Notre Dame seniors receive leadership awards
Andrea Vale | Friday, May 13, 2016
On April 7, seven seniors were honored at the Student Leadership Awards Banquet. Each student was the recipient of one of seven annual awards honoring graduating seniors who, according to a Division of Student Affairs press release, “have made exceptional contributions to the Notre Dame community.”
Denny Moore Award for Excellence
Maggie Bowers received the Denny Moore Award for Excellence in Journalism, which according to the press release is awarded to a senior who exemplifies “integrity, character, commitment to Notre Dame and writing ability.”
Bowers has been involved with the Dome Yearbook since her freshman year at Notre Dame, and served as Editor-in-Chief of the publication this past school year.
“Our goal is to capture a year in the life of a Notre Dame student in 352 pages, which sounds like a lot, but once you include seniors and subtract all of those pages, there’s not a ton of space to work with,” Bowers said. “So my goal this year was to cover the main events that always happen, but also to try and find things that maybe might not seem so important in the moment. But a year from now, five years from now, 10 years from now people are gonna look at that and say, ‘Wow, that was pretty indicative of my Notre Dame experience.’ So we made room for covering when Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor came to campus, but we also did it for … all the construction that was going on on campus.”
Bowers said she was conflicted on whether or not to include all the construction in the yearbook this year.
“My friends are like, ‘Do you really want to put a whole page of construction in there?’ and I’m like, ‘Five years from now, we’re all going to remember how annoying it was that the parking was messed up, or that the stadium was so covered in scaffolding.’ That’s going to be important to us, we’re going to want to remember that,” she said. “So I guess, in my experience I was trying so hard to make the yearbook relevant to students, to every single one of them in one way or another.”
After graduation, Bowers is headed to Minneapolis in July to take up a position as a business management associate for General Mills cereal.
Mike Russo Spirit Award
Meredith Fraser received the Mike Russo Spirit Award, which honors a student who exemplifies the qualities of “service, personal character and striving to bring the best out of themselves and others,” according to the press release.
During her time at Notre Dame, Fraser was heavily involved in her dorm, Ryan Hall, participating in service work and hall council and serving as president of the hall during the 2014-2015 school year.
“This meant not only that a team of three other students, 25 plus commissioners and I led some programming in Ryan Hall, but also that I served on Hall Presidents Council (HPC) with the leaders of all 28 other halls,” Fraser said in an email. “The next year, because of my belief in the importance of residence life and after working with a driven team of leaders in Ryan, I decided to run for co-chair of Hall Presidents Council, where I continued my obsession with the Notre Dame residence halls in another capacity.”
Fraser said she was humbled to have been nominated and recognized by the Division of Student Affairs.
“I know from four years of camaraderie that every student at Notre Dame possesses exemplary values, and this award reminded me how special this campus is to have students who also acknowledge those values in each other,” she said.
In June, Fraser plans to move to Columbus, Ohio to spend three years working in marketing for Cardinal Health.
“The work I have done at Notre Dame, honored by the Mike Russo Spirit Award, will surely be of importance in my future,” Fraser said, “Our system of residence life involves caring for others. I tried to guide focus on ‘reeling in residents,’ especially those that might feel isolated on the outskirts of their hall community and uncomfortable jumping in.”
Blessed Basil Moreau, C.S.C., Leadership Award
William Harris received the Blessed Basil Moreau, C.S.C., Leadership Award, which according to the press release is awarded to a student who “embodies Blessed Father Moreau’s vision of educating heart and mind as well as someone who has demonstrated significant effort to advancing the Catholic character of the University.”
While at Notre Dame, Harris has been involved in the Right to Life club, as well as Campus Ministry.
“My goal with the speech was to open people’s eyes and to challenge them to think about what it means for them to say they’re pro-life,” Harris said, “I think it’s really easy to bubble it down to a few simple issues, but really what it comes down to for me is truly loving everyone, no matter what.”
Besides his involvement with Campus Ministry and the Right to Life club, Harris counts his engineering degree as a factor in receiving the award, which he said focuses “on both sides of the story, on educating our whole self.”
“They told me they were going to nominate me, and that already was enough, I was already so honored,” Harris said. “… And then, when I found out I got the award, I was blown away. There are so many cool people at Notre Dame, how was I picked out of all these people? And at the awards banquet … it was really cool to hear about all of these people getting these awards, and things they’ve done, it’s cool to be counted amongst them.”
After graduation, Harris will work in the Process Engineering Division of Garmin Ltd. in Olathe, Kansas, manufacturing aviation products.
Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, C.S.C., Award
Preston Igwe received the Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, C.S.C., Award, which honors a student “whose contributions have significantly advanced the climate of welcome and inclusion within or beyond the University community,” according to the press release.
During his time at Notre Dame, Igwe was a part of several student cultural organizations, including the Black Student Association, African Student Association, and the Wabruda, for which he served as president during the past school year. Igwe has also been a representative for the Diversity Council’s First Class Steppers since his sophomore year.
