Congratulations 2016 - 17 Scholarship Recipients!


Every year, the Omicron Delta Kappa Foundation awards scholarships to more than 20 collegiate members to continue their educations through graduate and professional study.  Scholarship awards range from $1,000 to $2,500.  These recipients demonstrate exceptional academic performance and leadership abilities.  General scholarships are awarded each year for graduate or professional school expenses.  Collegiate members and alumni up to five years out of school are eligible to apply.


Anna Balassa

Transylvania University
Current Study: Eastern Kentucky University, Occupational Therapy, Ph.D.

As president of the Transylvania Circle, Anna expanded the circle’s leadership development efforts. With the support of an O∆K Clay Grant, the circle added a mentoring piece to Transylvania’s Pioneer Leadership Development Program. Each O∆K member is paired with a sophomore in the program to cultivate leadership qualities and become confident in those abilities.

“My experiences have instilled values of empathy, patience, and encouragement. For my future career, I want to practice these values as an occupational therapist to better serve others and their needs.”


Melissa Boswell

University of Akron
Diane and Tom Vukovich Scholarship
Current Study: Stanford University, Biomedical Engineering, Ph.D.

Melissa studied biomedical engineering at Akron and spent a year working as an engineer and conducting research in Cape Town, South Africa. She is pursuing an advanced degree to combine orthopedic research with computational modeling to evaluate injuries. She is passionate about STEM careers and actively mentors elementary, middle, and high school girls in science and math.


Jacob Calahan

Auburn University
Auburn University Circle Endowed Fund in Memory of Dean Katharine Cater
Current Study: Auburn University, Pharmacy, Ph.D.

Jacob is the first student to receive the Auburn/Cater Scholarship. As president of the Auburn Circle, Jacob worked to induct leaders from athletics, ROTC, and the arts to diversify the circle.

 “Success goes beyond having strong academics to being able to express strong character and a servant heart, as well.”


Grace Chao

St. Mary’s College of Maryland
John D. Morgan Scholarship
Current Study: Johns Hopkins University, International Development Studies, M.A.

Grace led the St. Mary’s Circle to volunteer for a local farm, donate school supplies, and create care packages for homeless individuals. She used a triple major in psychology, economics, and Chinese to focus on her passion of how behavioral economics may be applied to international development. She hopes to lead this field and was recently selected by the Social Enterprise Accelerator Fund to work with social enterprises around the world to help solve strategic and operational challenges. In addition to her studies, she also works part-time for Hopkins’ SAIS China-Africa Research Initiative.
Kayla Coutts

University of Maryland College Park
University of Maryland College Park/Sigma Circle Scholarship
Current Study: Columbia University, Physical Therapy, Ph.D.

While captain of the club soccer team, Kayla served as Alpha Chi Omega’s new member educator, as well as dance coordinator with Best Buddies, an organization that empowers individuals with developmental disabilities. She plans to use her physical therapy degree to lead an emerging field in discovering connections between physical therapy and dance therapy for neurological patients.


Bhakti Desai

Birmingham-Southern College
Robert and Mildred Blount Scholarship
Current Study: University of Alabama at Birmingham, Dental Medicine, D.M.D.

Bhakti’s undergraduate work with Birmingham’s Cahaba Valley Healthcare Clinic fueled her desire to give back to the community. She plans to start a dental clinic to reach out to underserved populations. As circle president, Bhakti created a breakfast for students to strengthen relationships between faculty members and students.


James Drasbek

Southern Virginia University
Chellgren Family Endowed Scholarship
Current Study: Virginia Commonwealth University, Health Care Administration, M.H.A.

In addition to helping establish the SVU circle, James worked with a summer camp dedicated to teaching leadership to young adults. He has interned with the Remote Area Medical Clinic in Virginia and ultimately hopes to work in hospital administration.


Travis Goodloe, III

Hampden-Sydney College
Current Study: University of South Alabama, Medicine, M.D.
As a first-year medical student, Travis’s childhood dream of becoming a doctor continues to take shape. While at Hampden-Sydney, Travis helped raise $9,000 for gifts and essentials for children in need, served on the student court, and as Hampden-Sydney Journal of Sciences editor.


