Denison bestows the Distinguished Leadership Awards on a small number of graduating seniors. Selection is based on evidence of exemplary leadership that demonstrates an awareness of and responsiveness to the University’s mission, effects significant and substantive impact on students, campus organizations, or the community, and in addition, has been sustained and shows progressive levels of responsibility and commitment, either within a single organization or through collaborative enterprise with others.
Tabytha Arthur (Danville, Ohio)
B.A. Communication and B.A. Political Science
- Lambda Pi Eta, Vice President
- Legal Aid, Chair
- Elect Her, Campus Women Win, Steering Committee
- August Orientation, Student Staff Coordinator
- Communication and Political Science Departments, Fellow
In her comments about Arthur, Laurel Kennedy, vice president of student development, said "Taby, in her letter on your behalf, Sterling Keiser opened with these words: 'Denison is filled with bright young scholars and leaders, but Taby is in a league of her own when it comes to making a meaningful difference in our community.' You stand among the other members of this league today, and your place here is indisputable. You have a number of leadership positions to your credit, from Lambda Pi Eta to Legal Aid to Mortar Board. But it is in your role as August Orientation Student Coordinator that you have made the most lasting impact, often drawing on skills and lessons from your work with Conference Services. What your recommenders say of you is that you are an imaginative thinker who provided important insights into how August O should be reshaped to have greater impact on first-year students. They say that you are unflappable in any crisis, from linen shortages to technology failure. They say that your work ethic is unassailable; indeed, that despite your diminutive size, you’ll willingly take on any physical task and do it with your signature smile. And they say that for you, as for Will Rogers, strangers are just friends you haven’t yet met; you can talk to anyone, and when you do, you make them allies and comrades. Thank you for the creativity and hard work you have modeled across the campus, and thank you for your outstanding leadership in our first-year orientation efforts."
Ryan Culligan (Avon, Minn.)
B.A. Biology and B.A. Environmental Studies
- Green Team, President
- The Homestead
In her comments about Culligan, Laurel Kennedy, vice president of student development, said "Ryan, you have given more than lip service to your commitments to sustainability at Denison. Your work on the bike-share program, PEAS, the Green Team, your ENVS major and your extensive contributions to the Homestead are all testimony to your values. You have approached that work with a humility that your recommenders say is characteristic of you, a humility evident when you write about your leadership: 'Any leadership skills I have gleaned over the past 22 years have been purely circumstantial and expedited by intelligent peers and mentors, respect, curiosity and hard work. My leadership style has evolved reciprocally with those around me, as I have worked with ever more capable and talented individuals.' While you are modest, your work at the Homestead especially has taken significant and lasting forms. The most immediately visible in the new cabin on which you worked so committedly over the last 18 months. But your leading contributions to the Homestead Digital Archive have resulted in an extraordinary historical resource, and the Homestead Handbook and the transformations you effected in environmental safety improved the Homestead while reshaping and restoring its relationship to the rest of the campus community. With this award, we acknowledge the leadership qualities you won’t claim for yourself: your inquisitive mind, your problem-solving orientation, your skillfulness as a communicator, and your perseverance. Congratulations and thank you for the changes you have brought to Denison."
Karla Dixon (Ottawa Hills, Ohio)
B.A. Economics and B.A. Mathematics
- DSAAC, President
- Varsity Field Hockey, Captain
- Association for Women in Mathematics, President
- Committee of Intercollegiate Athletics, Student Representative
In her comments about Dixon, Laurel Kennedy, vice president of student development, said "Karla, you are an outstanding student in both Mathematics and Economics, a two-sport athlete, the two-year captain of the field hockey team, and twice elected president of DSAAC. I know that the leadership of Denison Athletics feels that you have been that rare gift, the person of the exact attributes needed at a pivotal moment in the life of a program. Your efforts breathed new energy, spirit, and camaraderie into DSAAC: the service events you organized, the social opportunities that for the first time brought athletes together across teams, and the voice you gave to athletes on matters like class attendance policies or drug testing proposals all elevated the visibility of athletics at Denison in all the most positive ways. More than that, however, you also played a central role in transforming athletics at Denison, integrating athletes across sports and building a cohesion that is new, and powerful. And you have done this as a quiet, thoughtful, and determined person. Your coach observed that you have received many honors and accolades and that more—like this one—will come your way. Nonetheless, she wrote, 'Karla will place more credence in the knowledge that she will forever be recognized as a dependable, trustworthy teammate and friend.' We honor your leadership today, but we also honor the person that you are and the deep respect you have earned from so many. Thank you."
