Luther College presents sixth annual Student Leadership Awards

Luther College's Launching Luther Leaders program announced the recipients of the sixth annual Student Leadership Awards at their banquet held Sunday, May 1, on the Luther campus.

James Garcia-Prats, men's assistant soccer coach, began the award presentation with a speech titled, "The Sweet Potato and Leadership." The Masters of Ceremony were Luther students Kajsa Jones and Hannah Miller from the college's improv group Top Banana, and Luther students Hailey Johnson and Jesus Lucero presented the awards.

The awards honor individuals and groups for their contribution to the college's mission of service. International Students Association and Allies' International Education Week was awarded Outstanding Event or Activity; Free Clinic Interpreters were awarded Outstanding Service Project; Laura Vestle was named Outstanding Student; Trish Neubauer was presented the Outstanding Student Advisor award; and SAC Spotlight was awarded Outstanding Organization.

The Outstanding Event/Activity award was presented to International Students Association and Allies for their work with International Education Week. ISAA for the first time in its organization's history, took over the planning and coordination of the weeklong International Education Week in November. The students filled International Education Week with a wide range of activities--Study Abroad panel discussions, a Global Potluck, an Asian Cultural Evening, Traditional Games and a Mini Soccer World Cup series on campus--that served as fun and educational experiences for Luther's diverse population. ISAA seeks to provide an opportunity to experience other cultures.

Decorah Free Clinic Interpreters and Medical Assistants earned Outstanding Service Project, awarded for a specific service project that made significant contributions to improve the lives and well being of a local, national or global community.

Luther students who serve as Spanish interpreters and health screeners at the Decorah Community Clinic are role models of community, humanitarian and civic engagements. They use their knowledge and abilities to bring positive change to the lives of members of an underprivileged population. These interpreters are an example of how Luther students explore opportunities outside their classrooms and are already making a difference in the world.

The Outstanding Leader Award, presented to a student who has demonstrated exceptional leadership on behalf of his or her group or organization at Luther, was given to Laura Vestle.

Vestle, Luther senior from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is completing her major in athletic training and a minor in chemistry. During her time at Luther she has been involved with SAC Service, and been president of both the Student Activities Council and the LC Athletic Training Organization. She has served as a Habitat for Humanity volunteer and a member of Launching Luther Leaders. Known for her diligent behind-the-scenes work, Vestle never seeks recognition. Her peers say she is a quiet leader who influenced great change in the Luther community through meaningful relationships and inspiring conversations, and kept in mind each organization's priorities, values, goals and programs.

Awarded to an advisor who demonstrates exceptional leadership, encouragement and support on behalf of his or her group or organization at Luther, Outstanding Student Advisor was presented to Trish Neubauer. Neubauer has been the coordinator for Luther's Student Activities Council since 1981. She works exceptionally hard to make sure SAC members are getting the most of their experience. She pushes officers to go above and beyond, which leads to great leaders and wonderful events and activities. Students say she is very encouraging and is always there to help, and is one of the most positive and influential figures at Luther. Her SAC students call her their "Luther Mom" and consider her a campus celebrity.

The Outstanding Student Organization award, presented to the student group or organization that made significant contributions to a local, national or global community, was awarded to Luther College SAC Spotlight. Bringing diverse and well-attended events to campus, this organization works diligently throughout the entire year to ensure the student body is exposed to a variety of performers and talent.

This past academic year Spotlight brought in two to three acts a month including: Hypnotist Jim Wand, Six Appeal, Dred I Dred, Hembree, Comedian Josh Johnson, Comedian Preacher Moss, Upright Citizens Brigade, Delta Rae and magician Peter Boie. Spotlight worked hard to provide opportunities for Luther organizations to be in the spotlight in coordinating opening performances, featured performances like Luther's dance group Eklipse opening for Six Appeal. Students say Spotlight enriched campus life by providing quality programming to students and the Decorah community.

Thirteen Luther students graduated from the Launching Luther Leaders program this year. Those honored with certificates of achievement and honor cords include Erika Balk, Taryn Bolea, Sandra Cardenas, Takudzwa Chawota, Alexandra Hein, Elizabeth Hurley, Carter Johnson, Hailey Johnson, Paige Lobdell, Jesus Lucero, Frederick Scaife, Blaise Schaeffer, Jessica Tan and Laura Vestle.

Launching Luther Leaders was founded in 2010 by Jon Lund, executive director of the Center for Global Learning and International Admissions, and Ann Highum, former vice president and dean for Student Life. L3 continues under the leadership of Jane Hildebrand, assistant dean of Student Life, and Kasey Nikkel, coordinator of Student Organizations. The intent of the program is to provide a wide variety of opportunities for students to learn about leadership theories and practices, apply and develop their leadership skills and reflect on the significance of leadership and service experiences across campus. The L3 program supports students as they use their talents to unite career with vocational calling.

Plaques are hung in the Dahl Centennial Union by the Diversity Center to honor award recipients.

Luther is a selective four-year college located in northeast Iowa. The college has an enrollment of 2,400 students and offers a liberal arts education leading to the Bachelor of Arts degree in 60 majors and pre-professional programs.

Launching Luther Leader seniors pose with their awards at the Leadership Awards Banquet.
Outstanding Event/Activity: ISAA
Outstanding Service Project: Decorah Free Clinic Interpreting
Outstanding Leader Award: Laura Vestle
Outstanding Student Advisor: Trish Neubauer
Outstanding Student Organization: SAC Spotlight