William Jewell College announced the five finalists for the College’s Faculty Award – an award recognizing graduating students who exhibit the highest ideals of a liberal arts education.
The finalists include Catherine Dema, Oxbridge history of ideas and physics major; Rachel Harris, music education major; Kelsey Lanterman, biology and Spanish major; Madison Carroll Porth, Oxbridge institutions and policy and international relations major; and Jack Still, political science and economics major.
Graduating seniors who have spent at least three years at Jewell and hold a 3.75 GPA are eligible for consideration for the award. Dr. Anne Marie Rigler, chair of the Faculty Award Committee and professor of music, emailed an application to seniors who met these requirements Feb. 17.
In the application, applicants detailed extracurricular and service activities undertaken during their time at Jewell and wrote an essay describing their perception of what a liberal arts education means. The application was due a little over a week later, and after brief deliberation, the Faculty Award Committee selected a number of semifinalists. Students selected as semifinalists were required to submit two letters of recommendation to the Committee and partake in an interview with Committee members.
Based on these letters and interviews, the committee selected the five finalists. A winner will be announced at the Honors Convocation April 23.
When asked why she decided to apply for the Faculty Award, Dema noted that she was inclined to apply because of the deeply formative effect Jewell had on her outlook.
“I decided to apply for the Faculty Award because I thought my experiences at Jewell – both academic and extracurricular – had a significant impact on how I view my approach to the world, my career and education in general,” said Dema. “I was interested in what the process would even look like and I wanted to know if the faculty also thought I would be qualified for the award. I also wanted to take the opportunity to provide some feedback to the faculty that was at times critical, but that I thought embodied Jewell’s espoused values of critical thought, inclusivity, authentic engagement and courageous citizenship.”
Dema also shared her thoughts on her Faculty Award interview experience.
“I was frankly kind of confused during a large part of the interview. It was relatively conversational and more focused on digging into questions of value, how one ought to act and what critical thought is and looks like at Jewell. I thought it was generally interesting to have this kind of conversation with faculty I don’t often interact with that much,” Dema said.
In a final comment, Dema remarked that she wishes the Faculty Award application process was more accessible but is nonetheless thankful to be recognized.
“I really do wish the process was a bit more equitable and fair to students,” Dema said. “The nature of the timeline for applications limited who was able to apply for the award and I think that is a shame. I also want to emphasize that I’m incredibly grateful to the faculty award committee for recognizing me in this way.”
During her time at Jewell, Dema held leadership positions in The Hilltop Monitor, the Society of Physics Students, Gender Issues & Feminism Club, the Radical Inclusivity Committee and SUSTAIN. In addition, she volunteered as a reading partner with Primitivo Garcia, served as a member of the editorial staff of Cherwell, Oxford University’s independent student newspaper and worked as an undergraduate researcher at Jewell, Coe College and Cornell University.
After graduating, Dema plans to attend the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School as a Levy Scholar. She ultimately plans to pursue a career in public interest law in order to continue focusing on issues of race and gender justice while working at the intersection of theory and practice.
For Harris, applying for the Faculty Award was an opportunity to make Jewell’s music department proud.
“I really wanted to honor [the music department] and show that they have prepped me and just encouraged me in my education at Jewell and just to show that I am ready to get out into the world and hopefully, through music education, share my Jewell education to other students,” Harris said.
Harris found the interview difficult but ultimately regarded it as a valuable learning experience – one she hopes to impart to her own students as well.
“It was definitely challenging for me,” Harris said. “Typically, I am used to talking to children and talking about music and teaching them how to be expressive. So this was a different experience, but it really, really showed how important critical thinking is at Jewell. The topic was pretty tough this year. I was just encouraged to stand for my beliefs and just to keep going with those conversations. Even though they were really difficult and challenging concepts to talk about, I feel like I can bring those same kinds of qualities to my next classroom and encourage those students to always think deeper and pursue those deep, deep thoughts.”
Over the course of her four years at Jewell, Harris interned with the Youth Symphony of Kansas City, privately instructed violin students. She also participated in a number of musical masterclasses with famed instrumentalists, including Julia King and Randall Goosby. Her community involvement includes working as a leader with Blue Springs Young Life, being a worship team vocalist at Abundant Life Church and serving at resource fairs for the Blue Springs community. She also owns her own earring company.
Harris is currently on the hunt for a music teaching job in the Kansas City area – which she praised for its support of the arts and incredible music programs in the public school system. She will also continue her internship with the Youth Symphony of Kansas City, preparing for the upcoming in-person season. After getting a few years of teaching experience, Harris hopes to enroll in a Master’s music education program and to gain certification in the Suzuki method.
To Lanterman, submitting her Faculty Award application felt like an appropriate way to close out her career at Jewell, especially after receiving encouragement from friends to apply.
“Honestly, I’ve really enjoyed my four years at Jewell. I’ve had a great time and a lot of fun so it kind of just felt like a cool opportunity with the culmination of my four years and all of the emotions and feelings,” Lanterman said. “I talked to my friends about it and they were like, ‘You should apply. Why not? You might as well.’ Even if I don’t win, I just thought it was a unique thing to apply for.”