Janie Frandsen (Albion, Mich.)
- Office of Admissions, Senior Interviewer
- DCA, Hours Coordinator
- Denison Chemical Society, Activities Coordinator, Junior Officer
- Big Brothers, Big Sisters
In her comments about Frandsen, Laurel Kennedy, vice president of student development, said "Janie, you chose Denison because it promised you the opportunity to combine your loves of science and service to the community, an inspired goal for a first-year student. From your first days on campus, you have been consistent in your pursuit of this goal, participating in the service pre-orientation and DU LEAD, accepting leadership roles in the Denison Community Association and the Chemical Society, learning at each stage important lessons you would apply at the next. In these, as well as in your capacity as a student and a tutor, you made two especially significant contributions: you brought student organizations into new and productive partnerships, and through them you created opportunities to develop scientific competence and confidence in young people, and young women in particular. The products of those partnerships--the museum’s Green Revolution and A Day At Denison--have already stood the test of time. We are confident that you will bring the same sense of purpose and determination to graduate study and that just as you have made your mark on our college, you will make your mark on our world. We are proud that you are a Denisonian."
Cait Ghiloni (Pataskala, Ohio)
- Panhellenic Council, President
- Relay for Life, Co-chair
- Big Red Dance Team
- Delta Gamma Women’s Fraternity
In her comments about Ghiloni, Laurel Kennedy, vice president of student development, said "Cait, in your essays you wrote about discovering, amidst the disappointment of not always winning leadership positions you sought, that things often work out for the best, in ways you could not have anticipated. As PanHellenic President, your impact has been much greater and longer-lasting than had you won a position within Delta Gamma. As president, you have significantly improved the relationships of Denison sorority women to their alumni and their nationals, deepening relationships and opportunities and restoring appreciation for the traditions and principles of these organizations. Your initiative to recognize weekly a woman who “lives her ritual” has re-centered attention on the traditional values of sorority membership. As in your work with Relay For Life and the Dance Team, you have consistently risen above the day-to-day to think about the big picture and the long term. As a leader, you conceptualize problems at the community level and you play for keeps. You wrote about learning to be flexible, about never giving up. We are glad you haven’t, because you have demonstrably improved sorority life and, by doing so, shored up the entire fraternity and sorority community and strengthened the college. We thank you."
Josh Simon Goldman (Cincinnati, Ohio)
B.A. Educational Studies
- Denison Venture Philanthropy, Senior Partner, Chair
- Head Resident and Resident Assistant
- DCGA, Project Manager, Co-Governor
- Hillel, Event Co-Chair
In her comments about Goldman, Laurel Kennedy, vice president of student development, said "Josh, you have been a highly visible campus leader—in classrooms, residence halls, DCGA, and other student organizations. Whether contributing to successful events like the 40th anniversary of Denison Jewish Life, or programs like 'Stories of Educational Studies,' you have been highly effective. Your initiative on behalf of Big Red Readership breathed new life into a moribund program, and you secured the Venture Philanthropy Club’s future after its founders all graduated. These successes required reshaping budgets, communication strategies, and networks of alliances, alternating between ground level and 10,000 feet in the air. Karen Graves says that your 'work is transformative for the same reasons many of us at Denison value liberal education: it allows [and here, she quotes you] ‘careful consideration of the concepts of the individual, community, social, and the interplay between all three.’' Finally, you have done this, as another recommender writes, with infectious enthusiasm. We know that your list of ideas exists, and is much longer than four short years can accommodate. But we are grateful for all that you have done to make Denison better, and are confident that you’ll continue to advise us as a committed member of this community even after graduation."
Michaela Grenier (Downers Grove, Ill.)
