At Student Government Association (SGA) Installation April 8, the college recognized student leaders and those scholars who stand out for their leadership, academic record, and commitment to Mary Baldwin’s values.
The President’s Award is given to one student who demonstrates a commitment to academics, campus and community service, exceptional leadership qualities, 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 Amber Ocasio, a senior arts management major from Mechanicsville.
“Amber embodies the spirit of our campus,” wrote Erin Paschal ’10, director of student activities, in her nomination letter. “She is comfortable in her skin. With this comfort as her anchor, she is able to embrace other members of our community with genuine love and respect. Amber continually leads by example. She is enthusiastic, loving, dedicated, insightful, and mature.”
Paschal noted Ocasio’s work as treasurer of the senior class and chairwoman of the Baldwin Program Board among the qualities that make her a great leader. Ocasio scaled back off-campus events to ensure the greatest amount of participation, along with ensuring fiscally responsible events; she brought Thursdays on Tyson’s Terrace back outside; she was willing to push past the board’s comfort when planning Signature Ball this year to incorporate a non-traditional theme, bringing in aerialists in place of the traditional casino, and seeking out a new DJ; and she regularly surveyed participants and collected data at events to ensure the organization was meeting campus needs.
“Even as Amber has worked to ensure her board’s success and individual growth, she has not failed to purposely work on her personal development in her leadership role,” Paschal wrote. “Never one to shy away from feedback, Amber will often solicit my opinion on areas in which she can continue to grow as a leader.”
For her ability to build a team of peers, serve as a role model, and inspire others to action, Rebecca Stearn, a senior business major from Hampton, 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.
Paschal praised Stearn’s ability to lead as SGA vice president, serving as president of Student Senate.
“While Senate can often function as an announcements forum, Becca entered this year determined to ensure Senate is a working, functioning student group,” Paschal wrote in her nomination letter. “As such, Becca tackled the controversial, oft-attempted, nary successful topic of a campus smoking policy. Implementing the Senate process she helped to craft the year before, Becca successfully navigated these challenging waters. She provided steadfast leadership on this subject for the senators. In this process, she also empowered and supported a small, working group to draft a policy. Along with that committee’s chair, Becca presented this topic to President Fox and select members of the executive staff. At the process’s conclusion, it appears the executive staff is ready to implement this student-drafted policy, and it is largely due to Becca’s direct and indirect leadership.”
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 Shekira Ramdass, a senior Asian studies and international relations major from Mount Rainier, Maryland.
“Shekira is a remarkable student and young scholar,” wrote Professor of Asian Studies Daniel Métraux.
Ramdass spent a full semester studying at Lady Doak College, Mary Baldwin’s sister school in India; has twice held summer internships at the State Department in Washington DC; has served as an active teaching assistant; and taught four sessions of Métraux’s Asian Women class while he recruited students in Japan and Korea earlier this semester. Ramdass also has given talks on Indian women and AIDS at the International Café series organized by the Spencer Center.
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 Hillary Blake, a senior arts management major from Prince George.
“Hillary embodies the characteristics of a model student who truly values what the codes stand for, and she has made significant contributions to the improvement of our system and codes in her last two years serving [as chairwoman of the Judicial Board],” wrote Amber Keen, director of student development and support.
Under Blake’s leadership, the board has made a number of improvements and taken great strides toward becoming a stronger organization, Keen noted. The first notable achievement was the purchase and implementation of new judicial software and a complete overhaul and rewrite of the Judicial Code of Conduct.
Blake also made an effort to reach out to the freshmen to make sure they understand the new codes.
“One way she does this is to help coordinate and host ‘Know the Codes’ in the fall when students move in,” Stearn said of her colleague. “She attempts to display the codes in a humorous manor to entertain the freshmen, and also make sure the point gets across that the behavior displayed in the skits is unacceptable on campus and come with consequences.”
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, Mariah Dittrich ’14, a French major from Snow Hill, Maryland, is Mary Baldwin’s unsung hero.
