Le Fer Hall in the summer
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Award winners recognized at commencement

News | 07.25.2020

Undergraduate and graduate Alumni Leadership and Service Award

This award recognizes a graduating senior in both campus and online programs and a graduate student who have demonstrated outstanding leadership and service during their time at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. The prestigious awards are given during commencement by the Alumni Association. Nominations are made by any student, faculty or staff member.

Olivia Wendel and Heather Eckert received the undergraduate awards.

President King and Wendel with the award
The campus Undergraduate Alumni Leadership and Service Award was awarded to Olivia Wendel by President Dottie King on July 25.

Wendel, a music therapy major with a minor in Spanish, has been there for the College through and through, her nominator Brenda Shay, executive assistant, said. She’s always working campus events, and when she’s not it’s due to prior academic commitments.

“During the recent pandemic stress, Olivia has really stepped up,” Shay said. “She was very helpful by staying on campus to work the switchboard and front desk at Le Fer. She also did a live virtual tour of the campus that was seen by over 300 viewers when it was live, and has since been sent out to many more prospective students.”

Wendel won’t be leaving The Woods quite yet – she plans on returning to SMWC for her Master of Arts in Music Therapy.

“I also hope to begin my own music therapy business in a small community who may not have access to music therapy otherwise,” she said. “While I would have one-on-one sessions, I would love to have a strong emphasis on community building within my business. I believe my leadership skills learned at SMWC have primed me perfectly for this challenge.”

She was involved heavily on campus her four years at The Woods. She served in several departments as a student worker and was a resident assistant. She also was involved in Sophomore-Freshman Leadership Council, Music Therapy Student Association, Mu Phi Epsilon, Campus Ministry, Ethics Bowl and Junior & Senior Class Officers.

“I’m very honored – it was a complete surprise. I didn’t do it for the award, but it’s a nice bonus,” Wendel said.

President King and Eckert with the award
President Dottie King poses with Woods Online graduate Heather Eckert, winner of the Undergraduate Alumni Leadership and Service Award on July 25.

Sara Boyer, executive director of academic affairs, nominated Eckert for the award. Boyer said Eckert has not forgotten the importance of service despite her packed schedule.

“Her selfless engagement to her community has offered a better quality of life to many,” Boyer said when nominating the Pomeroy.

Some of the activities Eckert has been a part of includes being the leader of Illuminate youth group, leader of Studio 345 Kids Club, group mentor of Brave Enough at the Watered Garden Women’s Shelter, raising funds for Kokomo Rescue Mission along with other service.

As her major indicates, Eckert is looking to help others after she graduates.

“I have realized during these COVID-19 times just how essential social workers are in maintaining mental health status and security for those within homeless shelters,” she said.

She is also looking to mentor SMWC students who are in the human services major as they need it.

“I would like to be able to pay my good experiences forward with incoming classes,” Eckert said.

“It was just a huge blessing. These past few weeks have definitely been intense – you know with COVID and then just keeping everyone safe and healthy,” Eckert said.

The graduate student award was presented to Nathan Mensah.

Mensah is a Master of Arts in Music Therapy student who has worked with music therapy equivalency distance students as a graduate assistant.

He has also worked as a music therapist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center where he provides service for multiple units. He allows medical students and hospital guests to shadow him and observe his work.

“I find that these opportunities are my way of simultaneously advocating for our field of music therapy while providing education to areas of the hospital that need it,” Mensah said.

One of his passions is teaching, which he will also be doing at SMWC as an adjunct instructor in the music and theatre department.

“In addition, I hope to continue pouring my heart into the Cincinnati Children’s Choral Collective, a choir of medical staff employees that I helped start a year ago with the intent of promoting joy in the workplace and reducing employee burnout,” he said.

Tracy Richardson, who nominated him, agrees – Mensah puts his heart and soul into his work.

“One of Nate’s great gifts is as an encourager and ‘uplifter,’” she said. “People flock to him because he is a genuinely caring and compassionate person who brings joy to all of those around him.”

Maud Helm Rockwell Medals for Academic Excellence

Each year, the Maud Helm Rockwell Medals for Superior Scholarship are given to the graduate of the campus-based program and the graduate of the Woods Online Program with the highest academic grade point average.

The awards were presented to Ashley Zuo from the campus-based program and Theresa Fischer, Julie Snyder and Shailee Wetter from Woods Online.

President King and Zuo with the award
Ashley Zuo received the Rockwell Medal for Academic Excellence from President Dottie King on July 25.
President King and Wetter with the award
Woods Online graduate Shailee Wetter received the Rockwell Medal for Academic Excellence on July 25. President Dottie King stands with her.

Kappa Gamma Pi St. Catherine Medals

The St. Catherine of Alexandria Medal, sponsored by Kappa Gamma Pi, the National Catholic College Graduate Honor Society, is awarded to one campus student and one online student who have demonstrated both academic excellence and exemplary service and leadership on and off campus.

Allison Mauk and Julie Snyder received the awards.

Snyder, graduating with a bachelor of science in nursing through Woods Online, is the founder of Mrs. Rickman’s Closet in Marshall Community Schools in Illinois. The program provides personal hygiene items, nutritional snacks and clothing to students in need.

She said they are already seeing positive changes in the high school.

“If we can teach our kids to care for one another and support their efforts, maybe school violence including bullying and shootings can become a thing of the past,” Snyder said.

Snyder also developed and is maintaining the Angel Donor Network, an organization that anonymously works to better the lives of students in Clark County, Illinois. She also has her hands in other organizations such as The Grace Wins Project, CJ’s Daily Bread, backpack program fundraiser and volunteers to help nursing students.

President King and Mauk with the award
President Dottie King stands with Allison Mauk, recipient of the Kappa Gamma Pi St Catherine Medal on July 25.

Graduating with a human services degree with a minor in leadership and sociology, Mauk has been heavily involved during her time on campus.

She has been involved in the student senate, ethics bowl and other clubs on campus. She was also a resident assistant, junior and senior class office and worked as an assistant in various campus departments. Outside of campus, she is a member of the League of Women Voters and is involved with St. Joseph church.

“The award means a lot to me because it represents the balance that SMWC has and has taught me to have in the past four years,” Mauk said. “So being able to finally live out what was taught to me means a lot.”

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