• Southwestern University

Southwestern University’s circle, or chapter, of the national leadership honor society Omicron Delta Kappa has announced the recipients of the University’s 2021–2022 Student Leadership Awards. The annual awards celebrate individuals and organizations that have demonstrated outstanding leadership and have had a positive impact on the campus community. Congratulations to this year’s winners.

2022 Pirate Anchor Award: Nick Hackett ’22 and Jesse Stovall ’22

Nick Hackett served as a captain of the Southwestern football team and was named to the American Southwest Conference Outstanding Sportsman Team of the Year. Hackett is a member of Phi Delta Theta (Texas Gamma), where he has held several executive positions, and is an intern with the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics. He will graduate in May with his bachelor’s degree in business with a focus on economics and sports sciences. 

Jesse Stovall is a two-time Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC) Female Swimmer of the Year. Stovall is a four-time SCAC champion in both the 50 freestyle, where she holds the SCAC record, and the 100 freestyle. The computational mathematics major is also a three-time SCAC champion in the 100 butterfly. Stovall was a 2020 All-American and two-time NCAA qualifier in the 50 freestyle, 100 freestyle, and 100 butterfly, as well as the 200 freestyle relay and 400 freestyle relay. 

Fay Vincent, Sr. Sportsmanship Award: Kyle Poerschke ’22 and Sam Davis ’22 

Kyle Poerschke is a two-time men’s basketball All-SCAC First Team guard. Poerschke led the conference in scoring, averaging 16.7 points per game, and was fifth in rebounding with 7.2 per game. The business major is also a four-time SCAC Academic Honor Roll recipient. He is a leader and great ambassador for Southwestern on and off the court. 

Sam Davis is a leader through and through, having served as a two-time captain of the Southwestern women’s soccer team. Davis also earned All-SCAC First Team honors in two consecutive years and was an All-Region First Team selection last fall. The biology major was named to the United Soccer Coaches Scholar All-America third team and is a four-time SCAC Academic Honor Roll recipient. 

Student Organization Advisor of the Year: Kelly Lessard

Kelly Lessard mentored the student leaders of Cat Partners, teaching them the importance of record keeping, member engagement, leadership transitioning, marketing, budgeting, and fundraising, all while working with community partners to care for the feral cats on campus. Lessard, who served as an administrative assistant for the Office of the Dean of the Faculty, worked diligently to transition the advising role to a new staff person before leaving her position with the University. 

Outstanding Student Contribution to Civic Engagement: Rachel Thompson ’23 

Rachel Thompson represents Southwestern as a Texas Civic Ambassador and a Campus Vote Project Democracy Fellow. As a Texas Civic Ambassador, Thompson participated in leadership training on how to advocate for herself in political activities and influence others to get involved in government. The political science and history double major implemented this training to encourage students to become volunteer deputy registrars. As a Democracy Fellow, she works closely with SU Votes to promote civic engagement on and off campus. 

First-Year Award: Aidan Gomez ’25 

Aidan Gomez is involved with many groups, organizations, and associations across campus, holding leadership positions in them all. These include serving as the historian for the Student Government Association, as the officer of advocacy in Pirates for Pride, and as a resident assistant in Mabee Residence Hall. In each role, Gomez organizes events, facilitates activities, and expands each position’s influence to benefit Southwestern. “I am so proud of our university, and I will work my absolute hardest to uphold its prestige and improve it in any way I can,” the political science major says. 

Sophomore Award: Teddy Hoffman ’24 

Teddy Hoffman is a Sprog Orientation leader, the vice president of communications for the Theta Lambda chapter of Alpha Xi Delta, and a sexual health education facilitator at Southwestern. As a Sprog Orientation leader, Hoffman established the official Sprog Instagram account, developing community-building content and campaigns to help new students make meaningful connections. The communication studies and business double major was named the Most Promising New Student Award by the Communication Studies Department and received the Slaymaker-Kinsey Academic Achievement Award from  Alpha Xi Delta. “Exhibiting quiet confidence is the foundation for strong leadership,” Hoffman says.

Junior Award: Eugenia Agobe ’23 

Eugenia Agobe received the Emerging Leader Award last year and has continued growing her leadership skills in her junior year at Southwestern. Agobe currently serves as student director of peacebuilding in the Office of Diversity Education and vice president of the Coalition for Diversity and Social Justice. The political science and history double major was named a Newman Civic Fellow in March. “A strong leader is someone who clears the path for their team so that the people they are working with feel free to take leaps, venture out into the unknown, and seek out emergent possibilities, secure in the knowledge that they are supported,” Agobe says.

Senior Award: Chloe Penrod ’22 

Chloe Penrod has discovered and cultivated her natural leadership talents during her time at Southwestern. As a Mosaic ambassador and facilitator, Penrod created Self-Care Saturdays, a series of events focusing on different aspects of self-care and holistic development. The environmental studies major leads a team responsible for planning, marketing, and running each event. She also has served as a Phonathon employee morale team member and Student Government non-traditional student representative. “Being a leader does not mean I have more power over others or that I am more knowledgeable, but rather that my particular skill set allows me to cultivate groups of people so they can all shine,” Penrod says.

Emerging Leader Award: Brigit Reese ’24

Brigit Reese is a Mosaic ambassador who has led a number of interdisciplinary and co-curricular development programs. Reese co-led a Pirates in Progress cohort called Get Connected designed to help first-year students shape their identity and get involved on campus; coordinated a quilting project for SUnity Day; planned Declare Your Major Day; and oversaw the Mosaic Mini-Grant program. The sociology major hopes to brainstorm new events and help train future Mosaic ambassadors. “Leadership is defined by the ability to create an environment where each person’s strengths are appreciated, valued, and meshed together to create,” Reese says.

Overall Leader Award: Erica Burley ’22

Erica Burley has served as president of the Theta Lambda chapter of Alpha Xi Delta; as secretary and treasurer of the Psi Chi, the national honor society in psychology; and as a Mosaic ambassador. Burley founded Pirates in Progress, a Mosaic program focused on helping sophomores build community and develop holistically. The psychology major believes the skills she has acquired in her leadership roles at Southwestern will serve her well in the future. “I have learned how to negotiate difficult situations and conversations, be a part of a team and be the leader of that team, and set goals and agendas for my team, all skills that will benefit me in graduate school and beyond,” she says.

Organization of the Year: Coalition of Chronic Illness

The Coalition of Chronic Illness was established in the spring of 2020 to create a network of peers who would help the disabled and chronically ill student population at Southwestern navigate, endure, and succeed both academically and holistically. The organization, which currently has 50 active members, helps students navigate the medical leave of absence process, connects them to trusted and allied members of the staff and faculty, and partners with the Center for Academic Success to help them receive the accommodations they need. In doing so, the organization has created a supportive environment for students struggling with chronic illness and/or disabilities while helping dismantle the stigma around mental, physical, and chronic illness.