College Recognizes Student Leaders

April 9, 2013

At Student Government Association (SGA) Installation last week, the college recognized student leaders and those scholars who stand out for their leadership, academic record, and commitment to the university’s values.

President Pamela Fox welcomed students in Francis Auditorium on what was the ninth anniversary of her inauguration.

“Your 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,” Fox said. “Thank you for your passionate allegiance. Women of Mary Baldwin, you are building women’s leadership for a stronger society and world.”

Fox then presented the first award of the ceremony — the President’s Award — given to one student who demonstrates 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 is Kelsey Still, a senior Healthcare Administration (HCA) major from Alderson, West Virginia.

Still’s engagement at Mary Baldwin has included serving on the Freshman Council, as sophomore class officer, captain of the softball and basketball teams, class marshal, Global Honors Scholar, President’s Society co-chair, peer mentor, and lead advocate. Still has earned the highest grade point average (GPA) in her major and while pursuing global citizenship, has studied abroad and given tireless service to many communities, including 320 hours at the St. Joseph Home for the Aged in Richmond.

“Kelsey’s accomplishments are broader and deeper than this brief summary does justice,” Fox said. “But it is her overarching example as a leader that makes all this possible. Kelsey is always focused on what is good for the entire group and the larger community. She is an excellent communicator and carries herself with unassuming integrity. Inspiring others to lead by her example, she has let her life speak to us by the qualities she embodies.”

Still is a “consistent high performer in all classes across multiple disciplines,” noted Director of HCA, Professor of HCA, and Professor of Political Science Steven Mosher in his nomination letter.

“Commitment to leadership … is in her DNA,” Mosher wrote. “She is an issue spotter and a problem solver; every time I have asked for volunteers to help with an HCA Program matter, like a majors fair, she has stepped up and ‘been there;’ she is a mentor to students in and outside of the major. In short, she understands the fundamental truth of leadership that human beings are the most important resource in an organization and she behaves accordingly.”

Senior Hillary Blake noted in her nomination letter that as lead advocate, Still has worked hard to strengthen the position of student advocates on campus.

“Because of her hard work, student advocates are being utilized by more students than ever before,” Blake wrote. “Her input on the Code of Conduct revision was very encouraging and she has made great efforts to unite Judicial Board and Honor Council with student advocates. She always carries herself with integrity and inspires others to live by her example.”

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

In addition to serving as first captain for the Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership (VWIL) this year, Cerow has maintained a high GPA in her major — Business for a Sustainable Future — while she pursues dual minors in biology and leadership studies. Cerow also has graduated from airborne school; demonstrated objectivity as a member of a disciplinary board; was chosen to serve as peer advisor; served on the public affairs staff; advised and supported freshman; organized and conducted briefings with diverse audiences, from retired generals to civilian groups; trained cadets as platoon sergeant; demonstrated precision and discipline in her service on the Honor Guard; and is responsible for the morale, training, and discipline of the entire corps as the highest-ranking cadet.

Cerow is on the Mary Baldwin tennis team and is member of both Alpha Lambda Delta and Omicron Delta Kappa honor societies. She earns a spot on the Dean’s List or better every semester and is the recipient of the Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges Northern Virginia Regional Scholarship. She has also received the James B. Patrick Leadership, the Cynthia H. Tyson, and Sarah K. Small awards; and has received the Baily Family Foundation Scholarship.

Students who earn the Global Citizenship Award 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. This year’s recipient is Christina Ramirez, a senior social work major from Lakewood, New Jersey.

As a campus tour guide and member of the President’s Society, Ramirez demonstrates with great enthusiasm her knowledge about classes, campus, and social and academic events. She is a member of the Social Work Club and the Phi Alpha honor society in social work and excels in both. She has served as a resident assistant and peer mentor to the international students and welcomed them into her life and our campus community.

“She never frustrates with language or culture difference,” wrote Assistant Professor of Social Work Mary Clay Thomas in her nomination letter. “Instead she embraces the challenge and opportunity.”

