Senior Jess Washington accepts the Courage to Teach Award from education department chair Professor Cathy Smeltzer Erb. (Photos by Macson McGuigan)

EMU’s 2019 achievement and leadership excellence awardees honored at spring chapel

The Eastern Mennonite University community gathered to celebrate student successes of the 2019 spring semester and special end-of-the-academic-year recognitions.


Academic Success Center

Nursing major Audrey Martin was recognized as Tutor of the Year, supporting students as they prepare for clinicals and course exams.

Director Linda Gnagey recognizes 11 senior tutors at the Academic Success Center.

In addition, the following senior tutors were recognized for their work: Dylan Grove (engineering), Noah Haglund (statistics), Adam Harnish (education, history and history writing), Mario Hernandez (biology and history), Lindsey Krisak (biology), Madalynn Payne (mathematics), Austin Sachs (accounting, business and economics), Austin Tomlin (accounting and business), Andrew Troyer (computer science), Ben Zook (physics).

Bible and Religion

Each year, Haverim (alumni and friends supporters of the department) awards three deserving students for excellence in scholarly writing in the fields of biblical studies, philosophy and theology.

  • 1st place: Ariel Barbosa, writing on the monks of the Holy Cross monastery, $300.
  • 2nd place: Cassidy Bontrager, on Latin American feminist theology, $200.
  • 3rd place: Megan Good, on an exploration of the sacrament as a model for reclaiming interdependency of matter and spirit, $100.

Professor Peter Dula drummed up some interest in bible, religion and theology classes with the observation that the Haverim award is the “most lucrative prize” to be won among the other awards during the ceremony. “If you want next year to get more than a certificate, take an upper level Bible and religion or theology class, write a good paper and you could win $300.”

Biology and Chemistry

The following biology and chemistry awards were presented:

  • Nicole D. Miller: Outstanding First-Year Chemistry Student Award
  • Jonah C. Short-Miller: Outstanding Senior Chemistry Student Award
  • Maya K. Dula and Addison K. Shenk: Outstanding Second-Year Biology Student Awards
  • Maria R. Yoder: Outstanding Senior Biology Student Award
  • Leah C. Lapp and Caroline E. Lehman: Award for Excellence in Research (biology)
  • Bekah A. Mongold: Award for Exceptional Service (biology)

Additionally, winners of the STEM Poster Celebration were recognized. See coverage here.

Business and Leadership

  • Erik Peachey earned the Most Outstanding Accounting Student Award for his attention to detail, precision, application of his learnings in internships, and his contributions as financial manager of Common Grounds.
  • Austin Sachs earned the Most Outstanding Economics Student Award for his academic performance and ability to apply economic and business principles, especially in debate.
  • Andrea Cable earned the Most Outstanding Business Administration Student Award, for her work in the classroom and also her successful operation of her photography business.
  • Jourdyn Friend was recognized with the department’s Exceptional Service Award for her work-study contributions in the department and as a representative to the marketing and communications department, as well as for her contributions as a student-athlete, with Black Student Union and Destiny’s Daughters.  
  • Michael Wilhite earned the Exceptional Leadership Award for his contributions in academics and athletics.
  • Austin Tomlin earned the Outstanding Achievement Award for academic success and for aiding in the success of other students as a tutor. He was also a student-athlete and SGA senator.
  • Daniel Yu earned the Exceptional Research Award for his work in several research projects and a presentation at a prominent national conference.
  • Logann Braun was recognized with the Outstanding Recreation Leadership and Sports Studies Award, for her contributions to academics and athletics.

Center for Justice and Peacebuilding

Academic Programs Director Jayne Docherty recognized the following students for their contributions to the CJP and wider EMU community.

  • Tala Bautista published an article in The Mennonite magazine; continually challenges CJP and the university to center indigenous voices; offered excellent collaboration in organizing Spring Lobby Weekend; and engages students in local practice with organizations such as Virginia Organizing and Vine and Fig.
  • Yasmiene Mabrouk designed and co-facilitated “Dismantling Colonial Mindsets: The Doctrine of Discovery and Its Ongoing Impact” for Indigenous People’s Day; facilitated a zine making workshop during the arts and peacebuilding event for the Harrisonburg High School Peer Leaders group; served on the Mediation and Support Team for the Anabaptist Leadership Retreat; and co-led the spring 2019 RJ training and facilitated conversations with RELI.
  • Julian Ward facilitated a four-part dialogue circle on masculinity with undergraduates; co-led the spring 2019 RJ Training; facilitated a circle on leadership with students from JMU; and volunteers weekly at Black’s Run Forest Farm with CJP alum Jonathan McRay.