Jenny Juehring

University of Iowa
Current Study: Washington University School of Law, J.D.

As circle co-president, Jenny oversaw the university’s faculty award program and the Dad of the Year award. She maintained a 3.9 GPA majoring in international human rights law and studying democratization and the developing world. Jenny presented her research at the Midwest Political Science Association Conference in Chicago and at the Student Conference on U.S. Affairs.


Jennifer Kelly

University of Baltimore
Current Study: University of Baltimore, Accounting and Business Advisory, M.A.

Alphabet soup may best describe Jennifer Kelly's career. As an undergraduate, she interned with the FBI and is currently enrolled in a MABA (Master in Accounting and Business Advisory) program. She hopes to become a CPA and continue to use the leadership skills she expanded through O∆K.


Quincy Kissack

St. Norbert College
Current Study: University of Maryland, College Park, Education in Student Affairs, M.A.

While a St. Norbert student, Quincy volunteered for the Emerging Leaders program, Oxfam America, and as First Year Experience mentor. She worked for the Sturzl Center for Community Service and developed a leadership workshop series with the Leadership, Student Engagement, and First Year office. Quincy helped found the St. Norbert Circle and organized service projects with the local Boys and Girls Club.


Aliehs Lee

Southwestern University
Current Study: Medicine, M.D.

Aliehs and circle members organized the Bystander Intervention Program, designed to train students to intervene in emergency situations, such as bullying, racism, and sexual assault. In addition to building the circle to recognize leaders from all five phases, she serves in the Catalyst Leadership Program. Aleihs has dreamed of becoming a pediatrician because of her close relationship with her own doctor. She writes, “my pediatrician…made sure that I was treated properly and with tender care in any situation I faced. Being a pediatrician means you help shape [children’s] lives to become extraordinary adults…pediatricians are comforters, counselors, teachers, and much more.”


Ryan Lee-Young

University of Maryland College Park
University of Maryland College Park/Sigma Circle Scholarship
Current Study: Johns Hopkins University, Biotechnology Enterprise and Entrepreneurship, M.S.

Ryan seeks to apply his business background to the pharmaceutical industry. He was working as an equity research analyst and decided to further his science education. Ryan recently met up with a Sigma Circle O∆K member in his new town. “More important [than recognition] is to be supportive of those with whom I share this common bond of leadership and achievement.”


Jia Siang (Ben) Leong

Jacksonville University
Rupert Nelson Latture Scholarship
Future Study: London School of Economics and Political Science and Peking University of China

Ben revised the circle constitution and bylaws to reflect O∆K values. His internship with the World Affairs Council of Jacksonville provided him “the opportunity to network with distinguished leaders and gain knowledge beyond the classroom.” His interest lies in the outcomes of China and India’s rapid economic growth, and his ultimate career goal is to work for the United Nations Development Program.


Katie McGrath

Wright State University
Diane and Tom Vukovich Scholarship
Current Study: Wright State University, Student Affairs in Higher Education, M.A.

Katie, circle co-president, describes how student affairs professionals helped develop her leadership skills and “saw in me what I could not see in myself.” Her mentors spent hours making her the best she could be and, in turn, “inspired me to want to make a difference in the lives of students.” She serves as the


Jennifer McIlvaine

Stockton University
Current Study: Stockton University, Communication Disorders, M.S.

Jennifer is driven to become a speech language pathologist. Her experience volunteering at the Special Olympics and with individuals on the autism spectrum “always instilled in me a renewed sense of appreciation for life.” According to Jennifer, these experiences and her circle presidency “allowed me to advance my leadership skills and will serve as a highlight on my achievement list.”


Melissa Micek

Lynchburg College
Current Study: University of Delaware, Public Administration, M.A.

Melissa served as a model leader for her circle, but she is most of proud of developing O∆K Day to introduce the student body to O∆K. Melissa served as a legislative assistant intern for the Virginia House of Delegates and participated in the Virginia Commission on Parole Review and the No Kid Hungry initiative. Melissa is applying to the Delaware Legislative Fellows Program while working on her master’s.


Savannah Noray

Hillsdale College
Current Study: Montana State University, Applied Economics, M.A.

