Lauren Kottis, a senior mechanical engineering major, was one of five members of the Duke-Durham community selected as a 2011 “Sammie” award winner for her efforts leading Habitat for Humanity in Durham.
The award is named for Samuel DuBois Cook, Duke University political scientist, educator, human rights activist, and first African American faculty member at Duke. The award with be presented during a ceremony Feb. 22, at the Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club.
Kottis, a native of Naperville, Illinois, has been an active participant in Habitat for Humanity while in high school and during her four years at Duke. For the past two years, she has served as co-president of Duke’s chapter of the non-profit developer of affordable housing. After working on “builds” in Durham as a freshman, she spent her sophomore year as volunteer coordinator “setting up opportunities for tons of Duke students to get involved in the life of Durham.”
Her passion for helping others through Habitat for Humanity started while at Napierville North High School.
“Every summer I’d travel with my church group to Clarksville, Tennessee, to help build houses there,” she said. “We’d go back year after year, and it was really exciting and gratifying to see how the experience affected the people there, as well as me.”
Her experience with Habitat inspired her future life choices — she has applied to architecture schools with an eye toward being involved in developing affordable housing and working on sustainability issues.
“Durham is a really exciting place if you embrace it,” Kottis said. “There is so much to do here. I just feel I should help Durham out while I’m here because it’s been so good to me. Everything that we have accomplished with Habitat wouldn’t have been possible without the support of Duke and the people who are so passionate about the same things I am.”
The Cook Society, which made the awards, was founded in 1997 to recognize and celebrate the African American presence at Duke.
Freeman A. Hrabowski, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, will deliver the 2011 Samuel DuBois Cook Society Lecture, “Academic Leadership and Inclusive Excellence,” at 4 p.m., Feb. 23, in the Nasher Museum of Art Lecture Hall.
The other winners were: Kevin McDonald, the president and CEO of Triangle Residential Options for Substance Abusers (TROSA), Duke history professor Raymond Gavins, Navid Pourtaheri, a third-year medical student who mentors local elementary school students, and Deborah Wahl, associate director of the Undergraduate Research Support Office at Duke.