Reflecting four years back to when she was interviewed by Dr. Kenneth Alpern – director of the Oxbridge Honors Program and professor of philosophy – for admission into the Oxbridge program, Lanterman happily noted that she felt a markedly lower amount of anxiety when she saw that Alpern was a member of the interviewing Committee.
“[It was] just like an Oxbridge interview. Alpern asked the first question, and I was like ‘Oh no,’ but it was really pushing you and trying to get the deeper thoughts out, not just surface answers. It was a really good conversation,” Lanterman said. “They really pushed at trying to ask deeper and thought-provoking questions.”
During her time at Jewell, Lanterman was a captain of the swim team, a Presidential Scholar and a member of several honors societies. Lanterman noted that being captain of the swim team was an excellent leadership experience and is generally grateful to be a part of Jewell Athletics because of the valuable relationships she formed. As a Presidential Scholar, Lanterman was connected to an alumni mentor, who she became quite close to and helped integrate her into the broader Jewell community. She also studied abroad in Granada, Spain.
Though she is still waiting to hear back from some schools, Lanterman plans to head to medical school following graduation.
Carroll Porth saw the Faculty Award as an opportunity to reflect on how the values of a liberal arts education applied to her own development as a leader during her time at Jewell.
“I think that I applied primarily because I feel like I have grown and developed a lot as a leader and a student over the past four years. I think I embody a lot of the values of a Jewell and liberal arts education and that I would be a good candidate for the award,” Carroll Porth said.
Like others, Carroll Porth remarked that the interview was challenging but certainly rewarding.
“It was hard,” Carroll Porth said. “There was a ten-minute portion where I was just sweating because they were asking me what it means to be human and why humans have empathy and what the word ‘value’ means. So, yeah, it was hard, but it was good. The hardest part was the unexpected nature of the questions, but I think it was a really fruitful conversation and a good chance to talk about my experiences at Jewell.”
At Jewell, Carroll Porth held leadership positions in The Hilltop Monitor, Student Senate and Zeta Tau Alpha. Most recently, Carroll Porth helped co-found the Gender Issues & Feminism Club, which provides free menstrual products and contraceptives to the campus community. Carroll Porth is also involved with off-campus service activities, including leading high school youth groups with Liberty Young Life, working as a crisis hotline volunteer for the Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault and collaborating with a team to find solutions to human trafficking during her time at Oxford University.
Carroll Porth plans to attend Vanderbilt University Law School. After completing law school, she hopes to either go into nonprofit work or a judicial clerkship. After that, she aspires to enter a career in government intelligence.
Still decided to apply for the award as a way to reflect on his experience at Jewell.
“I chose to apply because I have heard from previous finalists that the application is a tremendous way to reflect back on your time at Jewell,” said Still. “At this point, so close to graduation, I was looking for a way to review everything that I had experienced in the last four years, including all that I have learned, the relationships I have made and the ways in which I have changed. The Faculty Award application challenges you to do just this. I knew from the beginning that even if I did not end up winning or being named a finalist, I would be fulfilled by the chance to reflect on my experience as a student at Jewell.”
Still reiterated other finalists’ sentiments about the difficulty of the interview and noted how anxious he was for it.
“To be honest, it was very intimidating. I had tremendous respect for each member of the Faculty Award committee and I did not want to let them down with my response to their questions, so I was extremely nervous. It might have been the most nervous I have ever been for something,” Still said. “But at the end of the day, I knew that all I could do was to be myself and just give it the best shot that I had. That is what got me to this point in the first place, and I was not about to abandon that now. The questions the committee asked were very challenging and certainly tested all the knowledge and skills that I have obtained since coming to Jewell. But, overall, it was an eye-opening experience that I am thankful for.”
In a final comment, Still expressed his gratitude for being considered for the award.
“Regardless of whether I am named the winner, I would not change a single thing about my time as a student at Jewell. I gave all of myself to my academics, to my sport, to the relationships I was fortunate enough to build, and to the broader community,” said Still. “To be named the Winner of the Faculty Award would obviously mean the world to me. But just being recognized as a finalist – and to be considered in the same light as my fellow finalists, who represent the highest ideals of this College – is a tremendous honor in itself. I am so grateful.”
Throughout his four years at Jewell, Still was a member of the men’s golf team, president of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, co-founder and president of Cardinal Union, a University Innovation Fellow, President of College Democrats and a member of Student Senate.
Upon graduation, Still will move to Washington D.C. to take part in an eight-week internship with The Fund for American Studies, working with the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, an organization that aims to reform the criminal justice system. His ultimate goal is to attend law school to become either a civil rights lawyer or prosecuting attorney.
Among these five finalists, a winner will be announced at the Honors Convocation April 23. The event has limited seating due to COVID-19 and a link to a livestream of the event will be transmitted to the Jewell community in the coming week.