From presenting on women's empowerment in Nepal to researching the craft brewery market, Savannah is always examining the numbers. She is currently working on her master's degree in applied economics and has a goal to complete her doctoral work in economics before pursuing a career in international development research. “Development economics requires humility: a willingness to give up failed projects and a dedication to evaluating success without bias.”


Anne Parsiola

Louisiana State University
Current Study: Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, Medicine, M.D.

From a rural town in Louisiana, Anne plans to return to her roots to practice medicine. During college, she worked in a biochemistry laboratory and at an obstetrics and gynecology clinic in her hometown to gain clinical experience.

“I learned that great leaders are those who inspire others to lead.”


Hermán Powery

Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University
Current Study: Florida A&M College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Pharm.D

Hermán is completing his third year of Florida A&M’s pharmacy program. As circle vice president, Hermán is highly involved in community service events, such as cleaning the circle’s adopt-a-highway street, joining the annual AIDS walk, and donating 300 pounds of food to a local nonprofit.


Polly Ricketts

University of Alabama
Current Study: University of Alabama School of Law, J.D.

Polly led the Living Legend program, which honored Dr. Judy Bonner, the first female president of UA, for her contributions to the university. The event touched on one of O∆K’s cornerstones: the meeting of intergenerational—collegiate and alumni—leaders. Polly collaborated with the Auburn Circle to plan the presentation of the James E. Foy O∆K Sportsmanship Trophy during the Iron Bowl. Polly served as director for Beat Auburn Beat Hunger, vice president of the business honors program, and an investment officer at Forza Financial, a microfinance institution founded by honors students.


Kristin Sheetz

Randolph-Macon College
Current Study: Virginia Commonwealth University, Chemical Engineering, M.S.

Kristin served as circle president and took leadership roles in the science honor society, Chi Beta Phi, and the pre-health society. She overhauled Randolph’s Leadership Fellows Program by boosting enrollment and planning events. She seeks to excel in her field and serve as a role model for women in science. "I believe it is very important for women to have a safe place to encourage each other and work through tough times in a field mostly dominated by men," she says.


Jamie Spinello

University of Florida
Current Study: University of Denver, Social Work, M.A.

Jamie helped lead the Gators of Tomorrow program, which recognizes the top 25 freshmen, served as a teaching assistant, and mentored an new O∆K member. Jamie aspires to tie her knowledge of psychology and criminology to families in crisis. She writes, “Coupling my psychology degree with an additional degree in criminology integrated my study of mental and emotional factors of human behavior, its causes and methods for [prevention] preventing it in the future.”


Sarah Stayer

St. Mary’s College of Maryland
Current Study: Miami University, Student Affairs in Higher Education, M.A.

Sarah’s interest in higher education and Title IX led her to develop a capstone study that examined how that legislation is implemented on college campuses nationwide. Sarah is passionate about making a difference in the lives of students and promoting gender equality on college campuses. Sarah was editor of SMCM’s Journal of Social Sciences, a resident assistant, Dean’s Advisory Council member, and Title IX Fellow, working to plan and implement programs to prevent sexual misconduct.




O∆K Bracketology 2017!

I’ve just returned from an annual student affairs conference and on my flight back Tuesday night, nearly every row had someone who was pouring over their brackets – checking and rechecking their picks.

In the annual Clifford family showdown, my kids have been paying a little too much attention to the prognosticators and changing their minds about how it will all play out. When we first started the bracket challenge in our house, one of our girls picked based on the funniest mascot, while another always picked the best seed. Of course, when Davidson College is in the tournament, they always pick them to be national champions like good future Wildcats!

I know predictions have had a tough go of it recently, but I think we’ve found a really solid methodology that will be sure to give you a perfect bracket! In O∆K and on the court, leadership matters! Here are the rules for the O∆K bracket:

1. If one school has a circle and then other does not, the school with the circle wins.

2. If both schools have a circle, the circle with the oldest circle wins.

3. If neither school has a circle, the higher seed wins.

You can see my official O∆K bracket below. It’s going to be an exciting championship game, with the winner decided by a matter of days in May 1925, when both Virginia and Kentucky were chartered!

