The Omicron Delta Kappa Leader of the Year program is named in honor of Gen. Russell E. Dougherty, United States Air Force (Ret.). Each OΔK circle selects an outstanding student to be named their Circle Leader of the Year. These students receive a certificate and are invited to apply for the National Leader of the Year Award.
The OΔK Awards Committee recognizes five finalists on a national level, one for each phase of campus life:
- Campus and Community Service
- Journalism, Speech, and the Mass Media
- Creative and Performing Arts
Each Leader of the Year finalist receives a $1,000 graduate/professional studies scholarship. Of the five finalists, one student is selected to receive the Gen. Russell E. Dougherty National Leader of the Year Award. The recipient of the National Leader of the Year Award receives a $4,000 scholarship to be used toward graduate-level study.
Gen. Russell A. Dougherty National Leader of the Year
Katherine West, Furman University
An initiate of the Furman University Circle, Katherine hopes to build a career advocating for women’s rights. As an undergraduate, Katherine completed six internships, including explorations in the fields of law, research, and politics. Originally from a small town in northern Kentucky, she is excited to return close to home and attend law school at the University of Cincinnati this fall.
After earning her Juris Doctor, Katherine plans to either practice law with an advocacy group such as the American Civil Liberties Union or pursue a career in academia with a research focus the role of women in politics. Katherine is determined to advocate for the rights of women both domestically and internationally.
Scholarship Leader of the Year
Mackenzie Foster, Clemson University
Mackenzie believes all people deserve to begin and end each day with a smile. An initiate of the Clemson University Circle, Mackenzie took an active role in the circle’s fundraising operations and ultimately assisted in the development of the Omicron Delta Kappa Clemson University Endowed Scholarship. In addition to volunteering at the local free clinic, Mackenzie served Alpha Epsilon Delta, the pre-health honor society, as vice president. She also worked as a tutor and was an official ambassador for the Department of Genetics and Biochemistry.
Mackenzie’s passion for helping people led her to the world of healthcare. She intends to pursue a medical education, specializing in children’s health, that allows her to expand her knowledge and ability to enhance patients’ physical health.
Athletics Leader of the Year
Jillian Barnard, Roanoke College
An initiate of the Roanoke College Circle, Jillian served as captain of the college’s women’s soccer team and received many honors for her skillful leadership on the field. Off the field, she was president of her circle and worked as a head resident advisor on campus.
Looking ahead, Jillian plans to enroll in the Master of Occupational Therapy program at Radford University, where she hopes to improve the outcomes of practitioners’ therapies. Ultimately, Jillian aspires to open a day center for older adults that provides the treatments necessary to give caregivers peace of mind.
Journalism, Speech, and the Mass Media Leader of the Year
Leigh Schlecht, Emory University
An initiate of the Emory University Circle, Leigh Schlecht’s many extracurricular and professional pursuits reflect her dedication to community and journalism. As an undergraduate, she served as president of her circle, copy chief of Emory’s student-run newspaper, and as a student investigator and advisor for the Emory College Honor Council.
She graduated summa cum laude from Emory and plans to earn a Master of Philosophy in English criticism and culture at the University of Cambridge in the fall. At Cambridge, she will research the diversity gap in trade publishing and hopes to promote public access to the works of underrepresented writers with unique experiences.
Creative and Performing Arts Leader of the Year
Madeline Brown, University of Richmond
Maddie, an initiate of the University of Richmond Circle, pursued a liberal arts education, combining her love of dance, science, and public health. At age six, Maddie found a passion in classical ballet that would ultimately lead her to receive numerous dance awards and work with renowned choreographers.
Maddie’s love of dance led to her development of a scientific fascination with the human body, which she further explored through studying inflammation in a molecular biology lab. Maddie plans to complete a year of service with the National Health Corps as a patient navigator in a clinic for underserved patients before pursuing a Doctor of Medicine and Philosophy in medical anthropology. Having a deep appreciation for humanity, community, and culture, which stemmed from her study of dance, she hopes to use her degree to fight health inequities.