W&L Recognizes Student Leaders in Annual Leadership Excellence Awards The Leadership Excellence Awards give recognition and thanks to nominated students and organizations for their many efforts on W&L’s campus.
Washington and Lee University’s 2023 Leadership Excellence Awards, held on March 30, offered attendees a bird’s-eye view of student leadership across W&L’s campus.
The annual event recognizes the individual and group accomplishments that have occurred within the past year in various areas of campus life. Leah Beard, director of leadership development and student engagement at W&L, facilitates the event and said the awards are a meaningful opportunity for undergraduate student leaders to acknowledge other’s contributions.
“The Leadership Excellence Awards empowers students and members of our campus community to pause and reflect on all that has been accomplished during the academic year,” Beard said, “and to really celebrate the achievements of finalists and award recipients alike, as well as the people who mentor and support them along the way.”
A student committee oversees the event in coordination with Beard, and there is a selection committee for each award tasked with identifying a winner from the nominees. This year’s Leadership Excellence Awards Committee included Catherine Xia ’23, Hannah Grace Galbreath ’23, Jillian Gallardo ’23, Emma Poole ’24, Ben Bankston ’25, Lillian Peskova ’26, Emily Bradley ’26 and Sophia Taylor ’26. Every year, the award list is reviewed to ensure the event covers the many types of leadership occurring on campus. During this year’s ceremony, 26 awards were presented to students from across campus who have been change-makers and examples of exemplary leadership. Awards for Best Adviser and Outstanding First-Year Adviser recognize staff and faculty who have made significant contributions to the student experience.
Tahri Phillips ’23 won the Anece F. McCloud Excellence in Diversity Award, which recognizes a member of the W&L community who has demonstrated a personal commitment to promoting diversity awareness, acceptance and appreciation through various means and on various levels of campus life. Phillips was also a co-recipient of the Alexander Thomas Boehling ’10 Memorial Award, which recognizes a senior undergraduate leader who demonstrates a commitment to the university’s mission and the concept of leadership as determined by the Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students.
“It’s an incredible honor to receive these awards and earning them during my senior year makes them even more meaningful,” Phillips said. “It’s a reminder that the work that I have done throughout my time here and who I am in this community matters and has made an impact.”
The Emerging Leader of the Year award recognizes a first-year student passionate about leadership education and its practice. This year, Hamza Zia ’26 was recognized. Zia is a Johnson Scholar and Bonner Scholar, an upcoming ambassador for W&L’s Office of Inclusion and Engagement, and will be serving full-time as a resident adviser and peer tutoring coordinator for the 2023-2024 upcoming academic year.
“Receiving this award is an incredible honor and a humbling recognition of my passion for leadership and service,” Zia said. “It reaffirms my commitment to inspiring and empowering individuals and communities around me.”
Diana Rodriguez ’23 received the John W. Elrod Unsung General Award, which recognizes a student who has contributed in ways often not seen by the larger community and brought both depth and breadth to the university. Rodriguez is co-president of English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and Comunidad Latina Estudiantil (CLE).
“It is truly gratifying to advise the students on the awards selection committee who pour countless hours and energy into all of the behind-the-scenes work of this event, including hosting tabling events to raise awareness and collect nominations, completing extensive marketing efforts, ordering decorations and designing the layout, presenting various awards during the banquet itself, and so much more,” Beard said. “They exemplify leadership at its core through their dedication to uplifting and empowering their fellow peers.”
Read more about the Leadership Excellence Awards on the W&L website here.