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W&L Recognizes Students for Their Leadership Excellence The annual Leadership Excellence Awards recognize students, faculty, staff and organizations for their contributions during the academic year.

DSC01993-600x400 W&L Recognizes Students for Their Leadership Excellence

Washington and Lee University held its 2024 Leadership Excellence Awards ceremony on March 28 to recognize individuals and organizations that have made significant impacts on the campus within the last year. This marks the 10th year for the event, facilitated by Leah Beard, director of leadership development and student engagement at W&L. A student committee helps organize the event alongside Beard, and a selection committee chooses a winner for each of the 31 awards from among the nominees. This year’s Leadership Excellence Awards Committee included Emma Poole ’24 (chair), Ben Bankston ’25, Lillian Peskova ’26, Sophia Taylor ’26, Emily Bradley ’26 and Kelcie Comisac ’27.

“The Leadership Excellence Awards banquet serves to be a fun and positive celebration each year, as well as a reminder of the incredible leadership that occurs in various facets of campus life,” Beard said. “We are so grateful for all award finalists and recipients for their handwork and commitment to making W&L a better place for all, and we are grateful to those who serve as their role models, mentors and advisers.”

Jules Seay ’24 and Shae Reinberg ’25 were the joint recipients of the Leader for a Sustainable Future award, which recognizes two students who have made valuable contributions to sustainability efforts within W&L and for the global community. Awardees are chosen based on their level of impact in one or more of the primary aspects of sustainability: environment, economics and social equity.

Reinberg, an environmental studies and global politics double major from Wilmington, North Carolina, has served as president of the Student Environmental Action League (SEAL) for the last two years. This term, she founded DivestW&L, a coalition of students advocating for climate justice and divestment from fossil fuels. She also serves as a student representative on the University Sustainability Committee and is an intern in the Office of Sustainability. This academic year, SEAL coordinated nine community service events, raised more than $1,200 for charity and orchestrated the Taste of Lexington event to connect the W&L community with local and sustainable food.

“I am honored to have been awarded leader for a sustainable future,” Reinberg said. “What I have loved most about organizing and being a leader for SEAL is being able to work with a lot of other passionate and like-minded students, faculty and administrators. Sustainability issues are not solved by any one person, and my efforts are part of a larger group of dedicated people working on sustainability at W&L and beyond. It is through this kind of community at W&L that I have been able to apply what I learn in the classroom to actionable solutions and advocacy, which I hope to continue after I graduate.”

Seay, an environmental studies and earth and environmental geoscience double major from Atlanta, plans to attend Rice University to get her Ph.D. in biogeochemistry with an emphasis on carbon cycling. She recently was awarded a National Science Foundation 2024 Graduate Research Fellowship to further her study of ecological, geological and chemical carbon cycling. She previously received a Goldwater Scholarship and Udall Scholarship to support a research career in science, mathematics and engineering. At W&L, Seay is a head career fellow for the Office of Career and Professional Development and the sustainability chairman for Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., and has previously held leadership roles in the Connolly Entrepreneurship Society and the Executive Committee. As the sophomore representative for EC’s Sustainability Committee, she helped devise the plastic water bottle ban on campus, and as president of the Entrepreneurship Society, she launched the society’s first sustainability track for members to research and create business ideas that address sustainability challenges at W&L. She volunteers for the Boxerwood Nature Center and Woodland Garden and previously interned with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“Sustainability is such an important topic to me, because I feel that’s an area that affects everyone on campus whether we notice it or not,” Seay said. “Ensuring that our campus is sustainable for the community and the planet at large is also something that I’ll always be passionate about.”

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Gaby White ’27, from Rockwall, Texas, received the Emerging Leader of the Year award for her involvement with several organizations on campus; the award recognizes a first-year student who is passionate about leadership education and its practice. White serves as marketing co-chair on the First-Year Residential Experience Board, casino night coordinator on the First-Year Orientation Committee and vice president of special events for 2024-25 with the University Ambassadors. She will serve as a resident adviser (RA) next academic year. White is also a member of the Leadership Education and Development Program, the Outing Club and Greek life.

“My favorite part about working with these organizations and the wonderful people in these organizations is getting to see the direct impact we are making on campus,” White said. “Whether those are prospective students, first-years, seniors, faculty, staff or members of the Lexington community, being able to serve in any capacity has been such a meaningful experience for me and is the reason I do what I do. I truly believe that everyone on campus is a leader in some form or fashion, so I am just so happy that I have been able to leave W&L better than I found it.”

Also at the ceremony, Associate Professor of Politics Brian Alexander was recognized as Adviser of the Year. One of the nominations for Alexander referenced his work as a co-adviser for Mock Convention, most recently held this past February, as well as coordinator of the Washington Term program.

“Professor Alexander has been an extraordinary adviser to me as a politics student and also as a person,” the nomination said. “He has guided countless students through their academic careers at W&L while also advising students in Washington Term. It is a huge feat, and yet he makes time to sit in his office and speak with students about class or their lives and big questions. He truly cares.”

Full list of award winners:

NSL McLoughlin Award for Volunteerism
Sion Jang ’24

Excellence in Artistic Event Management
Veronika Kolosova ’25
Da’zhona Clark ’24
Gabe Hogan ’27

Leader for a Sustainable Future Award
Jules Seay ’24
Shae Reinberg ’25

W&L Community Service Excellence Award
Washington and Lee Student Consulting

Outstanding Peer Counselors
Cole Gershkovich ’24
Lily Miggins ’24

Outstanding Residential Adviser, Community Assistant and Programmer
RA: Molly Pennisi ’24 – RA
CA: Tade Omisore ’25 – CA
Programmer: LeAnna Baker ’26
Programmer: Molly Pennisi ’24

Outstanding Peer Tutor
Caroline Evans ’25
Jack McKinney ’24

Harte Center Excellence in Program Leadership Award
Kate Hannon ’24

Excellence in Writing Center Leadership Award
Olivia Berntson ’24

Emerging Leader of the Year
Gaby White ’27

Christopher Noland Student Activities Leadership Award
Carly Snyder ’24

Outing Club Leadership Award
Marko Suchy ’24

Panhellenic, IFC and NPHC Members of the Year Award

Kaylin Jury ’24

Alan Haigler ’26

Owen Murray ’24

Best Event of the Year
Souper Bowl

Outstanding Philanthropic Effort
Washington and Lee Remote Area Medical (RAM)

Best Student Organization (Americus White Award)
Mock Convention

The Frank J. Gilliam Award
Jess Kishbaugh ’24

G. Holbrook Barber Scholarship Award
Ben Bankston ’25
Jalen Todd ’25

The Edward Lee Pinney Prize
Aislinn Niimi ’24 

Community Catalyst Award
Hamza Zia ’26

Anece F. McCloud Excellence in Diversity Award
Veronika Kolosova ’25

Outstanding First-Year Adviser Award
Associate Professor of Theater Jemma Levy

Adviser of the Year
Associate Professor of Politics Brian Alexander

John W. Elrod Unsung General Award
Stephanie Boktor ’25

Larry Stuart Memorial Award
Malik Hardy ’26

The Madison Montgomery Shinaberry ’16 Outstanding Student Leader Award
Ben Bankston ’25
Lizzy Nguyen ’25

The Alexander Thomas Boehling ’10 Memorial Award
Imani Hillmer ’24
Martha Ernest ’24
Margaret Thompson ’24

The Brackett Priddy Prize
Devin Bateman ’25

Leadership Excellence Awards Honor
Emma Poole ’24