Thomas noted Ramirez’s ability to ask thought-provoking questions, listen well, and participate in a variety of discourse surrounding the diverse issues of social work.

“She is an extremely responsible student who is motivated to be successful in both her academics and future career as a social worker,” Thomas wrote. “She is also a supportive and kind friend to all of her classmates, ready to provide support and guidance whenever needed.”

This semester, Ramirez is working in Honduras for her final field placement in international social work.

“She has continually impressed me with her independent spirit and motivation to work outside of her country and familiar surroundings,” Thomas wrote. “While in Honduras, she has motivated students on our campus to fundraise for a school mural project she wants to complete at a local Honduran elementary school. This is one of the many ways she has connected her international work to our campus.”

Next year, Ramirez will continue her work with the community by fulfilling an AmeriCorps position with inner-city New Jersey children and families.

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 Quiana Robinson, a senior philosophy major from Accokeek, Maryland.

Robinson has earned a spot on the Honors List and is a Global Honors Scholar. She is a member of the Phi Alpha Theta honor society, Omicron Delta Kappa, the Ida B. Wells Society for Academic Excellence and Living and Learning Community, President’s Society, and Big Sista mentoring program. She is a resident assistant, a peer mentor, teaching assistant, Judicial Board representative, student advocate, and president of the Black Student Alliance.

Robinson is also a Benevolent Steward, through Christ Our Redeemer A.M.E. Church, addressing the needs of the church congregation and developing projects and initiatives for the purpose of providing relief to those whom are struggling with poverty in the congregation.

Earlier this semester, Robinson received the prestigious Charlotte Forten Grimké Award at Honors Convocation.

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, Olivia Grace, a senior from Pace, Florida, is Mary Baldwin’s unsung hero.

In their nomination letters, students Amber Ocasio ’14 and Amanda Loretoni ’13 highlighted the characteristics that make Grace an outstanding student leader.

“Olivia worked faithfully with BPB doing her part, always pitching in to help and never getting recognized,” wrote Ocasio, who has worked closely with Grace in Mary Baldwin’s a cappella choirs and as members of the Baldwin Program Board (BPB). “Though I knew Olivia was wonderful, she always had kind things to say, was always encouraging everyone, and always has a smile on her face, I now know the true greatness she is.”

Ocasio detailed Grace’s work throughout the summer in the Office of Student Engagement, including creating the new BPB logo and the class of 2016 theme logo and ordering BPB necessities. Lorentoni noted that while some students were relaxing pool side or on the beach during summer vacation, Grace worked to ensure that orientation and several of the fall semester events would go off without a hitch.

“She assisted in assigning housing to incoming students as well as waitlisted students, was one of the planners of the orientation weekends, and served on the search committee to fill a position within the Student Life Office,” Lorentoni noted, adding that Grace simultaneously held the position of co-chair for Association for Campus Outreach and Resources for New Students (ACORNS), waking up early on several Saturdays and exuding excitement and enthusiasm for several hours a day, while conducting several group orientations.

“Throughout the four years that I have had the honor of getting to know Olivia I have found that she has served the college more than any other person I have met during my time at Mary Baldwin,” Lorentoni wrote. “The way in which she viewed and treated her advising class says a lot about the kind of person she is. Olivia is always willing to look for the good in people and wants to help [them] reach their full potential.”

The Lynn Gilliland Boldly Baldwin Award recognizes a student who demonstrates exceptional school spirit, 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.

This year, two juniors were singled out for recognition: Krystal Jones from Norfolk and Amber Ocasio from Mechanicsville.

As resident assistant, Jones “made her residents feel safe and comfortable, and as a friend, she makes her friends feel special,” wrote senior Olivia Grace.

“There is no one that embodies the Boldly Baldwin spirit more than [Krystal Jones],” noted Grace. “She is intelligent, hard working, and one of the kindest people I have met at this college.”

