Kathryn “Kat” Alexander was named the 2011 recipient of the Presidential Medal, the highest honor that Sweet Briar bestows on students. Alexander received the medal, a smaller replica of the one worn by President Jo Ellen Parker on ceremonial occasions, at the annual Academic Recognition Dinner at Prothro Hall on March 23. Also recognized at the event were dean’s list and first-year honors students.
The medal is presented every year to a senior or seniors who have demonstrated intellectual achievement in addition to distinction in a combination of community service, contribution to the arts, global awareness, fitness and athletic achievement, and leadership, civility and integrity.
“In short,” Parker said during the presentation, “the Presidential Medal is awarded to a student who represents all the educational values that make Sweet Briar Sweet Briar.”
Alexander is a government major and French minor. She is working toward the Honors Degree, conducting undergraduate thesis research with Padmini Coopamah, assistant professor of international affairs, and Kevin Honeycutt, assistant professor of philosophy.
As a junior she attended American University studying in the International Peace and Conflict Resolution Program which took her to Cyprus, Greece and Turkey. She has interned at the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training, collaborating with retired foreign service personnel on a number of special projects, and at the Supreme Court of the United States, working in the Clerk’s Office.
She is the 2010-11 Emilie Watts McVea Scholar and in 2008-09 was named the Rickards Scholar for her demonstrated potential for leadership, academic excellence and community involvement. She is a member of numerous clubs including QV, Earphones, Paint and Patches, the Environmental Club and the Model UN team. In addition, she has participated in the theater program throughout her Sweet Briar career as a cast member in five shows and on the crew of three.
Alexander is a four-year varsity athlete in soccer and team captain who has been named an Old Dominion Athletic Conference all-academic for the past three years. She also coached pee-wee soccer in her hometown of Marshall, N.C.
Parker noted that nominations are made by faculty, staff members and administrators and voted on by the senior staff. “It is never an easy choice, needless to say,” she said.
Professor of chemistry Jill Granger was among those who wrote in support of Alexander’s nomination, citing her “true love of learning” and a “creativity that gives her a unique and quirky perspective on seemingly disparate topics.”
Parker also quoted assistant professor of international affairs Spencer Bakich, who described his student as a “force of nature” and a “rare blend of academic, personal and athletic attributes that suggest that there is simply nothing that she cannot accomplish.”
Indeed, the Presidential Medal is among the things Alexander aimed to accomplish at Sweet Briar.
“[It] is certainly something to which I have aspired,” she said. “It has been evident to me since my first year that Presidential Medalists demonstrate masterful synthesis of all that Sweet Briar offers. The women to receive it before me were incredible people I knew, if not personally, by reputation. They were women that I wanted to emulate.”
Alexander, who is waiting to hear if she will receive a Fulbright to teach English in Turkey after she graduates, says her motivation comes from a love of learning, bolstered by peers and professors who challenge her.
“I must say, however, that I would have never have been able to take advantage of so much were it not for the support of Sweet Briar’s incredible faculty. They have opened doors, pushed me to reach my potential, and welcomed me in departments outside of my major — a hallmark of the Sweet Briar experience.”