Enjoy the tournament, and remember those students in your circle who exemplified the athletics phase of leadership that we honor every day in O∆K.


Springing Forward with Our Future

Although spring has arrived on Wake Forest’s campus and Daylight Savings Time begins this weekend, it’s hard to believe that it will soon be the end to another academic year. When O∆K started the academic year, there were nearly 300 circles of record. Since that time, we have established new circles at Western State Colorado University, the University of St. Katherine, and the University of Mary. On February 24th, I was the installing officer when we presented a charter to our newest circle at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. The Citadel, Washington State University – Tri-Cities, and Purdue University Northwest are all are working toward April chartering ceremonies. These schools are excited to bring O∆K to their respective campuses to facilitate collaboration between collegiate members and to advance leadership.

Earlier this year, in January, the Omicron Delta Kappa Society Board of Directors and Foundation Board of Trustees held their semi-annual meetings in Irvine, Calif. on the campus of Concordia University Irvine. We are indebted to Mike Bergler and his colleagues for hosting our volunteer leaders. While we were there, we continued our discussions about potential extension opportunities in Canada and Mexico. International expansion is one of the initiatives coming out of our strategic plan, O∆K 2024: Leading for Our Second Century. I hope to have more to share with you about our international efforts after our summer meetings in St. Paul, Minn.

Throughout the fall semester and into the start of the spring semester, our membership numbers have tracked ahead of last year and the previous year. As of today, membership numbers for the fiscal year are 4,682. There were 4,281 initiates this time last year and 4,539 at this time in FY 2015. Our membership goal for FY 2017 is 8,600 initiated members.

The Omicron Delta Kappa Foundation is also having a very good fundraising year. It is my pleasure to announce several gifts including the establishment of a scholarship for O∆K members in the creative and performing arts. This scholarship is being funded by Foundation Vice President Sally Albrecht. Linda and Jeff Stone have also established a challenge fund for the Samford University Circle Endowed Fund and a fund supporting programming for our regional drive-in workshops focused on ethical leadership challenges. Jeff is a member of the O∆K Foundation Board of Trustees.

This year’s drive-in workshops have been built around the topic of Leadership: Mind and Body, which was selected by our members at the 2016 convention. Each workshop has included a session on how our collegiate leaders may better embrace their personal wellness and set an example as they lead their organizations. Also, this year’s workshops have provided each participant with an opportunity to complete the Student Leadership Competencies Inventory so that they better understand their strengths and areas in which they may continue to grow and learn. The developer of this instrument, Dr. Corey Seemiller, is scheduled to be one of the featured speakers at our next biennial convention which will be held in Nashville in 2018.

Dr. Seemiller is also the co-author of Generation Z Goes to College which is a fascinating text that provides some insights about our students who were born between 1995 through 2010. This generation of students are the true digital natives – born with ready access to computers in the family den. My four children are in this generation although they’ve still got about ten more years before they head off to college. From reading the research on this generation of students, I understand that they are less interested in recognition and more interested in credentialing. Judging by the shelf of sports participation trophies collecting dust in my garage, I’d say that’s true! This characteristic is an important consideration for Omicron Delta Kappa because it challenges our circles to do more than simply celebrate collegiate leaders. It means that we need to identify strategies to help our collegiate members develop and demonstrate that they have the competencies of integrity, collaboration, and communication.

Our biennial national convention, the 50th of which will be the one held in Nashville, is a major program of our organization. It serves many functions related to the governance of Omicron Delta Kappa including the election of national officers as well as review and approval of proposed constitutional amendments. It is also a wonderful opportunity for collegiate members and advisors from across the country to share information about best practices in circle operations. However, the cost of operating this biennial gathering have grown with inflation through the years, and it may be time for us to refocus our approach to the convention. For this reason, I have appointed a presidential commission on our convention which will present its recommendations to the Board of Directors at the winter 2018 meeting. I am pleased that Past National President Steve Bisese and current National Advisory Council Chair Michelle Burke have agreed to co-chair this commission.