Dittrich has served as ACORNS chairwoman; board of elections co-chair; Global Honors Scholars, Career Academy, and Healthy Lifestyles gateways peer advisor; Global Honors president; and a team leader in Grafton Library. Paschal noted Dittrich’s “good-natured attitude, commitment, and desire to positively impact her community.”
Stearn praised Dittrich’s determination to help incoming freshmen have a great first-year experience.
“She has so much school spirit that it’s hard to truly describe, but she shows her school spirit through the positions she holds,” Stearn said. “She is in these positions because she cares about our school, community, and campus. Mariah has done a lot of her leadership behind the scenes and truly deserves a huge heartfelt thank-you from campus.”
The Lynn Gilliland Boldly Baldwin Award recognizes a student 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.
This year, Kathryn Laflin, a junior from Austin, Texas, was singled out for recognition. Laflin has served as SGA secretary, Class of 2015 vice president, peer advisor, STARS member, and VWIL band member.
She has been a vital liaison between the student government and VWIL students, was heavily involved in making Junior Dads and Family a great success, and has been a great role model for the incoming class, Stearn said.
“Kathryn is a huge asset to this campus,” she wrote. “She exudes school spirit and shows it through her involvement on campus and her love of squirrels. She once told me that I was the reason she got involved in student government, and I truly believe she is the reason why so many other people have gotten involved in student government and on campus. Kathryn is a force to be reckoned with because she loves this campus and the community and she has and will continue to have a positive impact on this campus, the community, and the students of Mary Baldwin.”
For committing to students’ academic success; exceeding expectations; and leading by example with honor, integrity, and a dedication to personal wellness, Andrea Cornett-Scott, associate vice president for inclusive excellence and Erin Paschal, jointly received this year’s Advisor of the Year award.
Senior Kristina Lee credits Cornett-Scott with helping students persevere through challenging coursework, dedicating her time to helping students after hours, and serving as a “mother away from home,” in her work as advisor for several minority clubs.
“I can always come to her with whatever I may need, whether it be advice or just a nice talk,” Lee wrote. “[With] the long hours and sleepless nights she has had, she deserves this award.”
As advisor to ACORNS, Student Senate, and the SGA Executive Committee, Paschal “is consistently there for her students,” wrote Stearn.
“She encourages us to be students first and our next priority to be student leaders,” said Stearn. “She is always available to give advice, answer questions, or to just simply lead us in the right direction. You can see that she not only cares for her students in regard to their student leadership but also in their academic and personal lives. She takes a special interest in us to make sure we are taking care of ourselves as well as to know we are cared for on this campus. I truly believe she is the reason so many organizations have achieved their goals this year and will continue to excel on this 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 2013–14, Resident Advisors proved to be the most effective in engaging students and encouraging participation in campus life.
“This team was committed to engaging students in appreciating, accepting, and respecting their fellow students,” wrote Director of Residence Life and Housing Cassie Doyle in her nomination letter. “They were decorating halls to make their residents feel more welcomed they were hosting programs, they were mediating roommate and friend issues, and they were creating an environment that made residents feel comfortable with coming out of their rooms and participating in decorating their halls. These wonderful student leaders have counseled their fellow students — finding them resources, helping with homework, talking them through major concerns, baking cookies, and delivering pick-me-up-bags and personal notes. With an extremely tight budget they often took their own money to invest in purchasing candy, supplies, gifts, decorations — anything to make their residents fill at home. They have mopped floors, emptied trash, cleaned up messes left behind, decorated doors, and walked from residence hall to residence hall in the middle of the night to make sure all was well. They have left their warm beds to search for a reported missing student and typed reports until it was time to go to their own classes. They have achieved all of this while maintaining a group grade point average of 3.55.”
Students elected to the 2014–15 Executive Committee of the SGA were also installed as part of the ceremony. They are:
Kristia Vasiloff, president
Anneliese Slaton, vice president
Kathryn Laflin, secretary
Tori Atkins, treasurer
Jessica Walker, Inter-Club Council chairwoman
Damba Koroma, Residence Hall Association chairwoman
Kathleen Hurlock, Honor Council chairwoman
Irmamarie Avelsgard, Judicial Board chairwoman
Sarah Daughdrill, lead advocate