In her nomination letter, Director of Student Activities Erin Paschal noted how much Ocasio reminds her of Gilliland: she embraces all aspects of her personality, aims to improve herself while not losing her fundamental core, and has the ability to follow her heart.

“Amber, however, displays many other Lynn Gilliland qualities,” Paschal wrote. “She genuinely cares for her fellow students. She is on BPB not because she likes the color pink and wants to be able to hang out with musicians and comedians; rather, she is on BPB because she believes to her core the importance of creating a welcoming, fun environment for students.”

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, Laura van Assendelft, professor of political science, received this year’s Advisor of the Year award.

In her nomination letter, junior Holly Johnston described van Assendelft as one of the most influential professors at Mary Baldwin, both inside and outside the classroom.

“From students like me, … policy nerds [who] eat, sleep, and breathe politics; to those students [who] are in her classes to fulfill a Gen Ed requirement, each leave her class with a new appreciation for American government,” Johnston wrote. “Her classes are engaging, whether from the supplemental books that she has us read, to the papers, simulations, and projects that we complete throughout the semester.”

Johnston was one of many students who participated in the Mary Baldwin Live Election broadcast, an initiative van Assendelft spearheaded to increase political engagement on campus.

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 2012–13, ACORNS proved to be the most effective in engaging students and encouraging participation in campus life.

This year, the group took control of fall orientation activities, placing great focus on new students, Director of Student Activities Erin Paschal noted in her nomination letter.

“They forfeited gifts and bags and trinkets of appreciation [for themselves] so that the orientation experience could be better for our first-year students. They did so without hesitation,” Paschal wrote, adding that ACORNS took on increased responsibility as well.

For the first time ever, the Office of Student Life asked orientation leaders to host Summer Orientation Days for incoming students. The group also maintained a positive attitude through their May Term training, Summer Orientation Days, and Fall Orientation, despite having to work long hours.

“In my experience as a student and as a student affairs professional, I have not seen a group work so well as a team,” Paschal wrote. “They had challenges, internally and externally driven, but they sought to come to a consensus as a group. And through this practice, I believe they firmly came to understand the intrinsic value of serving their campus. This group of 14 diverse women (economically, socially, racially, sexually, academically) bonded together to create a force of nature.”

For its 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 (CAC) was once again awarded the Organization Service Award.

Though Colleges Against Cancer’s main event each year is Relay For Life, the organization makes a yearlong effort to promote various cancers and host various events to fundraise for the American Cancer Society. This year alone they have fundraised through game nights, T-shirt sales, an a cappella showcase, babysitting for the greater community, and many more events.

“They are not only providing the greater campus community with entertainment, they are providing entertainment to the greater community as well because everyone is invited. All proceeds made from any event goes directly to the American Cancer Society; CAC never gets reimbursed from funds earned. Their efforts are not … ‘for-profit’ …  they for fundraising,” wrote junior Rebecca Stearn.

CAC also works closely with the Augusta County Community Relay For Life, allowing that organization to notify members about fundraisers and help boost support. Together, they try to reach out to as much of the Mary Baldwin and greater Staunton/Augusta area as possible.

“Though their efforts may seem minimal when compared to other campuses, we must realize the size of our campus and the true impact this organization has had on our campus and surrounding community,” Stearn wrote. “Very few other organizations reach out beyond the bounds of the Mary Baldwin community, but CAC can’t help but do that because cancer affects everyone, everywhere.”

Students elected to the 2013–14 Executive Committee (EC) of the SGA were also installed as part of the ceremony. They are:

Emily Miller, SGA president

Rebecca Stearn, SGA vice president  

Samantha Janovich, SGA treasurer

Amber Ocasio, Baldwin Program Board chairwoman

Kristina Lee, Inter-Club Council chairwoman

Hillary Blake, Judicial Board chairwoman

Jazmine Davis, Honor Council chairwoman

Kristia Vasiloff, lead advocate