Mariah King, Sarah Kline, Sarah Beth Ranck, Rachel Shenk and Andry Stutzman were selected to participate in the 2019 Teachers of Promise Institute. Read more.

Jess Washington was selected by department faculty for the 2019 Courage to Teach Award, modeled after principles in Parker Palmer’s book of the same name. Department faculty selected Jess for her dedication and success in teaching, her genuine caring for students, reflective practice, highly principled behaviors, and her courage to navigate challenging experiences.  She was presented with a copy of Palmer’s book.


Mario Hernandez is the Outstanding Senior History Student, recognized for his contributions to the department over three years as work-study assistant, for his academic excellence as a distinguished student in each political science and history course taken, and for excellence in scholarly achievement, especially with a paper about the Artherdale experimental community and a project on 19th century novels presented at the Mid Atlantic American Studies Conference in fall 2019. Mario was presented with a very weighty copy of the Martyr’s Mirror.


  • Cameron Byer, Daniel Harder and Hannah Leaman placed second out of 62 teams and earned Master Codebreaker status in the Kryptos 2019 cryptanalysis competition. Read more.
  • Cameron Byer also won the department’s math competition and a “math geek” t-shirt.


Four students were recognized for musical excellence by department chair Professor James Richardson:

  • Isaac Longacre, a music education major, played Gaston in the spring production of “Beauty and the Beast,” and has performed as a baritone vocalist in several ensembles. He also plays horn and has volunteered at music outreach events.
  • Kaleb Branner has excelled in composition and conducting, has served as assistant conductor of Emulate and University Choir, and also as an assistant music director for “Beauty and the Beast.”
  • Robert Chaplin, a music education major and clarinetist, won the concerto competition, was a featured soloist in the spring orchestra competition, volunteered at several outreach events,  presented a poster at the ACE Festival, and has been a music theory and history tutor.
  • Evelina Kilimnik, a violinist, has worked in the music department office and been a stage manager, overseeing the logistics of musicmaking at EMU. She has played in the orchestra for “Beauty and the Beast” and has performed in multiple Masterclasses.


Abby Byler was the recipient of the Sacred Covenant Award for the student who exemplifies EMU’s unique approach to nursing that recognizes the nurse/client relationship as holy ground. Audrey Martin earned the Academic Achievement Award. Danielle Davidson was recognized with the Servant Leader Award, for a student who has shown a deep level of caring and is an example to the entire nursing department of service and leadership.


  • Mariah Denlinger and Yelisey Shapovalov were both winners of the Galen R. Lehman Outstanding Achievement in Research Award for exceptional initiative and creativity. Both research projects – on the pedestal effect and faculty-student similarities effect on learning outcomes in the classroom, respectively – were accepted in the Virginia Association for Psychological Science annual conference.
  • Emma Stutzman and Mariah Denlinger were co-recipients of the Psychology Internship Award, renamed this year in honor of retiring professor Judy H. Mullet.  Stutzman was with Church World Service and Denlinger with the Community Service Board; both faced unique challenges and were recognized by their supervisors as looking to expand their experience beyond expectations, said Professor Ryan Thompson.  


  • Ariel Barbosa is this year’s initiate, with a lifetime membership, into Alpha Kappa Delta International Honor Society in Sociology, a honor society that brings together people interested in developing scientific knowledge to solve social problems.  

Campus Life

From left: Marleyna Contreras, Cameron White and Rebekah Hoskins, all seniors serving Campus Activities Council, are recognized by Tyler Goss.

Campus Activities Council

Seniors Cameron White, Rebekah Hoskins and Marleyna Contreras each earned an Outstanding Service Award.  Tyler Goss thanked White for her three years of excellent leadership and guidance, adding that CAC will be a very different organization without her presence. Hoskins has been a part of CAC for 2.5 years. “You lead others with compassion and understanding and you have a knack for coming up with great event ideas,” Goss said. He thanked Contreras for her can-do attitude when she joined CAC this spring semester. 

Campus Ministry

Lydia Haggard, Victoria Barnes, Yonas Ketsula and Marina Baker were recognized by Campus Pastor Brian Martin Burkholder for their service to campus ministry in a variety of roles, including planning and leading worship and spiritual renewal events, meeting individual students for discipleship and facilitating gatherings.

