The question of what the ANAK Society is has lingered since the group’s inception in 1908. The society’s membership process is a secret, and its website offers minimal information. (Fun fact: new members used to find out they’d been selected by a tap on the shoulder during interfraternity council dances.)

What is clear is that campus involvement and leadership skills are crucial to becoming a member. The ANAK Society’s activities and members are hard to pin down, but every year, the ANAK Award is presented at the Faculty and Staff Honors Celebration to honor a faculty member who has demonstrated “outstanding service to the Institute and to the student body.” ANAK members vote on who to give the award to, and, starting this year, staff members will also be honored. Sidartha Rakuram, former ANAK president, talked about this year’s ANAK Award and the decision behind naming Dr. Jennifer Hirsch and Dr. Benjamin Holton as this year’s winners.

Both were honored at this year’s virtual Faculty and Staff Honors Celebration in April. When asked about picking Hirsch as a recipient, Rakuram explained, "She has been an amazing leader at the Center for Serve-Learn-Sustain in the Office of Undergraduate Education." Hirsch established the SLS Affiliated Courses Program and, under her leadership the past six years, the number of SLS affiliated courses has grown significantly. She is also a founding leader of the sustainability education network RCE Greater Atlanta, officially acknowledged by the United Nations University – one of more than 175 Regional Centres of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development across the world.

This year, SLS was part of the Racial Injustice and Sexual Violence collective, which advances the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal of Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions. The collective aims to develop a plan to address issues of inequality and accountability for racial injustice and sexual violence on campus by identifying “gaps, systemic barriers, and areas for improvement that may exist within our institution due to policies, practices, and other norms.” In Rakuram’s words, Hirsch has “pushed Georgia Tech forward in many ways and is an inspiration to the many students who work with her."

When asked about the inaugural staff recipient, Rarkuram said, “Dr. Holton’s impact this past year has been undeniable and his patience and empathy while working with students, faculty, staff, and parents has been clear to all of us.” Dr. Holton has played a key role in coordinating Georgia Tech’s Covid-19 response. His leadership has been vital in rolling out Tech’s Covid-19 policies and protocols, as well as the Institute’s surveillance testing and vaccination programs. “Georgia Tech is safer and healthier because of him and his team at Stamps Health Services," Rakuram said.

For more information on the ANAK Award, visit the ANAK Society website.

Pictured is former ANAK Society president Sidartha Rakuram with Dr. Holton
Pictured is former ANAK Society president Sidartha Rakuram with Dr. Hirsch