“This is very important to me because I know how tough it can be to be an underrepresented student at Notre Dame, and I worked to make sure that these students have just as rich and beautiful a Notre Dame experience as everyone else gets to have,” Igwe said.
Upon receiving the award, Igwe said he was “in disbelief.”
“I didn’t think that I’d ever win such a prestigious award,” he said. “I didn’t involve myself in so many activities for the recognition or awards, but it is an incredible honor to be recognized as a leader who made significant strides to make Notre Dame a more welcoming and inclusive community.”
After graduation, Igwe said he will either return to his hometown of Houston to work as a medical scribe, or go to Baltimore to work with Bon Secours Volunteer Ministry. He plans to begin applying to medical schools this summer, with hopes of enrolling fall of 2017. In the future he hopes to work as a physician in under-served communities.
“I want to provide quality medical care to communities that have historically been separated from it.” Igwe said, “I also want to address health disparities that plague minority communities, so that individuals in these households can have longer and more prosperous lives.”
John W. Gardner Student Leadership Award
Colleen McLinden received the John W. Gardner Student Leadership Award, which according to the press release is awarded to a student who “exemplifies the ideals of the University through outstanding community service beyond the University community.”
Throughout her time at Notre Dame, McLinden has been heavily involved in advocacy work.
Last year, while studying abroad in Santiago, Chile, McLinden spent the final month of her semester abroad living in an intentional community, in which she and four other college students spent all of their time when not in class volunteering with a Jesuit service and outreach organization.
“It was maybe the best month I’ve ever spent during my time in college,” McLinden said.
Upon learning she had won the award, McLinden said she “was really surprised.”
“I knew they put my name in, but there are a lot of people doing a lot of good things on this campus,” she said, “When they say all those things, I’m like, ‘OK, I guess I did a lot of stuff here,’ but there are a ton of people that are doing things like that and not getting recognized for it. I don’t feel like I deserved that, more than anybody else did, but it was nice.”
After graduation, McLinden said she will be spending the summer working at a Catholic summer camp in Colorado.
“Service has been part of who I am here and even in high school, so I see service as being something that’s part of my life,” McLinden said. “Living my life and figuring out who I am and incorporating service into that, that is what I want to do.”
Ray Siegfried Award for Leadership Excellence
Alison O’Connor received the Ray Siegfried Award for Leadership Excellence, which is awarded to a student who exemplifies “leadership, generosity, devotion to the Catholic faith and affinity for athletics,” according to the press release.
During her time at Notre Dame, O’Connor served as president of the Gluten Free Club her sophomore year, a Leprechaun Legion board member her junior and senior years, president of McGlinn Hall her junior year and a resident assistant in McGlinn Hall this year.
“In terms of athletics, I really enjoy playing on the interhall and co-rec teams through RecSports,” O’Connor said in an email. “I think I played on 20 plus teams this year alone. I definitely played on every interhall sport the past two years. I also have been on the Leprechaun Legion board for the past two years, assisting with giveaways at sporting events. I mean who doesn’t like making someone’s day by giving them a free t-shirt?”
O’Connor said she was surprised upon learning she had won the award.
“I knew I was being nominated, but I didn’t think I would have a shot at actually winning,” she said.
After graduation, O’Connor will go to St. Dominic Savio Catholic High School in Austin, Texas, where she will be teaching Chemistry and AP Physics as part of the Alliance for Catholic Education program.
Rev. A. Leonard Collins, C.S.C., Award
Maggie Skoch received the Rev. A. Leonard Collins, C.S.C., Award, which according to the press release is awarded to a student who has “made substantial personal efforts to advance the interests of students at Notre Dame.”
After struggles with mental illness caused Skoch to leave Notre Dame for a year, Skoch said she came back to campus wanting “to get involved to improve services and policies for students.”
“When I came back in 2013, I was lucky enough to provide feedback to different administrators about the withdrawal and readmission process,” Skoch said. “Through that, I started to build relationships with different people in student affairs, different administrators, and to learn a lot about the structure of policies and just the way things work, the logistics, the culture and the community.”
Skoch went on to become involved with Notre Dame’s chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI-ND) during the 2013-2014 school year, and was elected NAMI-ND’s president for the 2014-2015 school year.
“I really sought to grow the group, and we ended up tripling our membership that year,” Skoch said.
Receiving the award was “a big surprise” to Skoch.
“It’s certainly an honor, it’s a gift to receive an award such as this, and to know that the work that I’ve done is important and recognized and has made a difference,” she said. “That’s been the best part of it all — award or not, knowing that things have improved and changed for the better, and that people’s lives are better for it.”
After graduation, Skoch said she will be working at Notre Dame for the summer, both as music director for Notre Dame’s Vision Program, and as an intern for Dr. Stackman. Afterwards, Skoch is headed to Loyola University Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine to pursue a medical degree.