Student Leaders Take Office, Others Recognized for Achievements

April 12, 2012

As Mary Baldwin University tradition dictates, new students elected to Student Government Association (SGA) positions were sworn in and six exceptional students were recognized for their leadership, academic record, and commitment to the university’s values at the annual SGA Installation and Student Leadership Awards ceremony April 3. One staff advisor and three student organizations were also singled out for acknowledgment.

Mary Baldwin President Pamela Fox provided opening remarks and then presented the first award of the evening.

“This is a room, a college, filled with leaders — and as role models you work to bring out leadership in everyone through your day-to-day practice,” Fox said. “Your collective energy, your imagination, and your embodiment of confidence, compassion, and positive change will continue to transform this college and the lives it touches across the globe. Thank you for your passionate allegiance. Women of Mary Baldwin, you are building leadership for a stronger society and world.”

Each year, a student is singled out for demonstrating a commitment to academics, exceptional leadership qualities, campus and community service, and dedication to diversity. Such a student exhibits honor and integrity in her actions and a spirit of adventure. She is committed to personal wellness and shows an ability to balance mind, body, and spirit. This year’s recipient of the President’s Award is Whitney Brooks, a senior English major from Richmond.

Fox, who presented the award, described witnessing the impression Brooks made on her colleagues in higher education at a recent gathering of the Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges.

“University of Richmond president Dr. Ed Ayers immediately made his way across the room to hand her his personal contact information with encouragement about pursuing law school at U of R,” Fox said.

Brooks’ character was tested in her earliest days as a student at Mary Baldwin when her 16-year old roommate was diagnosed, battled, and eventually died from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. While this tragedy may have negatively impacted her first-year academic goals and performance, she quickly found a way to use this experience as motivation for academic success, said Rev. Andrea Cornett-Scott, associate vice president for student affairs and inclusive excellence, adding that it was at that time she selected Brooks as student intern in the Office of African-American and Multicultural Affairs.

In the absence of a professional staff person, Brooks manages nine student organizations in her work as the chairwoman of Minority Clubs United. Cornett-Scott said Brooks comes in early and stays late to make sure that her internship work is complete. As the lead peer mentor for first-year students in the Ida B. Wells Living Learning Community, she works to help her mentees become their best selves. Brooks demonstrates a passion for justice while serving as the chairwoman of the Judicial Board.

“She is a model for fairness,” said Cornett-Scott, “and she has a heart for equity.”

For her ability to build a team of peers, serve as a role model, and inspire others to action, Cait Henck, a senior from Baltimore, earned this year’s Student Leadership Award. Such leaders have a strong sense of self, can balance multiple commitments, demonstrate creative problem-solving skills, and are dedicated students.

“I nominated Cait Henck because she is Boldly Baldwin,” said Morgan Lowery ’12. “She is constantly challenging the status quo, something which I believe helps to improve a community. She has her own ideas and opinions, and you had better listen, because if you attempt to ignore her she will challenge you. She is not the kind of woman to sit quietly back and watch the world move. Instead, she is at the front fighting to change minds, and I believe she will one day change something much greater and larger than our Mary Baldwin community. With her intelligence, quick wit, endless supply of catchy expressions, and hard work … how could she not?”

With a grade point average of 4.0, Henck was recently nominated for induction into Phi Beta Kappa. She was named in Who’s Who in 2011 and is president of Omicron Delta Kappa. She has led the on-campus group SOULS (Sisters Out Understanding and Loving Sisters), served as a teaching assistant and peer advisor for the Ida B. Wells Community, and volunteered for the Office of African-American and Multicultural Affairs. She is a Big Sista, an orientation leader, and student marshal for the Class of 2012.

“She is comfortable in her own skin and she challenges her peers to tell their own stories with pride,” said Cornett-Scott. “When alumnae/i return to campus they ask me: ‘Who is that young, white woman who is wearing that African garb like a second skin?’ I simply say, ‘That’s my Cait’ — a role model who takes the time to listen to each story so that she can foster a genuine respect for the students she serves.”

Upholding the principles of the Mary Baldwin Honor and Judicial codes is the hallmark trait of students who receive the Honor and Integrity Award. This year, that award goes to Alexcys Evans, a junior from Elkton, Maryland. Awardees demonstrate consistency and honor in their words and actions, inform others about the college’s Honor and Judicial codes, and view honor and integrity as core values.

