is necessary, but instead, showing love for the people and environment around you that desperately needs someone to care,” she said.
Gust is also a member of the Student Alumni Association and the Point, a weekly campus worship service. During the ceremony, Freeman pointed to Gust’s deep faith and the strength of her convictions to stand up for her beliefs even when she may be in the minority. Gust gives all the glory of her accomplishments to Jesus Christ, whom she credits with changing her heart and making her willing and capable to do her best. She also thanks her family, who has provided a solid foundation, love and encouragement.
For her successes at Tusculum, Gust credits the many faculty and staff members who have guided her in her journey as a student. “Tusculum College has shaped me into the person I am now,” she said, “God has brought me here and has taught me so much through the different experiences I have encountered during my time here. I would like to thank the faculty in the School of Business. Each of you has contributed to my success here through your personal adaptations to teaching in and out of the classroom.” She specifically notes Dr. Antonio Bos, Dr. Freeman, Dr. Tom McFarland and Craig Wright for inspiring, challenging and encouraging her.
After graduation, Gust hopes to go into the mission field and develop a program that educates citizens in underdeveloped countries in the business principles and concepts she has learned at Tusculum. She has an opportunity to begin this work in Honduras and expects to begin her program there. After developing the program and working in other areas of the business field, Gust plans to return to school and earn master’s and doctoral degrees.
Among her fondest memories of Tusculum are watching the Earth Day Extravaganza event unfold in 2010, being elected president of the Business Club and participating in phonathons as a member of the Student Alumni Association and hearing their stories of their lives on campus. One of her fondest memories is having spending a block attending various church services each day of the week, during which time she became a Christian.
Reflecting on her time as a college student, she offers this advice to her fellow students, “first, embrace the opportunities that arise; second, don’t give up when things get tough and show everyone you encounter kindness and respect; utilize this advice in class, in the community and in casual settings – watch your activities flourish.”