One of the greatest joys of being involved with Omicron Delta Kappa is having the opportunity to meet our collegiate leaders. This summer, at our convention in Grand Rapids, I had the pleasure of visiting with Pasquale “Paqui” Toscano who is an initiate of the Alpha Circle at Washington and Lee University. We celebrated Paqui by recognizing him as one of the National Leader of the Year award winners. In case you missed in the last issue of The Circle, Paqui has been selected as a 2017 Rhodes Scholar.

We continue to focus on our mission to recognize and support the collegiate leaders of today as they become the community leaders of tomorrow. As always, please don’t hesitate to contact me should you have any questions or suggestions.

Thank you for your continued devotion to our Society!

Yours in O∆K,

Matthew W. Clifford, Ed.D.
O∆K National President

2017 Day of Service Review



dancemarathon-FIU copy

O∆K member Melissa Cancio lead Florida International University's Roarthon, a 17-hour student-run dance marathon. The event raised $96,000 for the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals program, an organization dedicated to saving and improving the lives of children by raising funds for 170 children's hospitals throughout North America.

Melissa said, "To be a leader, we need to show the reason behind what we do and share with those around us so they are aware and desire to do the same. A leader is well rounded, takes initiative but also allows for individuals in their team to develop and share their thoughts, and is always willing to give their time and efforts to service."



Fontbonne University Circle members, along with faculty, staff, and alumni, added new garden beds and helped refurbish a community garden in Brentwood, Mo. Gateway Greening, a local nonprofit, in partnership with a local church, created and planted the garden to supply fresh vegetables and strengthen the community.



Juniata copy


Juniata College students partnering with their local community to help plant 250 trees in honor of town's anniversary.







SFA - Leaders of Tomorrow



Stephen F. Austin State University Circle members worked with 8th graders in a group called Leaders of Tomorrow. As part of the largest day of service in Nacogdoches, Texas, they helped a historic village spruce up their ground and prepare for their annual community Easter egg hunt.





University of Kentucky



University of Kentucky Circle members made sandwiches for families at The Ronald McDonald House in Lexington, Ky.






UR National Day of Service (4) copy


The University of Richmond Circle worked with the James River Parks system to clean up Huguenot Park in North Chesterfield, Va.







WagnerCollege copy









Wagner College Circle members collected cans for donation to local hunger relief efforts.



MTSU - Leadersship Day


The Middle Tennessee State University Circle held True Blue Leadership Day. Students heard from Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Jeff Bivins, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director Mark Gwyn, Lindy Boots, human resources manager with an area firm, and other leaders about careers, job interview tips, writing a professional resume, and how to leverage a competitive advantage in a job hunt.







University of North Carolina Wilmington students value the upkeep of their beaches, and picked up trash on the beach.

Member Feature: Changing Oceans

How Jodie Rummer, PhD, is leading the research on how fish react to changing oceans

When we think of stress, we think of longer and longer to-do lists, traffic when we have an important morning meeting, or perhaps hosting gatherings for our extended families.

For Jodie Rummer, stress is trying to determine what the oceans will look like in the next 100 years. The pH levels are declining as oceans absorb one-third of the carbon dioxide in the environment. Water pollution from development and agriculture is increasing water turbidity, and climate change is increasing water temperatures.

Rummer, Senior Research Fellow and Discovery Fellow at the Australian Research Council’s Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University in Australia, is studying the effects of these changes on fish in the tropics. She researches how fish change their behaviors in relation to changing water conditions.

Though Rummer grew up in land-locked Illinois surrounded by cornfields, she was always obsessed with the water. “I grew up with a mask and a snorkel as a kid, watching National Geographic and the BBC Underwater Life. I was good at math in school. I loved picking apart problems and seeing how things worked,” she said.

Rummer, a 2001 initiate of the University of West Florida circle, earned a bachelor’s degree in marine biology and a master’s of science in biology from the same university. The experience that solidified her goal of a career in marine life was a field course in Jamaica studying damaged reefs and sea urchins.

She was fascinated by the world of fish—this group constitutes 28,000 species found on all seven continents. Fish are one of the most evolved and oldest types of animals, having lived on this planet for the past 400 million years. When you compare this to humans—one species, roughly 200,000 years of evolution, you can see how Rummer became captivated by these creatures. Many fish have adapted to very specific niches in their environments; however, they are naturally highly adaptable, which makes them an important group to study.