B.A. International Studies and Women’s Studies
- Sustained Dialogue, President, Moderator
- Leadership Fellow
- Paving the Way, Ambassador
- Denisonians for Social Change
- Career Exploration & Development, Professional Development Fellow
In her comments about Grenier, Laurel Kennedy, vice president of student development, said "Michaela, you have held several leadership positions and by all accounts have taken on those responsibilities with commitment and determination. As an example, one of your recommenders writes that you led the effort that kept Sustained Dialogue from faltering and reshaped instead a strong and resilient organization. But in these as in other arenas--Listening for a Change or Denisonians for Social Change--you are best known as a quiet leader whose commitments to inclusiveness, acceptance of difference, and celebration of community pervade everything you do. Your gift for fostering dialogue is matched by your humility, grace and courage. We feel certain that your convictions regarding safety, justice, conflict resolution, and dialogue will ground your continued activism. You were correct when you wrote that everyday interactions and changing cultural expectations are less tangible than new organizations or policies. Your impact is clearly perceptible nonetheless. During a time when Denison has grown more attuned to social justice concerns on and off the campus, your voice and your example have led a cultural change that will continue after you graduate. We know Denison is just the start, but be assured that you have been, for Denison, the change you wished to be."
Ashley Holland (Akron, Ohio)
B.A. International Studies and B.A. Sociology/Anthropology
- One Helping Another, President
- Sociology/Anthropology, Fellow and Teaching Assistant
- Center for Women and Gender Action, Program Assistant
- Kappa Alpha Theta, Convention Awards Chairman
- International Studies Committee, Student Representative
In her comments about Holland, Laurel Kennedy, vice president of student development, said "Ashley, the thread that ties together your considerable contributions to Denison is helping and supporting others in need. This has taken a variety of forms, from assisting with class instruction when a professor fell ill, to serving as a firefighter and EMT, to founding a student organization that recruits, trains, and deploys peer counselors. This work isn’t simply about being a do-gooder however. It corresponds with your passion for human rights and human dignity, which are at the heart of your academic work and are laced through your work with the Center for Women & Gender Action and your involvement with Breakaway and other campus organizations. Kindness, creativity, and commitment combine powerfully in the work you have done across so many venues at Denison, and while One Helping Another may be the most visible reminder of your achievements, the many ways you have engaged in public service will be remembered by the many people whose lives you have touched. Thank you."
Andrea Karl (Powell, Ohio)
- Varsity Women’s Soccer
- Young Life, Volunteer Leader
- Denison Chemical Society
- Mortar Board
- Academic Support & Enrichment, Student Tutor
In her comments about Karl, Laurel Kennedy, vice president of student development, said "Andrea, you lead your peers on the soccer field, in the classroom, and in the local community. Your professors are thrilled and excited to teach you. Your peers view you as an exemplar of what can be achieved through hard work. Your leadership skills and ability to impact others are profoundly apparent on our women’s soccer team, where your goalkeeper position requires you to be decisive, confident, and communicative. A recommender describes you as 'a person of uncompromising integrity and outstanding character' and as a person who influences lives on a daily basis, often empowering your teammates to remain true to themselves. Your leadership extends beyond the hill, as you are deeply engaged in the local community, as the Young Life Leader at Newark High school, mentoring high school students and leading weekly Bible Studies. One recommender writes, 'When I assess the total package—the leadership, strength of character, integrity, impact on the soccer program, positive influence on others, incredible human spirit and all the other intangibles—Andrea stands alone.' We are grateful for your leadership as an athlete, student, and engaged citizen. Thank you."
Joyce Lindsey (Chicago, Ill.)
B.A. Studio Art
- Drummin’ Ensemble, President
- Kappa Pi Art Fraternity, President
- Safe Zone, Trained Member
- Denison University Art Collective
In her comments about Lindsey, Laurel Kennedy, vice president of student development, said "Joyce, your essays described the joy of making music for and in collaboration with fellow musicians and dancers, of making art that disrupts expectations and provokes strongly-felt reactions. But you were correct when you wrote that perhaps your greatest contributions on our campus have not been in the music and art you made, but in the example you provided of being fearless in the expression of your vulnerability and your originality. As Stafford Berry wrote, you have been a leader for Denison’s 'becoming' community, inviting others, from high school art students to fellow drummers to those viewing your artwork on display, to investigate unconventional aesthetics, ways of being, and ways of encountering the world. You are a profoundly skilled and provocative communicator across a range of mediums. And however dissonant your work may be, it is without pretense or arrogance; it emanates from your essential 'good personhood.' You have brought us along with you on a journey into new artistic territory, Joyce, and we know you’ve only just begun to discover your path. Congratulations."
