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Pathfinder Award

The William Aaron Pathfinder Award recognizes juniors and seniors whose uncommon community service efforts and leadership skills demonstrate vision, creativity, and innovation. Named in recognition of William Aaron (Class of ’89), whose own path finding led to the creation of the Office of Volunteer Activities–now the Office of Active Citizenship and Service–this award celebrates Vanderbilt University’s extraordinary history of service to the community. Each recipient receives a $250 honorarium. Click the links below to learn more and to nominate for the 2017 Pathfinder and Most Meaningful Service awards.

William Aaron Pathfinder Award

Most Meaningful Service

Using the Office of Active Citizenship and Service’s (OACS) guiding principles: humble service, critical reflection, action for global justice, informed participation, acknowledging personal privilege, empathy and human dignity, and personal accountability, this award recognizes service efforts through philanthropy, activism or advocacy work. The service program must engage the local, national, or global community and have the intention of creating meaningful and sustainable change.

Applicants must identify one or more of the guiding principles addressed as well as community needs. In addition, they must describe how service participants reflected on the impact of service and how it relates to the greater good.

This award is open to any registered student organization whose service activity meets the criteria listed above. Questions about this award may be addressed to  Apply for this award.

2016 Winners: Allison Quintanilla and Anna Zhao

Allison and Anna’s work in the community reminds us that dedicated service can extend in countless directions and touch hundreds of lives. Please join OACS in congratulating Allison Quintanilla and Anna Zhao as the 2016 William Aaron Pathfinder Award winners!

Winners Allison Quintanilla [left] and Anna Zhao [right] accept their award as the 2016 William Aaron Pathfinder Award recipients.
In her own words, Allison says, “I am always looking for new and innovative ways to give back to my community. I value partnership and recognize the importance of collective impact to move towards sustainable change within a community.” Allison has led and been a part of numerous Vanderbilt organizations. A few highlights include:

  • President of the Vanderbilt chapter of the National Society of Leadership and Success
  • Event Chair for the Vanderbilt Happiness Club
  • Volunteer with Glamour Gals and American Red Cross
  • Fundraiser for Vanderbilt Dance Marathon
  • Team Leader for Close the Loop Cup
  • Chancellor’s Award winner

Anna Zhao has been involved in the community throughout her career at Vanderbilt, using her impressive skill set to reach those in need. She writes “much of my service focuses on teaching and mentoring, in the same way that others have guided me. I recognize that all fields of study are related in that they seek to better the human condition, and all are useless without compassion.” Anna will graduate with a legacy of impressive accomplishments, a partial list of which are:

  • Co-President of Vanderbilt Student Volunteers for Science
  • Site Leader in Alternative Winter Break
  • Participant in Alternative Spring Break and Global Medical Brigades
  • Resident Adviser
  • Cornelius Vanderbilt Scholar
  • Founder of Vanderbilt Commodore Orchestra
Pathfinder Award is one of seven organization-level awards offered by the Magnolia awards.

Previous Winners

Our records prior to 2012 are incomplete. We know the Pathfinder Award extends back to at least 2006. If you recognize any of the names listed below or can tell OACS about how these students were involved at Vanderbilt, please contact Dave Brown.


Ryan Selvaggio and Aditya Karhade


John Ratliff & Laura Silliman


Ankur Doshi & Catherine Cocke


Cherie Fathy & Brittany Cowfer


Allison G. & Colleen A.


Jessica S. & David A.


Vanessa R. & Ashley W.


Supriya S. & Natalia J.


Anastasia T. & Meredith B.