“The diversity of fish is astounding to me,” Rummer explains. She tells stories of how if the bluefin tuna were to enter the 100-meter race, it could beat Usain Bolts’s 9.58 second world record by six full seconds. Pacific salmon travel 1,000 kilometers to their spawning grounds to reproduce, and clownfish are sequential hermaphrodites, which means all young are born male, and immature males can transform into a female if the dominant female of the school dies or becomes injured.

While conducting research projects to determine just how fish are using their athleticism to adapt to changing ocean conditions, Rummer found her career path. “I realized research is what made me happy; it’s what makes my brain click,” she said. Rummer choose to pursue her Ph.D. at the University of British Columbia where she began to study how fish’s biological processes change as their environments change. Although fish have adapted to nearly every environment on the planet—will they be able to adapt to one changed by humans?

Rummer attempts to answer this question every day. She oversees a lab of ten doctoral students, five masters students, and another handful of undergraduates and staff members, and a list of research projects that is daunting to keep track of. At the ARC Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, Rummer and her team can increase water temperature, decrease oxygen, or change a number of water quality controls on small tanks, and observe fish for changes in their physiology.

She explains, “We can measure how much oxygen fish use at rest, and require for growth, digestion, and reproduction. We are monitoring cellular responses like pH, oxygen transport, ion-regulation and water balance under environmental stresses.” Rummer and her team then measure how these functions are affected by warmer temperatures and ocean acidification.

One of the most important measurements Rummer employs to track fish success is how fish transport oxygen in their bodies. Oxygen is much less readily available in water than in the air, so you might think fish expend more energy just to breathe. However, due to the way fish use hemoglobin, they’re able to deliver oxygen to tissues 50 times more efficiently than air breathers such as humans. It could be this ability that determines how fish adapt to oceans with less available oxygen.

Rummer’s research studies on the Great Barrier Reef, the largest reef in the world, discovered that just a two- or three-degree water temperature increase adds to fishes’ basic maintenance cost to survive. As temperatures increase, gill filaments become covered in mucous and protective cells which reduces their efficiency and capacity for swimming. Warmer temperatures also decrease vegetation, which means fish spend more time looking for their next meal and have less energy for growth and development. This change has implications on the next generation of the species and also effects the entire ecosystem. As oceans continue to change, Rummer and other scientists expect a mass redistribution of species towards higher latitudes seeking refuge from warmer temperatures.

Rummer also studies how fish react to the combination of increased carbon dioxide with ocean acidification—the decrease in pH levels of the water due to this uptake of CO2. As pH levels climb, fish are using more energy to balance pH in their gills. Some fish are less able to smell predators and appear disoriented, which increases their likelihood of being eaten.

With funding from the National Geographic Society, Rummer collaborated with a team of ecologists, biologists, and fish experts to investigate the effects of long-term exposure to elevated carbon dioxide in fishes living in natural carbon dioxide seeps in Papua New Guinea. They found that the fish living in reefs near volcanic seeps exhibited some behavioral impairments, but were seemingly resilient to these conditions. They showed no major difference in numbers, diversity, or physiology than populations on nearby reefs unaffected by the CO2 seeps.

However, overall results from Rummer’s findings are troublesome. Scientists estimate that one-third of coral reefs have already been lost; ocean acidification and carbon levels could eliminate drastic numbers of species. How does Rummer process these often dire predictions?

While she admits that it is sometimes difficult, she is grateful for her career to help make a difference. “I have the freedom to pursue my dreams. I’m very lucky. I go by that saying that ‘luck is preparation meeting opportunity.’ I work really hard and then look for opportunities,” she says.

With a prestigious post at a major university, field projects around the globe, and multiple publications to her name, Rummer isn’t holding back on her dreams or her goal to make a difference. In 2014, Rummer spoke at TEDx in Queensland at the Cairns Institute and urged us all, “Can we devote the time, passion, energy and excitement that we have for human athletes to the rest of the world and the rest of the planet? Can we create and maintain these biological facilities where species are participating in the race for survival? No matter how athletic the athlete, they deserve the very best.”