Carlos Maciel (Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil)
B.A. Economics and B.A. International Studies
- Varsity Swimming & Diving Team, Captain
- Head Resident and Resident Assistant
- Ad Hoc Committee on Alcohol and Its Effects
- Theatre Department, Performance Manager
In her comments about Maciel, Laurel Kennedy, vice president of student development, said "Carlos, your peers describe you as 'a beacon of moral integrity,' 'consistently willing to do what is right, no matter the consequences,' and unwavering in your commitment to make Denison a better place. Your leadership on the swim team has contributed significantly to the success of our athletic program in recent years. While leading your team to championships and titles has been a visible outcome, this has been achieved in part through the less visible of shifting the academic and social culture of your team. Your ability to establish goals and unite others toward accomplishing them is exemplary. In our residence halls, you have worked tirelessly to build community, including the challenging element of accountability on which strong communities rely. As a student representative on the Ad Hoc Committee on Alcohol and Its Effects, you meaningfully contributed to meetings in an effort to make Denison’s social culture safer for everyone. Recommenders describe you as 'the personification of commitment, honesty and integrity' and one observed, 'While others preach about doing the right thing, Carlos is busy doing it.' Carlos, thank you for your leadership, your commitment to integrity, and for caring so deeply about our Denison community."
Ruby Montes De Oca (Chicago, Ill.)
- The Denisonian, Editor-in-Chief, Sports Editor
- NPHC, Community Service Chair
- Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Vice-President, Secretary
In her comments about Montes De Oca, Laurel Kennedy, vice president of student development, said "Ruby, under your leadership and through your own hard work and persistence as Editor-in-Chief of the Denisonian, the newspaper’s staff became more diverse and its content came to reflect a broader and more nuanced understanding of campus culture. In your role, you made important editorial decisions that altered campus discourse. As one of your recommenders said, you gave 'voice to students whom you thought were voiceless' while being 'mindful of the power of language to shape perceptions and understanding.' Your leadership of the Denisonian was described as having three elements—manager, counselor and teacher. Even now, when your official commitment to the Denisonian is over, you continue to mentor new leaders of the newspaper. You also serve as a mentor for younger students on campus through Paving the Way. While today we honor your formal leadership roles within Paving the Way, NPHC, and the Denisonian, we also recognize the unconditional counsel and support you have given your peers over the years in an unofficial capacity, organizing late night collaborative study sessions and early morning workout routines. Your personal determination to make this campus more welcoming, inclusive and socially-conscious has visibly succeeded. Congratulations."
Ana Victoria Morales (Lawrence, Mass.)
B.A. Dance, B.A. Political Science, and B.A. Spanish
- DCGA, President
- Sustained Dialogue, President
- Resident Assistant
- Safe Zone
In her comments about Morales, Laurel Kennedy, vice president of student development, said "Ana, you have redefined politics on our campus, simply put, and you’ve done this in a couple of different ways. Certainly, you have changed the face and nature of campus elections; your campaign for DCGA presidency was executed by the largest, most diverse, and best organized team we’ve ever seen. And as President, you have had greatest determination to truly represent all campus constituencies I have ever seen; all students, as you often say, are your students, your obligation. What connects your campaign strategy to your approach to governance is your firm grounding of politics in community-building. Your campaign succeeded not just in the fact of your election, but also insofar as a new community was built within your team. You have also brought sophistication to campus discourse around the national political arena. Having worked in the offices of John Kerry, Elizabeth Warren, and Ed Markey, discussing domestic politics is as natural to you as talking about your classes. Common to all of this are your core values of listening to learn, being inclusive and respectful, and working tirelessly. As a person who wasn’t sure she belonged here, you have reshaped our ideas of who we need to have here. Thank you."
Daniel Persia (Spencerport, N.Y.)