Evans served this year as Baldwin Program Board (BPB) chairwoman. She was sophomore class president, a member of the Weekend of Welcome orientation crew, board of elections chair for Senate, and BPB secretary. Evans is also a member of Alpha Lambda Delta honor society and, as a student who demonstrates academic excellence, is a Julia’s List scholarship recipient. Evans is majoring in Healthcare Administration with an emphasis in public health. Not to mention that she was also installed as president of the SGA for 2012–13 at the ceremony.

“She carries herself with confidence, passion, and dignity,” said Amber Ocasio ’14. “Her actions are made with care and always comply with the Honor and Judicial Codes. When I think of myself as a future leader, I often find myself striving for the same precision, dedication, and leadership she embodies.”

Recipients of Mary Baldwin’s Unsung Hero Award are students who serve as role models to others and go above and beyond in their care and concern of the campus community, but who often do not receive public acknowledgement of their hard work. This year, Alana Patrick, a senior from Virginia Beach, is Mary Baldwin’s unsung hero.

Director of Student Activities Erin Paschal ’10 nominated Patrick for the award, citing her work this year as vice chairwoman of Baldwin Program Board, a member of the Student Alumnae/i Relations Society, host of a Relay for Life team, and photographer for various campus events.

“As Alana fulfills these various roles, she does so with a quiet confidence and deep compassion for her fellow students,” Paschal said.

Patrick particularly has excelled in her leadership role in BPB, Paschal said. Determined to make sure the student volunteers are appreciated and acknowledged, she instituted an appreciation reception where each received a certificate, with some awards being given out in fun categories such as “Strongest Volunteer” and “Most Likely to Come Early and Stay Late.”

“Alana is the student who is often in the background — helping events and organizations become successful — but is rarely acknowledged for her contributions. She is by its very definition an unsung hero.”

Global Citizenship Award

This year’s recipient of the Global Citizenship Award is Tierra Smith, a senior social work major from Fredericksburg. Students who earn the distinction demonstrate respect for all people and value diverse perspectives of others; engage in service to the campus, community, nation, or world; effect positive change; show a commitment to diversity; and embrace all members of the community with compassion.

Among her many contributions, Smith has been a leader in her work at New Directions, the Salvation Army, and Valley Mission. She has led the Social Work Club in various projects and has mentored middle-school students. She is an active Spencer Citizen and an engaged member of the Ida B. Wells Community, who is “deeply committed to making the world her community,” according to Cornett-Scott, who presented the award.

“Throughout Tierra’s four years [at Mary Baldwin] she has been a model for integrity in the classroom and in the broader college and Staunton community,” Cornett-Scott said. “Whenever I look for a student role model, one who is always honest and honorable, I think of Tierra Smith.”

Earlier this year, Smith spearheaded the effort to charter Mary Baldwin’s newest national honor society, Phi Alpha, which recognizes excellence in social work. At Honors Convocation, she received the Charlotte Forten Grimké Award, in honor of the African-American anti-slavery activist, poet, and educator.

New to Mary Baldwin this year is an award that recognizes students who demonstrates exceptional school spirit, a desire to mentor and help classmates, and strong communications skills. Awardees effect positive change on campus and in the greater community and have a strong sense of self — all traits embodied by Mary Baldwin’s former director of first and second year experience, Lynn Tuggle Gilliland ’80.

The student earning the inaugural Boldly Baldwin award is Courtney Saunders, a senior from Hampton.

“Very few people, if any, can outdo Lynn’s school spirit and effect positive change in the way she did, but our recipient is the Lynn of the next generation,” said Cassie Doyle, director of housing and RHA advisor.

Last year, Saunders was recognized at the state level for her spirit and enthusiasm at the Virginia Association of College and University Residence Halls (VACURH) Conference. When she returned to the conference in 2012, she was remembered by many as the most outgoing and friendly person. Students from the other colleges lined up to greet her and welcome her, Doyle said, and ultimately, Saunders was named student of the year. On campus, Saunders has shown leadership, dedication, and commitment. She has strived to break down walls of competition between campus organizations and clubs. She believes the campus is for all students and each student could benefit if everyone works together for the betterment of the student body.

“When other leaders failed to follow through on their job responsibilities she jumped in, carried their load and her own,” Doyle said. “There have been many days when she was carrying a heavy load, worrying about her friends, family, and academics. Working three jobs, serving in a leadership role on campus and maintaining an exceptional GPA, I am sure there were times when she probably wanted to throw in the towel and call it quits, but that is not how a Boldly Baldwin Woman does business. Collecting herself, organizing her tasks, putting on her big sunshine smile, she continued to persevere.”