Common Grounds

Common Grounds, the campus coffee house, is managed by a senior team of four “exceptional students with creative energy and passion for their work,” said Carissa Luginbill, a residence director who works with the coffeehouse management team.

  • Shelby Alto has been the business’s product manager for three semesters, and shown special care in listening to barista and customer concerns. She has implemented the monthly Smiley’s Ice Cream Flavor of the Month offering, and also “ordered just about every kind of milk you can imagine, oat milk, almond milk, and the list goes on,” Luginbill said.
  • Grace Burkhart, marketing/events manager, organized a range of events from Black Student Union events to chapel talkbacks, concerts, TGIW events, art exhibits and movie nights. “Everything has been done with care and creativity in a timely and organized fashion,” Luginbill said.
  • Lydia Chappell Deckert, operations manager, is the HR specialist, charged with interviewing, hiring, training, scheduling, and evaluations of 25 staff. She was praised for creating a stronger and more cohesive management team.
  • Erik Peachey, financial manager, handles overall finances and budgets “with professionalism and care.” He has implemented a new point of sales of system and plastic reusable gift cards.

Destiny’s Daughters

Melody Pannell recognized the following members of the inaugural executive team of Destiny’s Daughters: Precious Waddy, president; Tajah Miller, vice president; Jess Washington, secretary; Jourdyn Friend, treasurer; and Val Hernandez Bustillo, chaplain. The leadership team contributed in establishing the organization on the EMU campus and were honored for their commitment to spiritual formation, scholarly achievement endeavors, sacred sisterhood and social justice work.

Student Government Association

Outgoing SGA officers include Nicole Litwiler and Mario Hernandez, co-presidents; Paul Kayembe, vice president; Ben Zook, treasurer; Luke Mullet, secretary; Abigail Shelly, vice president of marketing.

Senators include Justice Allen, Ariel Barbosa, Asha Beck, Donaldo Lleshi, Emma Hoover, Hannah Nichols, Sylvia Mast, Xavier McCants, Justin Odom, Austin Tomlin, Avery Trinh, Seth Weaver, Leah Wenger, and Theo Yoder.

The passing of the gavel from Hernandez and Litwiller marked the transition to the new executive cabinet, represented by co-presidents Leah Wenger and Seth Weaver. “We’re excited for the opportunity to work towards a more inclusive, caring campus with the upcoming student body and senate,” Wenger said.

Residence Life

Seniors and three-year Community Assistants Abigail Shumaker and Kyle Wilkinson and seniors and two-year Community Assistants Capril Mirarchi and Sammy Thomas were recognized. “They leave their collective fingerprint on our staff, through their fellow Community Assistants, and at EMU as a whole,” said residence director Carissa Luginbill. “I am excited to see you go out to new challenges and I know you will do well in the communities you become a part of.”

The candidates for the Transformational Leadership Award, to be voted on by fellow CAs and others involved in Residence Life and the awardee announced May 3, are Jakya Jones, Capril Mirarchi, Justin Odom, Lindsey Histand and Abigail Shelly.

Rec Sports

Emmanuel Boamah, Logann Braun and RJ Ocampo were honored for their years of service and leadership to Rec Sports. The program gives students a “break from strenuous academics and a time to gather together, make new friends,” said Mike Yoder. “These people were instrumental in organizing day-long and season-long activities, on late nights as well, and brought new ideas and innovation to our program.”


Athletics award winners, from ODAC to Royals Athlete of Week honorees, on the stage.

Royals Athletes of the Week: Travis Abele, Grant Amoateng, Tariq Caldwell, Travis Clower, Chrissy Delawder, Jaylon Lee, Lindsey Krisak, Justice Allen, Toni Doss, Ryan Brewer, Beck Hoskins, Alia Miller, Cor’shauna Cunningham, Hunter Taylor, Austin Tomlin, Emily McCombs,  Laurie Serrell, Sammy Thomas

ODAC Player of the Week: Ray Tricarico

ODAC Player of the Week: Sammy Thomas

NCAA Indoor Nationals Participant (11th place in triple jump), All-South/Southeast Region, All-ODAC First Team, ODAC Athlete of the Week (2x): Grant Amoateng

All-ODAC Third Team (softball): Megan Good, Elizabeth Nisly, Abigail Shelly

All-ODAC Third Team: Laurie Serrell Team of the Week, ODAC Player of the Week: Jaylon Lee

All-CVC Second Team, CVC Player of the Week: Travis Abele

For more information on spring semester athletics awards, visit

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