B.A. English Writing and B.A. Mathematics
- DCA, President
- DSO, Site Leader, Co-coordinator
- Reynolds Young Writers Workshop, Teaching Assistant
- Writing Center, Consultant
- Office of Admissions, Tour Guide
In her comments about Persia, Laurel Kennedy, vice president of student development, said "Danny, your Denison experience embodies the essence of the liberal arts—an integration of academic, civic, campus, and community engagement. You’ve served widely, as DSO Coordinator, DCA Companions Chair, Writing Center Consultant, and Tour Guide. More remarkable, though, is the substance and depth of your engagement. Your leadership as DCA President is described as 'aggressively proactive,' 'imaginative' and 'collaborative,' as you have restructured the organization to ensure that each committee educates, serves, and reflects—making DCA more robust and effective. Serving as a fellow, tutor, or teaching assistant across three different academic departments, you have modeled what peer-to-peer learning can be. You have represented student perspectives on the Academic Affairs Council and the Writing Taskforce. One recommender summarizes, saying: 'Despite this impressive body of accumulated work, Danny handled it all with aplomb. He never got flustered, he never complained, he never failed to live up to increasingly loftier expectations, he simply did all this work with an ease and grace that seems utterly serene, superbly brilliant, and to coin a new word, supremely Danny.' We thank you for your many tangible contributions to the Denison community and for the long-lasting impact you have made on fellow students, faculty and staff."
Kiara Sims (Chicago, Ill.)
- NPHC, President
- DCGA, 2014 Class Senator, Finance Chair
- Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, President
- Resident Assistant
In her comments about Sims, Laurel Kennedy, vice president of student development, said "Kiara, you resist being called a leader, but your college won’t let you escape it—not your peers, your professors, or those of us who have worked with you through the many organizations you have served and represented. You describe yourself as simply a person who wants to identify problems and solve them, and to ensure that all voices are heard and all perspectives weighed fairly. What your own assessment understates is the extent to which you act from deep care for our campus community. You have accepted challenging roles on campus, ones that put you at the intersection of policy and social issues—another way of saying they put you in the line of fire, in DCGA Finance Committee, the BSU, and university governance. But you came to the table prepared. You asked challenging questions. You took positions you believed right, even at the cost of popularity. You acted with maturity, but also stood resolute when others were less well-mannered. In doing this, you earned our deep regard. This award acknowledges your leadership at Denison, but also our confidence that you will continue to lead throughout your life. Thank you."
Tom Snee (Washington, Pa.)
- Head Resident and Resident Assistant
- Residential Education, Intern
In her comments about Snee, Laurel Kennedy, vice president of student development, said "Tom, in moments of crisis, you remain calm, think things through, and then act. As an RA required to handle sensitive situations involving residents, you show deep compassion; recommenders repeatedly say your relationships with residents are characterized by great care, inclusivity, and safety. One recommender notes that your residents have been inspired to apply to be RAs 'because of their admiration for the way Tom was able to care for them.' In your current role as Head Resident, your peers recognize your patience, dependability, and consideration. You describe your leadership style as developing and challenging others to be the best version of themselves. You practice this in overseeing staff, identifying each RA’s strengths and growth areas and working to support them as they improve and grow. While you work to foster growth in others, you are committed to your own professional development as well. Your supervisor writes that you work to integrate best practices in the field, and challenge yourself to achieve development of your residents, your staff, and the community in which you work. Tom, we are grateful for the work you have done in our first-year residence halls and the lives you have impacted as a result."
Liesje Steenkiste (Pittsburgh, Pa.)
- University Honor Committee, Student Representative, Judicial Subcommittee Chair
- Biology Department, Fellow and Tutor
- Academic Support & Enrichment, Student Tutor
In her comments about Steenkiste, Laurel Kennedy, vice president of student development, said "Liesje, in the classroom and lab, you engage fully and bring focus and direction to accomplish the tasks at hand. As a teaching assistant and tutor, not only do you help students master course material but as one observer notes, your contagious enthusiasm generates excitement for your field. In your service on the University Honor Committee, you led committee members through difficult decisions bearing significant implications. As hearing board chair, your leadership is described as 'objective, discerning, deliberate and thoughtful.' You have discovered ways to make Denison’s Code of Academic Integrity process more effective, efficient, and educational, perhaps most visible in your efforts to tailor sanctions unique to individual circumstances to increase the educational impact of the process. One recommender writes that your 'passion for integrity makes you supremely effective in both the judicial and educational components of her academic integrity work.' Thank you, Liesje, for taking on a difficult task in a respectful, empathetic, and educational way."