Advisor of the Year

For her commitment to students’ academic success, exceeding expectations in her service to the Office of Student Life, helping students balance personal wellness with other commitments, and leading by example with honor, integrity, and a commitment to personal wellness, Lisa Wells, executive director of student life and associate dean of students, received this year’s Advisor of the Year award.

Among her work with many campus organizations, Wells is advisor to the Junior Class officers, Student Senate, and the SGA Executive Committee. Previously, she also has advised the Board of Elections and the Student Leadership Award Committee and has served as staff mentor for Mary Baldwin 101.

Evans cited Wells’ work with the Executive Committee, including her willingness to attend early morning meetings and open her own home to the students to better accommodate their schedules.

“I have to imagine that we are the toughest group on campus to advise because we are all strong-headed, individualistic women who often struggle to be unified,” Evans said. “Lisa brings calmness and insight to our discussions and sees us through the toughest of decisions with grace. Lisa seems to have all of the answers, always speaks with an appropriate tone, inspires us to be better student leaders, and strives to unite our board and student government as a whole. ”

Organization Service Award

All year long, a group of Mary Baldwin students have worked hard to educate, raise funds, and inspire others in the fight against cancer. For their efforts in community service, linking the Mary Baldwin community to outside organizations, demonstrating the potential for growth and continued service, and making an impact on the community at large through their service, Colleges Against Cancer/Relay for Life was awarded the Organization Service Award for 2011–12.

They’ve sold raffle tickets and T-shirts, handed out educational materials. Some even have cut their hair for Locks of Love and encouraged others to do the same. The group put together an acapella showcase of college choirs. They held a memory garden that gave others the opportunity to leave messages about how cancer has touched their lives. In addition, the students planned and executed a successful Relay For Life event in March, bringing together hundreds of people to raise money to help prevent cancer, save lives, celebrate the survivors and caregivers of our communities, and raise nearly $18,000.

“Whether educating the community about breast cancer, the harmful effects of smoking or the importance of a healthy lifestyle, the passionate members of this group are diligent in their support of the American Cancer Society,” said Christina Daniel, advisor to Colleges Against Cancer. “I am so proud of their enthusiasm and am honored to work with such outstanding student leaders. They are changing lives, making a difference and making progress toward eliminating cancer.

Organization of the Year

The student organization that best enhances life on the Mary Baldwin campus, demonstrates growth and increased strength of leadership, and exceeds expectations earns top recognition as Organization of the Year. In 2011–12, two student groups proved to be the most effective in engaging students and encouraging participation in campus life. They are Baldwin Program Board (BPB) and Residence Hall Association (RHA).

The women of BPB charged with creating engaging, cohesive, inviting, fun, and varied events for a diverse campus of 800 students were behind events such as movie nights downtown, “first Fridays” off campus, coffeehouse events, Signature Ball, Spa Day, and Thursdays on Tyson Terrace. They also lent a hand to support fellow student leaders whenever possible: selling hot chocolate at RHA’s Haunted House, partnering with Black Student Alliance to host a Rent Party for Black History Month, shaping the theme of their Skatetown USA event to provide an additional event for the Black History Month calendar, and sitting down with the Inter-Club Council chairwoman to outline the challenges and pitfalls of hosting a midnight screening of a highly anticipated movie.

“This group of extraordinary women aims to always keep in mind their end objective: to meet the social needs of the campus as a whole,” Paschal said, pointing out that the organization amended their constitution to better reflect the needs of the campus.

“On a personal level, each one of these young women is truly amazing,” Paschal said. “Not only are they dedicated to Baldwin Program Board, they continue to give back to the campus through other avenues. Two students serve as Student Advocates. One is a member of President’s Society, another, STARS. Two students are active in the theatre department and acted in a play this year. Each was a participant on a Relay for Life team. All the while, they remain committed to their academics. Each BPB member has a cumulative GPA over 3.0. But, most importantly, they are women of character. They are kind, compassionate souls who have all overcome great personal challenges in their road to becoming Boldly Baldwin women.”

RHA, whose members are in charge of planning all social events, such as crafting and special dinners, as well as keeping tabs on necessary repairs, also captured the Organization of the Year honors.

Credit goes to RHA for the annual haunting of Bowman House and for representing Mary Baldwin so well at the VACURH conference.

“We can all be extremely proud of our entire delegation for the way they represented Mary Baldwin at the state level,” Doyle said after this year’s conference. “Each of our students conducted themselves in such a professional, compassionate, and highly spirited manner. They were a well-liked and welcomed delegation.”