Lauren Tyger (Mount Pleasant, Pa.)
- Leadership Fellow
- Head Resident and Resident Assistant
- June Orientation, Student Staff Coordinator
- Office of Admissions, Senior Interviewer
In her comments about Tyger, Laurel Kennedy, vice president of student development, said "Lauren, there are three areas of campus life in which you have engaged in progressive levels of involvement: Leadership Fellows, ResEd, and First-Year Orientations, where you have moved from novice to contributor to leader. And under your leadership, each of these programs has made visible changes: DU Lead became a three-day program; your residential communities grew more cohesive; and June O came to encompass dialogue about health and safety considerations for new students. The advent of these changes would be cause enough for acclamation, but the way you have approached this work has been equally significant. As you wrote, you’ve been committed to creating safe spaces on campus, places for ideas to be exchanged, nurtured and challenged. This is reflected in the words of one of your recommenders: 'She is the reason that so many students have felt safe in their residence halls, in their leadership journey, and on the Hill.' Best of all, though, is how well you have succeeded in your goal of being always your authentic self: curious, creative, thoughtful, observant, quick to laugh, quick to cry, straightforward, and high-spirited. You have changed everything you have touched for the better, and the lives you have touched most of all. Thank you, Lauren."
Laura Venzke (Toledo, Ohio)
- DCA, Vice President, Treasurer, ESOL Chair
- Kappa Kappa Gamma, Vice President of Academic Excellence, Nominating Committee Member
- Denison Venture Philanthropy, Vice Chair of Outcomes Assessment
- UPC, Director of Operations
In her comments about Venzke, Laurel Kennedy, vice president of student development, said "Laura, you prefer to lead outside of the limelight. Nonetheless, through your work in DCA, UPC, DVP, and Kappa Kappa Gamma, it is clear you have made significant, lasting changes in each. As Vice President, you restructured DCA to run more efficiently and developed mechanisms to make leadership transitions seamless, while also collaborating with cabinet members to increase the number of volunteer opportunities on campus and broaden DCA’s media presence. As Vice President of Academic Excellence in Kappa, you motivated individual members to strengthen their academic performance. While these behind-the-scenes achievements are significant, they are complemented by the lasting impact you’ve made upon your peers. In DVP, you challenged your peers to think critically about the root causes of socioeconomic problems and to build self-sustaining, focused organizations. You are described by one recommender as 'a shining example of what an active citizen should be' and another writes, 'It is not the fact that she is involved in such a diverse number of organizations, but the dedication to her organizations that is one of the most remarkable traits of her leadership.' Thank you, Laura, for the time, energy, and work you have dedicated to each of your organizations to help them flourish."
Jamie Zito (Phoenix, Ariz.)
- UPC, Executive Director and President
- Resident Assistant
- The Open House, Movement and Community Intern
- Religion Department, Fellow
In her comments about Zito, Laurel Kennedy, vice president of student development, said "Jaime, you wear many hats—Resident Assistant, UPC Executive Director and President, Open House Assistant, and Youth Group Leader. Beyond these, your intellect and your diverse academic interests in religion, chemistry, and studio art are praised by your recommenders. In UPC, you have taken on large responsibilities by planning and managing weekend programming, accomplishing each beautifully. Perhaps most notable was your planning and execution of the smashing Inaugural Ball, an event bringing together 1200 faculty, staff, students and trustees in celebration of Denison. Your execution of the event was described as 'flawless,' 'successful' and 'stunning.' This year, you have also mentored and lead a young group of UPC colleagues as they established and pursued programming goals. One recommender writes, 'While Jaime has been excellent at overseeing major administrative processes, energizing a team, creatively organizing events and following through on major commitments –what she has really proved is she is an unbelievable mentor.' That mentorship has extended from the campus to the community, where you’ve served as Youth Group Leader at the First Presbyterian Church of Granville. In myriad ways, you have achieved your goal of building a closer sense of community at Denison. Thank you, Jaime."